VFD Barbecue

For those few of you who know the way, Little Canada’s barbecue is today. Noon to six or until we sell out. 

UPDATE: Your hero after many hours of shoveling flaming charcoal into those huge barbecue ovens.

"We Can Read the Scoreboard"

Texas A&M invited Appalachian State University over for a 'tune up' game
Texas A&M came into this season with a ton of hype, bringing in the number one recruiting class because of all that oil money... A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher almost had an aneurism when Alabama coach Nick Saban called the school out for paying players....

A&M has this tradition called the “Midnight Yell,” where every Friday night when the clock turns 12, one of these “hype guys” goes and tries to hype up the crowd by saying the lamest things about the team they’re playing on Saturday.
“I Googled this team to make sure they’re even real. I was really confused, because Appalachia is definitely not a state. But, sure enough I found them, and they’re located deep, and I mean deep in the backwoods, just like you would think any hillbilly college that names themselves the ‘Mountaineers.’ 

I just hope that these guys can get here tomorrow alright, because I know for a fact that half of their football team can barely even read the name on their jerseys, let alone read a map.

It’s a shame that the only two brain cells that all these guys have left are gonna get knocked out by our wrecking crew defense tomorrow.”

The final score was Appalachian State 17, Texas A&M 14. Better luck next year, 'wrecking crew.'  

Logical Engineering in an Analogical World

On the subject of local plaques, here is one I love about the founding of Highlands, NC. It describes the story as a 'local legend,' but it makes perfect sense. If you drew the lines just as shown on the map, logic would seem to dictate that there would be a nexus point exactly where Highlands happens to be.

The only problem is that it's four thousand feet up from Savannah to Highlands, and you can avoid that problem by going through Atlanta instead. Atlanta, whose original name was 'Terminus' because so many different railroads terminated there, already existed in 1875: in fact, it was on its second incarnation. The need for the nexus point was real, real enough that even Sherman couldn't obliterate the city forever. In the physical world we inhabit, though, geography as well as math and logic must be considered. 

Here's a shot of the Old Edwards Inn in Highlands. I left in the street in front of it so you could get a sense of how steep the hills are. That's one thing in San Francisco, where the steepness is justified by the fact that there's an excellent natural harbor right there. It's another thing in Highlands, which was just never going to be a commercial hub. It is a resort, though, allowing richer people from the real terminus to escape the summer heat through the miracle of elevation.

The Rutherford Expedition

On the grounds of the Federal courthouse in Waynesville, North Carolina, stands a statue that bears this plaque:

The Rutherford Expedition was, depending on which sources you consult, either a formative frontier experience that may have been crucial to the success of the American Revolution, destroying dozens of villages and driving hundreds of Cherokee into Tennessee and Florida; or a minor and halting action that burned an empty town at Cullowhee [or Cowee -- see comments] and maybe as many as five more. 

What is clear is that it was a reprisal, though, for Cherokee raids following their decision to align with the British against the frontier settlements. Cherokee leadership decided to align with the distant British in order to drive out the proximate settlers, struck first, and lost in the resulting action. That's not a moral judgment against the Cherokee, for whom that might have made strategic sense had the British proven a reliable ally that could help them against the frontiersmen they decided to try to drive out.  The British power in the back country was not great, however, and the Cherokee found themselves having the war brought back to them by angry frontiersmen organized into irregular light horse and infantry. 

There are several other monuments in the region to this expedition. For now, at least, they aren't related to the Civil War -- when the Cherokee Nation allied with the Confederacy -- so they are not being targeted for removal.

FBI Whistleblowers: "White Supremacy" Threat Way Overblown

The President of the United States is opening a forum at the White House to discuss the danger of white supremacism, but FBI insiders are saying that the threat is already greatly overblown for political reasons. 
[These insiders] say bureau analysts and top officials are pressuring FBI agents to create domestic terrorist cases and tag people as White supremacists to meet internal metrics.

“The demand for White supremacy” coming from FBI headquarters “vastly outstrips the supply of White supremacy,” said one agent, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “We have more people assigned to investigate White supremacists than we can actually find.”

The agent said those driving bureau policies “have already determined that White supremacy is a problem” and set agencywide policy to elevate racially motivated domestic extremism cases as priorities.

