18 U.S. Code § 242

The newly-announced "Office of Gun Violence Prevention," which will be led by several big names in Gun Control organizations, is manifestly a conspiracy to deprive Americans of Second Amendment rights under color of law. That is a violation of Federal law
Whoever, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, willfully subjects any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or to different punishments, pains, or penalties, on account of such person being an alien, or by reason of his color, or race, than are prescribed for the punishment of citizens, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if bodily injury results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.
So if any act by this new office subjects anyone in America of a deprivation of their Second Amendment rights, it's a minor felony. If police are used and it results in injury, a major felony. If anyone dies as a result of the police action to deprive them of their rights under color of law, a capital crime. The Supreme Court has clarified recently that the Second Amendment is "not a second-class right," so it is entitled to these protections just as much as voting rights, civil rights, or any other rights. 

The next President inclined to supporting the Second Amendment should immediately impound all their records, and send everyone who was involved in any such activity to prison. Candidates for that office ought to make clear that they intend to do so, as a prophylactic against misbehavior by those assuming these positions. 

Only Shows One Tattoo at a Time

Another fun little tune that came up this week. Reminds me of some people I know. 

Missing: One F-35

As Col. Kurt points out, a private who lost his night-vision goggles in the field is treated by the military as a major failure that can result in the whole unit being punished. Jimbo suggests we had better hope the Chinese economy collapses before they want to fight a war. 

The only thing I would point out is that this was a Marine Corps F-35. You can't put this one down to "Oh, the Air Force has a corporate rather than a military culture" or "Oh, the Navy...." The Marine Corps is famous for holding itself to a higher standard than any other branch: only the special operations units impose higher standards of discipline and performance than the USMC. Training is dangerous and accidents happen, but if this can happen here it can happen to any part of our military at this time. 

On the other hand, it's not like this is the worst thing that the military has lost in its air operations.

Right Angles to a Unicorn

This video, which I don't think I can embed, is an demonstration of why mathematicians like to describe imaginary numbers as "orthogonal" to reals. It also makes the case that complex numbers -- defined as numbers that include both imaginary and real numbers -- are essential to our description of reality (as does this article).

Indeed they may be! However, that presents us with two very different possibilities: that imaginary numbers may be essential to our description of reality, or to reality itself. Epicycles were at one point essential to our description of reality; no longer.

It's neat how it produces wave functions that are familiar and useful. However, it strikes me that saying that the "are" orthogonal because it makes sense to graph them as such really is akin to saying that you can draw a picture of me (or you) and a unicorn at right angles. Then the picture of me/you and the picture of the unicorn are indeed at right angles, and they are equally real (as pictures). The difference is that one of them has a referent in the physical world, and the other doesn't; and the referents are not, therefore, equal. One of them is real -- indeed it is actual -- and the other is imaginary.

But the physicists and mathematicians are really saying something stronger than that, which is that 'the sense that it makes' to graph them this way implies that there is a rational relationship between the real and the impossible; and then, applying this equation to reality, that this relationship between the real and the impossible ends up giving rise to the actual. That's an extraordinary claim, which at least some of them really seem to believe.

What is the Constitutional Ground for the DOJ?

The question is rhetorical; I assume you all know the answer. It is not a Constitutional organ, but rather an old executive office, an outgrowth of the office of the Attorney General that was set up by a 1789 law passed by Congress and signed by a President -- George Washington, no less. 
And there shall also be appointed a meet person, learned in the law, to act as attorney-general for the United States, who shall be sworn or affirmed to a faithful execution of his office; whose duty it shall be to prosecute and conduct all suits in the Supreme Court in which the United States shall be concerned, and to give his advice and opinion upon questions of law when required by the President of the United States, or when requested by the heads of any of the departments, touching any matters that may concern their departments, and shall receive such compensation for his services as shall by law be provided.
Neither the Attorney General nor the DOJ is meant to be independent of either Congress or the President, from whom all their authority is derived. Insofar as the Attorney General is misusing his power, those branches are responsible for him. That means that, like it or not, he answers to them. 
Attorney General Merrick Garland struck a defiant tone Wednesday in defending the Justice Department as independent of the White House and Congress, but Republicans attacked him repeatedly for the handling of high-profile investigations of Hunter Biden and Donald Trump.

"Our job is to uphold the rule of law," Garland told the House Judiciary Committee in an uncharacteristically emotional statement....

Garland reminded lawmakers, according to the prepared remarks, that he represents the American people rather than the president or Congress.

“Our job is not to take orders from the President, from Congress, or from anyone else, about who or what to criminally investigate,” Garland said.  

That is simply not true. Practically, he acts as if he knows it: he is clearly being guided by political imperatives in his handling of cases both high and low profile. The independence he pretends to is unconstitutional and improper. 

Here as elsewhere, I am not suggesting a program of reform but just trying to speak the truth about it. Congress is toothless against the bureaucracy and does not want their power back; the President is a nonentity, and none of his proposed replacements have the necessary virtues either. The DOJ is doing what its leaders please to do, politically: they are indeed functionally independent, exactly as they should never be. The system is broken, and is not capable of fixing itself. 

Power Over Nature

One of the co-bloggers at Insty linked to an article on anorexia. The Instapundit crew was mostly interested in the contemporary commentary on social media and mental health, but I thought this argument was of greater import:
Women in the early to late Middle Ages who starved themselves were later worshipped as saints, such as Wilgefortis (meaning strong virgin), Rose of Lima, Orsola Giuliani (known as Saint Veronica Giuliani), and probably most famously, Catherine of Siena. Almost all of these young women stopped eating when their parents were arranging their marriages. Catherine of Siena’s parents were hoping she might marry the widower of Catherine’s adored older sister, who died in childbirth. Catherine was less than thrilled at this idea and starved herself until any thoughts of marriage were moot....

The self-denial of Catherine—and the others—was seen as akin to holiness. While it’s tricky to compare eighth- to fifteenth-century women with twenty-first-century ones, the phenomenon of girls and women starving themselves has existed for millennia. And even if Catherine of Siena and Zhanna Samsonova were not classified as suffering from the same syndrome, they both learned that a woman not eating is an effective way for her to seize control when she feels otherwise powerless. All the saints listed above stopped eating at the time their parents were urging them to get married. I paused time by starving and arresting my puberty.

Anorexia gave me nothing. All it did was take away my teens and twenties. But for the medieval girls, it gave them enormous power.

Arresting puberty as a means of self-empowerment has obvious parallels with the puberty-blocking drugs sought for teenagers today -- and with the more-permanent surgical options. Also, in the case of women, with birth control and abortion. 

All of them are alike in finding power, as they describe it, in being able to deny their nature. This is an odd locution when you think about it. Both "power" and "energy" are usually described as the ability to do work. "Horsepower," for example, is the mechanical ability to lift 550 pounds one foot in one second. Here "power" is being sought by preventing function rather than enabling it. 

What sort of power is this? The power of the will over the physical, but what is being willed? It is not to be what one is, not to change, not to have one's body develop and flourish according to its nature; not to marry, not to conceive, not to move from girlhood to womanhood, from womanhood to motherhood. 

