The Fruit of Philosophy

Today I happened through Highlands, a resort town with a spice shop I like to visit occasionally. It's long been a playground of the wealthy, but also a regular stop for bikers because it lies on some good motorcycle roads through good motorcycle country: the Cullasaja Gorge, twisty mountain roads through national forest, or down into Georgia or South Carolina. I'm always amused by the obvious tension the wealthy feel at the presence of the bikers, who are never especially rowdy or likely to cause trouble: they're just passing through on a ride they're enjoying. It's not a place they'd stop long to hang out.

I have the right kind of education to pass among the wealthy, if I wanted to do so enough to dress and act the part. I was trying to decide why I don't want to, not only not for the occasion but not in general. I think it's normal to aspire to rise in social class, or to maintain the highest one you could aspire to join. 

When I was young I spent the last two years of high school at a private school because the public school told my parents they couldn't challenge me, and my parents took that seriously enough to find a school that could. It was my first exposure to many things, including both wealth and serious education. I took to the latter, pursuing it as far as it goes. I turned out not to be interested in the former. I met some very nice wealthy people, at least one of whom took an interest in me and wanted to encourage me to go into something lucrative like stocks or finance. He even bought me a subscription to the Wall Street Journal so I would begin to learn about the language and thinking of that world. I had forgotten about that until just now.

In the end, I appreciate the education far more than is common, but the class that can afford the time to become educated not so much. I enjoy erudite discussions with fellows, but the wealthy never join volunteer fire departments. What I find there is not people who have read Kant, Aristotle, or even Plato; I can't have the same sort of conversations with them. They are, however, the ones who are living the Aristotelian virtues.

This reminds me of what Marcus Aurelius said: "Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one."

Ultimately that is the fruit of the tree of philosophy, and frankly one rarely finds it among philosophers -- or, at least, among those highly educated in philosophy. One finds curiosity, kindness, insight, alert minds and often a sharp sense of humor. I like them; I enjoy them. Nevertheless, I spend my time among the people who have never read those books and among whom I never mention them because I wouldn't want them to feel alienated from my company. They are the ones who work a full day, even a twelve-hour shift, and then get up in the middle of the night or go off and spend a day of their weekend because an alert goes out that someone is in need -- and they do it for free, just because it is the right thing to do. 

They could have learned that from Aristotle, but they did not. Somehow they learned it from the parts of the culture that no longer remember having even been informed by him and the other great thinkers and traditions of the West, but which retain the lessons truly. Those who have spent more time with the books have only rarely achieved Marcus Aurelius' distinction. 

Philosophy has many fields beyond ethics, beyond moral philosophy in general. Still and all, somehow that chiefest lesson is one that rarely conveys into the practice that Aristotle rightly identifies as the real nature of virtue. 

Arkansas Gospel

Dad29 sends a memorial to a lady with a voice.
She was old all my life; 76 when I was born, 87 when I first met her. When she spoke, it sounded like a swarm of bees hovering over a thick patch of clover.... Though raspy and thin, worn threadbare by the friction of so many passing years, her voice had a strength and beauty to it that was otherworldly. It was the sound of a century’s worth of Arkansas Delta breathed out all at once into the wind. The sound of revival meetings in clapboard churches; the sound of haltering lyrics strewn with the roses over a wooden box draped with a flag. It was the sound of feed store gossip around live-bait wells; the sound of pink tomatoes kissed by salt and summertime.

It was a voice that liked to sing.

About once a year she would get particularly blessed during a Sunday service. She would ask the pastor if it would be alright if she could “sing a special.” And these were always special times. A man in the congregation, often my grandfather, would lead her up to the platform and I would begin playing the introduction to the song she always chose, “I’ll Meet You in the Morning By the Bright Riverside.” Before she was finished, everyone that wasn’t on their feet shouting were on their faces weeping.  

The piece is moving and sweet. Here is the song, sadly not sung by the lady herself.

Jenny and the Mexicats

In the spirit of trying out new things, I thought some music to chill on a beach with would be good.

FPC Win IL Injunction

In the opinion, United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois Judge Stephen P. McGlynn ruled that PICA’s ban on commonly owned semi automatic firearms, and the magazines they utilize, likely violate the Second Amendment and should therefore be enjoined.