“We are sort of the lapdogs as the actual agents doing these sorts of investigations, trying to find a crime to fit otherwise First Amendment-protected activities,” he said. “If they have a Gadsden flag and they own guns and they are mean at school board meetings, that’s probably a domestic terrorist.”
The Gadsden flag is not, of course, a symbol of 'white supremacism' but of the American Revolution; more recently, it was adopted by the TEA Party as a protest against excessive American taxation.

As I've said before, the South I grew up in had occasional Klansmen appear in robes on the courthouse square to recruit and pass out literature. I haven't seen one since I was a boy. Even in the area of the country most inclined to Confederate sympathy, the Klan and its ilk are no longer welcome: haven't been in a very long time. This is wholly to the good, but it's a sea change since the days of my grandfather when they were a secret society with real power in the South. 

If that's true here, I can't imagine it's not true a fortiori everywhere else. There are white supremacist prison gangs because of the unethical way in which we operate our prisons, creating a space in which banding together by ethnicity is both necessary for physical protection (because we allow the prisons to be so dangerous that joining a racist criminal gang seems like a sensible thing to do) and not disrupted by officials (who doubtless know exactly who is in what gang, but permit it to go on). These gangs are dangerous in a few communities in which there are enough former prisoners that there's out-of-prison overlap with the prison gang; they're not a big threat to mainstream America, but insofar as they deserve police attention it should be focused on the specific problem that actually exists. 

Trying to paint the whole culture as if it were racist and wicked is the real point, though. That kind of widespread wickedness is said to require and justify widespread, and deep, control over the lives of everyone. Yet for the most part Americans have rejected all this and are determined to get along, and for the most part we do just that -- as we ought, as is right and proper, both good and very welcome as a change from the days of my grandfather. We make progress in decency in spite of our authorities' attempts to divide us and control us.

The No Justice Department

The Durham investigation has entered its terminal phases with little to show, occasioning celebration from the left. It looks like no more charges will be brought over the lies to the FISA court by the FBI, the spying on a presidential campaign, or the bending of the whole system into a corrupt servant of one political party. The process just drug everything out until it could close past the statute of limitations. 

Meanwhile Carter Page, whose name was defamed by the lies used to spy on the presidential campaign -- and himself -- is likely to receive no compensation in civil court either. The fatal flaw for him was an inspector general report that described all the FBI lies as "errors" caused by a "sloppy" process: in other words, like the Durham investigation, the system protected itself from accountability. 

Such is the best we can hope for out of the system: it is operating exactly as designed and intended. 

UPDATE: DOJ obstructed its own investigation into HRC, argues RealClearInvestigations. The investigation into Team Trump is being handled differently, with an eye towards not just prosecution but shutting down the whole organization as a political force.

UPDATE: DOJ issues subpoena to conservative group in Alabama demanding: “any draft legislation, proposed legislation, or model legislation.” This included all their communique on the subject, e.g., “any social media postings.” All such would be protected First Amendment activity.

Bounty of Summer, Promise of Fall

Pinto beans drying in the sun, with new greens started that need cooler weather for growing. 

I put up another gallon of salsa yesterday, fire roasted tomatoes, homegrown habaneros. 

Exclusive Scene from the Rings of Power


Good boys

You can try to ruin them, but some of them will insist on being good human beings anyway.

Jupiter in the East

All month, but especially around the 26th, Jupiter will be especially visible and clear in the eastern sky. 

House Republicans: Nobody's Keeping Election Records

It is very unlikely that a letter from House Republicans is going to produce any motion at the Justice Department, but they're trying anyway.

In the letter, first obtained by the Daily Caller, the lawmakers mention an America First Policy Institute (AFPI) report titled “National Review of Retaining Election Records from the 2020 Election,” which concluded that many of the most heavily populated jurisdictions across the country are not complying with the records retention requirement under the Civil Rights Act of 1960.

AFPI’s report states that only six of 100 of the most heavily populated counties that were contacted by AFPI for information were able to give them their actual voter files from the 2020 election as required by law. Some of the counties failed to retain the records while others did not have timestamped records going back to the 2020 election. The lawmakers were, to put it mildly, displeased.

