Friday, July 31, 2020

Three thoughts.



Do not bother trying to reason a half-wit out of a position she didn't reason herself into in the first place.


The coming disintegration of huge segments of "higher education" will, on balance, be a good thing.

I have an item which is supposed to be mailed from Portland.

Yes, the Oregon one.

Hasn't arrived at the post office yet, and that facility wasn't a happy place before the riots.

And then there's the matter of the Bolsheviks having their nightly Fort Sumter re-enactments.

Probably shouldn't hold my breath waiting for it.

I'm so old....

...that I remember when we were worried about the proven dangers of crowded Georgia funerals to the health of vulnerable populations, particularly African-Americans.

But that was spring 2020.

I had more dark hair way back then.

Institutional Rot.

The most important revelation from the Jeffrey Epstein case document drop is not the names of the perverts who were serviced.

No, the most important revelation is how deferentially the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation managed the matter.

When you don't interview all of the victims, you won't learn about more perpetrators or potential networks.

Big sighs of relief there. As there no doubt were when the non-prosecution agreement was drafted--with the help of one very prominent co-conspirator. Contrary to law, of course.

The level of corruption here is a choking smog.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

The Catholic Church of Professional Sports?

I prefer to get my sports news from the CBS site, but kudos to ESPN for reporting about widespread abuse of youths at the NBA's "training academies" in China.

[By the way: I have had repeated difficulty posting the ESPN link as part of the story. So I had to just post it as text right below.]

And the story is not perfect: it treads the line of cultural relativism, walking close to making excuses. But fortunately, it walks away from that.

What ESPN found was ugly, and known at very high levels:
The program, launched in 2016, is part of the NBA's strategy to develop local players in a basketball-obsessed market that has made NBA China a $5 billion enterprise. Most of the former employees spoke on the condition of anonymity because they feared damaging their chances for future employment. NBA officials asked current and former employees not to speak with ESPN for this story. In an email to one former coach, a public relations official added: "Please don't mention that you have been advised by the NBA not to respond."

One American coach who worked for the NBA in China described the project as "a sweat camp for athletes."

At least two coaches left their positions in response to what they believed was mistreatment of young players.

One requested and received a transfer after watching Chinese coaches strike teenage players, three sources told ESPN. Another American coach left before the end of his contract because he found the lack of education in the academies unconscionable: "I couldn't continue to show up every day, looking at these kids and knowing they would end up being taxi drivers," he said.

Not long after the academies opened, multiple coaches complained about the physical abuse and lack of schooling to Greg Stolt, the league's vice president for international operations for NBA China, and to other league officials in China, the sources said. It was unclear whether the information was passed on to NBA officials in New York, they said. The NBA declined to make Stolt available for comment.

Two of the former NBA employees separately told ESPN that coaches at the academies regularly speculated about whether Silver had been informed about the problems. "I said, 'If [Silver] shows up, we're all fired immediately,'" one of the coaches said.

Tatum said the NBA received "a handful" of complaints that Chinese coaches had mistreated young players and immediately informed local authorities that the league had "zero tolerance" for behavior that was "antithetical to our values." Tatum said the incidents were not reported at the time to league officials in New York, including himself or Silver.

"I will tell you that the health and wellness of academy athletes and everyone who participates in our program is of the utmost priority," Tatum said.

Tatum identified four separate incidents, though he said only one was formally reported in writing by an NBA employee. On three of the occasions, the coaches reported witnessing or hearing about physical abuse. The fourth incident involved a player who suffered from heat exhaustion.

"We did everything that we could, given the limited oversight we had," Tatum said.

Three sources who worked for the NBA in China told ESPN the physical abuse by Chinese coaches was much more prevalent than the incidents Tatum identified.

The refusal of the NBA to let the coaches speak tells you all you need to know. And it also tells us that the odds NBA HQ in New York knew nothing about this are too low to be meaningfully calculated.

But by all means--please lecture the rest of us about justice when you operated child-abusing basketball factories. It's worked really well for the imploding ecclesiastical institution I am counted as a member of.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

It always makes me laugh.

What can I say? 

I am a man of...erratic taste.


A generation ago, I took the Michigan bar exam on the floor of the Breslin Center, where the Michigan State Spartans play basketball.

