Shape Note Singing

This is one of Tex’s things, and she can doubtless speak more intelligently about it than I can. All the same, here is a photo from today’s Mountain Heritage Festival at Western Carolina University. I tried to upload a video but it didn’t work.  

A Cure for the Wokeness Problem in Corporate America?

TheNational Center for Public Policy Research may have found a brilliant solutionto the problem of woke corporate America- they are taking Starbucks to court, arguing its discriminatory policies put shareholders at risk- Turning the very woke programs they enacted favoring certain races against them, and all of them at once, rather than piecemeal.  Perhaps we have finally figured out the terrain we are fighting on and how to fight back.

The lawsuit, filed on August 30 by the public interest law firm the American Civil Rights Project, will showcase a novel legal approach to challenging the race-conscious policies of publicly owned corporations. Typically, the plaintiffs in such cases are employees or job applicants who say the policies violated their civil rights. Here, however, the plaintiff is a conservative nonprofit, the National Center for Public Policy Research, that owns shares in Starbucks.

The group is arguing that the coffee giant’s programs endanger "Starbucks and the interests of all its shareholders"—which the company’s officers have a legal duty to protect—by inviting "nearly endless" civil rights litigation that could force Starbucks to pay out damages.

If they are successful, corporations would have to steer clear of racial preference policies of any type- and go back to being race blind.  What an improvement that would be! 

Outlaw Country

So I've been seeing a lot of commentary online about how contemporary Nashville country is not very much like country music has been historically. I didn't know how seriously to take it because I don't listen to the radio and don't watch TV. 

Yesterday, however, rain forced me into a bar in what was styled as a "Barn & Grill," which bar turned out to be marble and which was playing contemporary country on its audio system. Good gracious. That is the worst stuff I have heard in ages.

Guess the Dallas Moore band was right.

Teachers as Moral Exemplars

Today I read about a school teacher who was fired from her job because she had taken up a second career online
For about six years, Sarah Juree worked full-time as a teacher in South Bend, Indiana.... [b]ut the single mother of twins said she was unable to support her family on the modest salary of $55,000 per year, especially as the cost of living continues to rise across the U.S. 

Juree said her rent alone cost nearly half of her income and her employer didn’t offer health insurance.
Rent is going up, and mortgage rates are skyrocketing, food costs are outrageous and gasoline continues to be expensive. One can easily sympathize with the problem.

The teacher's alternative concept for bringing in some extra money apparently upset her leadership, however, presumably because it makes her seem less moral they wanted a fifth-grade teacher to be. On the other hand, however, fifth graders are presumably not her market -- both because they are too young and because they have no money. Her intent was surely to keep these spheres separate.

Back on the first hand, one can argue that nothing can be kept secret from fifth-graders with internet connections. 

Still, it is striking to me that this kind of thing would get one fired at a time when the schools seem bent on increasing the amount of similar content in what they are pleased to call 'education.' Why forbid this to teachers you've got wearing badges around the school with QR codes that link to such content? You've already got them selling the content; why object if they want to make a little money off the sales? 

Is capitalism the real offense here? Is South Bend, Indiana all that different from Hilliard City, Ohio?

The Use of Trucks as Hate Crimes

In North Dakota, a man has run down and killed another, claiming that the dead man was a "Republican extremist." 
Brandt admitted to consuming alcohol before the incident, and stated he hit Ellingson with his car because he had a political argument with him. Brandt also admitted to deputies that he initially left the crash scene, then returned to call 911, but left again before deputies could arrive.
This reminds me of a Wisconsin incident in 2020, in which a man used his truck to murder a motorcyclist on the assumption that he was a Republican and Trump supporter, and therefore a racist of some sort surely.
[Sheriff] Waldschmidt said Navarro told detectives he targeted Thiessen because he was riding a Harley and “in Wisconsin white people drive Harley-Davison motorcycles and that the Harley culture is made up of white racists."... “Navarro said that if President Donald Trump and white people are going to create the world we are living in he has no choice and that people are going to have to die,” Waldschmidt said.
Of course it also reminds me of the Nice, France murders by an Islamist who killed 86 people and injured several hundred more. Gun massacres get all the media attention, but they rarely kill a dozen people; the largest in American history, the Vegas one where the guy was in a barricaded room at an elevated position over a very large crowd of people who could not seek cover, killed only fifty. Trucks are both more ubiquitous and more dangerous, but they cannot be banned from cities because they are absolutely necessary to the survival of cities. 

Be careful out there.

Mamas Don’t

At a music festival devoted to Waylon Jennings, two sons sing their fathers’ song. 

Putin Reminds NATO that Russia is a Nuclear Power

It has been striking to see how openly NATO has been interfering in this war, sometimes in ways that cross the traditional lines for combatant status. Selling weapons to Ukraine is one thing; funding Ukraine and then 'selling' them weapons with the money you gave them, then providing trainers so they can use those weapons effectively, then providing actionable intelligence and targeting solutions... at some point you've crossed the line. (That leaves as unknowable the truth of reports of NATO special operations forces being more directly involved even than that.)

