Get to the road, boys. Only got a few days until the freedom festival.

Spirit of Rebellion 2022

If you click on the black flag on the sidebar, you'll be taken to one of my favorite things I've ever written, an Independence Day post called The Spirit of Rebellion. It is originally from 2015, and ties together a  number of historical trends -- including the recently-mentioned Robert the Bruce and the War of Scottish Independence -- that brought us to our American nation. The Declaration of Independence is the root of our tradition, its principles having survived the Articles of Confederation and the establishment of the Constitution, and those eternal principles shall survive the Constitution when it finally falls. Yet these even older things are the seed from which the root sprang, and we are wise to remember the deep history.

This year the spirit of rebellion is being seen mostly on the left, surprisingly since the Democratic Party controls all the Federal levers of electoral government. The loss of the Supreme Court, which was for so long their method of amending the Constitution without the bother of obtaining a three-quarters majority of states' consent, has been hugely upsetting. Yet according to this poll, up to a quarter of Americans are nearly ready to take up arms against the government, and spread across the political spectrum (one in three each of Republicans and Independents, one in five Democrats). 

Ironically, only about a third of those declaring for war are currently gun owners. The long feared militia movement is not going to be the source of revolution; if it occurs, it is likely to be a combination of abortion supporters on the left and those among the general citizenry horrified by the corruption they can witness in the government and its allied elites: a majority of all voters say the system is corrupt and rigged against ordinary people, and 49% say they have come to feel like strangers in their own country. 

It would be wise to remember the closing point of the Independence Day essay.

Maybe we can pick a nice day in mid-October, when the weather will be excellent for the celebratory cookouts that mark it. I understand the former Columbus Day has opened up as a holiday, but any of the days nearby it are usually excellent.

And for anyone reading this who might occupy a position of power: beware. You tread on thin ice with very many political factions among the citizenry, and you will be judged by those eternal principles in the Declaration. If you fail that test, you will not be missed: rather, your fall will be toasted for centuries to come.

Happy Independence Day.

The Oaken Heart of Robert the Bruce

One of the great stories about the heroic King of Scots, Robert the Bruce, is the story of his heart. On his deathbed he asked his old companion, Sir James Douglas -- known as Good Sir James in Scotland, and Black Douglas to those Englishmen who encountered him on the field of battle -- to take his heart on crusade
According to Jean le Bel, when Bruce was dying he asked that Sir James, as his friend and lieutenant, should carry his heart to the Holy Land and present it at the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem as a mark of penance. John Barbour, alternatively, has Bruce ask that his heart should simply be carried in battle against "God's foes" as a token of his unfulfilled ambition to go on crusade. Given that Jerusalem had been in Muslim hands since 1187, this second is perhaps more likely. 
Douglas faithfully fulfilled one of these two proposed vows, which suggests it was probably the one actually asked of him. When Bruce was dead, Douglas had his heart placed in a silver and enamelled casket and wore it around his neck, sailing to Spain to join King Alfonso XI's crusade. Douglas was killed at some point in the great battle that brought victory to the Spanish king.

Recently a way to fulfill the second proposed vow has been found. An oak tree the Bruce himself planted 700 years ago died, and its heart-of-oak was removed. This was carved into the shape of a man’s heart, and taken on pilgrimage to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. There it was lain in the place where Jesus was thought to lay, and prayers offered for the Bruce. 

This act is in the spirit of wild romance that was the very soul of the Age of Chivalry. 

The Weirdness of 'White Fascism'

I don't mean the obviously fake kind, where everybody pretends that the National Right to Life Coalition represents some kind of 'Christo-Fascist white patriarchy.' I mean the only-maybe-fake kind, these guys who went to Ukraine to join the Misanthropic Division, Europeans mostly.
THE DEATH OF a French volunteer in Ukraine is the first clear evidence that there are at least some far-right extremists among the foreign fighters who have flocked there to fight Russian forces.... The Misanthropic Division’s violent, hate-filled Telegram channel was the first to announce Bleriot’s death, one day earlier, on June 3. The post said that he died on June 1 in Kharkiv and included a photo in which the thin and bearded Bleriot wears a T-shirt that says “Misanthropic Division” across the front....

Bleriot was a “man who fought bolshevism and antifascism all his life,” according to the Telegram post, a “brother-in-arms,” who died defending Europe and Ukraine from “Asiatic hordes.” ... Bleriot was from Bayeux, a town in the north of France. In an interview with an Argentinian reporter, uploaded to Reddit on March 3, he identifies himself as a Norman, says that he is “ready to kill Russians,” and “ready to die.” He adds that he left behind two children at home, and starts to cry. 

