Autumnal Equinox

A mountain home.

Today is the first day of Autumn, at the end of a long summer. To celebrate, my wife and I rode over to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the Mountain Life Festival. 

Apples in the Apple House.

The Apple House.

The festival celebrates and showcases mountain folkways. They were cooking apple butter, and had a horse turning a milk to grind sorghum, which they were then boiling to make molasses. There were lectures on the importance of pork both for meat and lard — which they claimed is healthier than butter — for cooking and food preservation.

Gotta have chickens for eggs, too: hens live in this coop.

Read the sign to learn how to make lye soap!

Pretty neat stuff. There are large parts of this that we have incorporated into our lives — my wife has gotten into chickens this year. We garden and preserve food with canning and drying, and while I don’t own pigs I do render lard and use it in baking. Some other parts for now we’ve let go, but it’s good to know how it was done just in case. 

There was also an Appalachian folk music demonstration. This is quite different from bluegrass, more Celtic and often like traditional ballads. 

Romans on the mind

Conspiracy Under Color of Law, Part II

In line with yesterday's announcement, the Department of Justice has just announced a "rule change" that would enact a very significant gun control law without the bother of consulting Congress.

Senator Roger Marshall (R., Kan.) and six other Republican senators submitted a letter to U.S. attorney general Merrick Garland on Thursday, voicing their “strong opposition” to a new gun-control rule proposed by the Department of Justice.

Under the recently proposed “Definition of ‘Engaged in the Business’ as a Dealer in Firearms,” any person who sells a gun for profit to anyone else, including family members, would be considered “engaged in the business” of dealing in firearms. As a result, a person would be required under federal law to obtain a federal permit, conduct a background check, and complete gun registration paperwork.

Such a license costs between $30 and $3,000, depending on whether they'd let you register as a "collector" or in fact (as the article says) a "dealer" ($200 minimum). That's not the real issue, although raising our costs and thereby making firearms more expensive is surely a partial motive. A real dealer divides that $200 over many transactions, but a person who just wants to sell one gun to a friend or family member is adding $200 to the purchase price of the gun.

The real issue is that this would require all firearms transactions to be reported to the Federal Government, which would then be able to build a registration/confiscation database. The FBI would also be required to approve or reject anyone who wanted to purchase or trade for a firearm. 

This is the so-called "gun-show loophole" that the gun control people have been railing at Congress about for years. It's really about all private transfers of firearms, not only or even mostly 'gun shows,' and bringing them under Federal control. 

Congress has refused the request to pass such a law for decades. So, instead, DOJ is attempting to wrest legislative authority away from the legislative branch in order to do by executive fiat what the democratic system has long refused to do. This is, of course, unconstitutional.

It is also illegal: see prior post. DOJ is clearly timing this in line with the Biden administration's push for an executive agency that aims at depriving Americans of as much of their Second Amendment rights as it can arrange. That brings the DOJ's leadership into a conspiracy to deprive Americans of their constitutional rights under color of law. 

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.