Two days I will never forget.

But I will never complain about it again after this year's nightmare for aspiring lawyers:

Michigan's online bar exam crashed Tuesday about an hour into the exam, temporarily locking out aspiring lawyers taking the hours-long test.

After the test was complete later in the day, the Michigan Supreme Court and the state Board of Law Examiners issued a statement saying the crash was the result of a hacking attempt.

The glitch confirmed the fears of many test-takers, some of whom spent the days before the test asking for it to be cancelled.

The exam software cuts off Internet access for those taking the tests during each module. When each module was done, Internet access was restored and test takers were supposed to log into a secure website to get the password for the next module. The test takers were unable to get into that site and get the passwords, according to John Nevin, a spokesman for the Michigan Supreme Court and the state Board of Law Examiners.

Nevin said the test continued despite the password delays.

"As a result of this delay, test takers were notified via email that the testing day will be adjusted to allow additional time and account for those who got in late. The vendor will also be emailing the passwords for the remaining modules to avoid any further issues.”

Several hundred people took the test Tuesday. By the evening, the Board of Law Examiners announced all 733 people who took the test were able to complete it, despite the hacking attempt.

So that's the good news. The bad news was how weird and Big Brother-ish the testing process was:

Test takers had raised concerns before the test.

Instead of two days of in-person testing including a multiple-choice test and an essay test, potential attorneys reported to their computers Tuesday morning for a one-day, 15-essay-question exam.

More: Michigan’s online bar exam testers worry software tracks eye movements, noises

Some of those taking the exam worried whether the computer software would work and whether test-takers would manage to stay exactly centered in their computer's camera eye for the entire exam.

The goal of the camera usage is to stop cheating. The company itself tells those taking the exam, in bright red letters, all capitalized, in the instruction sheet: "Make sure you are centered in the frame and do not change the camera angle during the exam."

Students had to download software prior to the exam. At 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, they had to open the download. The software then disconnected the internet on the laptop and turned on the computer's camera and microphone. Students had to be in alone in the room — any noise, from children to a pet, could flag the video for cheating.

No thank you. Glad mine was a two day slog.

"They had learned nothing and forgotten nothing."

The above quote, spoken of the restored Bourbon monarchy in France in 1815, aptly-describes the soi-disant brain trust of the GOP.

And it aptly-describes this piece by Bret Stephens at the NY Times, as he ponders a post-Trump future of the Republicans.

Both parties are grab-bags of ideologies that can't really be rationalized. The GOP's salad days of "fusionism"--putting together a more or less harmonious coalition of business technocrats, social conservatives, and foreign policy hawks--has gone the way of the Iraqi Christian community our second Bush Expedition destroyed in 2003.

But Stephens--an otherwise smart man--still thinks a GOP beatdown in November followed by the return of Romneyism is the way forward:
The What Were We Thinking? Republicans will want to hurry the party back to some version of what it was when Paul Ryan was its star. They’ll want to pretend that Trump never happened. They will organize a task force composed of former party worthies to write an election post-mortem, akin to what then-G.O.P. chair Reince Priebus did after 2012, emphasizing the need to repair relations with minorities, women and younger voters. They’ll talk up the virtues of Republicans as reformers and problem-solvers, not Know-Nothings and culture warriors.

The Didn’t Go Far Enough camp will make the opposite case. They’ll note that Trump never built the wall, never got U.S. troops out of the Middle East, never drained the swamp of Beltway corruption, ended NAFTA in name only, did Wall Street’s bidding at Main Street’s expense, and “owned the libs” on Twitter while losing the broader battle of ideas. This camp will seek a new champion: Trump plus a brain.

These are two deeply unattractive versions of the party of Lincoln, one feckless, the other fanatical. Even so, all who care about the health of American democracy should hold their noses and hope the feckless side prevails.

 Lord, where to begin?

Let's first start with the obvious: returning to 2012, when the party was naught but the political annex of the Chamber of Commerce and its standard-bearer was an ideological chameleon whose polestar was self-advancement, just shows that even bright people are clueless.

As my friend Christopher Johnson points out, Romney is how we got Trump.

The exiled courtiers think Trump is the problem, not the symptom. Yes, he has faults, to put it mildly. And a few of them are outlined in the article.