It is a will to stillness and the absence of change, which is to say that it is a death-wish. It is therefore not surprising to find that it ends in death. 

So does life, of course. 

Why are the Flags at Half-Mast?

I don’t know if I have just been noticing more these last few years, but it seems like the flag is at half-mast a tremendous amount of time. A nation cannot be perpetually in mourning, but it seems like I see the flag displayed in the attitude of mourning much of the time. Often, I have no idea what tragic event occasions the display. 

If you’re wondering about it as well, here’s a free resource that explains why the flag is at half-staff today.  In our case, it’s a statewide declaration from our governor to honor a deputy sheriff who died recently. 

Self-Imposed Limits

Ironically, the same day that AVI is talking about the lack of self-discipline in humanity, my friend Andy at the Norse Mentality is talking about how to break self-imposed limits. [This is a Strongman training video, so expect profane language and gestures. Also, however, frank talk from big burly men about their feelings, their experience with meditation, and how they strive to do their best for their families as well as themselves.]

In a way it underlines AVI's point, really: human beings frequently do not set appropriate limits on themselves where it would be helpful, but likewise do set self-imposed limits on themselves where it causes them problems. Both approaches are irrational, but so are people. 

In the comments, there is a Tolkien quote that helpfully addresses yesterday's essay on Just War Theory. [Given the provenance, I will take the unusual step of assuming the quote is accurate without checking.]
"Gandalf as Ring-Lord would have been far worse than Sauron. He would have remained ‘righteous’, but self-righteous. He would have continued to rule and order things for ‘good’, and the benefit of his subjects according to his wisdom (which was and would have remained great). Thus while Sauron multiplied [illegible word] evil, he left ‘good’ clearly distinguishable from it. Gandalf would have made good detestable and seem evil."
-- J. R. R. Tolkien
If Just Wars are to be fought over justice, and not interest, we are in the same peril as Gandalf with the Ring. Interest, of course,  has its own perils: and sometimes the weak and suffering might really benefit from a hand. Yet the peril is very terrible, and that should be remembered. When I was young I was very inclined to what seemed to me to be Just Wars; looking back now, I wonder how wise they were. 

99 Bottles

I realize it's very early in the workweek for this sort of thing, but I heard it today and it struck me how obvious it was to make this song -- yet no one had ever done it. We all know the old campfire / road-trip classic, and there are plenty of beers out there to sing about, so why not make an elaboration? Someone finally thought to do it, and it's kind of fun.

Two on Philosophy of War

What follows the jump is a brief commentary on a pair of essays on the philosophy of war.

Happy Birthday, Hank

In the same spirit as the congratulatory post about Junior below, the senior Hank Williams turns a hundred today. Sadly he only spent not quite thirty of those years alive. Spotify put together a tribute, linked above. 

Doing things right

Whatever opinion you may have about Texas AG Paxton's lawsuits against the Biden administration, or Paxton as a man, I maintain that it's important to solve political problems at the ballot box and legal problems with due process in court. These are two recent articles, both written before the acquittal vote in his impeachment trial, that ably explain the insufficiency of the evidence against Mr. Paxton.

The Texas AG has enemies, and I can't be sure that some of them don't have a point. If their main problem is his politics, however, they're off base in their chosen tactics. His politics clearly enjoy the support of Texas voters, and the complaints against him clearly have never been sufficient to convince voters. After years of a whisper campaign implying that they had their enemy on some kind of legal infractions, the best they could come up with to impeach him with was a lot of surmises that fell apart as soon as someone bothered to cross-examine the witnesses. As for the argument that we should trust the FBI about any part of the investigation, I can only laugh. That ship has sailed.

Silly Stuff on a Saturday Night

How often do you think about the Roman empire?

I first saw this internet trend in the Babylon Bee, and was confused:

Man Who Hasn't Thought About The Roman Empire In Over A Week Worried He Might Be Trans


Then, I thought I'd listen to some music on YouTube and there was Brett Cooper, talking about this:

Well, now I (we) know.

So, how often do you think about the Roman empire?

Edward Gibbon comes up in my research from time to time, so once a week or so for me, I guess?

Why Should You Care?

An article at First Things has a stunning opening, then leads to a deep question.
There’s a very short and very brutal poem by the Scottish poet Hollie McNish, written in 2019 and titled “Conversation with an archaeologist”:

he said they’d found a brothel
on the dig he did last night
I asked him how they know
he sighed:
a pit of babies’ bones
a pit of newborn babies’ bones was how to spot a brothel

“It’s true, you know,” said the writer and lawyer Helen Dale when we had lunch in London last year and I mentioned this poem, which I chose as one of the epigraphs to my book The Case Against the Sexual Revolution. Helen was a classicist before she was a lawyer, and as a younger woman she had taken part in archaeological excavations of ancient Roman sites. “First you find the erotic statuary,” she went on, “and then you dig a bit more and you find the male infant skeletons.” Male, of course, because the males were of no use to the keepers of Roman brothels, whereas the female infants born to prostituted women were raised into prostitution themselves.

She of course ties this to our own addiction to abortion, a move she herself describes as "a provocation." I think there's a real division between those to whom the connection is obvious and those to whom it is a provocation. But she is not fully opposed to abortion; as she notes, she might want one herself someday. 

What she's really worried about is the end of Christianity's heritage in our moral understanding, including her own:

I’m emotionally and intellectually drawn to Christianity, and—like everyone else—I was raised in a culture suffused with fading Christian morality and symbolism. But I don’t believe, not really. 

So if you don't believe, why do you care? I mean the question sincerely: it's worthy of exploration. 

One possibility is that it's just a kind of hangover, a product of having grown up in a society that believed certain things, having rubbed up against those things until they were somewhat internalized, and now having the residue of that even though you aren't convicted. If that’s all that’s driving your moral feelings, you might as well abandon them; they were only ever an accident anyway. Nothing hangs on their passage, well, but for some lives of children.

Another possibility is that at least some of the claims of the faith are true: that there is a thing in us that longs for justice, and finds justice outraged by the killing of the innocent to serve the interests of those stronger and bigger than they are. (Even if this is not, as she suggests, 'murder,' noting that both infanticide and abortion almost could not be convicted in court in England or Scotland even while juries were all male and the society much more Christian than presently.) 

If there is something true to which you are responding, perhaps others will continue to respond. Even if you don't believe in the whole, you must at least believe some part of that to think it even matters if the morality of the public changes. 

She closes with another striking passage, which deserves mention. 

What if... we understand the Christian era as a clearing in a forest? The forest is paganism: dark, wild, vigorous, and menacing, but also magical in its way. For two thousand years, Christians pushed the forest back, with burning and hacking, but also with pruning and cultivating, creating a garden in the clearing with a view upward to heaven.

But watch as roots outstretch themselves and new shoots spring up from the ground. The patch of sky recedes. “Paganism has not needed to be reinvented,” writes Steven Smith: It never went away. “In a certain sense, the Western world has arguably always remained more pagan than Christian. In some ways Christianity has been more of a veneer than a substantial reality.””

With no one left to tend the garden, the forest is reclaiming its ground.

