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  • Archive for July, 2018

    On Trusting Experts…and Which Experts to Trust

    Posted by David Foster on 30th July 2018 (All posts by )

    August 1, 1914. As Europe moved inexorably toward catastrophe, Kaiser Wilhelm II was getting cold feet at the prospect of a two-front war. When a telegram arrived suggesting that the war might be contained to a Germany-vs-Russia conflict, the Kaiser jumped at the opportunity.

    The telegram was from Prince Lichnowsky, the German ambassador in London, reporting on a conversation with the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey. As Lichnowsky interpreted Grey’s remarks, England would stay neutral–and also guarantee France’s neutrality–if Germany would confine herself to attacking Russia and would promise not to attack France. (Which was a misinterpretation–but more on that later.)

    Immediately, the Kaiser called in General von Moltke, the Chief of Staff, and gave him his new marching orders: turn around the troops destined for the attack in the west, and redirect them to the eastern front. Barbara Tuchman writes of Moltke’s reaction.

    Aghast at the thought of his marvelous mobilization wrenched into reverse, Moltke refused point-blank. For ten years, first as assistant to Schlieffen, then as his successor, Moltke’s job had been planning for this day, The Day, Der Tag, for which all Germany’s energies were gathered, on which the march to final mastery of Europe would begin. It weighed upon him with an oppressive, almost unbearable responsibility…Now, on the climactic night of August 1, Moltke was in no mood for any more of the Kaiser’s meddling with serious military matters, or with medling of any kind of the fixed arrangements. To turn around the deployment of a million men from west to east at the very moment of departure would have taken a more iron nerve than Moltke disposed of. He saw a vision of the deployment crumbling apart in confusion, supplies here, soldiers there, ammunation lost in the midle, companies without officers, divisions without staffs, and those 11,000 trains, each exquisitely scheduled to click over specified tacks at specified intervals of ten minutes, tangled in a grotesque ruin of the most perfectly planned military movement in history.

    “Your majesty,” Moltke said to him now, “it cannot be done. The deployment of millions cannot be improvised…Those arrangements took a whole year of intricate labor to complete…and once settled, it cannot be altered.”

    “Your uncle would have given me a different answer,” the Kaiser said to him bitterly.

    It was not until after the war that General von Staab–Chief of the Railway Division and the man who would have actually been responsible for the logistics of the redirection–learned about this interchange between Moltke and the Kaiser. Incensed by the implied insult to the capabilities of his bureau, he wrote a book, including pages of detailed charts and graphs, proving that it could have been done.

    So, what happened here? The Kaiser trusted his military expert, von Moltke–but the real expert in railway operations (and this was substantially a railway question)–disagreed. At the time of decision-making, von Staab’s personal opinion was never even solicited.

    Clearly, what the Kaiser should have said when faced with Moltke’s opposition was “Tell von Staab to get his ass in here, and let’s talk about it.” (Or however a German Emperor would have phrased that thought.) Indeed, there was particular reason to do this, given that the Kaiser evidently had some serious concerns about Moltke–as evidenced by his passive-aggressive “your uncle would have given me a different answer” comment.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Britain, Germany, History, Human Behavior, Management, Military Affairs, War and Peace | 17 Comments »

    On Fire

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 29th July 2018 (All posts by )

    My childhood and growing-up years were haunted by fire – a thing which I have been reminded about, on reading the horrific accounts of the fast-moving fire that swept a resort town on the eastern shore of Greece’s Attic Peninsula earlier this week, and on reading about the massive Carr Fire just now threatening whole tracts of northern California. I grew up in Southern California, living there until I enlisted after college, went away and never really returned for more than a couple of weeks. (Less a single year to the day at Mather AFB in 1981-82.) My parents loved living in the hills, preferably at the end of a dirt road; if not out of sight of a neighbor’s fireplace sending up a little plume of smoke – then on at least half an acre and that far distant from their rooftop. Dad was a research biologist. He gave the most wonderful nature walks imaginable, and would have been – as he once confessed, being happy as a desert rat, living in a hut in the Mojave. This meant that we were usually living in, or within sight of California chaparral-covered hills – hills which nature has designed expressly for the purposes of burning over, every twenty or thirty years.

    There is no escaping that unadorned fact. Fire governs the wilderness. Certain of the native plant seeds do not even properly germinate until heated to so-many degrees. The plants themselves are resinous and burn readily, when the hot wind desert wind blows. This I knew, early on. The standing old-growth forests, and even the newer pine-woods other parts of California and the west – they are governed, bound, ruthlessly maintained by cycles of naturally-occurring fire and renewal. Fire thins the new seedlings, eliminates disease-weakened trees, clears away the mast and muddle – the broom that ruthlessly sweeps away, and renews. This my father taught us. A lesson which certain environmental groups seem to refuse, with the energy of a small child refusing a spoonful of delicious creamed spinach. No! Don’t cut down those pine-bark-infested pine trees! No, don’t clear-cut that brush! It’s icky interference with nature! And don’t do controlled burns, which endanger the spotted lizard-owl something! So the burnable load increases, increases and increases again, and when it finally all goes up, it burns so hot that the earth turns clean and barren, like a kiln transforming clay into pottery. Nature deferred will extract her penalty. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Environment, Europe | 21 Comments »

    West Coast Real Estate Starts to Turn

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 26th July 2018 (All posts by )

    When I moved to the West coast I noted that prices were generally high relative to incomes.  It is well documented elsewhere that San Francisco area housing prices are very high and Seattle has been skyrocketing as well.  In Portland, housing isn’t as costly as Seattle or San Francisco but is very high relative to the local job market, particularly within the city limits and in the nicer areas.  A condo in “the Pearl” in Portland (a local high rise market) is 2-3 times what I’d pay for a comparable unit in my former River North area in Chicago.

    From an economic perspective, the income tax changes passed in late 2017, particularly the virtual elimination of the State and Local Tax deduction (SALT) for high earner households, along with continuing reductions in the mortgage interest deduction, should have had an immediate, negative impact on house prices in high tax states such as Oregon and California.  I didn’t see these effects, but changes in the housing market take a long time to appear, because many transactions are already under way and sellers will hang on in the market rather than taking a perceived “hit” to the value that they expect to receive.

