Twelfth Night Cake

In honor of Bilbo and Frodo's birthday.

The second experiment towards Beorning Honey Cakes is a recipe called "Twelfth Night Cake," which comes from the King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook. This is without question or near comparison the best baking cookbook I know. Coincidentally, the 200th anniversary was apparently in 1992, just before the woke wave began, so the cookbook still has the traditional Arthurian logo on the cover. 

Chancellor Gates on America

Robert M. Gates is a former Secretary of Defense, controversial CIA officer -- including its Director just after the Iran-Contra period -- and currently a university chancellor. He has served in both Republican and Democratic administrations at the highest levels. He has penned a piece for Foreign Affairs that shows how such a figure views the current moment.

One thing he says that I found surprising is that he views the US economy as strong.
For now, the United States would seem to be in a strong position vis-à-vis both China and Russia. Above all, the U.S. economy is doing well. Business investment in new manufacturing facilities, some of it subsidized by new government infrastructure and technology programs, is booming. New investments by both government and business in artificial intelligence, quantum computing, robotics, and bioengineering promise to widen the technological and economic gap between the United States and every other country for years to come.
Since this is mostly a piece about competition with China and Russia, I suppose it's fair to view the US economy as strong-by-comparison. Both of those states are having substantial economic troubles at the moment. The US economy is not "doing well" from the perspective of ordinary people: but he's not talking to ordinary people, or with them, he's talking to other elites for whom all that may matter is relative strength.

His list of problems that we face embraces the establishment Republican criticisms of our politics: he lists "political dysfunction," "runaway spending," failure to reform Social Security and Medicare, President Trump's tenure, the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, diplomatic failures, a bad military appropriations process from Congress, and several more. 

Likewise, his list of solutions will be unsurprising: more military spending, more international trade agreements, and "a constant drumbeat" of persuasion to convince the American people that this foreign policy stuff is more important than their own concerns at home. Americans should sacrifice to maintain "leadership," meaning of course his leadership: his and those like him, his class, his kind. 

At no point do I see an appreciation for the problems Americans themselves face, or any sense that their concerns should be addressed except by "doing a better job of explaining" the importance of doing things his way. This is of course why the establishment is faring so badly in the current moment: their elites are interested in being elites first, Democrats or Republicans second, and Americans third at most. 

How Long Ago was the Dawn of 'Everything'?

AVI has had a series of posts on a revisionist history by an anarchist activist and a professor of archaeology. His latest quotes a review that is quite negative, and that opens with an analogy whose force is meant to suggest that only an American could believe such things (although the anarchist here was from London, presumably that analogy is meant to extend to Westerners in general).

I haven't read the book and therefore can't review it, but I do note that there is a grave difficulty in the project. Archaeology is indeed an obvious way to proceed, because our written records don't go far back into a matter that began somewhere between 12,000 and 300,000 years ago. 

What the historical record does suggest on the question, as far back ago as we can really go, is that there were a lot of different things in play. Chesterton remarked that the dawn of history (from his perspective) shows it dawning on the bulk of cities, perhaps civilizations already old, but also on nomads and tribes with no real government beyond family ties. That is contra Aristotle, who argued that politics arose naturally whenever family ties weren't enough: in fact, we see that throughout history there were places where family ties sufficed, and families were just melded in marriage as necessary. 

Plato, meanwhile, included this discussion (which you may remember from the Laws, Book III).
Ath. Why, do you think that you can reckon the time which has elapsed since cities first existed and men were citizens of them?

Cle. Hardly.

Ath. But are sure that it must be vast and incalculable?

Cle. Certainly.

Ath. And have not thousands and thousands of cities come into being during this period and as many perished? And has not each of them had every form of government many times over, now growing larger, now smaller, and again improving or declining?

Cle. To be sure.
"Every form of government" does not necessarily include anarchy, though it does include forms of democracy, constitutional governments, oligarchies, aristocracies, kings and tyrants: we know that because those forms are all named in Aristotle's Politics. Anarchy, too, is a word we have from ancient Greece: αναρχία, 'without a ruler.'