Paganism is also a clearing in the forest, though: we know that from the Venerable Bede, who recorded a conversation with a converting pagan on just this point. He likened the passage through life to that of a bird appearing in a fire-lit hall of an evening and flying to the other side. While it was in the hall and visible to others, it was bright and beautiful; but before it came in the hall, and after it left, nothing could be said about it at all. We knew nothing about the bird, as the pagan knows nothing about where the soul is before death or what happens after; the man is only visible for a short space. A clearing in the forest would do exactly as well in this metaphor as the fire-lit hall. 

Chesterton transformed that story into a few lines of his famous ballad, in which he characterizes the pagan's worldview even more despairingly than that.

‘For this is a heavy matter,
And the truth is cold to tell;
Do we not know, have we not heard,
The soul is like a lost bird,
The body a broken shell.

‘And a man hopes, being ignorant,
Till in white woods apart
He finds at last the lost bird dead;
And a man may still lift up his head
But never more his heart.

Chesterton wasn't quite right about that. The pagan thought of death as a return, of sorts; to the ancestors, or the land of the dead where souls wait to be reborn (perhaps, as in Valhalla, after a destructive turning that causes the whole world to be reborn). Still, a return to paganism doesn't create an escape from the problem; and the question of what, if anything, is owed to the weak and the helpless will remain. The reasons why we care about that are important. 

A More Successful Approach

As an addendum to the last, here's another young female singer whose work I have heard and do like. She has a similar problem -- her situation, in the song, is the sort of thing that might provoke rage. Yet this is not a song of rage; it's a song of joy and friendship in spite of legitimately bad conditions.

What strikes me here is that she has adopted as her frame not sex but class. Suddenly, instead of looking at the men around her as oppressors, she is able to see them as friends and allies against the way in which they are all being kept down by economic and social class features. They're all suffering, but they're suffering together, and recognizing that they can build relationships that can help them both endure the suffering and find ways to live a life you can be happy to live. 

This is one of the genuine insights the Marxists had, I think: that American institutions in some sense strive to divide us by things like race and sex because those differences can distract us from oppression by class. The institutions serve the actually privileged, who benefit from keeping those they are oppressing (and from whom they are extracting wealth and power to support their position) squabbling over things that can't be fixed.

In any case, this approach leads her to friendship across the sex divide, a comradery made up of a recognition of shared problems and shared situations. Whiskey and rum may not lead them out of the situation they are in, but at least they're not stewing in rage and misery.

An Inversion of Categories

Via Instapundit, a 'sociological law' (subject to the same limitation as all such 'laws,' which is that they are not laws if they do not apply).

I had a crack at coming up with my own sociological ‘law’ and my first effort went as follows: “The more progressive a country is when it comes to sex and gender, the more authoritarian it is when it comes to speech and language.” I was thinking of Ireland which, having legalised abortion in 2018, is about to impose the most draconian speech restrictions in Europe. I now propose a second law: “^Any group described as privileged is in fact marginalised; and any group described as marginalised is in fact privileged.’

A case in point is white men – and in particular cisgendered, heterosexual, able-bodied, middle-class white men – who are now at the bottom of the intersectional hierarchy of oppression in most professions. But to add to their misery, these poor, benighted souls have to pretend they’re at the top of that self-same pyramid if they’re to retain their jobs, apologising for their ‘privilege’ in front of their more powerful black, female, non-binary, gay and disabled colleagues.

The author is apparently British; he goes on to provide some data backing up that claim.  

Some will think I’m being deliberately provocative, so I’ll reel off some facts and figures to illustrate this point with respect to just two groups: men and women. Their relative status is the exact opposite of how it’s usually described, making it the perfect illustration of Young’s Second Law. Some of the stats about just how underprivileged men are probably won’t come as a surprise. We all know boys fare worse than girls at school, one reason 35,000 fewer 18-year-old boys will go to university this month than 18-year-old girls. We also know that men are more likely to be addicted to drugs and alcohol, account for three-quarters of all suicides and almost 90 per cent of the homeless. But did you know men make up 96.2 per cent of Britain’s prison population and are 23 times more likely to die at work than women? Research carried out by the Future Men charity found that 29 per cent of young men feel ignored, which perhaps isn’t surprising given that we have a minister for women and equalities and a women’s health ambassador, but no minister for men.

The figures are similar in the United States, where men are on the order of 90% of the (much larger) prison population, and the majority of suicides; we hear a great deal in our media about the problem of teenage girls' suicidal ideation (which is clearly undesirable) and not much about the fact that teenage males actually kill themselves more. Men are the victims of all forms of violent crime at higher rates, including rape once you include the ubiquitous rape culture of our detestable prison system and it's 90+% male population.

What strikes me often, though, is the cultural blindness attendant to all of this. I got an ad somewhere advising me to read an article about a young singer named Olivia Rodrigo -- perhaps all of you but me know who that is -- who has a new album expressing female rage against the unfair 'expectations' of her society. "The singer-songwriter says “All-American Bitch” is “sort of about that,” and is a song she’s 'very proud of.'"

It's presumptively impolite to suggest that someone's feelings aren't valid, and she has doubtless felt such things at times. Yet it should be striking that such an expression receives not disapproval, but elevation including not only an article in People magazine but purchased internet ads distributing it so far as to have it on my desk, who must be as far from the demographic who listens to her music as is possible to get within America's context. Nor is she a rare exception to a generalized hostility to 'female rage'; the Barbie movie the sociological piece begins with is a billion dollar project; the most famous singer in the world right now, I gather, is one Taylor Swift who, I also gather having not listened to her music, made her name with a series of angry songs about men generalized to men in general. Nor is this in any way new; a generation ago (when I was more likely to hear such music) Alanis Morissette also sang about how "I'm a bitch" and made millions doing it; Tori Amos, who really was a fantastic musician capable of crafting songs of great beauty, sang about almost nothing else than her rage. 

What strikes me, again, is the blindness: for decades I've been hearing this talk, and the people who are culturally aligned with it really can't see that it's not true. The world oppresses women, they repeat every  year, and it won't allow women to express rage or their true feelings. Yet every year they do so to wild acclaim and success, while living in a society in which they are practically better off by all these demonstrable metrics. 

Another one: we always hear about men being paid more per hour than women, and arguments about whether or to what degree that is true; we almost never hear about the fact that, since metrics were kept, women control about 85% of spending decisions. Whoever earns the money, women mostly decide how to spend it, and for that reason they have intense cultural and economic power. Every shopping mall in America has a store or three devoted to more-or-less exclusively female interests like boutiques or pedicure places; you have to go a long way to find a store that's about mostly or exclusively male interests. 

Women may still be full of rage, even though they now have a vast amount of power and a significant set of advantages. I suppose they must be if they keep, generation after generation, being willing to shell out such coin to celebrate expressions of their rage. I wonder, though, how much that rage could be addressed if it were possible to have a clear-eyed recognition of their privileged position in much of American and British society; or if, indeed, there is any set of facts that would resolve the rage that arises in the female experience. It may not entirely be a product of the physical facts of the situation; there may be some core of it that is permanent and eternal. 

A Tail of Chickens and Snakes

That snake was in the chicken coop this afternoon, trying to feast on eggs. The only problem he had was that the real eggs get removed every morning, so what he'd found was my wife’s fake concrete eggs that are glued down in the nesting boxes. (They're to show the hens where to lay, apparently.) 

She collected him up and put him in a sack I held for her, which we tied off and then took off the property. I had to go by the VFD to sign some training forms, so we took him over there on the motorcycles. She said she'd let him go while I went in and signed the forms.

"No," I said, "bring him in so Terry can meet him." Terry's the Fire Chief. 

"Is he afraid of snakes?" she asked.

"Reckon we'll find out shortly."

Oliver Anthony Update

Since we're on the subject of country music, that artist Douglas introduced us to a few weeks ago has had an interesting few weeks. I understand there is some concern that he might have been a put-up -- I've seen D29 voice that concern at his place -- but I really don't think so. It's an understandable concern, though: in the wake of the TEA Party movement, suddenly there were all kinds of TEA Party groups emailing you for money, backed by people like Karl Rove. The idea that this too could just be an attempt to exploit and (more importantly) control people's rage is not an unreasonable one.

That said, I've been watching him now and he looks pretty genuine to me. The fake groups were all about the money: he just canceled a show because he found out people were being charged extra to meet him, and declared that his future shows will be priced between $25 and $40. He took personal responsibility for that, too, stating that it was his fault for not having been involved enough in the contract negotiations and that he would do better in the future. 

Also, I've seen him doing interviews a couple of times, and what he tends to do when asked what he wants is pull out a Bible and start reading from it. The verses he picks aren't partisan favorites -- nothing about smiting or Sodom and Gomorrah or millstones about necks -- but verses about praying for forgiveness and healing of the nation. Another time he was asked about the fact that he was apparently mentioned at the Republican presidential debate, and he laughed and said that those guys were what his song was about

He's a young man navigating sudden fame, and all kinds of people must be coming out of the woodwork to try to tempt him. He seems to be doing as well with it as can be expected. Some mistakes are sure, and it would be easy to misinterpret them in this atmosphere of understandable concern. I think he's just an honest kid who's trying to do right, and speak the truth as he sees it. 

Congratulations, Hank

Bocephus married this weekend, to a long time friend. He had spent a year in mourning for his previous wife of some 32 years after her tragic death. Congratulations and best wishes to Mr. and Mrs. Hank Williams, Jr.

Classical Guitar in Medieval Churches

James Russell along the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route

"Beorn’s Honey Cakes"

Baking on the hearth in an iron camp stove.

Someone recently bought me a cookbook of recipes "inspired by" the world of Tolkien; I do not recommend it, unless for a young person who is learning how to cook for themselves. It is in no wise an attempt at authentic versions of the meals cooked in Tolkien's stories: their version of "Beorn's Honey Cakes" is banana-bread muffins cooked in cupcake papers. Bananas and other tropical fruits were somewhat thin on the ground near northern Mirkwood, and unlike the Elvish king Beorn enjoyed no wide trade network with which to provide himself with foods. The recipe was even worse than that: the 'honey cakes' were made with no honey! You were just to drizzle honey on top when finished. 

Now admittedly baking with honey is a little advanced, and a popular cookbook targeted at a general audience might well fall back on an easy recipe like this. I will, later, construct a genuine recipe for a Beorn-style honey cake and do a separate post about that. Today, I substituted apple sauce for the ridiculous banana, and baked it in an iron oven over (and under) wood coals.

Rights versus "Public Health"

The governor of New Mexico has issued a decree purporting to "suspend" the right to carry a firearm in Albuquerque -- most famously the site of Bugs Bunny's repeated failures to take the right turn -- after a series of shootings.  I say "purporting to" as an antidote to the news reports, which breathlessly claim that she did "suspend the right," as if that were something she has legitimate power to do.

I don't have the figures in front of me, but my guess would be that approximately zero percent of the shootings were the product of people lawfully carrying firearms using permits. None of the stories in the press sound like they were the products of people with concealed carry permits: they sound like a collection of mostly crimes and a few accidents that wouldn't actually be affected by this edict at all. 

I do see that several law enforcement leaders have already said they won't enforce her unconstitutional order, that lawsuits are expected, and that there is talk of impeachment for having issued it. Those things are good. 

Supporters are not bothered by either the unconstitutionality nor the fact that it wouldn't have any effect on the actual problem, and instead resort to genuinely stupid mottos.
Miranda Viscoli, co-president of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence, applauded the governor’s order as a courageous and necessary step to curbing gun violence, even if its legal fate is uncertain.

“If it saves one life, then it’s worth doing,” she said.

Normally I try to refrain from calling my opponents stupid, but that rhetoric is not compatible with thought. Here's a humorous video illustrating the point.

Of interest, though, is that the purported excuse granting the governor power to ignore the constitution and basic rights is "public health." 

The firearms suspension, classified as an emergency public health order, applies to open and concealed carry in most public places, from city sidewalks to urban recreational parks.

One might give a slippery slope argument here -- at first they're just going after guns which they never thought of as a 'real' right, but if you let this stand they might use 'public health' as an excuse to go after First Amendment rights like religious exercise or Free Speech. One might, except that of course it's the other way around: they started with religious exercise and free speech, as well as freedom of movement and association and other rights. 

That was during the COVID period, of course, and although many expect a renewed attempt to restore COVID restrictions in order to -- frankly -- defraud the 2024 election using similar measures to the 2020 one, the circumstances are different. In 2020, COVID was novel virus apparently leaked from a bioweapons lab: we had no natural immunity to it, and no idea how horrible it might prove to be. It was rational to treat it like a genuine emergency. These days, almost everyone has been exposed to COVID and has natural antibodies; there are also, er, treatments available some of which are apparently better than others. It's annoying to have what amounts to a second flu, which will kill a certain number of people every year as the flu does, but it's not an emergency on the same scale as before. 

Still, the idea that the COVID emergencies allowed the camel to get its nose into the tent should be alarming. "Public Health" was used as an excuse to limit even the most basic freedoms, by pure executive orders like this one. This was done, and enforced, even in cases like this one where the evidence strongly suggested that the order would have no effect on public health ("wear one of those cloth masks you made at home, or maybe a bandana") or kept in force long after they had proven to have no effect.

There is a reasonable debate -- allied to the general discussion we are having about anarchism and volunteerism -- about whether a government is necessary to address genuine emergencies like the Black Death, and if so what powers it should have for that purpose, for how long, and what limits it should be required to obey even in such an emergency. Actions like this one are well outside the parameters of any such reasonable discussion. 

Anarcho-Capitalism in Argentina

The story is in Jacobin, whose name heralds their opinion of the philosophy without the need of reading it. Still, Wretchard took note of it so I read it anyway. Anything a man as intelligent as himself finds interesting usually is. 
[T]he self-described “anarcho-capitalist” made a name for himself by excoriating right-wing politicians for their moderation and quoting obscure paleolibertarians.… Discounting the possibility that ten million Argentines made a midnight conversion to free-market fundamentalism, explanations tend to focus on the fact that Milei’s rebellious image struck a chord with an increasingly disillusioned electorate. 

…[the] two-party system is coming undone, insists Pryluka, under the weight of decades of inflation and economic stagnation.

If government is the problem, anarchy is certainly a solution. Combining it with free markets may prove difficult, as governments are usually thought to have a key role in protecting property and enforcing contracts. Whether the coercion can be done without is a question with which I am also keenly interested.  


The British have decided to protect the lands around Tintagel Castle, preserving a natural character to the area. Tintagel was of course the castle where Arthur was supposed to have been conceived, and later born, according to Sir Thomas Malory's account (and many others on which he drew, or which drew on him).
Smith’s Cliff, on the north Cornwall coast, will be cared for by the conservation charity as a space for wildlife to flourish, for heritage to be conserved and for people to access and enjoy forever.

The 55-acre (22.6 hectares) acquisition puts in place a vital piece of the coastal ‘jigsaw’ for the National Trust in the area, joining up land that the charity looks after at Barras Nose, which lies north of the castle, all the way to Bossiney, to become a continuous 2.7-mile stretch of coastal land.

Knitting together these sections will create a coastal corridor that connects and encourages the spread of wildlife within a naturally and culturally significant landscape. The site sits within the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the Pentire-Widemouth Heritage Coast, and forms part of the setting of the spectacular Tintagel Castle.

Tintagel is also the home to an interesting sculpture of Arthur. The castle itself is a kind of memorial to Arthur: it was built in 1230, but " inspired by the association with Arthur, [Richard, Earl of Cornwall] had the castle styled to appear older."

It strikes me that this attempt to build a natural corridor around Tintagel will actually make it less like it was in Arthur's day (i.e., around 500 AD, not that we are sure that Arthur actually ever lived at all), because then it was a bustling area rich enough to build and sustain a castle. There would have been farms and bakeries and wells and wagons all up and down the nearby areas, commerce and merchants, peasants and men of the church. 

The influence of the idea of the Wilderness on how we envision Arthur is long and striking, though; it is as old as the desire to build monuments either physical or literary to him and his tradition. Merlin in the earliest stories is tied to a man who went mad in the wilderness, and long dwelt there; as is Lancelot, in much later stories. The knights are always going to the wild to seek adventure, encamped in some forest or by some crossing to offer joust or battle to any who pass by. 

An Example to All

The Orthosphere on a recent sentencing in the J6 case:

I believe John Derbyshire coined the phrase “cold civil war” as a name for the ever-worsening feud...[the phrase] came to mind when I read in this morning’s paper that... Enrique Tarrio has been sentenced to twenty-two years in prison for “inspiring followers with his charisma and penchant for propaganda.”  This was in connection with the 2021 Capital Hill protest, which Tarrio did not attend, but about which he appears not to have felt sufficiently sorry.

The judge in Tarrio’s case, one Timothy Kelly, told the court that the sentence was exemplary: “we need to make sure the consequences are abundantly clear to anyone who might be unhappy with the results of 2024, 2028, 2032 or any future election.”  I trust Judge Kelly did not mean that unhappiness with election results is now a crime punished by twenty-two years in prison, but prudent losers... should in future limit their expressions of disappointment to a quiet “darn it” or “shucks.”

I would think it would be grounds for appeal of a sentence if it was given on an 'exemplary' basis: that is, not out of considerations of justice for a particular act of which one had been found guilty, but out of concern for future acts that might (or might not!) be committed by someone else. 

Nevertheless the idea of punishing in this way is very old. In Plato's Protagoras, the title character argues the point to Socrates as a proof that virtue can be taught:

[If] you will think, Socrates, of the nature of punishment, you will see at once that in the opinion of mankind virtue may be acquired; no one punishes the evil-doer under the notion, or for the reason, that he has done wrong, only the unreasonable fury of a beast acts in that manner. But he who desires to inflict rational punishment does not retaliate for a past wrong which cannot be undone; he has regard to the future, and is desirous that the man who is punished, and he who sees him punished, may be deterred from doing wrong again. He punishes for the sake of prevention, thereby clearly implying that virtue is capable of being taught. 

On this argument punishment is really only defensible as a means of avoiding future harms, not of creating a sort of justice for past ones. This puts the Proud Boy in the position of the sacrificial animal: he suffers that we may benefit, and become better people by his suffering. 

So it is really we, you see, who are being sentenced to prison: it is a suspended sentence, for us, but we are meant to understand that anyone who 'might be unhappy with the results of 2024, 2028, 2032 or any future election' is the judge's target. Torres (who is widely reported to have been a Federal informant at least) is just the one who has to suffer for our conversion. 

UPDATE: Here's another exemplar. It's a much shorter sentence being sought, but he also didn't enter the Capitol; he's being prosecuted for exercising what is usually considered protected free speech outside.

The Biden DOJ claimed that Shroyer "spread election disinformation paired with violent rhetoric" to viewers in the months leading up to January 6, and that on the day, "Shroyer took to a megaphone before leading a crowd to the Capitol" and said "The Democrats are posing as communists, but we know what they really are: they’re just tyrants, they’re tyrants. And so today, on January 6, we declare death to tyranny! Death to tyrants!"

"Shroyer did not stop at the sight of tear gas or sounds of explosions on the west side of the Capitol. He continued marching around to the top of the east steps chanting '1776!,' where rioters would eventually violently breach the Capitol and its police line and halt the transfer of presidential power," the court document states.

The usual standard is that a threat isn't protected if and only if it's a real threat against an actual individual that you plausibly intend to carry out. Vague statements like "Death to Tyrants" are usually protected as political rhetoric; heck, people set up fake gallows and guillotines (depending on their own political orientation) to convey the same idea, but without any actual violence occurring.

Meanwhile, remember how the anti-police protests in Seattle and Portland actively protected arsonists and others physically attacking Federal buildings and personnel from arrest? The one-sided nature of these prosecutions is galling even to ordinary people who would never attend a protest of any kind.

Here as elsewhere, I get the sense that our system is so bent on destroying Trump and his movement that they're ripping up their own pillars. A political system is analogously like a building: it's built to withstand force, but only so much. The more force you apply, the more danger you'll rip out a supporting wall (and thus bring the whole thing down).


The Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) has had a troubled history even before this year. As an act it is only dubiously aligned with the Anglo-American tradition of law, which ordinarily requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt that someone broke a particular law on a particular occasion. RICO bypasses via what you might call a dramatic approach: instead of establishing that Person X did Crime Y on occasion Z, it tells a story about how Person X and Person Q and perhaps several other persons have been engaged in an ongoing criminal conspiracy. You have to prove a couple of crimes still -- a historic one and a more recent one, more or less -- but you are then allowed to assume the conspiracy as an ongoing fact.

There are reasons to be suspicious of granting prosecutors this power to bypass ordinary standards. Humans are storytelling creatures by nature, and having a story that explains can end up enabling a lot of cognitive biases that often lead humans to bad decisions. Cognitive bias is a dread fact afflicting even the most rigorous science. Achieving reasonable clarity on the facts is hard in criminal law, and a great deal is at stake. Letting prosecutors tack up a story with only a couple of things they can actually nail down is likely to lead to suspect convictions. 

Sometimes juries don't buy it. One of the most famous RICO prosecutions was 1979's US vs. Barger, in which the US Federal government tried and failed to paint the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club as a racketeering organization. It was clear that some Angels had guns, and others had drugs; they never could show that the club was in the business of guns or drugs. Even with a story the prosecutors told in the blackest terms, the jury saw the club in a different light. They saw the guns and drugs as individual acts within a culture that embraced outlaw imagery, and didn't buy that it was a criminal enterprise. Prosecutors spent a lot of money, as well as a lot of time, trying to build their case; in the end, the audience for whatever reason wouldn't believe it. 

Georgia is now running two RICO cases [correction: under Georgia's version of the Federal statute, which is even broader] in which the political bias of the jury is likely to play a big role in what kind of story they are prepared to believe. Personally I think it's simultaneously ridiculous and also highly plausible to view a political campaign's efforts to work recounts as a racketeering conspiracy: ridiculous because it's not criminal, and indeed universal to high-level campaigns, but plausible because frankly all these politicians are criminals and the whole business has become a species of corrupt racketeering. 

That, though, is a reason to indict all the major politicians; it won't do for us to pretend that they aren't all engaged in corrupt conspiracies, just this one guy and his team. (The irony of seeing former prosecutor Rudy Giuliani of all people indicted under RICO, after he made his name using it against the mob, is striking.) We're not bringing charges against the Biden crime family? The Clintons? The Pelosis? All of them? 

Yet I suspect that the indictment inside Atlanta is likely to produce a jury for whom the story of the Trump organization as an ongoing criminal conspiracy won't even have to be sold. The jury may well come into the room believing that, and confirmation bias will then allow them to believe everything else. A conviction there is highly probable unless his lawyers succeed in getting a jury from the state more broadly, as they might for example by a change of venue or a shift to prosecution in Federal court. 

The second case is against a group of what it is popular to call ANTIFA organizations, some 60 members of them who are protesting the 'cop city' development of the Atlanta Police Department. The thing about these sorts of organizations is that they're not criminal enterprises, because they're not enterprises. They are conspiracies, certainly; and they are often criminal conspiracies, in that they conspire about the practicalities of violating the law and getting away with it. But to be convicted under RICO, you have to show that the acts are part of an ongoing criminal enterprise, and these kids aren't trying to make any money. They're trying to effect political change, even if it costs them money (or jail time). 

I personally think that prosecutors should have to prove everything they want to punish you for to the 'beyond a reasonable doubt' standard. These dramatic prosecutions don't seem to me to be in good order, or in the best of our traditions of ordered liberty. The state should always have to prove its case before a jury if it wants to deprive any citizen of life or liberty; I don't even think plea bargains should be permitted, as that loophole has expanded to embrace 90% of prosecutions (98% in Federal court). The state almost never now has to actually prove its case, even when they aren't granted the power to go spinning stories that are barely tacked up with facts. 

Generally I see commentary about this that the prosecutions show a kind of fairness, as Georgia's prosecutors are going against both Trump and ANTIFA. That's an optimistic way of looking at it. In both cases, the establishment is going after its enemies. Calling that evenhanded is fair only insofar as you are likening them to a swordsman, who slays his foes on his right hand as well as on his left. 

Was the Georgia Election Stolen?

Roger Stone, a man with a tattoo of Nixon on his back, suggests that it was. Hot Air is gravely upset at the suggestion:

Brian Kemp didn’t steal the 2022 election from Stacey Abrams. The truth is that rightly or wrongly Kemp believes that Trump lost Georgia fair and square and is unwilling to lie about it. Guess what? Lying is a bad trait, and while common enough in politics it is hardly something to be admired. How many of us hate politicians because they are a bunch of liars? Count me in that camp.... it is just... disgusting. Every Trump “influencer” repeats the same tired lines about Trump’s opponents and regurgitates the most fanciful and slanderous attacks.

I don't know if the 2022 election was stolen, but it was a repeat contest from an election in 2018 that I actually voted in. That election was as shady as it was possible for an election to be; I've written about it in detail (scroll to "Georgia"). I don't have any confidence at all that Kemp isn't cheating in every election, because his behavior in that one was absolutely disgraceful. The system they had in place was perfect for fraud, too, lacking any capacity to be audited because there were no actual ballots to check it against. 

Hot Air points out that Kemp won by 300,000 votes, which you might think was outside the margin of fraud. The un-auditable system they  had in 2018 was replaced with another vote system, Dominion, at the order of a Federal court. Yet over 400,000 votes in Georgia's 2020 election lacked chain of custody, which was 67% of the 'drop box' votes. That election was decided by 12,000 votes.

Ultimately the establishment remains invested in assuring us that our elections are reliable and, therefore, that they justify and legitimate the power of the elected. I don't believe that anymore, and I definitely don't believe it in Georgia's case particularly. Anything Kemp and his ilk are in charge of is is untrustworthy, as they have proven by their own actions. 

Active Shooters Mostly Stopped by Armed Citizens

Two pieces today find that the percentage is on the order of sixty. 

The Language of Trees

Yesterday I took a hike on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. I didn't do the whole thing, just a section near Haywood Gap. 

Much of the trail in the mountains is like the Appalachian Trail: although you know you are in the mountains because of the slope of the land and the difficulty of the terrain, rather than long views you are just in a green tunnel. The Appalachians do not generally rise above the tree line, like the Tetons or the Big Holes, so you are always surrounded by trees -- many of them evergreens, especially Red Spruce and Hemlocks.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Buffett

I remember first hearing this one playing on the radio in the family car when I was a kid. It gave us all a laugh and I've enjoyed his music ever since.

Local Government

Continuing the topic of rebuilding, one of the themes that emerged in the recent discussion was that of local government. AVI suggested that a lot of the difference in the need of government has to do with the facts on the ground about a locality: dense populations may need more, he suggests, whereas rural areas may be able to make do with much less. Douglas added that he thought there was a general problem about trying to nationalize rather than localize problem-solutions, and that a focus on locality might be beneficial. Elise's proposal makes a lot of sense in a community in which people know each other, and is harder to implement as actual knowledge of candidates has to be mediated by, well, media. 

By coincidence, Thos. and I had a discussion on the same subject in person over some Thai food (which is improbably popular in the Teton Valley: there are a surprising number of Thai restaurants given a population that is relatively non-diverse, mostly descended from the Mormon settlers of the late 19th to early 20th centuries). The role of the local is often underexamined, but it is also where I have been focusing my practical efforts for several years now: abandoning national and state politics as hopelessly corrupt, nevertheless there is a lot of practical good to be done in your own community. 

One of the reasons that a  voluntarist society has come to make sense to me is that I can see how much practical good is actually done by such organizations in communities, which compares extremely favorably to the good actually accomplished by larger-scale government organizations (or professional organizations like public schools even at the local level). There's no reason that you can't make your living privately, and still contribute to the public good as a member of a volunteer local 'government' organization -- to whatever degree it is really proper to refer to such an organization as a government, since no one acting in the public interest here is employed by the government.* 

There is another question about the importance of planning. Localities really do benefit from planning at a higher level than the individual: while the market can do a lot to align interests about how various properties are used, it can also be helpful to have a higher-level perspective to ensure that there are not bottlenecks in traffic, pollution of water sources that are of general utility, a large amount of wild space that does not get developed so that the natural beauty and wildlife continue to flourish, and so forth. In principle a voluntary council like the old Icelandic Thing could do this, but in practice America has long chosen to depend on coercive organizations -- even privately, as with Home Owners Assocations -- in order to compel obedience to the decision of the planning council. There is an important discussion to be had as to whether coercion is really required, and if so to what degree, and how to ensure that it minimally troubles human liberty. 