For the years since 2016, I've been reading journalists who inform me that Vladimir Putin was symbolic of right-wing white nationalism broadly, and that the Russian Orthodox church was aligned with Putin in trying to create a Christian nationalism also broadly aligned with this sort of white nationalism. But here are people who feel like it is their moral duty to "kill Russians" in order to make Europe safe from "Asiatic hordes." (Are there Asiatic hordes? China's population is headed off a demographic cliff.) 

Several pages down into the report, we get a clue.

As for the Misanthropic Division, it’s hard to tell how real it is, and how sizable. The extent of its actual association with the Azov Battalion is also unclear. Take Bleriot, for example. There’s no indication that he was with any Azov unit when he died in Kharkiv, in the northeast of Ukraine, far from Azov’s main areas of operation in the south. It may be that the Misanthropic Division is not a real-world unit with a leader and a chain of command so much as a twisted military clique that anyone online can claim. 

Now they've got photographs of a guy with a tattoo on his head, which indicates some level of commitment (assuming it's not photoshopped). It's hard to tell, though, how much of any of this is more than the fevered imaginations of people who spend a lot of time online -- even the ones who actually went to Ukraine. 

Justice Sotomayor on Justice Thomas

A remarkable description full of sympathy and kindness, not at all what one might expect from media portrayals.

McGinnis: The Court as Schoolmaster

The Court serves a bigger purpose than resolving controversies and cases, he argues.
In a notable essay, University of Chicago political theorist Ralph Lerner captures this essential function of the Court. The Court is, in his terms, “a republican schoolmaster,” bringing to life the enduring text of our fundamental law and applying it to a new age. As Lerner notes, Alexis de Tocqueville saw the Court early in its tenure as “the educator, molder, or guardian of those manners, morals, and beliefs that sustain republican government.” The Court thus has an educational task—bringing each generation back to consider anew the foundations of the American republic.

The Roberts Court faces a tough task because it must speak to the American people through channels in which most messengers and interpreters—the press and the academic world—are radically hostile to its messages. Indeed, their hostility is magnified by the recognition that Court is now the one institution historically dedicated to reason, which progressives do not control. Progressives may have an easier time accepting that elections may sometimes go against them: politics can be dismissed as an arena of base interests and manipulation. But when an institution dedicated to reasoned deliberation and interpretation is not aligned with the progressive program, it creates a serious threat to progressive hegemony over social thought. The Court’s opportunity to contest that hegemony and restore the fixed foundations of our republic thus provides the crucial social context of its opinions this term.
Ironically Martha Nussbaum made a very similar argument in her works aimed at getting the Supreme Court to endorse gay marriage and similar practices. The court's rulings serve to teach the public about morality, showing them how to fit together questions of religious or cultural traditions, emotional processes like disgust, and ideals of fairness and equality. People may have been raised to view homosexuality as immoral, but the court by its example can teach them to view it in another way that is more sensitive to the feelings of their fellow Americans who happen to be gay.

This is a similar project, except that the thing being taught is to resolve these matters in ways that accord with our democratic political tradition:
...the Constitution’s text should ideally be understood today as the Framers would have understood it. And the Court makes clear the benefits of its interpretation to the public. On controversial issues on which the Constitution is silent, democracy offers the flexibility to make varied compromises over time....

Because the dissenters cannot contend that anyone thought that the provisions of the Constitution at the time of their enactment contained a right to abortion, they advance three distinct attacks on the majority’s originalism. First, they suggest that, at least on issues of concern to women, the document’s original meaning may not be binding, because women did not participate in making the Constitution. It is true that women did not vote to ratify either the original Constitution or the Fourteenth Amendment. But how does it follow from that observation that the Constitution should be interpreted to include a right to abortion? No evidence suggests that if women had voted in the ratification process that a right to abortion would have been on the agenda. Even now, the percentages of men and women who favor and oppose abortion rights are roughly equal....

...the Constitution provides a mechanism for evolution: the amendment process. In contrast, there is no provision that delegates to judges the authority to “evolve” the Constitution. Indeed, in his famous defense of judicial review in Federalist 78, Hamilton was at pains to dispel the anti-federalist fear that equitable interpretation would give the courts the freewheeling authority to consolidate all power in the federal government. Not so, said Hamilton: they would be bound by “strict rules.”

