Medical Research and Safer Motorcycle Rallies

Although a bit dark, the article does have some mild suggestions to make motorcycle rallies safer:

The research, which appears Nov. 28 in JAMA Internal Medicine, shows that in the regions where the seven largest motorcycle rallies were held throughout the United States between 2005 and 2021, there were 21 percent more organ donors per day, on average, and 26 percent more transplant recipients per day, on average, during these events, compared with days just before and after the rallies.


Bike rallies are generally large, crowded events that take place in rural areas or small towns with traffic infrastructure intended for much smaller populations and far less traffic, the researchers noted.

This means that to increase overall safety for all motorists and pedestrians, event organizers should pay close attention to overall traffic management in addition to encouraging wearing of helmets and safe motorcycle operation.

Von Mises Learns the Secret of Steel

A post at the Foundation for Economic Education on our favorite riddle
It was not until many years later, while studying Ludwig von Mises’ text Human Action, that Thulsa Doom’s answer made complete sense to me. Mises, like Thulsa Doom, understood that power comes from action, and ideas are what drive human action.

“Ideologies have might over men,” Mises wrote. “Might is the faculty or power of directing actions.”

When Thulsa Doom, with a mere word, beckens a beautiful young woman to throw herself from a cliff, he’s showing Conan his power, or what Mises called “might.”

“Might is the power to direct,” Mises wrote. That power, Mises understood, stems not from swords or “steel,” but ideas.
“He who is mighty, owes his might to an ideology. Only ideologies can convey to a man the power to influence other people's choices and conduct. One can become a leader only if one is supported by an ideology which makes other people tractable and accommodating. Might is thus not a physical and tangible thing, but a moral and spiritual phenomenon.”
This is what Thulsa Doom meant when he says it’s not steel that’s strong, but flesh. The person who can use ideas to command people is a person who has true power, true might.

Unlike Thulsa Doom, Mises of course saw power as a dangerous and corrupting force, which is why he opposed concentrating might in the most powerful, and deadly institution in modern history: the state.

Doom too, in fairness:  he was intending, at the time of his death, to sweep away all the governments of the world in an epic of murderous assassination. There is no reason to think he meant to replace them, as their continuing absence would eliminate any institution with the ability to oppose him and his cult. 

Ironically that is the only defense for the existence of any state: such things are inherently evil, but they are effective forms of organization for opposing other organizations that are also evil. You end up having to set the evils against each other: the state against the corporation, the cartel, the mafia, the murderous cult. 

The question is whether there is a way to organize along voluntary lines, as Conan's band of adventurers, to hold back the other evils without needing courts and police, law and taxation, prisons and gallows.

Alternative Eugenics

The Orthosphere offers a striking proposal on the fall of Rome. It was at one time a commonplace among historians that Rome had failed for demographic reasons, but these were usually said to be matters of the will. Romans wouldn't serve in the Legions anymore as they became wealthy and lazy (to summarize entirely too quickly), and thus foreign mercenaries had to be recruited as auxiliaries. These auxiliaries came to be powerful enough that the various Germanic tribes were ultimately in position to seize whole portions of the Western Empire, and finally Rome itself. 

Since these histories were being written during the age in which eugenics was a popular theory among the scientifically-minded, one might have expected them to argue that the Romans' superior stock was out-bred by or cross-bred with inferior foreigners. For the English-speaking and German-speaking and French-speaking communities of historians, which together were most of the whole community of historians in that age, such talk was absurd. They were racists, of course, but talk of Germanic tribes like their own being inferior to Italians (often described in period documents as "swarthy," itself a Germanic word with racist connotations) would have been rejected out of hand. Obviously, for an early 20th century eugenicist, the Romans must have been improved by the association.