    It looks like the market, in Portland at least, has crested and is (likely) to proceed in a downward direction.  From an article in Bloomberg titled “The US Housing Market Looks Headed for Its Worst Slowdown in Years

    Dustin Miller, an agent with Windermere Realty Trust in Portland, said he’s trying to manage sellers’ expectations, something he hasn’t had to do since the end of the last housing boom. One customer, a baby boomer moving to a new home across the state, expected to have buyers fighting over her house. She got one bid, below her asking price.  “Buyers want to shop and take some time, as opposed to having to rush and throw offers in,” Miller said. “It’s the market correcting itself. At some point, you hit a peak of momentum, and then things level off.”

    The real estate agent refers to this as moving from a ‘peak’ to ‘leveling off’ and we will see if this moves to a prolonged rout, like we had back in 2008-9.  It will also be interesting to see if real estate in high tax states doesn’t bounce back as fast as real estate in states with lower tax rates, but we won’t be able to see the net effect of this for many years (and it is but one variable among a sea of variables).

    I have a semi-sad theory about this – I don’t think folks understand the impact of the changes in tax laws until they file their taxes.  Whether due to complexity (it is hard to model just a couple of variables in a tax program unless you know what you are doing) or a lack of financial acumen, I believe that after 2018 taxes are filed in the middle of 2019 you will start to see more of a “wealth effect” as home owners start to realize the potentially large impact of the changes to the SALT deduction.

    As I look out my window in Portland I hope that they complete the high rise buildings that they are working on, and don’t break ground on new ones.  We used to look at partially completed buildings for many years in Chicago after the 2008-9 crisis, until they finally completed them up to 5 years later.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Oregonia, Real Estate, Taxes | 21 Comments »

    Lavinia Woodward

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 26th July 2018 (All posts by )

    Theodore Dalrymple, generally excellent, has a logical takedown of the judge’s reasoning in the sentencing of Lavinia Woodward. I assume most readers here have some knowledge of him, but will note in passing that he is a retired British psychiatrist who comments astutely on modern culture. As his practice was in prisons and a Birmingham city hospital, he is familiar with the dark underside of life.  As illustration, one of his books is Life at the Bottom (recommended).

    I think I can offer some insight into a possible motive behind the judge’s seemingly backward reasoning. But by way of introduction, it is related to an idea of Tom Wolfe’s, expressed in The Bonfire of the Vanities, and discussed by Steve Sailer a few years ago. All set with that? There is a dull sameness about the criminal justice system year upon year, and those stuck working in it try to find exceptions.

    Judges fall prey to the same temptations. They spend their days sending poor and stupid people, sometimes of color, to prison. The judge wants someone to be merciful to, the DA wants someone to nail to the wall, but these opposite desires spring from the same soil.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 2 Comments »

    Rickover

    Posted by David Foster on 26th July 2018 (All posts by )

    Recently watched an excellent documentary on Admiral Hyman Rickover, creator of the nuclear Navy. There’s quite a lot in the documentary that is relevant to today’s issues and concerns, for example:  circa 1972, the CIA had assured the Navy that the top speed of Russian attack subs was about 22 knots.  Rickover suspected that they were wrong, and he directed a carrier which was being shadowed by a Russian sub to gradually increase speed.  When it reached 30 knots, the shadowing sub was still there.

    Which provides one more interesting data point at a time when we are being lectured about the need to treat the conclusions of the “intelligence community” with reverence.

    In a 1974 speech, Rickover told of an ancient people called the Locrians:

    These people gave freedom of speech to all citizens. At public meetings anyone could stand up and argue for changes in law or custom, on one condition. A rope was placed around his neck before he began to speak and, if what he said did not meet with public approval, he was forthwith hanged. That, no doubt, prevented disturbing the even tenor of familiar customs and ways of life.

    I have encountered some in the Navy who look with nostalgia on this ancient custom.  But we must face the stark fact that an uncriticized society cannot long endure.

    Quite a few organizations in America today are following in the footsteps of the Locrians–the universities, especially, but also certain Silicon Valley companies.  And not only them.

    I learned of this documentary about the same time I read about a professor who was disturbed that Hispanic students that she interviewed credited their success to their own hard work and self-reliance rather than to affirmative action.

    Rickover was Jewish, and he entered the Navy at a time when Jews were not common in that service…and the negative attitudes toward Jews which were prevalent in the society at large were also quite common in the Navy, perhaps even stronger there than outside.  (The Academy yearbook pages for both Rickover and the only other Jewish midshipman in his class were conveniently perforated for easy removal.)

    And I wondered:  If Rickover had been influenced by professors and others endlessly and excessively beating the Victimhood drum, would he have been able to achieve the success and the great accomplishments that he did?  Or would he have just folded up and concluded that it was hopeless, that Jews had no chance in the Navy?

    Well, probably not Rickover–he was an extraordinarily tough and resilient man.  But there probably are a lot of people who have high potential, though maybe not on the Rickover level, and who are being inhibited and will be inhibited in achieving that potential due in substantial part to such preaching.

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    Posted in Human Behavior, Immigration, Judaism, Military Affairs, Science, Tech, USA, War and Peace | 10 Comments »

    Is Trump the Herald of “Localism?”

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 25th July 2018 (All posts by )

    Donald Trump is the source of great pain on the left and also in the professional politician class of the GOP.

    Why ?

    He was an outsider in GOP politics but the GOP politicians had failed a lot of the voters, including me. Like Ross Perot in 1992, he attracted a lot of people who were tired of being taken for granted by the regular politicians.

    Now there are some interesting theories of what is happening.

    Henry Kissinger, who knows Trump personally, has said some interesting things about him.

    The 93-year-old Nobel laureate told CBS show Face The Nation that the Republican’s unconventional style could be an asset and an ‘extraordinary opportunity’ for the US.

    ‘Donald Trump is a phenomenon that foreign countries haven’t seen. So it is a shocking experience to them that he came into office, at the same time, extraordinary opportunity,’ Kissinger said.

    ‘And I believe he has the possibility of going down in history as a very considerable president,’ he added.

    Naturally, this has disturbed some of the usual Trump opponents.

    Now, as Donald Trump signals that he wants a more cooperative relationship with Moscow, the 93-year-old Kissinger is positioning himself as a potential intermediary — meeting with the president-elect in private and flattering him in public. Like Trump, Kissinger has also cast doubt on intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia sought to sway the election in Trump’s favor, telling a recent interviewer: “They were hacking, but the use they allegedly made of this hacking eludes me.”

    The headline, of course, smears Kissinger, always hated by the left, as “a longtime Putin confidant.”