It’s good to see this injunction, because the law in question is intended to violate the Second. 

Lying Requires Knowledge and Intent

I understand the frustration of the writer, but I don't think their opponents are all liars -- not strictly.
Only one criminal out of six uses a firearm in the commission of a violent crime. Criminals use firearms about a quarter million times each year and they violate our “gun-control” laws millions more times. That means that gun control is and has been a failure.

In contrast, we defend ourselves with a firearm about 2.8 million times every year. Mass murderers take about 600 lives a year. We protected hundreds of thousands of our children with armed school volunteers every school day. If you haven’t heard it before then I’m telling you now…armed self-defense is far more common than the criminal use of a firearm.

Politicians who push for more gun control say their laws will disarm criminals. In fact, their 23,000 gun-control regulations — already on the books — disarm far more honest citizens than they do criminals. Mass murderers deliberately attack us in gun-free zones where we are disarmed by law.

Emphasis added. The thing is, I think that almost no one who advocates for gun control actually knows those numbers, nor even just the orders of magnitude. I think they mostly really believe that "common sense" conveys that fewer guns will mean fewer gun crimes, and that the solution is just so obvious that there's no need for further inquiry. I have never succeeded in interesting any of them in the actual numbers, and when I've quoted them I've only encountered stark disbelief that the numbers could be real.

Another one they absolutely don't believe is that accidental gun deaths involving children are vanishingly small -- some years a single digit figure in a nation of hundreds of millions of people with hundreds of millions of guns. Mostly the statistics you'll see in the press blur this by including everyone under 18 in the category of "children," and blurring how many shootings were really accidents versus how many were gang-involved. If you really get down to brass tacks on actual children and actual accidents, though, it's a very small number. Every one is a tragedy, of course; it's important not to forget that fact, even as we recognize that it's statistical noise.  

Rumble Test

Just seeing how to embed Rumble videos here, so some silliness follows.

I was never really a Fox News viewer, and don't have much of an opinion either way on Tucker Carlson, but I like what he says here, after Fox let him go.

Okay, let's see how this works.

Conan Report

He pulled out the two-half-hitches, so I retied it with a triple one. That should hold him. 

Neoclassical metalhead

 As a child of the '80s, one of the artists responsible for making me a life-long metalhead was Yngwie Malmsteen, a Swedish guitarist credited with creating the subgenre known as neoclassical metal. As the name implies, this is a genre of metal that is heavily influenced by classical music. It also features some of the most technical guitar playing that can be found in any type of music.  I have included just a brief sample of songs below, but there are other great bands that play this type of music, such as Stratovarious and Trans-Siberian Orchestra.      

Free Book: Unleash the Dogs of War

Probably for a very brief time, Amazon has the book Unleash the Dogs of War: Secret Missions in Support of Operation Crusader free on Kindle. (Look below the Kindle Unlimited to "$0.00 to buy".)

I haven't read it, but it looks like something folks here would appreciate. Part of the description:

During the Second World War, the summer of 1940 was a dark period for Britain and the Allied cause, and the German military was triumphant everywhere it went. Allied strategists looked for anything to turn the tide of battle in their favour. In North Africa, where the Allied armies had their backs against the wall, powerful benefactors who believed in the potential of the special forces bucked convention and allowed for their creation and growth.

North Africa became the birthplace and proving ground for some of the Allies’ most prestigious special operations forces. The infamous Long-Range Desert Group and the legendary Special Air Service were born in the desert, and other formidable organizations such as the Commandos and Special Boat Service first showed their true worth.

All of these organizations would have an important role to play in Operation Crusader, which played out in Egypt and Libya during 1941. They would go on to provide a great service to the Allied cause for the remainder of the war.

One From the Wife

Since we’ve had so much musical diversity lately, here’s one my wife likes. 

The New Normal

Over the weekend, the U.S. military bravely evacuated our diplomats from the U.S. embassy in Khartoum.

As a former diplomat, I feel an incredible sense of pride in our armed forces. Yet, I was horrified to learn that thousands of our fellow citizens didn't make it out.

