The diversity I wish we'd pursue

More from a series of "best of 2024" Powerline features: this excerpt from a piece by Michael Barone pitching, in part, his then-new book "Mental Maps of the Founders":
Many today speak as if the United States has just recently become diverse. The founders knew otherwise and attempted to construct a limited government that would leave room for (to use historian David Hackett Fischer's term) different folkways while providing enough unity to protect against foreign attack.
A neighbor is much enamored of Texas secession talk. I get it, but I think he's willfully blind to the issue of defense.

Mind control

Shadow-banning of books arouses my stubborn streak. Sometimes I buy a newly published book even without a strong wish to read it, just to give the author some commercial support.

Today, Powerline highlighted a decades-old French novel called "Les Camps des Saints," whose storyline rested on a million-strong immigration from India to France that overwhelms the self-loathing host country. From the Powerline review:
Westerners have made a categorical imperative out of Mrs. Jellyby’s comically flawed humanitarianism/“do-gooderism” unto a distant other, while one’s own are neglected. In this moral climate, the piety required to love one’s community and the fortitude required to defend it become vices.
The novel has since been labeled racist and colonialist, of course, with the result that its publishers did all in their power to squelch sales. Used copies in English translation therefore start at several hundred dollars for a paperback and shoot up several thousand dollars for a hardcover.

A French copy was a little more affordable and was matched by a cheap Audiobook version, also in the original French. If I listen while reading along, the gist may get through. My rudimentary French has been improved by reading science fiction novels with which I'm already familiar in English. It works OK as long as the style is fairly straightforward, as science fiction tends to be.

Another Feast

The twelve days of Christmas are all feasts, but the 30th of December is not always the same feast. Some years (but not usually, and not this year: only when Christmas is on a Sunday) it's the Feast of the Holy Family. But this year you can pick from some several, just as you prefer. 

A Chicken-Killing Day

My wife’s chicken population was reduced by two this afternoon, as she has finally conceded the necessity of eating some of the monsters. Whilst she thought of them as sort-of pets they were untouchable. Killing a chicken is otherwise a trivial matter. 

New Years Day should feature a roast chicken dinner. I’ll have to decide what to make alongside. 

The Feast of St. Thomas of Becket

Christmas continues with a celebration of "Thomas a Becket." In Ivanhoe his bones are sworn by on occasion by Prince John and the other Normans. The Holy Clerk of Copmanhurst -- i.e. Friar Tuck -- calls him on him as "Thomas a Kent," Kent being the location of Canterbury Cathedral. 

Unprepared for War

One might reasonably ask whether America wants to fight a war on three fronts, or indeed on any fronts if it can be avoided. The author seems to think that there won't be a chance to opt out.
[O]ur moment has thrown up conflicts across the globe: Israel versus Hamas, Russians versus Ukrainians, or Chinese democrats versus the Communist Party. But these disparate battles are in fact part of one whole – a struggle to dominate the future.

The new wider war includes attempts by great powers, notably China, to secure natural resources by securing alliances with authoritarian regimes around the world.... This de-facto alliance, a modern version of the World War Two “pact of steel”, is truly global in scope. It extends from Ukraine to the shutting off of the Red Sea by Yemen’s Houthis, and even Venezuelan plans to conquer much of oil-rich Guyana....

The wider war pits on one side the revanchist powers – China, Russia, Islamist, Latin American and African countries – who feel they have been wronged by the West and liberal capitalism. On the other side are the West and non-European allies like Japan, South Korea and perhaps most importantly Modi-led India.

I wouldn't count too much on India, actually. If that's your 'most important' ally, you're in worse shape even than you think. India has been emphatically non-aligned since their inception, and at this point is closer to Russia. 

The author is right, of course, that the US and the West are failing on all fronts in terms of military readiness. He even identifies them fairly succinctly. How do you fix them, though? The powers are all against it, and some of the problems -- like the collapse of faith in the West among the youth, or the need to rebuild American manufacturing almost from the ground up -- are generational. 

The Proximate Cause

Over at InstaPundit, Ed Driscoll is pointing out how foolish Nikki Haley is to have fallen for the perennial trap of a Republican being asked about the causes of the Civil War. A Republican in particular cannot afford to answer this question otherwise than briefly and dogmatically; it is for others to explore the nuances. Even then, it is often said that a high school student will tell you that the war was over slavery; a grad student will tell you about nuances of economics and power; but a professor will explain again that all of those nuances were rooted in slavery.