So Putin, who is now seeing attacks inside Russia itself, mentioned that defending Russia is the reason for his nuclear force array. As indeed it is.

I wish I had some confidence that there was anyone in charge on our team who understood any of this, and wasn't just blundering along. "We mustn't underestimate American blundering. I was with them when they blundered into Berlin in 1918." Yes, and if we blunder into Moscow, we may blunder into a nuclear war as well.

Tolkien as Painter

Smithsonian Magazine has a brief article with a few images from  his lesser-known hobby of painting. He was also, of course, a cartographer. Of greater interest than the article itself is the set of links it contains, which go to other collections of his work.

Aristotelian Men's Fashion

Michael Anton, whom I've met several times through a mutual friend, wrote a book on men's fashion that drew its inspiration from Machiavelli's philosophy. Now Anton, I note, is much more inclined to fashionable attire than I am myself. I am however inclined to philosophy, and I realize on reflection that he has a model that with a slight adjustment proves to be much more broadly applicable. With this one small adjustment, it becomes a unified theory for dressing well as a man.

In entirely too brief a summary, Anton suggests that men's fashion (at least for the DC/NYC types such as himself) is a continuum with two poles: the ultra-conservative pole of strict propriety, and the fop. At the one pole is the charcoal grey suit with a white Oxford shirt and a tie that is red, blue, or a mixture of neutral colors that includes charcoal; it should be knotted according to your neck, with those who have long and thin necks wearing Full Windsor knots and those with short thick necks wearing four-in-hands. The foppish pole includes potentially very wild variations, up to and including purple suits and ostrich feathers. 

The goal, according to Anton's theory, is to get as close to the foppish pole as you can without looking ridiculous. By remaining rooted in a continuum that traces to the conservative, you can add variations until you get as far away as possible without looking like you are wearing a pimp costume from a 70s exploitation film. In this way you will have an attire that is striking, bold, and develops an internal confidence. If you go too far, you will be a laughingstock. Yet by going as far as possible, you will develop a personal style that is unique and demonstrative.

Now on this base model, different people can go more-or-less far on the scale. A big muscular man can probably wear a purple suit if he wants without anyone laughing at him. One sufficiently physically terrifying can wear broad stripes and carry a skull-tipped walking stick. A weaker man may wish to add only one or two flamboyant touches, but even he should not adhere to the perfectly conservative. 

What occurs to me is that this model can be usefully varied by varying the poles. For example, you can hold the one pole steady at conservatism, and replace the fop with the cowboy. Years ago now -- 2004 -- I attended a fundraiser at the Cosmos Club in DC in such an outfit: a charcoal grey suit, but a gambler's vest, cowboy boots, and a bolo tie. 
I had never heard of the Cosmos Club. The email invitation I got mentioned the address of the place, and the name, but nothing more about it. Emailed invitations are particularly informal; this one came from a US Marine, for a time after business hours; and it was at a place called a "club." So, naturally I assumed it was a bar of some sort.

It happened that I had another engagement in town that required semiformal dress, so I figured I'd take a bit of ribbing. Still, I had no way to change, so I planned to go in my suit. It's charcoal grey, in a traditional cut. I wore it with my black Ariat boots, my black Stetson hat, and a bolo tie.

The Cosmos Club turns out not to be a bar at all. It turns out to be...the place where the National Geographic Society was founded in the 19th century. It is contained in a mansion with Second Empire architecture. The interior is as rich as the exterior, and includes numerous treasures of great value, brought back from the corners of the earth and donated by the members.

Well, I'm a gambler from way back, so I simply put on my best poker face and walked right in. The doorman bowed as I entered, and I went upstairs to the gathering.

After a few minutes, a gentleman came up to me and shook my hand. He introduced himself as LtCol Couvillon, United States Marines, and former military governor of Wasit province.

"I had to shake the hand of any man," he said, "who could get in here wearing cowboy boots and a bolo tie."
It worked really well, in other words. You could look ridiculous if you overdo the cowboy thing: if I'd shown up in Wrangler jeans tucked into fancy-stitched cowboy boots, with a pearl-snap shirt and a big sombrero, I probably wouldn't have gotten in. But by blending the styles and pushing the alternate pole as far as you can get away with without looking like you're wearing a costume, you have a striking style that carries you.

You can also swap both poles out for other ones. I was thinking about this over the weekend because of the rather piratical style I adopted for the barbecue, which was coupled (excepting the VFD-issued t-shirt) with my more usual biker boots and jeans. You can look ridiculous if you look like you're wearing a biker costume or a pirate costume. John Travolta did the one in Wild Hogs (2007):

If everything you are wearing was bought at a motorcycle shop, you will probably look like a poser wearing a costume. Yet if you swap out the black pants for jeans, the 'biker' wrap for a silk scarf, and so forth, suddenly your aren't wearing a biker costume or a pirate costume. You have a style of your own.