As for the analogy, I don't think it's very impressive. Asking someone from a warzone if they prefer that to a state at peace is a highly biased way of framing the question of whether egalitarian societies are preferable to ones with a hierarchy based on dominion: it is a frame that is almost guaranteed to produce the Hobbesian response that it does. Ask someone who lives in a peaceful agrarian society whose members come together voluntarily to do things like raise each others' houses and barns, have dances and celebrations, attend church services together, drink together at their local feasts and festivals, and so forth -- and then compare that to the response of someone who has lived in a stable but oppressive state. Even mildly oppressive states are quite unpleasant, and some societies become sufficiently unpleasant that a warzone really is preferable to them. 

The review goes on to suggest that the author finds it implausible that, if life in such societies were really so much better, they wouldn't have out-competed hierarchies and become the norm. Sadly, that is probably not true: the great challenge isn't whether it would be better without oppressive force, but whether it is possible to resist the introduction of oppressive force from abroad without adopting governments, armies, and police at home. My sense is in many places that possibility awaited the introduction of the rifle, a technological change that empowers the individual sufficiently that a large enough number of individuals voluntarily choosing to cooperate can keep themselves free. 

Packing Mounts

A couple of months ago I sold my Jeep; a couple of weeks ago, my Ford decided it needed a new transmission valve body. This is an ideal time of year for living on the back of your motorcycle, which I mostly do anyway, but there are a few chores that it’s helpful to have a truck to do. I have been working around the issue using modified pack animal techniques.

For groceries, I lashed a Duffel bag across the back. That plus the saddle bags allowed me to carry everything I needed. 

The trash situation after two weeks was approaching Alice’s Restaurant territory. So, today:

Zero points for guessing what I used to create the lashing points on the bag. You can see one of them here. 

"Corporate Death Penalty"

A New York judge has just ordered the Trump Organization destroyed.
A Manhattan judge on Tuesday found Donald Trump and his real-estate company liable for fraud.

The judge ordered the Trump Organization's New York corporate charters revoked immediately.

A receiver will be appointed to "dissolve" the company — but years of appeals may play out first.
Note that this is only the second time this penalty has been assigned. The first time, the same prosecutor sought it, and look who the target was: 
...the penalty is so rare that the only previous time it's been attempted on such a grand scale — when James sought the corporate death penalty in her three-year-old, ongoing fraud lawsuit against the NRA — has failed.

"It's a staggering judgment," said John Moscow, a former financial-crimes prosecutor for the Manhattan district attorney's office.

"It means you are no longer a company, and the judge is appointing someone to take over the assets and distribute them as the court sees fit."

So the only two corporations in the history of Manhattan, home of Wall Street, that have merited this penalty in the eyes of the state are the NRA and the Trump Organization?  That strongly suggests that corporate malfeasance isn't the real issue behind these prosecutions and the seeking of this penalty. 

The Birthday of Bilbo Baggins

Frodo as well, as I recall, was born on the 22nd of September in Middle Earth. However, there is a slight difference in the calendars of Middle Earth and contemporary Earth, so it's not clear exactly when that falls on our calendar. An exact match may not be possible, but within a few days it'll certainly have happened if any of you are inclined to cake. I may try my next, more cake-like Beorning experiment to go along with the occasion.

A Remarkable Poll

Only Rasmussen would even ask this question.
A police state is a tyrannical government that engages in mass surveillance, censorship, ideological indoctrination, and targeting of political opponents. How concerned are you that America is becoming a police state?"

I'm Concerned-
DEM: 67%
IND: 72%
GOP: 76%
All Voters: 72%

So 2/3rds of Democrats, and nearly 3/4ths of all voters? That's not a fringe position, then. 