The Supreme Court has been the favored mechanism for altering the Constitution for decades because amendments are very hard to come by. They require a level of consensus almost impossible to achieve in America today. Yet by insisting on them, and rolling back to the Constitution as it was adopted rather than as it was adapted by earlier Courts, the Supreme Court is being genuinely conservative. They could move faster, even though their present speed appears to scare the Democratic party a great deal. They are, instead, simply rolling back and insisting on change coming through the democratic process.

That may, indeed, teach people to use that process again -- and how to use it. 

SCOTUS Kills the EPA

D29 has been arguing that this is perhaps the biggest case of the year, after the abortion decision. 

Requiescat in Pace Hershel “Woody” Williams

Today also marks the passage into eternity of the last Medal of Honor recipient from World War II. I never met him, but he remained very active in the American Legion for a long time. Other Legionnaires describe him as one of the kindest and most respected members of the organization. 

He received the Medal of Honor for actions on Iwo Jima, described at the link.

"Cloud Cuckoo Land"

A British filmmaker whose films are being used against Donald Trump by the January 6th committee describes Trump as "living in 'cloud cuckoo land.'"

The reference -- I assume he knows -- is to Aristophanes' infamous play The Clouds, a work of art that so badly slandered Socrates that the people of Athens convicted him of what the play had said he was guilty of doing. Charged with corrupting the youth of Athens, he was accused of using sophistry to make weaker arguments appear stronger so that they'd win -- which the play suggested was his primary business, when he wasn't 'off in the clouds.' 

It is an interesting choice of allusions given the choice to participate in this political theater ongoing in Congress.

Requiescat in Pace Sonny Barger

Sonny Barger has died at 83. He was, most famously, the leader of the Hells Angels charter at the Altamont music festival's great disaster. The culture turned against them after that -- until then, the Angels were appearing regularly in movies as they were picaresque and picturesque, and readily available in Hollywood. However, it is my judgment that they were the only ones there who acted with honor. 

Barger is less well known for his more recent life, but if you followed him more recently you'd have found that in his older years he became a devout Christian and helped to publish a series of charming children's books. He continued to ride motorcycles, write books, and to advocate against smoking (which caused him a vicious bout of throat cancer in earlier years).

His final message to the world ends, "Keep your head up high, stay loyal, remain free, and always value honor." 

UPDATE: Aggie says the first link bothers his antivirus, so here's a photo of the statement by Sonny announcing his death.

Beware Republicans Bearing Gifts

Really, you'd think after the Kavanaugh show trial that they'd have learned to just beware any single witness offering everything they wanted tied-up-in-a-bow, but without anyone who would corroborate her stories. 

Maybe they thought it was too good to check.
...if Ornato calls her an outright liar? Major disaster. Not just a legal disaster, in that a key witness to potential criminal charges for Trump will have suddenly been blown up, but a political disaster for the committee. It’s unconscionable that they would put a witness on television to make an allegation that shocking without having run it down first. Republicans will say that if they couldn’t — or wouldn’t — separate fact from fiction with the SUV incident, there’s no reason to believe they did so in other aspects of the investigation.

I can't believe anyone is still using the word "unconscionable" with regard to Congress as if it didn't obviously apply to them all of the time. "Congress is unconscionable as usual," sure. "It would be unconscionable for Congress to..." as if that suggested they surely wouldn't do that thing, no. 

A Shield Maiden

We are all familiar with the story of how Viking warrior women, known in the myths and sagas as shield maidens, were long thought purely mythical until archaeologists recently discovered war-trophy filled graves sometimes had female skeletons in them. 

One such now has been facially reconstructed, sword wound to the forehead and all. 

Only Government Agents Can Be Trust... Er...

First Sergeant is going to be up a tree about this.
When a Texas woman found an unsecured M4-style rifle inside an unlocked Texas National Guard truck Monday, June 27, she took matters into her own hands by, well, taking the weapon into her own hands.

“Today, I got my hands on a fully automatic weapon thanks to the stupid, irresponsible #TexasNationalGuard #OperationLonestar who left their vehicle running & unlocked with guns inside on the side of the road,” Marianna Wright tweeted Monday. Operation Lone Star is the long-term deployment of Texas National Guard troops to the US-Mexico border within the state. “Guess the truck could’ve been mine, too. #PublicSafety, #Texas Style.”