The Orthosphere's proposal is at once eu/dysgenic and yet not racist. That's what I find striking about it.
There was more than one cause of this depopulation and degeneration, but the greatest cause was removal of virile males from the breeding population so they could fight and die in distant lands.  As the great classical historian (and eugenicist) Otto Seeck explained,
“Only cowards remained, and from their brood came forward the new generation. Cowardice showed itself in lack of originality and in slavish following of masters and traditions.”***
Imperialism is profoundly dysgenic because when you “send forth the best ye breed,” you can no longer breed the best.  The American sage Benjamin Franklin saw the dysgenic effect of mass conscription and believed it must invariably undermine a militaristic people with depopulation, degeneration and collapse.  While he was ambassador to France, Franklin observed:
“A standing army not only diminishes the population of a country, but even the size and breed of the human species.  For an army is the flower of the nation.  All the most vigorous, stout, and well-made men in a kingdom are to be found in the army, and these men in general cannot marry.”†

This differs of course from our own standing army, in which one of the first things young soldiers tend to do is marry in order to get out of the barracks. Still, they do have a point to make about our own society as well as ancient Rome: the fact that we are putting off marriage and childbirth for the most intelligent and successful of our young men and women may well be having a negative effect on the quality of the population overall. 

Eugenics in terms of selective breeding is discredited in politics, but widely practiced in animal husbandry. Setting aside silly notions like race, different people like different animals are differently able and intelligent, and we know that these qualities are heritable to a degree. If the less able and intelligent are breeding early and often, and the moreso later and less, over time it will tend to result in a population that is weakened. 

It's a challenging idea, one that I advance for discussion with caution given the evils plainly associated with human eugenics. Regular readers of the Hall are a good group, though, and can be trusted to handle such ideas with due care. 

A Fearsome Prediction for Taiwan

Japan in 1941 wasn't always bent on war with the United States; but it was bent, from the late 19th century, on becoming a high tech economy. Following the Meiji Restoration the Japanese culture began inviting Westerners to come consult on everything from banking and policing to ship design -- they beat Russia in the Russo-Japanese War -- and redesigned its whole society accordingly. Then they began imperialistic expansion, which pressed further and further into territories the United States felt weren't acceptable. When we cut off their access to modern steel, it threatened Japan's whole model. War was the result of these sanctions as much as anything else.

The Biden administration introduced crippling sanctions on Chinese semiconductor production this year, which go so far as to threaten to strip the citizenship of Americans who work for Chinese industry. (It is not at all clear that move is constitutional, but what else is new.) There has been some speculation that China might follow the midcentury Japanese road to war, likewise to recapture its capacity to drive forwards to economic power.

Now a former American ambassador states that, should China attempt to capture Taiwan, the United States would not allow Taiwan's semiconductor production facilities to be taken intact. 
Speaking at the Richard Nixon Foundation’s Grand Strategy Summit on 10 November, former US National Security Advisor Ambassador Robert O’Brien appeared to lend credence to reports the US will disable Taiwan’s semi-conductor chip manufacturing capabilities if China attempts to reunify the island with the mainland.

“If China takes Taiwan and takes those factories intact – which I don’t think we would ever allow – they have a monopoly over chips the way OPEC has a monopoly, or even more than the way OPEC has a monopoly over oil,” said O’Brien.

The US Army War College Press published a paper in November 2021 recommending that the US make credible threats to destroy Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) facilities, eliminating the most important supplier of micro-processing chips to China and the World.

The paper by Jared McKinley and Peter Harris, Broken Nest: Deterring China from Invading Taiwan, became the most highly downloaded paper from the US Army War College of 2021, and suggested that the US lay plans in Taiwan for a targeted scorched-earth strategy that would render the island “not just unattractive if ever seized by force, but positively costly to maintain.” 

Of course it is the job of the Army War College to consider what might eventuate in war, and how to deter a war. This is strikingly similar to the road that Russia has been forced down with Ukraine, though: increasingly they are facing a scenario in which even managing to attain their goals will only saddle them with a costly new stronghold, with only destroyed infrastructure, and likely to harbor insurgency.  


A new sport takes shape (h/t Instapundit).
I propose that points be awarded on a scale of how many vehicles are able to pass relative to how many stupid climate protesters have been removed.
Video of competitive performances at the link.