So again: what do you think about all of that? 

* I think I've told the story of an old man who was upset that we had temporarily blocked his driveway with a fire truck while fighting a wildfire that was literally just over the ridge behind his house -- indeed, the truck was stationed there specifically to protect his house. He was furious with us anyway, and finally said the worst thing he could think to say to us: "The Fire Department is no better than the government."

A Well-Earned Ale

Today I got up and lit my smoker before my first meeting. Over the course of the day, in addition to work, I smoked two whole Boston Butts and a beef Chuck roast. I also pressure washed the motorcycles and my deck, then waxed the bike, then made dinner out of some of the smoked meats. Then I broke the rest down and stowed it — three gallons of pulled pork alone.

Sierra Nevada has a brewery over by the airport, so we get their local stuff. I haven’t tried this one before. I’m pretty sure I have earned it, though, so I hope it’s good. 

'The Gun-Show Loophole'

Wyoming just had a major restoration of civil rights for non-violent felons. There remain problems. 
A restoration of rights for nonviolent felons in Wyoming took effect July 1 and includes the right to “use or knowingly possess” a firearm.

But it remains unclear for some whether that means nonviolent felons can buy firearms from licensed gun dealers. Having and using a gun is one thing, but legally being able to buy a gun, which still requires a federal background check, isn't as clear....

Dennis Mazet, who owns High Country Sporting Goods in Riverton, told Cowboy State Daily that he was also OK with selling firearms to nonviolent felons who meet all the same qualifications as anybody else legally eligible to buy them.

However, he also wondered if somebody with any sort of felony on their record could pass a federal background check. Dealers must refuse any sales to people who don’t pass.

“I would have no problem with it, but I don’t know if they could pass the federal background check,” he said. “That’s done through the FBI.”

The rest of the piece includes an interesting perspective from GOA, whose opinion is that the right to keep and bear arms was never barred to nonviolent felons under Wyoming law anyway. They opposed the section restoring the right to bear arms -- along with the rights to vote, hold office, and several others -- on the grounds that it gave the impression that the right had been 'restored' when it was never removed.

This is, of course, exactly what is meant when you hear people talk about 'closing the gun-show loophole.' Only gun dealers have to go through the FBI before they can sell you a gun; private citizens do not. You could buy a gun from me if I had one I wanted to sell you at a price we agreed upon, just as with any other piece of property I own that I wish to sell. The FBI has no part in our private business. Dealers at gun shows still have to run the FBI checks, but private citizens who happen to meet there and want to trade, buy, or sell their private property can do so lawfully. These restored Wyoming citizens therefore have an option to lawfully purchase the arms they may lawfully carry. 

That's what the advocates of control would like to change. Then it wouldn't matter what your state legislature said, as long as they could trust the Federal agents at the FBI to say "no."

So Close

My mother sent me this photo today. If I’d been there another week, alas. 

A Funny Skit


DC To Pay Millions for 2A Violations

This is a refreshing story.

A Pricey Renovation in W. Asheville

It’s a sign of the changing city that an auto shop should be renovated into a feminist bookstore, but what a price tag: a million dollars! 

Believe me, I love a good bookstore. How many of them ever clear a million dollars, though? Even the big corporations who used to be in that game have mostly folded since Amazon. A ‘queer, feminist, anarchist’ bookstore is intentionally targeted at fringe portions of society even in Asheville. Admittedly the fringe is somewhat larger there than elsewhere; but the population is smaller than major markets like Atlanta or Charlotte, which evens things out a bit. 

Somebody ponied up the money in the form of a loan from an NGO, which might have generous terms if the NGO supports their social goals. Still, the business case for this has to be slim, doesn’t it?

Tennessee Holds the Line

The governor of Tennessee decided that he wanted gun control laws, and when the legislature refused to pass any he called them back for a special session. Of course such a session promised the usual theatrics from those politicians aligned with disarming the public, and the promised theater occurred

Nevertheless, the special session of the Tennessee General Assembly has now adjourned sine die with no new gun control laws passed. There was pushing and shoving on the floor as a closing act to the theatrics, but no laws restricting the rights of the people of Tennessee.

The Athenian Way

Last week the NYT published an opinion piece suggesting what the author described as a better way for American democracy: dispensing with elections in favor of the distribution of offices by lottery. Students of history will know that this was in fact tried during the Athenian Democracy.

There are two broad things to be said here. The first is that, like all suggested reforms, this is bootless because the system is too corrupt at this stage to be reformed. There will be no elimination of mass-scale deficit spending until the dollar collapses because the political class is too addicted to the power of spending money. Nor will the size of government will be reduced, certainly not at the scale that would be required to make it affordable. The bureaucracy will not return its stolen legislative function to Congress, and Congress doesn't want it back in any event. The national debt will not be reined in, but will eventually destroy the dollar at least and the nation most likely. There will be no term limits because Congress itself would have to vote on them, and so too here. They will not replace the system they've already learned how to control in a manner that reliably lends them power. We can only wait patiently for the collapse that is coming, and we can afford to be patient because the course they are determined upon leads there inevitably. 

That first thing said, the second thing is that ideas about how to rebuild once the collapse occurs are wisely considered. We shall have to do so eventually, and probably sooner than later. So what about this one? 

Plato was hotly against it, to start. He felt that this lottery idea took the notion of equality much too far; or, more precisely, that it arose from the error of deciding that equality meant that everyone was equally good rather than that everyone should have the same test of their goodness applied to them. On the former view, the lottery seems sensible since anyone is as good as anyone else, and therefore it hardly matters who is sheriff or mayor or President; on the latter, it's obvious that you want to apply the test and then select only the best candidate. 

The old saying, that "equality makes friendship," is happy and also true; but there is obscurity and confusion as to what sort of equality is meant. For there are two equalities which are called by the same name, but are in reality in many ways almost the opposite of one another; one of them may be introduced without difficulty, by any state or any legislator in the distribution of honours: this is the rule of measure, weight, and number, which regulates and apportions them. But there is another equality, of a better and higher kind, which is not so easily recognized. This is the judgment of Zeus; among men it avails but little; that little, however, is the source of the greatest good to individuals and states. For it gives to the greater more, and to the inferior less and in proportion to the nature of each; and, above all, greater honour always to the greater virtue, and to the less less; and to either in proportion to their respective measure of virtue and education. And this is justice, and is ever the true principle of states, at which we ought to aim, and according to this rule order the new city which is now being founded, and any other city which may be hereafter founded. To this the legislator should look-not to the interests of tyrants one or more, or to the power of the people, but to justice always; which, as I was saying, the distribution of natural equality among unequals in each case. 
But there are times at which every state is compelled to use the words, "just," "equal," in a secondary sense, in the hope of escaping in some degree from factions. For equity and indulgence are infractions of the perfect and strict rule of justice. And this is the reason why we are obliged to use the equality of the lot, in order to avoid the discontent of the people; and so we invoke God and fortune in our prayers, and beg that they themselves will direct the lot with a view to supreme justice. And therefore, although we are compelled to use both equalities, we should use that into which the element of chance enters as seldom as possible. (Lawx VI 757b-d)

Plato thinks that the need to appease the jealousy of the ordinary, the poor, the 'democrats,' will require at least some offices to be distributed by lot; and he advises you to pray, every time it is necessary to do so, in the hope that the gods will find a good candidate rather than a bad one. 