Yet, the one thing Trump did, mirabile dictu, was to actually try to deliver something to GOP or GOP-leaning voters who aren't technocrats. He used tariffs to try to level the playing field. He delivered on partial defunding of He tried to defend the unskilled domestic labor pool by treating immigration laws as something to be enforced. And while he confuses "pick a fight" with "pick your battles," he at least punches back.

But Stephens thinks that the pre-Trump GOP was just "feckless."

Nonsense. It was malevolent. It gladly squandered American blood and treasure on nation-building endeavors. It energetically defended the hollowing out of American industry and communities through "free trade." It refused to do anything more than token outreach to non-white voters. And it absolutely refused to deliver on any domestic policy that wasn't approved by the businessmen.

I am tempted to say that all of this talk of a "big tent" is driven by boredom: the businessmen are tired of shivving the same old voters and would like some new ones to betray.

Yes, the odds are that Trump loses this fall.

But good luck with the idea that voters who stuck by him will take stage directions from aristocrats who sacrificed the former's interests in order to create a party more congenial to the latter's tastes.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Triumph of the Epsilons.

It's bad enough that people are both stupid enough to confuse the two and woke enough to be certain in their stupidity.

It's worse to give the proudly-stupid people what they want
People have asked the couple to remove the flag, confronting them directly and online. The Offenbeckers have never been threatened, but they have been accused of promoting racism.
The latest person to email the Offenbeckers about the flag on their property informed them that they should be "ashamed."
"How could we be so bigoted and close minded, this person wrote, and I was really hurt because I feel like we’ve done a lot to integrate into this small community and be part of St. Johns," Kjersten Offenbecker said.
She doesn't want people to believe they are something they aren't any longer.
The couple took the Norwegian and the American flag down last week.
Bad call. I understand not wanting to deal with the ignorant, but conceding ground on this point is only a victory for the mob. A very dim mob at that.

May he rest in peace.

Conservative law professor and commentator Mike Adams' death has been ruled a suicide.

Now, I know that the receipt of a half a million dollars in severance is an argument against a suicidal motive.

But the loss of a career he had fought tooth and nail to keep against an unrelenting barrage of hate can push a man over the edge. Especially if he's a single man in his mid-50s with dubious job prospects in a deeply-politicized profession.

May the Lord grant him the peace that he lost in life.

Nicholas Sandmann and the Mediots.

I wasn't blogging when the Covington Catholic students were thrown into the hurricane of hatred that followed one of their number smiling patiently at the bad-faith behavior of an activist.

I even initially thought that one of them had yelled "Build the wall!" in a juvenile crap-stirrer way. I was wrong about that, and I regret saying that I thought so.

But I never, ever understood the unrelenting shit-storm of rage which was hurled at them, which included cold-blooded takes from a supposedly Catholic shepherd, the ever-zeitgeist-friendly John Stowe. I have three sons, and the thought of them being subjected to this still infuriates me.

So when Richard Jewell's attorney Lin Wood took up Sandmann's cause, I was looking forward to some first-class legal carpet-bombing. I have yet to be disappointed.

Naturally, those who were just fine with the attempted destruction of Sandmann are doing their best to downplay the settlements obtained by Wood. Starting with the most recent settlement payer, CNN. Two of its contributors thought it would be a great idea to claim that CNN paid nuisance settlements to make it go away.

Wood has responded with fiery legal threats, claiming a breach of a nondisclosure agreement signed by CNN.

While it would be very interesting to see Brian Stelter dragged into court over his addiction to Twitter quick-hits, Jonathan Turley suggests that it all depends.
We do not know the language of the confidentiality agreement anymore than Zaid does. Often these agreements include provisions that bind the employees of the signatories. That is meant to avoid precisely this danger of companies attacking the other party through its employees while claiming adherence to the agreement as a corporate entity.

That however is tough when the entity is a new organization and this is news.  For example, people look to Rangappa for legal analysis and she was analyzing the story.  Moreover these tweets could be viewed by a court as de minimis, particularly Rangappa’s six words. Of course, that is the dilemma faced by CNN when it signs a sweeping agreement.

There is an interesting analogy to confidentiality agreements limiting future analysis or comments.  Some confidentiality agreements seek to limit the ability of lawyers to represent individuals in the future.  Model Rule of Professional Conduct 5.6 states that a lawyer shall not participate in “an agreement in which a restriction on the lawyer’s right to practice is part of the settlement of a client controversy.”

Here the agreement would contain a restriction of a news organization covering or discussing the settlement as part of a national news story.

The question could come down to the language. There are actually two types of provisions that could come into play, not one.  First, there can be a confidentiality provision barring comments on the settlement other than an approved statement.  These agreements often not only cover “disclosure” of terms but also comments on such terms.  Thus, parties will sometimes agree that they will not allow anyone to make “statements or otherwise permit or cause any publicity, directly or indirectly, concerning any Settlement Information.”

Second, there is often a non-disparagement provision preventing “heirs, assigns, agents, employees and attorneys shall not disparage or make any derogatory remarks whatsoever about any of the other parties thereto or their heirs, assigns, agents, officers, directors, employees and attorneys.”

CNN’s lawyers obviously knew that this would be a newsworthy story so they had a choice of allowing their employees to discuss the settlement or barring such comments. If they did the latter, the attorneys would ordinarily send around a memo informing all employees that they are not to comment on the settlement or go beyond an approved statement.

It will come down, therefore, to terms. However, much like not knowing about the money exchanged in any settlement, we do not know the terms.  There is no reason to assume that there was a tiny payment for nuisance value any more than a windfall.
The constitutional problem of binding all members of a media company to silence would be an interesting one, but not necessarily insurmountable. 

If I had to guess, the non-disclosure agreement probably can't bind everyone. But Wood is trying to strike down any attempt to build a nuisance settlement narrative. And the pushback ("liar") is a strong hint that it was much more than nuisance money.

Monday, July 27, 2020


The long-term survival of slave systems did not depend upon daily displays of terror or force, though obviously displays of power and the threat of dire punishment were always in the background.

No, slaveholders were smarter than that: divide and rule, giving some status, privilege and prestige, made it endure.
Even the most brutal of slaveholders were therefore compelled to develop a sophisticated system of management that exploited the most human aspirations and fears of the people they dominated.

Creating divisions between slaves was essential to this. Enslaved people outnumbered free whites in the British Caribbean. In Jamaica the ratio was higher than 10 to one, and on some big plantations it was about 100 to one. Managers therefore needed to divide slaves in order to rule over them. The slave trade from Africa provided them with one opportunity. As a manager of several large Jamaican sugar estates remarked in 1804, it was a general policy to ‘have the Negroes on an estate a mixture of nations so as to balance one set against another, to be sure of having two-thirds join the whites’ (in the event of an uprising). The theory behind this was that enslaved people from one African ‘nation’ would refuse to join rebellions plotted by those from others, or by creole (locally born) slaves, choosing instead to serve their white masters in the hope of rewards for loyal service.

Privileging some enslaved people above others was another effective means of sowing discord. Slaveholders encouraged complex social hierarchies on the plantations that amounted to something like a system of ‘class’. At the top of plantation slave communities in the sugar colonies of the Caribbean were skilled men, trained up at the behest of white managers to become sugar boilers, blacksmiths, carpenters, coopers, masons and drivers. Such men were, in general, materially better-off than field slaves (most of whom were women), and they tended to live longer.

The most important members of this enslaved elite were the drivers, responsible for enforcing discipline and work routines among the other enslaved workers. These men were essential to effective plantation management – a conduit for orders and, sometimes, for negotiations between white overseers and the massed ranks of field workers. They were also among the strongest survivors of the system.

The privileges conferred on the enslaved elite came in several forms: better food, more food, better clothing, more clothing, better and bigger housing, even the prospect (in some rare cases) that a master might use his last will and testament to free them.

Now, it is possible that a crude, nuance-impaired cynic might see something similar in the confluence of the divisions instilled by identity politics and the dispensation of privileges via governmental and corporate largess, all occurring while power and wealth are increasingly-centralized on a global scale.

But such persons can be dismissed out of hand.

The search for a planet beyond Pluto.

While I am not an astronomer, nor do I play one on television, I rebel against the whole "dwarf planet" phenomenon. Pluto may be small, and part of a cluster with other small worlds, but it is  a sphere not some planetary fragment like Ceres.