The Feast of St. Andrew, 'Là Naomh Anndrais'

Today is the Feast of St. Andrew, which is also a national holiday in Scotland. For those few Scots who still speak Gaelic, which has not been taught as a nationalistic project as in Ireland, the day is called 'Là Naomh Anndrais.' 

The relationship between St. Andrew and Scotland is a little attenuated, somewhat like the relationship between England and the Holy Grail. That latter depends on the person of Joseph of Arimathea, who supposedly brought the Holy Grail to Glastonbury for safekeeping. In Andrew's case, some of his remains were supposedly brought to Scotland long after his death, and a Pictish king once asked him for a favor in return for naming him the patron saint of the land, and the king felt like the saint had kept his part of the bargain.


Today we had an emergency medical call to a house in a remote mountain community, one where most of the houses are out of sight of the main road. The address was garbled by the radio, which doesn’t always work well among the mountains anyway. 

The house was easy to find, though, because of the correct use of the inverted American flag. I’ve never seen that signal used properly before, but this is exactly correct. 

Shattering lies

I've been reading excerpts from Vaclav Havel's work for decades, so I guess it's time I read his epochal book, The Power of the Powerless. A Maggie's Farm link took me to an Australian site called The Quadrant, where I found this rumination on Havel:
The sense of personal responsibility—together with the refusal to accept the ideology’s lies— provides many small opportunities to begin to live authentically, honouring one’s own and other people’s better nature. The rulers cannot tolerate this honesty; their system is built on falsehoods, so any truth proclaimed anywhere is a danger. The proclamations may be small; for example, someone says that the state-run brewery produces terrible beer; or that the concerts organised by authorities are tedious compared to amateur music nights; or that elections are farcical.

These truths are prosaic—beginning to live in truth usually is—but they signify a shift. And they have an odd, disproportionate potential because any system founded on falsehoods will always be subject to recurrent social, cultural, economic or legal crises barely restrained by the crust of lies. A small truth enacted “in the ‘hidden sphere’, in the semi-darkness where things are difficult to chart or analyse” may have huge effects with surprising speed. This hidden sphere—of real human vocation involving communication, trust, choice and freedom—is obscure but omnipresent; it’s the everyday sphere where the genuine aims of life burst beyond the aims set by the system. It’s the powerful ally of truth.
From the book itself:
What is this independent life of a society? The spectrum of its expressions and activities is naturally very wide. It includes everything from self-education and thinking about the world, through free creative activity and its communication to others, to the most varied, free, civic attitudes, including instances of independent social self-organisation. In short, it is an area in which living within the truth becomes articulate and materialises in a visible way.
The strongest thread in my personal political philosophy is the primal importance of voluntary human institutions: "independent social self-organisation." Government can facilitate them by imposing a certain amount of order and coordination, but it can't replace them and must never crowd them out. No system of external order can make up for the chaos and violence that emanages from empty people with empty lives. We have to be responsible for ourselves and deal with each other on the ground of "communication, trust, choice and freedom." This is why I trust a free market over any other economic system: it requires people to bargain and persuade rather than dictate. It can't relieve us of our duty of generosity and disinterested mutual support, but then neither can a supposedly compassionate socialist safety net.

Electric Vehicle Revolution

It's probably less significant than you think, even if you're a skeptic.


A Knoxville Girl

My mother was one, more or less. Technically she was from Bearden -- "Bear den" -- which is a bit south of the city limits. If you know the Ballad of Thunder Road, the closing action happens there: down Kingston Pike, at Bearden is where the Federal police 'made the fatal strike.' 

The family history around moonshining is simple:  none of my kin made moonshine, but my father's father was a welder who spent Prohibition welding stills. Given the overlap with the Depression, it was the only paying work. 

A Humorous Interlude

A bit behind ...

Early Decorations


I had wanted to locate the tree more centrally, but a certain fuzzy grey bandit requires that I keep it lashed to the wall if I don’t want to clean it up every morning.

He’s not even sorry, the scoundrel.

“Gandalf,” obviously. 

Advent Begins

I never realized before now that the beginning of Advent also begins the liturgical year, but that makes a great deal of sense.