You can't audit the results if there aren't any records of the results. This is a misdemeanor offense, but it's a Federal offense: failure to retain records is supposedly punishable by up to a year in prison and a thousand dollar fine. Yet apparently almost no jurisdictions are bothering to obey the law.

Happiness is an Activity

The Spectator article says 'a choice,' but it's not just a choice: having made the choice, you must also do the thing. It is an activity, as Aristotle says, one that produces a happy and honorable life through action.

This subject was raised here in 2006, by the way. I happen to know that because I was trying to find an old argument in the archives, but was not able to do so. I was an almost unimaginably different person in 2006, which was before I went to Iraq and before returning to the careful study of philosophy. Yet I can see a clear link in the text between who I was and who I have become. 

The Stamp Act

A new report says that Americans spend more on taxes, on average, than on food, clothing, and health care combined.

What do we get for all that money, again? Not food or clothing or health care. A military that can't win its wars and that is currently fighting a war against pronouns; a justice system that is increasingly targeting political opposition as actual criminals; an education system that turns our youth against their nation and its heritage, with a negative correlation between the cost of the system and its ability to produce people who can read and write and do mathematics; roads, I guess. Some of them are all right. Not so much around here, but the interstate system is fairly nice. The Post Office works reasonably well, but it's been privatized. 

No, what we mostly get are massive transfer payments to people who don't work. This is exactly what Aristotle warned against happening in a democracy: the people voting themselves access to other people's money. It was important that an oligarchy should operate this way, he says in the Politics; that's the only way people will put up with having no power over their situation, if you make sure they are at least made comfortable at public expense. In a democracy it is supposed to be destabilizing, as the (relatively) wealthy will come to resent it and will want to replace the system with one that protects them from being plundered. 

That raises the question, once again, of whether this is in fact in an Aristotelian sense a democracy: this is not the 'democracy versus republic' debate, but merely a question about whether this is a government in which power is widely distributed, a government of the many. Is it that, or is it now a government in which real power is concentrated among a few? If the former, this approach is destabilizing. If the latter, it's the very root of the government's stability.

How Does One Cheat at Chess?

In an article with an obscene title, it is revealed that the reigning chess grandmaster withdrew after defeat at a recent tournament. Speculation is that he thinks his opponent is cheating.

Now I can see how you could cheat at chess in a one-on-one match where your opponent had been drinking and wasn't paying very close attention to the board. Otherwise, and especially in a tournament with all eyes on the board, I think it's a game that is robustly resistant to cheating. Are you going to slip pieces onto or off of the board while no one is watching? You are not. Are you going to peer into your opponent's brain to see what they're planning? You are not. 

The speculation -- which is where the obscenity comes from -- is that maybe someone else is secretly watching the game and cuing him in on how to move. You still need someone who is better at chess than the reigning grandmaster to accomplish this, and if that person exists why wouldn't they just come win the game themselves? 

Games where cheating is possible are more likely to feature cheating, and the more you make cheating possible and convenient the more cheating you are likely to get. On which subject:
An independent panel of experts on computer systems and election security issues has concluded a lengthy investigation into the voting systems currently in place in the state of Georgia and sent recommendations to the State Election Board and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. The current system primarily relies on touchscreen voting machines produced by Dominion Voting Systems. The audit must not have gone very well because they advise that the state discontinue the use of the Dominion machines and move immediately to hand-marked paper ballots. They are also recommending a much broader series of mandatory audits of the results after the initial count is concluded. These changes, they say, will not only afford greater accuracy but increased public confidence in the outcome. But at least initially, it doesn’t sound as if Raffensperger and the rest of the board are warming up to the idea. 
You don't say.

If you want public confidence in elections, you should do the things that make cheating harder -- or impossible, insofar as you are able. The more you make it easy to cheat, such as putting control of the elections on machines with invisible processes which machines are in the control of partisans to the election, the more likely it is that there will be cheating and the less confidence people will have in the election anyway. It is first nature for human beings to cheat their way to power, especially if it is easy to do and there are protections against being caught. Only a few develop their second natures -- trained Aristotelian virtues -- so highly as to overcome the first-nature tendency.

Politicians are not generally among these people. Chess grandmasters might hopefully be.