    What is going on ?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, Politics, Trump | 15 Comments »

    Violence

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 23rd July 2018 (All posts by )

    The Babylon Bee has nice parody of the change of meaning of the word “violence.” They are more accurate than they know. Dictionaries are primarily descriptive rather than prescriptive in the last sixty years*.  They no longer tell you what the best people think a word means or should mean, as many of us were used to in grammar school many years ago.** Words change in meaning, especially in the directions of heightening or diminishing of effect, or generalisation versus specification.  The word molest meant only to bother or annoy, or perhaps interfere with a person, until quite recently.  The first reference using it in a sexual way was 1950. Awful and terrible have changed. For a very great change, you can follow the word silly over a thousand years. (Good music at the link.)


    There are also longstanding examples of milder uses of violence, of doing violence to an idea, or a violent storm.
    The World Health Organization’s definition, though it starts with the conventional idea of physical force or injury, is already moving in the direction the Babylon Bee parodies:

    “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation,” (although the group acknowledges that the inclusion of “the use of power” in its definition expands on the conventional understanding of the word.) Wikipedia.

    Whenever important words change they cause disruption, as people are no longer talking about quite the same thing.  Cults redefine words so that they can claim to be following traditional (or biblical) values while introducing new ideas. 
    It is fine to stick to the usual definitions of a word in one’s own use.  I encourage it, because it aids in understanding what other ages what other ages meant, rather than being a prisoner of last Tuesday’s culture.  But the language will change whether we will or know, and sometimes it helps to understand that other people are using a different meaning.  They themselves may not be the instigators. Young people are quick to pick up how a word is used in their current context and adapt.  They use racist, or violence, in they way they are taught in some of their classes and by the more excitable of their friends. Even those who basically hold to the stricter ideas of those terms that I would use are likely to have at least slightly expanded meanings of the term, by my lights. It may be better to ask “what do you mean when you say “violence?” than to simply declare it wrong. (Even though it is wrong, dammit.)

    *The Story of Ain’t by David Skinner is a solid and entertaining look at the change in dictionaries.

    **Note also the word “grammar” school, grades 1-8, where we would say elementary and middle, or elementary and junior high these days. One of the primary aims was that children would learn to write and say things correctly. We say “of course,” but they did not care so much about science or more than basic geography and history a hundred years ago.  Lots of penmanship, lots of multiplication tables.

    Cross-posted at Assistant Village Idiot

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 6 Comments »

    In Memoriam: TV Knights & Radio Daze

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 22nd July 2018 (All posts by )

    We learned this week of the death of Adrian Cronauer, famous as the wild and wacky military radio DJ during a tour of duty in Vietnam, made even wilder and wackier when he was played by Robin Williams in the movie Good Morning, Vietnam. Of course, the movie bore only the slightest resemblance to real-life military radio operations. Some day, I may bore the very dickens out of you all by fisking it down to the subatomic level, but Adrian Cronauer himself is supposed to have had the definitive answer, when asked how accurate the movie was. “There was a Vietnam War, and there is an Armed Forces Radio and Television Service.”

    As a matter of fact, those of us who served in the various military broadcast detachments were rather disappointed on two accounts with the movie when it first came out; the multitude of operational details which were just wrong, wrong, wrongedy-wrong, and secondly – because we all had stories of incidents and people which were just much more bizarre, comic and ironic. Which would have made an even funnier movie.

    Some time ago, for the original Sgt. Stryker’s Daily Brief website, I wrote about some of them in the post retrieved from my archives. (It’s also one of the essays in this collection.)

    The guys at Far East Network-Misawa in the days of my first duty station in the Air Force and my first overseas tour were a joke-loving lot, much given to razzing each other, with elaborate practical jokes and humor of the blacker sort. Practically none of it would survive scrutiny these days by a Social Actions officer, or anyone from the politically-correct set, either in the military or out. The nature of the job means the successful are verbally aggressive, intellectually quick, and even when off-mike, very, very entertaining. Some broadcasters I encountered later on were either sociopaths, terminally immature, pathological liars, or otherwise severely maladapted to the real world. They could generally cope, given a nice padded studio, a clearly defined set of duties, and a microphone with which to engage with the real world at a remove. Regular, face to face interaction with others of their species was a bit more problematic. But all that would come later. The people during my first tour or two were something else entirely.

    The middle management NCOs were all Vietnam-era, and in some cases, Vietnam veterans. The draft had brought them into the military, and military broadcasting, they liked it, and had stayed. They tended to be rather more results-oriented than the regulation-driven broadcast management I encountered later on, a lot less uptight, and consequently much more fun.”What’s that VU light for?” was a favorite gag, asked from the studio door as the on-air broadcaster sat poised to read news headlines. With a few seconds to go on your music, or carted spot, they would snap off the overhead studio light, leaving you to read the copy, live, by the light of the two little lighted meters what measured audio levels.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted in 25 Stories About Work, Blogging, Current Events, Diversions, Humor, Media, Military Affairs | 3 Comments »

    Rerun: The Dream(liner) and the Nightmare (of Social Toxicity)

    Posted by David Foster on 22nd July 2018 (All posts by )

    The FAA has issued an Emergency Airworthiness Directive against the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The AD requires that the battery system be reviewed and modified as necessary to eliminate the danger of fires such as those that have recently occurred on these aircraft. The changes needed could presumably involve manufacturing processes, sourcing of components, electrical-system design, or some combination of these things.

    The FAA’s action here seems to me like simple and reasonable prudence. It is not uncommon for new aircraft types to encounter problems during their early operational days, and the 787 is an innovative plane in many ways, especially in the use of electrical means to replace functions traditionally done by hydraulic systems and by engine bleed air.  There may well turn out to be simple fixes that can be quickly implemented to resolve the issue; on the other hand it’s possible that the fix will involve signficant redesign and will cost Boeing and the airlines considerable money. Purely as speculation, I’d guess that the worst-case result for the study required by the AD would be the mandated replacement of the plane’s lithium-ion batteries with conventional aircraft batteries, at some sacrifice in the plane’s useful load and some redesign both of the relevant control systems and of some interior spaces.

    But the purpose of this post is not to talk about 787 technical issues, as much fun as that might be.

    After clicking on the Yahoo report about the AD issuance yesterday, I took a look at some of the comments, and a depressing experience it was. Here are some samples:

    Makes you wonder if Boeing did not have the FAA inspectors in their back pocket while certifying this airplane “air worthy”? Maybe a few bucks went along stuffing their respective back pockets as well. Good example of certifying government agencies working too close with the manufacturer.

    For the FAA to say it’s safe and then ground the planes, all credibility and trust in competence is out the window.

    Were they just going to wait until the costs of wrongful death lawsuits surpassed the cost of fixing the problem?

    They do lots of testing but just like windows they release it to the public and then we will fix all bugs in the system

    Parts made in China

    #$%$ batteries made in China and a world-class American airplane manufacturer fell for their cr@p product. Do you think that perhaps Chinese agents were behind deliberately sabotaging our country’s product?

    Dream gone bad. Overseas outscourced components on the cheap, assembled by redneck scabs in South Carolina.

    Just one more example of the FINE work being produced by wonderful, hardworking and dedicated union workers.

    Just more retaliation from Obama for the move to non- union South Carolina.

    no one care anymore all the factory workers just go to work to try to make $$$$$ and this it is hard too the pride in making or to build something does not exist anymore!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Too bad the GOP helped rich buddies ship all the manufacturing jobs to china? Expertise comes with manufacturing. Burger jobs make poor planes?

    Read through several pages of comments like these, and the overwhelming overall impression is one of social toxicity…of people glaring furiously at one another, quick to assume that anything to goes wrong in any aspect of life is due to either malice or incompetence or both. It is a picture of generalized resentment and distrust, coupled with entitled ignorance.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Aviation, Big Government, Civil Society, Human Behavior, Tech, USA | 7 Comments »

    Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 21st July 2018 (All posts by )

    I had a thought of rummaging through all my posts on psychiatric topics over the years and linking to the best of them, but there are over a hundred, and I don’t like reading my own work all that much sometimes. I narrowed it to a single topic and picked three recent posts that are connected. The psychiatrist Scott Alexander over at Slate Star Codex reviewed the book My Brother Ron, and I discussed and rediscussed on it at my own site. I got good comments as well.

    My Brother Ron
    Update on My Brother Ron
    Update II

    A fourth post is on the closely-related topic of guardianship over psychiatric patients. Guardianship and the Behavior of Nations.

    I may also post on my Underground DSM, Wyman’s Oppositional Treatment, and other fun things in the future.

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    Posted in Miscellaneous | 8 Comments »

    A Jobs-Based Complaint About Technological Change, circa 1850

    Posted by David Foster on 20th July 2018 (All posts by )

    Come all ye bold wagoners turn out man by man
    That’s opposed to the railroad or any such a plan;
    ‘Tis once I made money by driving my team
    But the goods are now hauled on the railroad by steam.
     
    May the devil get the fellow that invented the plan.
    It’ll ruin us poor wag’ners and every other man.
    IL spoils our plantations wherever it may cross,
    And it ruins our markets, so we can’t sell a hoss.
     
    If we go to Philadelphia, inquiring for a load,
    They’ll tell us quite directly it’s gone out on the railroad.
    The rich folks, the plan they may justly admire,
    But it ruins us poor wag’ners and it makes our taxes higher:
     
    Our states they are indebted to keep them in repair,
    Which causes us poor wag’ners to curse and to swear.
    It ruins our landlords, it makes business worse,
    And to every other nation it has only been a curse.
     
    It ruins wheelwrights, blacksmiths, and every other trade,
    So damned be all the railroads that ever was made.
    It ruins our mechanics, what think you of it, then?
    And it fills our country full of just a lot of great rich men.

    Read the whole thing here.

    Posted in Tech, Transportation | 6 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: CONLAWPROF: A Post on Nativists and White Supremacists

    Posted by Jonathan on 20th July 2018 (All posts by )

    Quoted in full:

    Got it. It is all clear now.
     
    You wrote: “It is a bald racial appeal to [Trump’s] white supremacist, nativist base.”
     
    When you wrote the above, you were not saying that Trump’s base is made of “white supremacist[s]” and “nativist[s]”. Instead you were speaking to that part of Trump’s base which is “white supremacist” and “nativist”. It is really obvious from context—except that it is not. And your after-the-fact, clarification is very helpful. And we should also generously ascribe the best interpretation we can to your original and revised statements.
     
    Of course . . . don’t do any of this close textual parsing of ambiguous language for Trump, and don’t look to his after-the-fact clarifications. That would be totally crazy. Makes no sense. Totally different. Of course, we should a hold a businessperson-turned-politician to a stricter standard than a [legal] academic. See Trump, Academia, and Hyperbole, http://reformclub.blogspot.com/2016/08/trump-academia-and-hyperbole.html. Makes complete sense.
     
    By the way . . . throw me a bone here . . . you are now saying you were only speaking to part of Trump’s base. How big a part do you (and Professor X) think that segment of Trump’s base is? Does it include Trump’s Hispanic voters (maybe some 20% of the Hispanic vote) and his African-American voters (maybe some 10% of the African-American vote). And if it does not include them, exactly who is left in that base that you are calling nativist, etc? Who?
     
    Throw me a bone. What precisely do you and Professor X (now) mean?

    Seth’s post may touch a nerve for some of us who have been confronted, in some cases over most of our lives, with lefty ad-hominems dressed up as arguments:

    People who support Trump’s policies are [racists/sexists/uneducated idiots].

    People who oppose Obama’s policies are racists.

    People who favor Reagan’s tax cuts are in it for the money.

    etc.

    These kinds of statements are attempts to end-run argument on the merits by imputing bad faith to the people on the other side and hoping that that shuts them up. In some cases this is done maliciously, in others it’s from lazy ignorance by people who should know better (dog whistles! projection!).

    It’s nice when people at whom such attacks are directed respond both on the merits and by running to ground nasty insinuations that sometimes pass for serious argument in left-wing circles. I suppose leftists would say the same thing about conservatives’ arguments, but maybe that’s projection by me. In any case it’s probably best that discussions of contentious topics include people with diverse views.

    AVI has a characteristically insightful comment at Seth’s blog.

    Posted in Leftism, Political Philosophy, Politics, Rhetoric, Trump | 3 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 17th July 2018 (All posts by )

    Caroline Glick:

    Trump scares the Europeans. He doesn’t scare them because he expects them to pay for their own defense. All of his predecessors had the same expectation. He frightens the Europeans because he ignores their rhetoric while mercilessly exposing their true policy and refuses to accept it. They are scared that Trump intends to exact a price from them for their weak-kneed treachery.

    Intends to exact a price. That is what Trump’s political enemies really object to about him.

    Posted in Europe, Israel, Politics, Trump | 21 Comments »

    Book Review: A Pocketful of Stars, by Margaret Ball

    Posted by David Foster on 17th July 2018 (All posts by )

    There aren’t a lot of novels in which the protagonist and the other leading characters are mathematicians.  Here, we have not just a single novel, but a whole series–a total of six books projected.

    Thalia Kostis is a young topology student.  Her Greek-immigrant parents think very little of her mathematical interests,  insisting that she quickly get married off and start producing grandchildren.  She wants a career in pure mathematics, yet has begun questioning her own ability to do pure-math research at the highest level–she worries that her abilities do not compare with those of her roommate Inga, a (tall, blonde, and beautiful) grad student who is also focused on topology. Also, Thalia has been ditched by her former boyfriend, partly because he feels that her mathematical investigations have become just too…disturbing.

    What could be disturbing about pure math?  By chance, Thalia has discovered that by thinking about topological theorems in exactly the right way, she can influence the physical world.  Not a large influence, it appears–but she can move light objects a small distance without touching them.  It turns out that Inga has the same ability, as does Thalia’s best friend Ben. So, it’s not just topology anymore, but…potentially at least…applied topology, and a small research institute has been established at the University of Texas to see where the possibilities lead. The offices of Thalia, Ben, and Inga are separated from the rest of the building by a wall, and it’s a wall with no door…the group having determined that by proper topological thinking, they can pass through solid walls.  The only way for guests without the talent to get into this office area is to be escorted by a talented individual in very close proximity to them.

    One day a man named Bradislav Lensky comes to meet Thalia and the other Institute researchers.  (We are never told exactly which agency, but we can be sure it isn’t the FBI given his frequent remarks about what idiots the employees of that agency mostly are.)  Lensky desires the mathematicians to use their talents to hack into a computer which he suspects is being used to plan a major terrorist attack, probably by bringing Middle Eastern terrorists across the Mexican border. He also informs them that all of their Institute’s funding is actually being supplied by his agency–the foundation which they had thought was their sponsor being actually merely a conduit.  So how can they say no?

    There are numerous other characters.  One of these is a box turtle, encountered by Thalia and Ben at the park, with a band fastened tightly around his neck causing him great distress.  He is Niiquarquusu, a 3000-year-old Mesopotamian talking turtle with a rather grumpy personality–the grumpiness continues after he is liberated from his neckband, but he has abilities of his own which are quite useful when he can be persuaded to use them.  The key, it seems, is proper calibration of the amount of coffee that the turtle (dubbed “Mr M” for convenience)  is given..too little and he will be uncooperative, too much and he will behave in an unproductive and often embarrassing manner.  (Characters discover that before having sex, they need to check carefully to ensure that Mr M is not in the room—he tends to make snide comments, probably comparing the participants unfavorably with the way things were done in ancient Mesopotamia.)

    A fun series with interesting plot twists and characters.  It is not for the politically correct, having already garnered one very upset review at Goodreads.

    I’ve read the three books that have been published so far and am looking forward to the continuation.

    A Pocketful of Stars, at Amazon

    Posted in Book Notes, Product Reviews/Endorsements | 5 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: My Post on CONLAWPROF: my response to a discussion about removing Trump from office

    Posted by Jonathan on 17th July 2018 (All posts by )

    If your dispute with Trump and your call for his removal are based on policy (and his language about policy), rather than about discrete factual predicates amounting to legal violations, then you should eschew the language of the criminal law and push forward with debates (in this forum and elsewhere) about the prospective dangers you think Trump is creating or the harms he has already caused. But as I said, the country survived Johnson. To the extent that the argument against Trump is based on his saying stuff you think outrageous, I think the country will survive his talking big. I would also add that Trump has done little (as I see it) which substantially departs from his campaign statements—so a removal based on political disagreement about the expected consequences of policy is not going to be one with a strong democratic justification.
     
    Technical point: It may be that deporting foreigners is not a criminal punishment, but exiling/banishing/deporting Americans who are in the country legally would seem to me to amount to a violation of a 14th Amendment liberty interest. This brings up an important cultural divide in America today (and not just in America, but across the Western world). Many of Trump’s supporters see the elites as being indifferent between their fellow citizens and foreigners. I ask you not to prove them correct.

    Read the whole thing.

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    Posted in Elections, History, Immigration, Law, Political Philosophy, Politics, Tradeoffs, Trump | 2 Comments »

    The Coming Impeachment of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 15th July 2018 (All posts by )

    According to a number of right wing media sites — Glenn Beck’s “The Blaze”, Gateway Pundit, True Pundit among others — Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is going to face a House authorizing vote for an impeachment investigation after Rosenstein was caught out lying to HSCI Chairman Nunes about his communications with former FBI attorney Lisa Page in her testimony Thursday and Friday of last week. 

    (See link — https://theconservativetreehouse.com/2018/07/13/lisa-page-testimony-highlights-deputy-attorney-general-rod-rosenstein-lied-to-chairman-devin-nunes/#comments).

    This impeachment vote will invoke “United States Vs Nixon (1974)” which was a 9-0 SCOTUS decision in favor of Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski during Pres. Nixon’s impeachment proceedings that said there are no “Executive” or “National Security” classification privileges versus a House impeachment investigation subpoena. And thus President Nixon had to turn over the contents of the White House tapes of President Nixon’s office to Jaworski.  

    Short Form — An impeachment investigation subpoena is the thermonuclear weapon of Congressional oversight of the Executive branch.  The Deep State has to cough up all the classified DoJ, CIA, and FBI counter-intelligence documents to include the names of sources, the surveillance methods used, and who were targets in the Trump campaign when, to the HSSCI Chairman Nunes or go to jail for obstruction of justice.
    .
    The problem with this thought is the the FBI and DoJ are in open rebellion against both the Constitution and the American people. I’ve spoken as to the reasons why in my May 2018 Chicagoboyz post THE DEEP STATE CIVIL WAR AND THE COUP D’ETAT AGAINST PRESIDENT TRUMP. 
    .
    The DoJ won’t cough up the subpoenaed documents unless US Marshall’s arrive to take said documents at gunpoint from the DoJ-National Security Division and FBI counter-intelligence SCIF’s (AKA Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility ). Which is when we will find many of them have been erased or altered at times the access logs for the SCIF’s say no one was there, and videos of those time periods are missing.  And given that the DoJ is in charge of the prosecutions for these obstruction of justice crimes…they won’t.  
    .
    At best, there will be a few token dismissals or firings. There is one set of rules for THE SWAMP and a different set for everyone else.  In other words, there is no federal justice, at Justice, when it comes to the criminal abuse of power by the Department of Justice.  
    .

    Posted in Americas, Anglosphere, Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Culture, Current Events, Iran, Iraq, Politics, Uncategorized, USA | 10 Comments »

    Anti-Gravity

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 15th July 2018 (All posts by )

    I encountered this intriguing monument while driving around searching for road rally destinations a decade or so ago.

    Have I told you about road rallies? They figure prominently in AVI history. Teams of four per car solve puzzles leading to destinations, at which there is a bit of information that allows you to answer a question before moving on to the next puzzle. Most answers right in the shortest amount of time wins the game. I think I shall have to cover all that in some detail in another post. Some of you might find this to be right up your alley.

    Back to New Boston. One’s first thought is that this is some complete crank, squirreled away in a rural NH town, which the town fathers might not want to memorialize. Imagine this guy at town meeting every March. Or offering to guest lecture at the science classes at the high school. But in fact, Babson was a brilliant and respectable character. He was the founder of Babson College in Massachusetts, and two other colleges as well. The curriculum sounds like a precursor to Northeastern’s cooperative education program.

    Believing experience to be the best teacher, Roger Babson favored a curriculum that was a combination of both class work and business training: businessmen made up the majority of the faculty instead of academics, and the institute’s curriculum focused more on practical experience and less on lectures.

    Students worked on group projects and class presentations, observed manufacturing processes during field trips to area factories and businesses, met with managers and executives, and viewed industrial films on Saturday mornings

    Babson had gone to MIT, wrote books, founded businesses, and believed that economic cycles followed highly predictable rules because they were subject to laws as physical as Newton’s laws. This is now regarded as a rather crankish theory, but Babson did predict the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression.

    His pseudoscientific notion, that the laws of physics account for every rise and ebb in the economy, had no more validity than [astrology or alchemy]. But just as astrology gave birth to astronomy and alchemy to chemistry, so, too, did Babson’s efforts to explain the economic cycle… lead to the economic breakthrough that revolutionized the business of economic forecasting.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 7 Comments »

    Are Professors Undercutting Women in STEM?

    Posted by David Foster on 15th July 2018 (All posts by )

    …and, if so, which professors?

    It has often been asserted that (male) professors in engineering, math, computer science, etc are causing a shortage of women in STEM by projecting the attitude that women are unwelcome in their fields.  I’ve always thought this seemed rather unlikely as a common thing–though no doubt it happens in some  cases–if the assertion is meant to apply to the events of the last 20 years or so.

    Comes now Barbara Oakley, herself a professor of engineering:

    Professors have profound influence over students’ career choices. I’m sometimes flabbergasted at the level of bias and antagonism toward STEM from professors outside scientific fields. I’ve heard it all: STEM is only for those who enjoy “rote” work. Engineering is not creative. There’s only one right answer. You’ll live your life in a cubicle. It’s dehumanizing. You’ll never talk to anyone. And, of course, it’s sexist. All this from professors whose only substantive experience with STEM is a forced march through a single statistics course in college, if that.

    My colleagues in the humanities unthinkingly malign STEM in front of me. Their bias has become so deeply ingrained that they don’t think twice. My students tell me it’s worse when I’m not around.

    She also argues that the differing patterns of math vs verbal skills in men and women tends to make women more susceptible to the anti-STEM shots taken by the professors of which she is speaking:

    Many studies, including a critical review by Elizabeth Spelke in American Psychologist, have shown that on average men and women have the same abilities in math and science. But as Mr. Reges notes, women tend to do better than men verbally—a consequence of early developmental advantages…Consider a student who gets an A in every subject. Let’s call her Nadine. She’s the type of student who could excel in whatever she chooses. Her engineering professors might be telling her that an electrical engineering degree is a great career choice that will open doors and pay well. But her non-STEM professors may be telling her something completely different: “You won’t use your fantastic writing skills. And besides, you’ll just sit in a cubicle crunching numbers.” Nadine can begin to feel she’s untrue to her full set of talents if she picks engineering. So Nadine jumps the STEM ship.

    Only anecdotal evidence is presented; still, given the level of bitterness that seems to pervade today’s academia, the STEM-slamming behavior that Oakley describes doesn’t seem all that unlikely.

    Thoughts?

    Posted in Academia, Arts & Letters, Human Behavior, Science, Tech | 10 Comments »

    Wilder Othering

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 14th July 2018 (All posts by )

    I cannot say how much the ditching of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name for a yearly award for the best in published books for children and young adults distresses and disappoints me. I am one of those millions of readers who read and adored the Little House books early on, which various volumes my parents presented to me for Christmas and my birthday from the time that I could read – basically from the age of eight on. I would sit down and read the latest gift from cover to cover almost at once, so much did I love the books. After so many decades of honor, respect, and dedicated fanship, after having basically created (along with her daughter) a whole YA genre – historical adventure novels set on the 19th century frontier – LIW is now writer-non-grata, in the eyes of a segment of the American Library Association which deals primarily with library services to kids. Henceforward, sayeth the Association for Library Service to Children, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award will now be called The Children’s Literature Legacy Award, or something equally forgettable. The public reason given for this are two-fold, as nearly as I can deduce.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Americas, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Civil Society, Culture, Current Events, History, Libertarianism, Society | 20 Comments »

    History Becomes Lost, But Is Found Again By The Beatles

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 13th July 2018 (All posts by )

    This was one of my first blog posts, over a dozen years ago. I am being humorous here, but quite serious as well. I think the change did actually influence our culture and politics. I don’t discount the many standard historical and cultural explanations – we each have our favorites. This is mine.

    Black & White Photography Creates The Illusion Of Black & White Morality

    The years 1880-1960 are the gray, colorless years, lost to history. Events happened, but they were all dark, still, and boring. You’d think two major wars would liven things up in the public imagination, but interesting things apparently happened to boring, colorless people. We know the world was forgettable and not quite real. Soldiers in 1916 marched jerkily and too quickly, and for whole decades people waved a lot but could not speak. If they were lucky, they got captions. We’ve got movies of this, we know how life was then. In 1900 it was even worse, as whole families of sepia shadow-people sat endlessly in parlors in their best clothes. Even beautiful women had an unhealthy grayness to their skin, and a complete lack of fashion sense running entirely to blacks and grays. Winston Churchill might have had some color to him if it hadn’t been for all the stress of the war, but even he succumbed to bloodless pallor.

    Yes, I believe Boomers really think this way. We’re dumb like that.

    Mancunians and Floridians riding the half-taxis through Madame Tussaud’s in London encounter history as they know it: A series of romantic kings had wars with cool costumes. Next, everyone was poor and disease-ridden (but colorful) until the Great Fire of London. Then all of present-day London was built, including the Underground, and loud machines started doing work. In the 1800’s England conquered the world while wearing more cool costumes. But as Queen Victoria aged she turned gray and wore black, and the whole world followed suit. Our own history jibes with this, we just add a frontier and a colorful revolution[2]. Americans actually had the first colorless war in 1860, but we don’t expect anyone but us to remember that. Colorful peasants all over Europe were transformed into black-and-white slum dwellers in American cities in the late 19th C; honest and hardworking but poor, finally able to open fruitstands and restaurants, a privilege denied them in Europe, apparently. Eventually the fruit turned gray, but they became prosperous anyhow.

    Fortunately, in the 1960’s people regained their color. The lights came on and they became interesting and went to parties and had fun, which their parents and grandparents had been unable to do. Oh they had tried, of course, but they had boring fun. We know this. We have the pictures, and pictures don’t lie. Even the old people came around and agreed with this eventually, because when they looked at the photos they saw clearly how much more alive they were in 1970 than they had been in 1950. We Boomers still congratulate ourselves about this. Scholars now believe the Beatles should get credit for this, as they started out in black-and-white but learned to appear in color (colour, actually) and thus became rich and famous. Other popular musicians followed suit, and professional athletes followed. The Green Bay Packers were the first team to actually wear colors, rather than just say they had colors. Folks, we’ve got the pictures, don’t contradict me on this. The Colts played the Giants in black-and-white, and were black-and-white, in an era of moral (snigger) simplicity.

    The Reduced Shakespeare Company – late boomers all – in the Condensed History of America admitted that they skipped history from 1880 until the war because it was boring. Two world wars got only passing notice. They invested their time in a 1950’s sendup done in stark lighting and black-and-white costuming. Lucille Ball was there, but her hair wasn’t red. How could it have been? The world didn’t have that color then. McCarthyism was mentioned, of course, because we love to congratulate ourselves on our moral superiority. How quaint to think of communists as evil and Americans as good.

    However much the significance is overlooked, my observation is not original. Bill Waterson references the change in Calvin and Hobbes, capturing exactly the myth of how we perceive earlier generations. When National Geographic photographed Lake Wobegon only black and white film was used. Garrison Keillor himself provides the corrective in his story “Hog Slaughter,” a work of quiet power and one of his finest. “We believe it was a simpler time because we were children then, and our needs were looked after by others.”

    A whole generation of Boomers on both sides of the Atlantic based its picture of history, and thus its social and political beliefs on an unrelated development: the improvement of color printing and color photography. We remember Nixon in black-and-white, Kennedy just barely in color. (John, Paul, George, and Ringo were probably influenced by this.) But Milhous never shed this image even after becoming president. He seemed hand-tinted rather than living color, even in 1980. The movie Pleasantville should have given it away, especially to a generation whose shared cultural icon was watching black-and-white Kansas change to colorful Oz. But that heavy-handed symbolism went well with our mental furniture, and we simply fit it in unnoticed. I mean, that’s how those benighted people in the 50’s were, right? Not like us.

    Not to be too deconstructionist about it, but the similar words in the phrases “black and white morality” and “black and white photography” signify a deeper conceptual relationship. Oh man, that’s heavy. It’s like on the cover of Sgt. Pepper…

    A social worker I once worked with was fond of saying “Things aren’t black and white.” She often went on to add “It’s not like Ozzie and Harriet where everything is solved in half an hour.” I didn’t note the juxtaposition at the time, but now estimate I’ve been hearing similar things for decades, just under my radar.

    Moral relativity was not taught to us intellectually by Kafka, but accidentally by Kodak. Because the moral simplicity of our own childhood is recorded in black and white, we assume all the others in the photos were equally simple. Isn’t it great to live in more advanced times?

    —-
    [2] Several presidents nearly shared this fate by being put on money. James Madison was sort of greenish, but I believe Dolly had peachy skin and auburn hair.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 6 Comments »

    The Manafort Case.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 10th July 2018 (All posts by )

    In the summer of 2016, just before the GOP convention, the Trump children hired Paul Manafort and fired Cory Lewandowski who had been the campaign manager since 2015 and all through the primaries.

    The rationale for Manafort was that he knew how to round up delegate votes at the convention.

    Mr. Manafort, 66, is among the few political hands in either party with direct experience managing nomination fights: As a young Republican operative, he helped manage the 1976 convention floor for Gerald Ford in his showdown with Ronald Reagan, the last time Republicans entered a convention with no candidate having clinched the nomination.

    He performed a similar function for Mr. Reagan in 1980, and played leading roles in the 1988 and 1996 conventions, for George Bush and Bob Dole.

    Mr. Manafort has drawn attention in recent years chiefly for his work as an international political consultant, most notably as a senior adviser to former President Viktor F. Yanukovych of Ukraine, who was driven from power in 2014.

    His “experience” was 20 years in the past and he proved to be a rapacious employee, demanding $5 million dollars for “outreach” soon after being hired.

    The Lewandowski book, “Let Trump be Trump” is a very good description of the campaign, written with David Bossie.

    In August, after sidelining him for a month, Trump fired Manafort, and, according to Lewandowski, it was because he learned that Manafort was “a crook.”

    Mueller, and his traveling road show, is now holding Manafort in prison awaiting trial which keeps getting postponed.

    A Washington, D.C., judge on Wednesday set a trial date of Sept. 17 for Paul Manafort, just weeks before the 2018 midterm elections, a spokesperson for the former Trump campaign chairman confirmed.

    Manafort has pleaded not guilty to numerous charges in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, including money laundering, tax fraud and bank fraud conspiracy.

    Nowhere in the charges is there any allegation of contact between the Trump campaign and Russia. Manafort is being charged with financial crimes related to work he did for Ukraine a decade ago.

    Now it seems, that serious misbehavior occurred with the DOJ and FBI in this case.

    The gist of the story is that Andrew Weissmann was meeting with AP reporters in April of 2017, approximately a month prior to the formal construct of the Robert Mueller investigation. The information from the meeting, which was essentially based on research provided by the “reporters” about Paul Manafort, was then later used in the formation of the underlying evidence against Manafort to gain a search warrant.

    I would not be terribly surprised to see the whole case thrown out for prosecutorial misbehavior.