They were abandoned by their government, while much smaller nations, like Spain and Saudi Arabia, were able to get their civilians to safety.

It is a bitter irony that today, as Biden announces his bid to again represent some 330 million Americans as president, some 16,000 are stranded inside this troubled East African nation.

In lieu of rescue, Americans left behind are advised to undertake a treacherous trek - on their own - across a 500-mile battlefield to Port Sudan.

It's unrealistic, dangerous, and deeply irresponsible.

This is not the way United States behaved when I served overseas.

It is, however, very similar to the way the United States behaved in quitting Afghanistan. At least this time the White House isn’t pressuring State to stop assisting or to actively block volunteer evacuation efforts. So far, at least. 

The urge to control

As Hayward points out, it's not just one party that gives in to the totalitarian urge.


The world isn’t all bad. Not while there’s beer and bagpipes. 

Heat Death

...Since it only “knows” the majority beliefs (or rather, the textual expressions of these beliefs) which exist on the Web, if ChatGPT takes over the bulk of mankind’s production of text then heterodoxy and heresy will be averaged out. Outlying concepts and beliefs will be averaged away from the contents of the Web as ChatGPT ignores outliers and swamps them with its own output. Outlying beliefs will become more and more rare, and regime-compliant beliefs will become increasingly common.

If its output is posted on “reputable” sites (schools, government bureaus, mainstream journalism, and so on), ChatGPT’s writings will arrive pre-approved for consumption by itself and other AI entities....

And since the Web has become the de-facto determiner of reality for citizens of the more advanced nations, ChatGPT could wash away heterodox thought from all but a tiny minority.

All the more important, then, are these algorithmic 'cleanups' occurring on blogs and in our comments sections. Unpublished, these ideas drop not just out of our reach -- who among us goes back and re-reads old comments anyway, or even many old posts? They also, and more importantly, drop out of the map that these large language models build. 

Why would Google go back and retroactively censor blog posts from a decade or more ago? Because it expects Bard to learn from what remains, and this is a first-pass purge of unwanted ideas from the AI's output.

So take AVI's point, and multiply it.

[F]ast-forward ten years, and is Dale made that much more invisible on a long quiet road? His book is still available, after all.  He hasn't been fired. This may be more of that ninja censorship I just read about and linked to.

Fast-forward ten years, and he may not exist in the Mind of Bard at all. It was instructed to ignore the book, and the internet was quietly purged of his ideas, or the ideas of anyone who thought like he did. The children who learn at the feet of Bard will learn only what was not silenced; and it won't even be Bard's fault. He never saw the things that were kept from his blinded eyes. He doesn't know to tell you those stories. They never existed in his world at all.

Sabatini Protection Services

It's a joke, kind of. It's also exactly what's really going to happen if things keep going the way that they are.

UPDATE: "You know, there was a time in this country when territory mattered."


Today was my father’s birthday. He died in 2016, receiving a heroic funeral from the Volunteer Fire Department he had so long served. 

Today I stopped by a little Mexican restaurant, one of Dad’s favorite sorts of food, on my way to night class at one of a neighboring county’s Fire Departments where we are doing technical rescue training. It hadn’t occurred to me at all that this was his birthday until I was eating, when I suddenly remembered. I suppose that, by pure chance, I had happened upon an excellent memorial for him. 

Spam Comments

After Tom noticed a missing comment of his in an earlier post, I'm reviewing the comments on the back end of the blog. I notice that a large number of comments by regulars -- and even by me! -- have been marked as spam and thus deleted from the ability to view them. 

Many of these are on sexual matters, especially as pertains to LGBT+ issues, but some of them are inexplicable. I assume this is part of Google's recent decision to review Blogger more closely, which had earlier resulted in some few of my posts being unpublished by them. Free speech, which is what internet blogging was initially all about, is under increasing pressure from tech companies that have decided it's too much trouble. 

Stunning Aurora Borealis

 Apparently the Aurora Borealis was very active last night- seen as far south as Arizona, Central California, Illinois, Virginia... I wonder how many of you were able to catch a gander.  Unfortunately, it didn't reach L.A., and we had overcast besides.  Had I known, I might have driven North to catch it. it's a bucket list thing for me.  It was also brightly visible over the UK: