How Would You Start Over Today?

We all have stories we tell ourselves and each other about how our lives went, how we became whoever it is that we are. What if you were starting over today, though? If you were just out in the world for the first time, with all the difficulties and changes coming online -- the ChatGPTs undermining ordinary college degrees and entry level white collar careers, the government dysfunction and even outright hostility to starting businesses or succeeding as an individual -- what do you think you might try? The military used to be a good option, but it looks like a much less attractive one now; interest rates are rising, so buying investment properties with whatever you can keep from your labor is probably out for those without established credit and substantial capital; a lot of the old ways are off the table.

Just to make it hard, assume that you're a young white male with no fortune or family -- so no affirmative action, no preference points, and none of the actual privilege that those things are supposed to compensate for either. Maybe you have a regular public school education as it is done today, so you can barely read or write and advanced math has never been taught to you. Just some poor kid who gets nothing from anybody for free, and who has to figure out how to try to make it in today's world.

If the Shoe Fits...

National treasure Dolly Parton was admitted to the Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame and declined, stating that she wasn't actually a rock musician. (She has also refused the Presidential Medal of Freedom, twice.) They refused her refusal, so she's put out an entire rock album just so she feels like she qualifies for the honor they're insisting on bestowing upon her. As befits a rock album, there are controversies about it. 

One of them is that she has a song bashing politicians but not naming any (which is pretty good marketing when you think about it -- other brands could learn from that). Asked about which ones she meant, she points out that it applies to "any of them" because none of them are really trying hard enough. 

Another controversy is that some of her left-leaning fans are annoyed that she did a piece on the album with Kid Rock. Right-leaning fans long ago learned to tolerate celebrity opinions that disagree with their own, as almost all of them do; nobody seems to mind she did some with other people too. Indeed, gay-culture outlet the Advocate lists the rest of her co-stars and notes that they're almost a litany of LGBTQ-friendly icons: "Paul McCartney, Stevie Nicks, Lizzo, and Debbie Harry, and queer artists Melissa Etheridge, Miley Cyrus, and Elton John." 

The whole thing's not available yet, but you can hear an initial piece here if you are so inclined. To some degree it points out that she really does have a pretty good claim to being there: a lot of her contemporaries in Tennessee music, including Elvis, were the founders of the genre. She sounds more like they do than the people working today because the genre has long moved on to other things. (Indeed, reportedly the Kid Rock tune -- which I don't think is out yet -- is about faith and charity, which are at best irregular subjects for contemporary rock).

Manly Skills: Knot Tying

Probably because I first learned about knots and their many excellent uses in the Boy Scouts, I think of them as a particularly manly skill that is appropriate to coming of age and proving one's worth in that regard. Nevertheless the last complex knot I learned was actually taught to me by a woman I know, the one listed here as "Bowline on a Bight." (This is the knot list for Technical Rescue: Ropes Basic, and yes, I can tie all of these knots and more).

It's a neat skill that you can practice while sitting in the interminable meetings that seem to bedevil much of contemporary life. Here's a great site with animations for the many knots you might want to learn.

Where Were the Marines?

Recently in Sudan, we had another experience of the US State Department abandoning American citizens to their fate (as more infamously in Afghanistan). The Marine Corps Commandant was asked about this recently by Congress: isn't this part of your job?
The Marine Corps' top general expressed serious regrets over the fact that Marines were not available to help in two major crises in recent months because of a lack of available Navy ships to position units in nearby waters.

"Places like Turkey or, the last couple of weeks, in Sudan -- I feel like I let down the combatant commander," Commandant Gen. David Berger told members of the House Armed Services Committee on Friday.

"[Gen. Michael Langley] didn't have a sea-based option -- that's how we reinforce embassies, that's how we evacuate them," Berger added, referring to the head of U.S. Africa Command.

I appreciate the Commandant being willing to step up and at least take verbal responsibility for this, since that kind of thing was sorely absent in the Afghanistan 'withdrawal' (I use scare quotes because it definitely did not live up to the military standard for the conduct of such an operation). However, there is blame to go around here as elsewhere: the Navy is holding a big part of this bag as well. Partly, too, it's that the two services aren't communicating well.

Read the Commandant’s statements and it’s the US Navy to blame as it hasn’t provided (or built) enough amphibious ships to transport the Marines.

Make no mistake, the “amphib navy” is not the US Navy’s fair-haired child. Spending money on amphibious ships is only done grudgingly.

But in this case, the Navy might argue a degree of confusion about what the Marine Corps wanted. A year or two ago it seemed the Commandant and the Marines just wanted 30 new light amphibious warships.

It's hard to imagine this having happened even a few years ago. And, as the second article points out, the Chinese were able to do better -- they evacuated 1,300 of their own citizens and the citizens of other nations also.

Perfect Timing

PJM points out:

Addressing the committee, [Senator] Goldman said, “You’re trying to gaslight us up here, as if Antifa—which Mr. Rosas is apparently the expert now in organized terrorist activity, has overruled the FBI director who says, there’s a headline that says ‘Antifa is an ideology not an organization.’ No, no, no. Let’s not listen to the FBI director. Let’s listen to—sorry, what’s your title? Senior writer at Townhall, who is going to tell us that the FBI director is wrong.

Oh, well, if the FBI Director Christopher Wray said it…

‘Breathtakingly Corrupt’ FBI EXPOSED in Durham Trump-Russia Report

Is Christopher Wray Covering up for the Biden Family or the FBI Itself?

Christopher Wray Needs to Comply With House Oversight Committee Subpoena; He’s Not Above the Law

CONFIRMED: The FBI Has Spies in Catholic Churches to Hunt for ‘Domestic Terrorism’

More at the link.

I think this is actually the perfect time to invoke the FBI as a credible organization in an incredible cause, because the general public hasn't had time yet to absorb the devastation of its credibility on display in the Durham report. For now most people probably still hold the view of the FBI they've absorbed from Hollywood and television. It'll take time for the truth to seep in.

So, for now, it's a fire sale. Use it up while you can, politicians, because it's going fast and will not return. 

A Medieval Exercise

New Maimonides Text

Here's something you don't see everyday: a new, handwritten text by the Medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides. He is best known among non-Jews for his work on Aristotelian interpretations of Judaism, Guide for the Perplexed, also sometimes translated as Guide of the Perplexed, as there is an ambiguity in the text as to whether Maimonides or his students were supposed to be suffering. If you read the text, there is no ambiguity as to whether he thinks he knows what he's talking about, however.

He was an interesting person.

He influenced thinkers as diverse as Newton and Aquinas and set forth the philosophic foundations of Jewish belief and wider philosophy in works such as the Guide of the Perplexed. Maimonides also served as Head of the Jews in Egypt and was renowned for his medical and scientific knowledge. In addition to being one of the Jewish faith’s most important thinkers and philosophers, Maimonides was also physician to the court of the Muslim sultan Saladin.

The text itself has a minor revelation.

The pages are a glossary of basic terms relating to herbs, basic foods and colours and were identified by José Martínez Delgado, a visiting professor to Cambridge University Library’s Genizah Research Unit, from the Department of Semitic Studies at the University of Granada.

Around 60 fragments written by Maimonides have been found in the Cairo Genizah manuscripts, and most are written in Maimonides’ customary Judaeo-Arabic (Arabic language written with the Hebrew alphabet). His writings include letters, legal rulings, and early drafts of his important works.

What makes this fragment unique, however, is the fact that Maimonides has added the translation in a Romance dialect below some words. It is the first evidence for Maimonides knowing Romance, an evolving dialect version of Latin that is a pre-cursor to what would eventually become modern-day Spanish dialects and language.

Pretty neat. 

There Was Never Any Russian Collusion

Nor, in fact, even any evidence of any.

This will not shock readers of the Hall, in spite of the multiple impeachments and the years-long Special Counsel investigation. We reported it on April 7, 2017. Even by January 6 of 2017, before Trump was inaugurated, it was clear that the DNC was not allowing its 'hacked by Russian' servers to be investigated by the FBI -- stonewalling obviously intended to forestall the Bureau from discovering the lack of evidence.

Yet the show was just getting started, and would run for years to come. Even to this day, there are die-hard fans; and thirty-year distinguished veteran Michael Flynn still lost his house, and had to be pardoned because the prosecutors and courts wouldn't let go in spite of the fact that he was always obviously clear.

After the jump, the FBI statement on the matter (language warning).

Piratical Guacamole

The diet of seagoing men in the seventeenth century wasn't enviable, but there were highlights on occasions for those who sought far enough afield.
[W]hen one gifted pirate permitted himself a curiosity for food, he played a pioneering role in spreading ingredients and cuisines. He gave us the words “tortilla,” “soy sauce,” and “breadfruit,” while unknowingly recording the first ever recipe for guacamole. And who better to expose the Western world to the far corners of our planet’s culinary bounty than someone who by necessity made them his hiding places?

...He ate with the locals, observing and employing their practices not only to feed himself and his crew but to amass a body of knowledge that would expand European understanding of non-Western cuisine.... In the Bay of Panama, Damier wrote of a fruit “as big as a large lemon … [with] skin [like] black bark, and pretty smooth.” Lacking distinct flavor, he wrote, the ripened fruit was “mixed with sugar and lime juice and beaten together [on] a plate.” This was likely the English language’s very first recipe for guacamole. Later, in the Philippines, Dampier noted of young mangoes that locals “cut them in two pieces and pickled them with salt and vinegar, in which they put some cloves of garlic.” This was the English language’s first recipe for mango chutney. His use of the terms “chopsticks,” “barbecue,” “cashew,” “kumquat,” “tortilla,” and “soy sauce” were also the first of their kind.

It's a pretty neat story, one that ends with him dying penniless -- unsurprisingly, given that piracy is just another way of being 'poor as thieves.' He had an eventful life all the same.  

CNN: "Time for women to give up on equality"

It's impossible, they say, on the occasion of another failure of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA):
Equality isn’t impossible simply because the people in power won’t give it to us. It is impossible because it cannot be faithfully implemented in supremacist and capitalist institutions created by men, for men. 

That's weird, because I thought women were actually doing pretty well. They're getting more college degrees, more graduate degrees, and are increasingly dominating well-paid office work (as opposed to the physical trades, where their participation lags but not apparently in a manner out of line with their preferences). 

Many feminists and proponents of the ERA cite abortion as central to their fight for the amendment’s passage. But abortion and issues pertaining to bodily autonomy, self-determination and human dignity of historically oppressed and marginalized people are not equality issues. Rather, these are matters of freedom.

Well, they're definitely not matters of equality. Nobody's even proposing giving men an equal opportunity to opt out of the duties of parenthood if they want to do so. Neither feminists nor conservatives are interested in that; I'm not interested in it either, to be sure. Freedom does not mean liberation from one's moral duty to one's parents or children; and if it entails a legal liberation from those duties, nevertheless one ought to do them. It's only scoundrels who seek to avoid such things.

[Better would be] respecting people’s human dignity, allowing them to fashion and become, for example, the woman of their dreams, rather than policing their gender identity and expression. Whereas an equality mindset reinforces the gender binary and limits women to a small box in opposition to men, a freedom mindset understands that the inclusion of trans athletes, for instance, elevates the competitive level of all women, and celebrates self-creation as the pinnacle of freedom....

From a freedom mindset grounded in accountability and care, abortion becomes part of reproductive health care. It isn’t oversimplified as an equal right to make a single “choice.” Abortion is never based on one choice but rather determined by a person’s circumstances, personal and financial supports, age, aspirations and dreams for how they want to build their own family.

All of this necessitates letting go of equality and an equality politics, built upon the patriarchal gender binary, of complicity and reliance on governments institutions to create a freer and more just world.  It requires asking new questions. How might our politics change if we, finally, relinquish equality?

So, ok, let's ask the question. Give up on equality and in return you get...? An absence of gender binary, I guess, so all the good things for women entailed by that. An end, I suppose, to all-female spaces like changing rooms; perhaps an end to female-only promotional institutions like scholarships and mentoring leagues for girls becoming young women. (Actually, the conservative feminist case against the ERA was that it would endanger such things, and affirmative action for women in general: this one wasn't a conservatives-versus-liberals fissure in plain terms. There were arguments on both sides against the amendment.) 

I guess it's not up to me, but if I were a woman I think I'd be a little miffed at the suggestion that I should give up my quest for 'equality' in order to make more room for others. I guess it's the time in the musical-chairs contest that somebody has to give up a seat, though. More than one somebody, it could be.

The only argument in favor of that awful capitalism is that it somehow finds ways to add chairs instead. I guess that's not as attractive a prospect.

All's lost, but not forever

All's lost, but not forever. Poland is not lost forever.
Günter Grass, The Tin Drum
Post-Soviet Poland embraced free enterprise while the EU did its best to destroy it. Poland already had survived murder attempts by the Nazis and the USSR. Now its economy and its education system are outstripping the EU and Great Britain.

Grass was an unregenerate old communist, but I will never forget the shock of reading The Tin Drum in the mid-1970s and encountering the idea that the USSR would end, and that its former slave states would triumph somehow. I had been brought up on the hopelessness of 1984. Grass himself seemed to think that the only real problem in his beloved Poland had been the Nazis, while East Germany under the Soviets was on the right path. He was skeptical of German reunification, not only in the Dennis Miller sense:
"I view this in much the same way I view a possible Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis reconciliation: I never really enjoyed their work, and I'm not sure I need to see any of their new stuff."
--but because he hated to see capitalism gobble up the virtuously administered communist assets of East Germany. As a college student, however, I wasn't aware of his inane economic views, and noticed only the horror of Nazi subjugation, which I knew, even if he didn't, had been followed quickly by Soviet subjugation.

Even now, as we seem determined to try the communist totalitarian experiment yet again, I think of Poland, not lost forever.


Today I learned that you can’t buy an ad to run in Times Square that is critical of someone without their written permission. This is true of dictators: want to complain about Xi or Putin? Not unless they consent. 

Happy Mother’s Day

To those among you who have earned the title, our best. To the rest of you, remember yours today.