    Posted in Current Events, Elections, Politics, Trump | 10 Comments »

    Conformity, Cruelty, and Political Activism

    Posted by David Foster on 10th July 2018 (All posts by )

    John Dos Passos was an American writer.  In his younger years, he was a man of the Left, and, like many leftists and some others he was very involved with the Sacco and Vanzetti case.

    But he was more than a little disturbed by some of those that shared his viewpoint.  Describing one protest he had attended, he wrote:

    From sometime during this spring of 1926 of from the winter before a recollection keeps rising to the surface. The protest meeting is over and I’m standing on a set of steps looking into the faces of the people coming out of the hall. I’m frightened by the tense righteousness of the faces. Eyes like a row of rifles aimed by a firing squad. Chins thrust forward into the icy night. It’s almost in marching step that they stride out into the street. It’s the women I remember most, their eyes searching out evil through narrowed lids. There’s something threatening about this unanimity of protest. They are so sure they are right.

    I agree with their protest:  I too was horrified by this outrage.  I’m not one either to stand by and see injustice done.  But do I agree enough?  A chill goes down by spine..Whenever I remember the little scene I tend to turn it over in my mind.  Why did my hackles rise at the sight of the faces of these good people coming out of the hall? 

    Was it a glimpse of the forming of a new class conformity that like all class conformities was bent on riding the rest of us?

    Quoting Dos Passos and connecting his observations to our own time, Jay Nordlinger wrote:

    I know these people. I saw them in Ann Arbor. I saw them in many other places afterward.  Today, you can see them on campuses as “SJWs”: “social-justice warriors.” You can see them wherever there is arrogant, intolerant extremism (no matter which direction it’s coming from).

    The thing that frightened Dos Passos in the attitude of these protestors–who were, remember, his allies–is in my opinion quite similar to the thing that is so disturbing about so many of today’s “progressive” protestors.  Dos (as he was called) was entirely correct to be disturbed by what he saw, but I don’t think he diagnosed it quite correctly.  Though he refers to the protestors he observed as “those good people,” quite likely many of them weren’t good people at all–even if they were right about their cause–but were rather engaging in the not-good-at-all pleasure of conformity and the enforcement thereof, and would given half a chance have gone all the way to the even-worse pleasure of bullying.

    Whether or not this view of the protestors’ motivations is a fair one–and I am simply layering the explanation that seems to make sense to me on top of Dos’s description of his own subjective reactions–the spirt of conformity certainly drives a great deal of political and other wickedness.  I remember a German man who was interviewed near the beginning of the TV series The World at War.  Although he was anti-Nazi, he described the emotional pull he felt when viewing Party rallies–a strong desire to be part of such a cohesive and comitted group.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, History, Human Behavior, Leftism, USA | 16 Comments »

    I would take it a step further.

    Posted by Jonathan on 9th July 2018 (All posts by )

    The conclusion of a Glenn Reynolds USA Today column about pro-governing-class selection bias in US Supreme Court nominations:

    To counteract this, we might want to bring a bit more diversity to the court. I’m not recommending that we eliminate the informal requirement that judges have law degrees (though non-lawyer judges were common in colonial times, and some countries still use them). But maybe we should look outside the Ivy League and the federal appellate courts. A Supreme Court justice who served on a state court — especially one who had to run for election — would probably have a much broader view of America than a thoroughbred who went from the Ivy League to an appellate clerkship to a fancy law firm.

    I would expand on this thought to suggest US presidents give preference to candidates who have run small businesses, have had run-ins with bureaucratic authorities and/or been arrested.

    Lex adds:

    Agreed.

    If Trump gets a second term, I’d like to see Mike Lee on the Supreme Court.

    I like Glenn Reynolds’s idea: 59 Justices. Nine appointed by the President, and one appointed from each state by the governor. Bloody brilliant.

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Law, Politics, Tea Party | 7 Comments »

    Unanimity

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 8th July 2018 (All posts by )

    I read years ago that medieval rabbis (or perhaps earlier), when debating a point, would throw out anything when they had universal agreement and start over.  They thought unanimity was too likely to be evidence of everyone jumping to a conclusion and following a fashion. I have never been able to locate a source for this,* and it may not be true, but I have found it to be excellent, though not foolproof advice. Unanimous decisions are often rushed, not thought out, not waiting to see if different angles emerge. We recently had a church decision to call a new pastor that was overwhelming, but not unanimous. Unanimous would have worried me. It fairly screams “unrealistic expectations.”  There was a motion to report the vote as unanimous to the candidate.  I had heard of such a thing when I was a Lutheran 40 years ago, and the explanation was that it was an expression of unity going forward. I believe it was moving some designated money from one purpose to another and the vote was 63-3 or something. Those who had voted against were now agreeing not to be passively, even unintentionally undermining the decision. The change was made and was reflected as a unanimous vote in the minutes, which struck me as weird, and not quite honest.

    Unanimous decisions in department meetings or on psychiatric teams have gone bad for this reason, in my experience. They usually happen because there are one or more powerful figures that the others too easily agree with, or at least don’t want to put in the energy to oppose. It is one of those Chestertonian paradoxes, that unanimity is often a sign of contention rather than unity, because of silent disagreement. Consider also the rigged elections of tyrants. Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted in Miscellaneous | 7 Comments »

    On Public Display of MAGA

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 7th July 2018 (All posts by )

    San Antonio, the town that I am pleased to say is my place of residence, made the national and international news this week – and not in a good way. My particular quadrant of suburban San Antonio was the scene of the now-notorious MAGA-hat-stealing-and-drink-throwing-incident. (A good selection of the resulting headlines are here )
    The Whattaburger outlet where this took place is about two and a half miles from my house, adjacent to a brand-new Walmart, and the bank branch I used to do business with, and around the corner from the bank branch that I now do business with. The arrested-and-released-on-bail Kino Jimenez lives in another outlaying suburb – apparently with his mother. He also seems to have committed a series of prior offenses; not exactly an upright citizen, it appears, and one with extraordinarily poor impulse control. Looking at the video of this incident – and keeping in mind that nothing good happens at 2 AM – I see a rather thuggish Hispanic guy getting his jollies picking on a couple of weedy Anglo teenagers in an all-but-empty-restaurant in the wee hours. I’d venture a guess that if it hadn’t been the MAGA hat, it would likely have been something else. Bullies always find an easy target, and a ready justification for their thuggish impulses. Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted in Civil Society, Conservatism, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, Human Behavior, Leftism, Society, Texas, Trump | 33 Comments »