If it had been a Hummer it could have been. They don't even have keys. I don't know why they left the keys in the pickup they were using, but that's commonly done with fire/rescue people in case somebody needs to move the thing out of the way of another responding vehicle. 

A Good Scouting Story

It's been a long time since I heard anything but bad news about the Boy Scouts of America, but the Washington Post today has a story of a 15 year old Scout who escaped from the wreckage of the recent Amtrak derailment to comfort the dying truck driver.

Fifty Dead in San Antonio

There's a lot of noise coming out of DC and NY like always, but this is objectively the biggest story in the country today in spite of a relative lack of news coverage. I'm linking to a site from the trucking industry.
Officials say that the number of people who perished in a hot trailer in San Antonio on Monday has risen from 46 to 50 people, with 48 people pronounced dead at the scene and two other people dying in hospital care after suffering from heat related illness...

While the vehicle involved bears the colors and DOT number of Alamo-based Betancourt Trucking and Harvesting, company leaders say that the vehicle information was “cloned” or illegally copied. They say that their truck has been used to haul grain from Harlingen to Progreso and has not been in San Antonio recently, and that their trailer is in the company lot.

“Our [refrigerated trailer] is sitting right in the yard. That one in San Antonio is not our trailer,” Felipe Betancourt Jr told San Antonio Express-News.
These human smugglers have the resources not just to steal a truck but to repaint it exactly like another one whose data they steal and copy. If you saw it on the road you'd think it was a grain truck, and if you had the ordinary cop resources to run the tags and such you'd still think it was a grain truck -- one properly registered to a good company that has proper manifests and pays its taxes. 

Meanwhile, these criminals don't care if they kill dozens of people in order to extract a little wealth from them for making the journey, and a little more from the people they are trafficking them to on the other end. That's a part of the story we're missing: they were going somewhere, with jobs lined up from people who don't care that they put people at these kinds of risks just so they, the employers, don't have to pay market wages to American workers. 

A lot of people should be rounded up and hanged for this, and not just the cartels who back the smugglers. 

A treat in store

For years I've eagerly awaited new pieces of news in the publishing world: (1) an evolutionary biology book willing to grapple with the huge hole in our scientific approach to the origin of life, and (2) a new book from Nick Lane, who writes some of the best popularized science I've ever found. Imagine my delight to see an email teaser this morning for Nick Lane's new book, Transformer. I can't actually get a copy until at least July 12, but I found an excerpt from the first chapter, including this:
If there is a view from modern biology, it is that genetic information structures the flow of energy and materials. To a first approximation, biology is understood in terms of information networks and control systems. Even the laws of thermodynamics, which govern the behaviour of molecules and their interactions and reactions, can be recast in terms of information – Shannon entropy, the laws of bits of information. But this view generates its own paradox at the origin of life – where does all this information come from? Within the realm of biology, we already have a simple explanation: natural selection sifts through random differences, favouring what works, eliminating what doesn’t, generation after generation. Information accumulates with function over time. We can quibble over details, but there is no conceptual difficulty here. At the origin of life, though, this view will not do. Place information at the heart of life, and there is a problem with the emergence of function, which is to say, the origin of biological information. . . .
Thinking about life only in terms of information is distorting. Seeking new laws of physics to explain the origin of information is to ask the wrong question, which can’t be answered precisely because it is not meaningful. A far better question goes back to the formative years of biology: what processes animate cells and set them apart from inanimate matter? The idea that there is a vital force, that life is fundamentally different from inanimate matter, was disproved long ago and is now only wheeled out as a straw man to burn – even though it’s an understandable illusion for anyone who has shared van Leeuwenhoek’s captivation with busy animalcules. Yet biochemistry – my own discipline, which deals with the flow of energy and materials through cells – has, with a few notable exceptions, been blithely indifferent to how this unceasing flux might have arisen, or how its elemental imprint could still dictate the lives and deaths of cells today, along with the organisms they compose. You and me.

Jim Mattis: Still a Marine

Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis has finally gotten married after decades of putting his devotion to the Marine Corps and the rest of the U.S. military above his personal life. And he did it in the most Marine way possible...

Yes, with Elvis in attendance. 

'Great' Advice

 From VDH, on the "Great Reset":

Assume the worst when the adjective “great” appears in connection with envisioned fundamental, government-driven, or global political changes. What was similar between Lyndon Johnson’s massively expensive but failed “Great Society” and Mao’s genocidal “Great Leap Forward” was the idea of a top-down, centrally planned schema, cooked up by elites without any firsthand knowledge, or even worry, how it would affect the middle classes and poor.