The short version: I think it's a planet and will be officially designated as such one day.

Anyway, the search for the "next planet" has been ongoing since Clyde Tombaugh found Pluto.

Here's the latest update about the search from The Guardian:
These days, [astronomer Scott] Sheppard can regularly be found using Japan’s Subaru telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, patiently scouring the sky for more evidence of Planet 9, maybe even hoping that he sees the planet itself. The scale of the task is enormous. It really is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. The planet – if it is even there – is very faint and the sky is very large. But help is on its way in the form of the Rubin observatory.

Rubin is a monster that will devour the sky. Whereas most telescopes would take months or years to survey the whole sky, Rubin will do it in just three nights. Then do it again and again and again to see what’s changed and so catch the moving objects.

Construction is nearing completion, and the telescope is set to open its giant eye for the first time in 2020. Commissioning and tweaking will then take another couple of years.

“That survey is going to change solar system science as we know it,” says Sheppard. And if Planet 9 is out there, Rubin should see it.

“We can detect an Earth-mass planet at around 1000 AU,” says Meg Schwamb, of Queen’s University Belfast, who co-chairs the Rubin observatory’s solar system science collaboration. That puts Sheppard’s world easily within its sights. “If others haven’t seen Planet 9 before our survey starts then, I think, all eyes are on the Rubin observatory,” says Schwamb.

Even if the telescope fails to see the planet directly, it will detect many more distant mini-worlds that can all be use to triangulate the planet’s position more precisely, thus helping to narrow the search area. And if Planet 9 really is out there, then the consequences will be huge.

Astronomers think that the solar system formed in a disc of matter surrounding the sun. That matter condensed into smaller bodies, which then collided to form larger ones. At the end of this process, the planets were born. But the matter in this disc thins out further from the sun, meaning there is not enough raw material to form a large planet in the distant solar system.


It figures.

Despite whiffing on the ball that could be felt from Cincinnati, the Detroit Tigers are 2-1 and have their home opener today--albeit the weirdest one ever.

But the odds of MLB finishing its abbreviated season just plummeted into the ocean depths with this morning's news about the Miami Marlins.

Team sports aren't going to work in the age of corona--outdoors or indoors.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Flat out hilarious.

At least I think so. A laugh on another lousy day.

Sunday and Thursday.

Last Sunday, four teenagers were shot in Detroit at a block party. Two are in grave condition and two are in critical.

Except for the families of the wounded, this prompted no outrage. To my shame, I was unaware it had happened until I read this story today:

Thursday's shooting will certainly come up in today's daily protest in Detroit.

Sunday's mass shooting won't.

Because the person pulling the trigger several times on Sunday doesn't outrage anyone except the bereaved, but the person pulling the trigger once on Thursday has been turned into Public Enemy No. 1.

The connection between shootings American society could hardly care less about (Sunday) and those that prompt marches (Thursday) is obvious. But except for the families and Public Enemy No. 1, no one wants to talk about Sunday, much less protest it.

So we're going to keep getting months of them.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Who knew operating a glitzy training facility in concentration camp country would be bad optics?

And note how quietly the relationship ended.

Even now, fear of offending Xi is the polestar for the cringing corporati who are so happy to lecture others about privilege and a state's abuse of minorities.

And while Ted Cruz is a preening windbag, his point about Cuban's fear of offending China was not rebutted.

The reality is, you can't have a growing global network of outreach and training centers and then turn into an aw-shucks isolationist when someone calls you out for profiting from your relationship with abusive regimes.

At the end of the day, Cuban and the rest of the NBA are just transnational businessmen trying to sell you something. Their political stances are part of a carefully-scripted sales pitch, and their connections to the community are brand maintenance. All of which serves an overarching brand strategy.

And smart businessmen are always happy to trade a passel of small customers for bigger ones.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020


And both involve metals.