A Remarkable Indictment

If you, like me, were absolutely astonished by the manner in which the withdrawal from Afghanistan violated all the established principles of military science on how to conduct a retreat/withdrawal/retrogade movement/"advance to the rear," here is an explanation of how that happened.
A misguided attempt to reform professional military education (JPME) in the 1980s led by the late Ike Skelton and other military reformers in Congress mandated that masters-level degrees be granted at all command and staff colleges, as well as a required study in "jointness." This forced all the military midlevel colleges to make room in their courses of study to accommodate the requirements of civilian academia to grant an advanced degree.... 

Command and staff colleges had traditionally been the places where aspiring senior commanders really learned their trade as majors or lieutenant commanders. This used to include a serious study of military theory, history and staff planning. That is not currently the case.

Today, seminar groups are led by two instructors -- one a uniformed officer and the other an academic. There is generally no requirement that either be an expert in combined-arms combat on land, in the air, or on the sea. In some cases, they're simply not knowledgeable about the study of war.
Well-meaning reforms sometimes go astray. "Jointness" definitely has its uses: the story of the Gulf War victory is a study in the military branches interoperating in a form of maneuver warfare that let Army and Marine land forces draw smoothly on Air Force and Naval air support. 

Yet why should a military college be "forced" to issue Masters of Military Science degrees, say, on the terms of a civilian school? Presumably that was a choice; there's no reason that the School of Advanced Military Science should have to ask any civilian school what its requirements are for a Masters degree. As for accreditation, who is going to tell the US military that its Masters of Military Science isn't valid? 

China, maybe, if this keeps up. 

The GWOT and You

The Washington Post published an op-ed today with a title that I found surprising: "A memorial to the war on terror is coming. Here is why you should care."

Why you should care, according to the author, is that those who fought in the Global War on Terror (GWOT) feel alienated from their society and are committing suicide at high rates.
“I can’t imagine what you went through over there …”

Most veterans of the Global War on Terrorism have heard this line at some point....  Before we left for war, the experience of most veterans was completely recognizable. We might not have attended your high school, but we went to a high school. We might not have rooted for your sports team, but we rooted for a sports team. The rhythms of our lives matched your rhythms. Then, we went to war. And, yes, war changed us.

But it did not make us so different from you.... If you still believe we had truly unimaginable experiences at war, then it follows that we — America’s veterans — were forever altered in ways that make us unknowable. And, if that is true, it means we never really get to come home.

"You can never go home again" is a truism for everyone, though. For some people it's more strongly true than for others. Some people's homes were bulldozed and replaced by suburbs, or their communities uprooted and destroyed by rising or falling property values. The TVA flooded quite a few people's homes and communities back in the day. Yet even if your house is still where it was and your parents still live there, when you go back it's not the same. As you get older, more things have changed; more people have died. 

A memorial only gives you a place in the world consecrated to the memory. The memory can live there, and you can go and visit it, and while the memorial last -- probably longer than you -- it will offer a stable home for your memories. It can't bring anything back.

Nevertheless, the Vietnam Memorial -- discussed at length in the piece -- has been important in the ways the author describes. The Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally for decades rode past it, in honor of those who had served in Vietnam. 

The piece includes a call for participation in the design of the memorial. That's an interesting challenge. The war was fought in the Philippines, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, across Africa, and in less violent ways in the West itself. Its proximate cause was the fall of the Twin Towers, which is a ready symbol that could be employed, but also the strike on the Pentagon on the same day. Thinking about what the right symbol is for this is going to take some imagination. 

If you have ideas, starting tomorrow you can submit them at this link.

Swedish Torch

Grilling over a Swedish Torch

I cut one tree this year that proved unreasonably difficult to split, so instead I cut it into Swedish Torches with my chainsaw. This turns out to be great for outdoor cooking as it provides a stable flat surface. 

Ætena Hlaf: An Experiment towards Beorning Honey Cakes

I have not forgotten that I promised to develop a more authentic recipe for Beorn's Honey Cakes. To that end, I am experimenting with a set of medieval recipes for similar items. The first one I decided to bake was Ætena Hlaf,  "hlaf" being an obvious Anglo-Saxon/Norse cognate for "loaf" (like "hval" for "whale"). “Ætena” is less obvious: the cognate is ‘eating.’