Those precedents certainly didn't turn out as intended. Are there any counterexamples of centralized policies billed as "Great" by their advocates that actually did what they promised? "The Great Depression" doesn't count because it wasn't something people were advocating for being great, just something they were enduring. 

First question

"Greetings, aspiring auditors. Welcome to your annual ethics exam. Let's get started! In your own words, explain whether you would have a problem with cheating on this exam."

Rich White Honky Blues

Hank Williams, Jr. has a big hit with his latest, an all-blues album put together following the death of his wife. You can listen on Spotify here.

3M Earplugs and Veteran Hearing Loss

I used these stupid things too, as probably did many of you. The WSJ suggests at least some of the guys may get paid back for their hearing loss. 

Sun and Steel

Quilette reviews a book that sounds like I'd really enjoy it. Perhaps some of you would also.

A Patchwork Coat of Many Colors

 Tex's post reminded me of this old song by Dolly Parton.

An America Unready for War

For the first time in decades, America appears to be facing wars it is in no way ready to fight. In Europe, we have suddenly deployed tens of thousands of additional troops with no clear end-state.
The number of American troops in Europe has risen sharply in the four months since Russia invaded Ukraine, from about 65,000 in mid-February to 100,000 today.

That increase, one of the most rapid U.S. military buildups on the continent in the post-Cold War era, has no clear end date or any obvious metrics to determine when troops could come home or be repositioned to other theaters such as the Indo-Pacific.

Instead, their mission is to deter further Russian aggression and prevent any attack on NATO territory. That goal will prove difficult to measure and could justify a years-long mission as Russia and Ukraine settle into a slow, bloody war of attrition in the Donbas.

The long-term consequences for the U.S. and its foreign policy priorities could be significant, some analysts say, because Washington likely can’t afford to maintain such troop levels in Europe over the long haul without sacrificing resources in the Pacific.

Speaking of the Pacific, Taiwan is facing increasing threats from Beijing, which is also loudly opposed to American military activities in the South China Sea

We don't have the force structure for a two-theater conflict at this time, not even if one of them is limited to 'reassuring' Europeans with increased presence. We aren't going to get it, either, because recruiting has become a serious challenge in the wake of the Afghanistan debacle -- and the refusal by the military to hold anyone accountable. 

“This is the start of a long drought for military recruiting,” said Ret. Lt. Gen. Thomas Spoehr of the Heritage Foundation, a think tank. He said the military has not had such a hard time signing recruits since 1973, the year the U.S. left Vietnam and the draft officially ended. Spoehr said he does not believe a revival of the draft is imminent, but “2022 is the year we question the sustainability of the all-volunteer force.”

The pool of those eligible to join the military continues to shrink, with more young men and women than ever disqualified for obesity, drug use or criminal records. Last month, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville testified before Congress that only 23% of Americans ages 17-24 are qualified to serve without a waiver to join, down from 29% in recent years.

An internal Defense Department survey obtained by NBC News found that only 9% of those young Americans eligible to serve in the military had any inclination to do so, the lowest number since 2007. 

Things are so bad that the Army is dropping the requirement for a high school education -- not even a G.E.D. will now be required. Retention is also bad, with big bonuses being pondered as a means of trying to keep the people who have been willing to serve in the past. The Army is also fronting cash bonuses for new recruits -- up to $50,000 just to join the Army. In spite of the economy being terrible, and worsening, military service is not appealing with the command environment so broken. 

It's hard to remain a great power when your people stop being willing to fight for you, but it is a problem the US Federal Government has brought upon itself. If they cannot restore confidence, and find ways to educate youth to want to serve -- and to have the physical capacities to do so -- they will not remain a power that bestrides the world. 


We celebrate diversity unless we're strongly invested in having our own uniform way with everyone all at once. Then any attempt to experiment with different approaches in different areas becomes a "patchwork." Patchwork is bad! Hobos wear patchworks. What we want is a seamless inescapable garment, one size, one color, one style fits all. Because by golly we know we're right, and you'd all better like it.


I have just been made aware that there is an annoying captcha requirement on comments for some people. I’m not sure why. According to the settings page I have that turned off. 

To whit:

Any ideas on why it’s bothering some people and not others? Or how to keep it from bothering anyone, more to the point?