First, the more innocuous: yes, we do have a coin shortage. And that's due to both a deflationary crunch relating to lack of circulation and slowed activity at the U.S. Mint.
Federal officials have continued to acknowledge the issue and say they're in the process of addressing the shortages in the nation's coin supply.
A June 11 news release from the Fed confirmed that coin deposits to the reserve had declined, and that the U.S. Mint had decreased coin production. The Federal Reserve, which supplies commercial banks with coins, announced it would begin allocating available coins to financial institutions based on their historical coin orders to manage its inventory. 
The Mint also returned to full staffing and began working to "maximize coin production capacity."
"Although the Federal Reserve is confident that the coin inventory issues will resolve once the economy opens more broadly and the coin supply chain returns to normal circulation patterns, we recognize that these measures alone will not be enough to resolve near-term issues," the June 11 release said.
So hopefully that will be a short-term problem.

But maybe not.


We also have a guns-and-ammo shortage, and the latter is more worrying because what it says about the world's copper production:
“As far as the ammo is concerned, the number one thing you have to have in order to make ammunition is raw materials, being lead and copper,” [gun shop materials manager Phillip] Kastner said. “So all of the lead mines in the United States are in the state of Missouri; Missouri shut them down the first of March. All of the copper mines are in South America; South America shut them down in April. … The lead mines are now open in Missouri, but getting copper for the casings is one of the choking points.”
And while Chile's mines are still open, there are strikes--and coronavirus is surging among the workers.
 But cracks are beginning to show, union leaders told Reuters. Patricio Elgueta, president of Chile’s Federation of Copper Workers (FTC), an umbrella group for Codelco’s unions, said miners are exhausted and scared of falling ill but keep working to make ends meet.
Elgueta said unions were weighing a proposal from a regional roundtable of healthworkers, politicians and social groups to draw down production to a “minimum” at all of the mines around the hard-hit city of Calama in order to sanitize them.
The Antofagasta region, where Calama is located, accounts for more than half of Chile’s mine production, according to state copper agency statistics.
Meanwhile, Elgueta said emphasis at the major mines had necessarily shifted to processing ore as companies have scaled back staffing by around 40%. Contract work has already largely been slashed.
“You focus on production and neglect maintenance... it’s not sustainable,” Elgueta said in a phone interview. “First you exhaust the workers, then you cause damage to the equipment, then come delays.”
Juan Carlos Guajardo, head of Santiago-based consultancy Plusmining, told Reuters the industry was coming “dangerously close to the edge.”

He said an industry-wide policy of “buying time” by trimming staff and tightening safety measures had been successful, wowing the market even as Peru’s mines were hit by weeks of inactivity. These measures were now catching up with Chile’s miners, he added.

“We’re in the worst moment of the health crisis with respect to the mining industry,” he said. “(Chile) bet that the sanitary crisis would be manageable, but that’s not what’s happened.”

The outbreak has exploded in Chile, with cases surpassing those in Italy and cresting 275,000 this week. The pandemic has spread northward to cities like Antofagasta and Calama dedicated to servicing the northern desert region’s sprawling mines.
Loss of copper supplies would be...not good for the economy, to indulge in understatement. Not as bad as the loss of lives...but economic hard times kill, too. 

Just another reminder that the metal isn't called "Doctor Copper" for nothing.

Long overdue.

Trump's ultra-cringe-inducing rhetoric for foreign strongmen aside, one of the aspects of this Administration I have appreciated is the use of tariffs to address trade imbalances and other misbehavior by foreign actors.

Especially the Chinese Reich.

For years, the response to IT theft, hacking and currency manipulation was a bipartisan shrug. The money flowed to shareholders, so all was well.

Not any more. Now, in addition to tariffs and working with other nations to shut Huawei out from 5G networks, we're shutting down a consulate
The United States ordered China to close its diplomatic consulate in Houston within 72 hours, dealing another blow to the rapidly deteriorating relations between the two countries. China promptly vowed to retaliate, calling the move illegal.
The State Department said the closure was made in response to repeated Chinese violations of American sovereignty, including “massive illegal spying and influence operations.”…
The State Department spokeswoman, Morgan Ortagus, said the order to close the consulate showed that the United States would not tolerate China’s “egregious behavior.”
“The People’s Republic of China has engaged for years in massive illegal spying and influence operations throughout the United States against U.S. government officials and American citizens,” Ms. Ortagus said in a pointed and politically tinged statement.
"Politically-tinged" is apparently a synonym for "indubitable." As Ed Morrissey points out in the Hot Air link, the accusations against China are well-supported and of long duration.