There is a question worth exploring -- and this election cycle of all times -- about the proximate cause of the Civil War. What caused the war to become a thing that had to be fought, replacing a tense situation with the necessity of so very many Americans killing each other? 

One answer could be the election of Abraham Lincoln -- or, to put it in terms relevant to today, the very narrow election of a candidate who did not come from the major established political factions, to whose power a large part of the country was intensely opposed. Had one of the other three(!) candidates won, the war might have not occurred (or at least not at that time). As it was, Lincoln took power with less than forty percent of the vote, though a convincing majority in the electoral college.

Lincoln's election was, I think, definitely the cause of secession -- at least, the first wave of secession, which was only seven states in the Deep South. I don't think it was the proximate cause of the war. As he was inaugurated he was escorted by both cavalry and infantry, with sharpshooters covering his approach. A similar scene followed the election in 2020, when the government similarly deployed a large military force to protect itself against assumed violence (which in fact never appeared, neither in 1861 nor 2021). 

This did not necessarily mean that war was inevitable. Lincoln's inauguaral address promised not "to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so." If slavery was the cause of the war simpliciter, you might then say that this should have prevented violence from springing out. It might have given a window for negotiating a new vision with the Southern states that did not leave the Union, which if it had succeeded might have eventually persuaded the seven that did to return. 

Yet war followed very quickly. There are two other answers to the question of the proximate cause that occur to me. The first one is the general collapse of trust in the government under Lincoln to obey the Constitution. Southern states had moved to seize armories with their state militias, as they no longer believed the Federal government would respect their Second Amendment right to maintain armed militias. If they had trusted the courts to protect their rights, or had trusted Lincoln not to violate their rights, this might not have occurred. If they had sent lawyers instead, the country could have remained in a period of tension but not war. 

Alternatively, you can blame Lincoln's response to the seizure of the armories and fortifications. While he pledged not to interfere with slavery, he did assert in his inauguration that he planned to defend the Federal government's property rights. He did so with the deploment of troops. You might think that the South, which was in a large part going to war to defend a property claim as inviolable, might have been persuaded that the Federal government had a right to the buildings and land (if not the arms within them, that might be seized for militia purposes). These buildings included not just armories but harbor forts -- most famously Fort Sumpter. Allowing the President to reassert physical control over armories or armed batteries that could close the harbors meant, effectively, submission to Federal authority. There was just no trust left for that: the South decided that it had to resist while it still had arms and could seize back control of the fortifications that could either protect its harbors or close them. 

That last sentence ends up collapsing the two possible proximate causes into one: the collapse of trust in each other, without which it is impossible to accept being governed by the other side. War became necessary when force was used because trust was absent. 

In our own present case, the Trump side has proven its willingness to accept being governed by a side that seems hostile to it. They stood down even after a highly disputed election and allowed the other side to take power over them. That side has certainly been hostile to them in rhetorical terms, but also seems to be bent to using Federal power to dominate and control that side. Trump himself has not promised to forswear a similar use of such power if he should get the opportunity to use it. Even if he did promise, though, it is likely that his opponents would trust it as little as was trusted Lincoln's promise not to interfere with slavery. It is not clear to me that their side would similarly accept his election, trusting to their lawyers instead of to force. 

If there is another civil war blessedly it won't be caused by slavery, which our ancestors wisely put an end to long ago. The final cause of a second war may well be a conflict between power and liberty, in which the established and entrenched bureacracy will not allow itself to be dissolved or even restricted by an elected government it does not trust. 

The proximate cause is apt to be the same, however. That is a matter that ought to concern us. 

The Feast of Holy Innocents

Today is the most terrible day of the holiday. 

The Feast of John the Evangelist

The third day of Christmas honors John

Vehicular Advice

By coincidence my son and I happened upon some women with a dead battery. They were trying to jump it but had hooked the jumper cables to something besides the donor vehicle battery.

I politely pretended not to notice that they were hooked up to the air conditioner rather than the battery, and just said “You look like you’ve got this, but if you need any help we’d be happy to assist.” No Mansplaining here!

They likewise were wise enough to admit that they didn’t know at all what they were doing, and to graciously accept the offered help. They were also hooked incorrectly on the receiver side, but it hardly mattered since there was no electricity coming from the donor.

I disassembled the battery connections and cleaned the corrosion that was all over them, then hooked my truck up and got her vehicle started in a few minutes. I enjoy the chance to help people, and they were grateful and kind. 

Anyway, probably here it’s preaching to the choir but always carry a toolbox and jumper cables. Know how to do simple roadside repairs. Even if you don’t have trouble yourself, you never know when you might meet someone in need. 