At our present moment, one might argue (thinking of WF Buckley's dictum, perhaps) that we could hardly do worse. Indeed, how much worse could the lottery do than to assign powers to the senile, to crackheads, to those so aged or infirm as to be incapable of effectively wielding office? To the corrupt, the wicked, etc? I could easily provide links to exemplars of each of those charges, but each of you can readily call to mind examples of them also. 

Since we cannot reform things in the present moment, however, it is sensible to take Plato's objection on board in anticipation of the rebuilding to come. We do need a system for identifying those with the right virtues for any offices that we decide are necessary. 

That leads to another question: what offices are those, really? I am increasingly of the view that there should be none, or almost none; and those that do exist should be filled voluntarily and without pay, thus having neither power nor money to entice the corrupt to enter into the business. Yet it is worth pausing, first, to list what functions we really want a government to perform -- and, then, whether or not those functions might be performed as well or better by a private agency. Presumably we will still want roads, for example; but here in Western North Carolina roads are built by private contractors, and the only role the government plays is a fundraising one (well, and regrettably also a planning one: that would be far more wisely outsourced to private engineers than the corrupt officials who end up in charge of it). 

Presumably there needs to be someone to fight fires, but volunteers do that well in most of the country already; again, the government's primary role is in funding the volunteer effort. I think policing could be done at least as well by a volunteer group, perhaps an elected (and unpaid) sheriff backed as necessary by a posse drawn from the trusted members of the community. Perhaps we could do without prisons, even, if we resumed hangings and beatings of the criminal; I suspect that would be more effective at reducing predatory crimes, as well. Juries are in fact already drawn by lottery, more or less; perhaps judges could be, at least from a pool of people admitted as qualified to serve as a judge. 

What else? Food safety? We already rely on private ratings (even free ones, like Yelp) to make many purchasing decisions. If someone wanted to rate food or drug safety and developed a reputation for reliable ratings and honest work, would they not enjoy more public trust than the CDC or FDA? 

It might seem as if there might be a need for concentrated power to resist concentrated power: perhaps only a government could effectively restrain a powerful corporation. Yet we have seen, in Afghanistan as elsewhere, that distributed power is often most effective at resisting concentrated power. In spite of the President's favored suggestion that you would need an F-15 rather than an AR-15 to resist the US government, in fact the opposite is true. F-15s require easily broken supply chains and easily-killed experts to be effective; what worked was a vast number of determined men, widely distributed, with rifles. 

It is worth thinking about all of this. What do you think?

"30% Chance of Rain"

In fairness, that was the Weather Channel. The radar app on my phone said 90%. I had a pretty good feeling which one was going to prove to be correct.

All the same, I got a lot wetter today riding the motorcycle than I'd hoped. 


Home on the Mountain

With faith and patience, purgatories end. I have passed through the fire and noise, and returned at last to the peace and coolth of my mountain. 

Atlanta in August

Last night I was supposed to transfer in Atlanta to a midnight flight to Asheville, the last of the night. Our flight arrived about five minutes late, but then when we got to the terminal the jet bridge wouldn’t deploy. We sat there for about half an hour while the mechanics worked on it, then had to push back and move to another gate. Before we could do that, they had to remove all the service vehicles, re-stow the luggage, and ensure that everyone was buckled back in. Then it took a while to get a vehicle to shove the plane back…

Ultimately my flight left during the more than an hour we spent trapped on a plane elsewhere in the airport. As a result I’m still here, having slept about five hours at a hotel before returning to the airport and standing in a vast security line for two hours. I am enrolled in Global Entry, which also grants TSA Pre-Check, so I imagine I was better off than most. 

Now my flight is delayed, and the air conditioning at ATL is no match for the August heat. Atlanta in August is rather akin to a stay in the warmer regions of Purgatory. 

I suppose one pays for the opportunity to travel in various coins, including the ugliness of major airports. Hopefully this last leg of the flight home will happen sometime today, and I’ll be free again in the mountains of home. 

Goodbye to the West

A few last images of the Big Hole Mountains and the distant Teton Range from later on today once I got up high. 

A Socratic Pastiche

Dad29 sends this imagination of what Socrates might say about current events. 

Saving dogs

My work on the county committee to look into our animal shelter's critical overcrowding is going well. We've reduced the shelter's adult dog population from over 60 to 41 as of yesterday. We just raised $16K in about a week by publicizing the need to buy some temporary outdoor kennels to relieve overcrowding. The public is stepping up, and it warms my heart tremendously.

A Perfect Tracking Day

This is my last full day out West; by this time tomorrow I’ll be headed home. So, I took the day off to do one more hike. I decided to hike to a mountaintop of the Big Holes, but the guidebook was misleading as to where the trailhead was (some five miles back in the National Forest) so I initially got on the wrong trail. I realized it quickly, but I decided to follow it a while because it was perfect tracking weather. 

Disgruntled Jujitsu

I went to see my niece get awarded a stripe for her belt in jujitsu, and while I was there I’m afraid I hurt her instructor’s pride. 

I didn’t mean to. He likes to draw the adult observers into the lesson, like he did one of the moms. I think he thinks they might get interested and sign up. She couldn’t break out of his headlock. 

He asked me if I thought I could break a headlock, and I said I could. I threw him, broke his headlock, put him in a headlock, and then held him in spite of his best efforts for a minute or two until I let him go.

He was embarrassed and angry, but he could have tapped. I didn’t do anything else, I just held the lock. I was just giving him a chance to figure it out. Normally in jujitsu class, if you don’t tap and keep struggling it’s a sign that you want to continue trying. I’d have let him up at once if he’d tapped out, or otherwise asked. 

Oh, well. He literally asked me for it. 

Travels West

Traveled out west myself for a bit, somewhat south of Grim.

Some fellow travelers

A Good Feed

Tonight we were invited to a party by my mother’s friends, and they put out a good table. Yesterday I made braised moose again — wine rather than beer braise, packed with fresh basil — fresh basil pesto, and fire-roasted tomato, mango, and chipotle salsa. The previous day I grilled a chicken, with fried potatoes and a salad that mom made. 

Mom says that she’s gained six pounds since I arrived. 

UPDATE: My mother’s final total was seven-and-a-half pounds gained. She says she’ll have to diet until my next visit. 

Top of the Summit

From left, Mt. Owen, the Grand Teton, the Middle Teton, and South Teton. Below, the Jedediah Smith Wilderness. 

Cairns to the Tetons