This is similar to Aristotle's approach in his Nicomachean Ethics to finding virtue as the right mean between two extremes. It's not the perfect middle; it will differ for different persons in different situations. Some should go more one way, some more the other. Yet by finding the balance point between two different poles, the one that is right and appropriate for yourself, you come to the best place in matters of fashion as in matters of ethics. 

Nor should this be surprising; as I have always said in this space, aesthetics is a division of ethics. The confluence should be expected. 

On Human Nature

A professor of psychology writes on studying 'human nature,' as she calls it, in the LA Times. It may be behind a paywall, but here is the part I wanted to discuss.

In the past months, a growing choir of popular media has voiced impassioned concerns with the so-called innateness dogma. These critiques question the possibility that females are instinctively maternal, that biological sex (a notion distinct from gender) is binary, and that biology shapes society... At the root of the anxiety, however, are not the technical scientific merits of these proposals but their social consequences — their potential to elicit harm and perpetuate injustice.

...these concerns have moved to curbing the scientific process itself. In a recent editorial in the journal Nature Human Behavior — one of the leading scientific outlets — the editors have stated that they may request modifications or, in severe cases, refuse publication of “content that is premised upon the assumption of inherent biological, social or cultural superiority or inferiority of one human group over another.”

...Indeed, the notion of inherent cultural differences is not only morally objectionable but also conceptually bankrupt. But inherent biological differences — the topic of much active research — is a different matter. In fact, there is evidence that individual differences in IQ and reading and musical skills are heritable. In the eyes of some, however, this research is socially harmful.

Will restricting investigation into the science of human nature effectively prevent harm and cure the social ills that propagate injustice and prejudice?

Now, her answer to this assumes materialism, which directly defies the largest part of the 'human nature' discussion over the centuries. The Greek version is hylomorphic, with an assumption that there is some kind of form (or Form, for Platonists) governing and organizing the matter. For Christians and similar religious thinkers from the other Western monotheistic religions, this form takes on a spiritual context: it is a God-made or -shaped soul of some description. The author identifies in the piece as a Jew, but her answer dismisses the religious character of the form or the possibility of anything immaterial at work. 

It appears that people wrongly consider the psyche as ethereal, distinct from the body. So, they assume that psychological traits cannot be inborn, coded in our bodies from birth. To anyone operating with that assumption, the notion of inborn psychological differences seems frivolous — it smacks of discrimination. It is no wonder, then, that the very talk of human nature seems offensive....

But science says no such thing. First, science tells us that our bodies and minds (or psyches) are one and the same; so, the possibility that a woman’s genes shape her personality ought to be no more controversial than acknowledging their role in shaping her body. 

 Nor is she willing to go all-in on the idea of seeking the truth wherever it leads in any case:

First, when science directly inflicts harm on people, there is no question that science must yield. Second, talk of inborn group differences can inflict harm. Claims about human nature have been misused to hurt, discriminate and exterminate people... [f]or example, when abortions are curtailed, it is natural for women to fear that talk of “maternal instincts” can be exploited to further limit their reproductive rights.

I suppose it's a baby step in the right direction, at least. It still excludes the bulk of the philosophical tradition, which underlies the whole field that gave rise to the sciences she is interested in -- not merely psychology but biology. I think, and have defended in a paper, that hylomorphism is a better solution than many to many current problems in science from chemistry to biology. That there might be a set of forms inherent in reality that matter is inclined to adhere to would explain, for example, why crabs seem to have evolved multiple times. It makes sense of the relatively rapid timeframe for evolution in general: it's hard to credit a purely random process of occasional mutation with such rapid evolution.

Still, there remain "HERE BE DRAGONS" areas of things that cannot be thought, or at least not expressed -- not even in journals of scientific research. Well, one step at a time.

"The Pandemic is Over"

So says the President, demonstrating clearly that the question was always political rather than medical. The medical facts, whatever they are, do not even get mentioned; there are no statistics quoted. What you hear is that the trade show is back on, and 'look around, nobody is wearing a mask.'

Meanwhile, h/t Wretchard, can we finally get a real investigation into the origins?
Prof. Sachs recently co-authored a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences calling for an independent inquiry into the virus’s origins. He believes that there is clear proof that the National Institutes of Health and many members of the scientific community have been impeding a serious investigation of the origins of COVID-19 and deflecting attention away from the hypothesis that risky U.S.-supported research may have led to millions of deaths. If that hypothesis is true, the implications would be earth-shaking, because it might mean that esteemed members of the scientific community bore responsibility for a global calamity.

"Inconceivable!" says the little Sicilian with the Spaniard and the giant. 

Also, Stephen Miller points out, Biden just used the COVID emergency as the legal excuse for enacting a trillion dollar student loan relief plan. But there's no emergency -- only the 'state of emergency' he extended in order to retain extra powers.