Language drift

It's surely a sign of age to be increasingly irritable about changes in grammar and usage. Does anyone else notice that published pieces increasingly find it difficult to use phrases like "much less" and "no less" and "if worse comes to worst" and "sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander" properly? It's as if the authors had all suffered strokes. "Much less" quite often has the two elements reversed, so instead of "I was so tired I could barely walk, much less (or let alone) run" it comes out "scarcely run, much less walk," which makes no sense. "No less" should mean "fully as great as," as in "my presentation received rave reviews from the national expert on my topic, no less." It has nothing to do with the "much less" idiom, but gets wound in somehow. The worse/worst expression appears in reverse or in doubles of worse/worse or worst/worst. The "sauce" idiom, especially in speech, tends to sound like "sauce for the . . . [pause]" followed by lame muttering of something indecipherable.

I realize this is part of the natural progression of language. An idioms that is too hard to recall either falls out of use or is replaced with something that sounds familiar, even if it no longer has the sense of the original. Another take, however, is that there's no such thing as an editor any more, not even in formal book publishing, let alone online sites. (See, it's not that difficult.)

Don't get me started on rein/reign, regime/regimen, principal/principle, or affect/effect. These young whippersnappers. If the shoe fits, you must acquit.

St. Stephen’s Day


Restoration and new life

Notre Dame de Paris may be fully repaired by next Christmas. The rooster weathervane atop the destroyed spire was heavily damaged during the fire and is being replaced by a new device that is something of a cross between a rooster and a phoenix. Here are the original rooster, before and after the damage, and the new bird:

Dog joy

Several months ago we built three spacious 6x12 kennels for foster dogs that had to be rescued from the county shelter's kill list. Since then we've been struggling with how to let them safely out of their kennels, other than on leashed walks, without conflicts among themselves, with our 3 dogs, or with the cats. I also had concerns about our perimeter fence, which is only four feet high at best and in some unexplored areas is either definitely or probably compromised by downed trees. This made it nerve-wracking to wonder what inexperienced foster dog might be over the fence and harassing neighbors' pets or chickens.

Finally last week our contractor finished putting in an adjacent dog exercise yard with a nice, tall, secure fence. About half of it is sodded and half woodsy brush. Now the foster dogs can come out in whatever groups I can arrange without quarreling, with no danger that they'll test the perimiter fence, mess with our home dogs, or mess with the cats. The cats were really complicated, as they need to come out of the garage where they're kept safe at night, but if they come out soon after sunrise and go back in soon before sunset, that doesn't leave much time to supervise loose dogs in shifts in the daylight. Now the time constraints are all relaxed and the foster dogs aren't cooped up so many hours every day. I'm also getting good video to post on social media to drum up interest in adoption.

I'm trying to post video, but can't make the format work. Here's a stillshot grab:

The High Feast of Christmas

The storm that blew in last night brought hard winds and rain, and knocked out the power on the mountain. Some poor lineman is doubtless having to spend his Christmas morning out in dreary weather. Here at the Hall there is warmth and fire. I made coffee over living flame. 

Merry Christmas to all!

In the Last Hours of Advent

While I have been preparing for Christmas for a month, there was much to do in the final day of Advent. I prepared the feast for tomorrow, which itself took hours. It's an unusual one: none of the Christmas standards, no roast beast nor ham nor turkey, not even a Great Pie like I often make. 

This year I decided to make my wife a lobster-chipotle corn chowder that a friend of mine taught me how to make. It's not the sort of thing I'd ever normally make, as it involves not only seafood (not something to which I am accustomed, as a mountain man) but a seafood from distant cold waters. Nevertheless I bought her a frozen lobster and made it for her because I thought she'd like it, and perhaps all the more as it is a rare thing.

For my son and myself, I made a very common dish: venison chili. That's what he said he wanted. When he was a little boy he used to fuss so much about me making chili. He grumbled endlessly about being made to eat it regularly, as it's my go-to beef stew. Yet, just as I told him (and as he emphatically denied was possible) in time he came to love and value it. So, at his request, that's what I made. 

I did make Julkage, a traditional Christmas bread/cake from Scandinavia. So there's that, at least. Oh, and cookies: the "forbidden cookies" that my wife remonstrated against me making until late this afternoon, when she confessed she really wanted me to make her some. They're exactly like chocolate chip cookies except for substituting Heath bar crumble in place of chocolate chips. The last time I made a batch they were gone before I even got a single cookie. 

And though this went well back before Advent, I finished bottling the Christmas Mead.