Glad to see all of this. Beijing has built up a legacy of bad will and finally there are consequences.

One of the more worthwhile responses to Cancelmania! I have read.

I admit that my mordant first response was "Oh--they're still reading Aristotle in American universities? Wow! Win for sanity!"

I would add that other philosophers have been read just as reductively, with Plato being cast as the father of totalitarianism and Duns Scotus being claimed as the father of postmodernism.

But while the article doesn't do justice to the breadth of Aristotle's thought (editors likely intervened), Professor Callard broadens her argument to make a plea for listening to everyone on their own terms without assigning political motives.

One that will fall mostly on deaf (or deafened) ears, but still worth considering:

In fact, I can imagine circumstances under which an alien could say women are inferior to men without arousing offense in me. Suppose this alien had no gender on their planet, and drew the conclusion of female inferiority from time spent observing ours. As long as the alien spoke to me respectfully, I would not only be willing to hear them out but even interested to learn their argument.

I read Aristotle as such an “alien.” His approach to ethics was empirical — that is, it was based on observation — and when he looked around him he saw a world of slavery and of the subjugation of women and manual laborers, a situation he then inscribed into his ethical theory.

When I read him, I see that view of the world — and that’s all. I do not read an evil intent or ulterior motive behind his words; I do not interpret them as a mark of his bad character, or as attempting to convey a dangerous message that I might need to combat or silence in order to protect the vulnerable. Of course in one sense it is hard to imagine a more dangerous idea than the one that he articulated and argued for — but dangerousness, I have been arguing, is less a matter of literal content than messaging context.

What makes speech truly free is the possibility of disagreement without enmity, and this is less a matter of what we can say, than how we can say it. “Cancel culture” is merely the logical extension of what we might call “messaging culture,” in which every speech act is classified as friend or foe, in which literal content can barely be communicated, and in which very little faith exists as to the rational faculties of those being spoken to. In such a context, even the cry for “free speech” invites a nonliteral interpretation, as being nothing but the most efficient way for its advocates to acquire or consolidate power.

I will admit that Aristotle’s vast temporal distance from us makes it artificially easy to treat him as an “alien.” One of the reasons I gravitate to the study of ancient ethics is precisely that it is difficult to entangle those authors in contemporary power struggles. When we turn to disagreement on highly charged contemporary ethical questions, such as debates about gender identity, we find suspicion, second-guessing of motives, petitioning — the hallmarks of messaging culture — even among philosophers.

I do not claim that the possibility of friendly disagreement with Aristotle offers any direct guidance on how to improve our much more difficult disagreements with our contemporaries, but I do think considering the case of Aristotle reveals something about what the target of such improvements would be. What we want, when we want free speech, is the freedom to speak literally.

Read it all.

Living on an island in the middle of nowhere?

So long as I have a large-enough library wing, I'd be set.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Scripsit Hemingway: A Shorter Pastoral Constitution on the Modern World for 2020.

"Ernest Hemingway once wrote: 

'The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.'

I agree with the second part."

To paraphrase the late Rick James: "Outrage is a helluva drug."

In fact, the buzz it gives the self-righteous is impossible to kick.

Twenty years ago, the West Michigan town of Allendale erected a set of statues in a local park.

One depicts the end of the Civil War, and features a crestfallen Confederate.

Outsiders continue to pour into the rural town west of Grand Rapids to enlist in a battle being waged at protests, meetings and social media.

“I’ve seen more division and anger in our community than at any other point in my entire life. It breaks my heart,” resident Christina Berna said.

The battle lines in the festering dispute are murky. Most of the statue’s critics are white. Some of its defenders are black.
Wait, why would black people be defending it? The article successfully avoids quoting such interesting people, but here's a hint why:

An interesting compositional choice from the artist, truly. What is sometimes lost in the great, horrific bloodshed between Union and Confederate is what the War meant to black people of the era, free and slave. Here, a former slave child picks up a Union leaflet stating that he is no longer chattel property.

So that helpfully explains why black residents would not be eager to see it pulled down by Woke Whites in another of their mindless iconoclastic frenzies.

I could quote the article's usual collection of Woke Whites and their so-called reasoning for It Will Come Down! but you've heard the emoting all before, and will again as they move on to the next target.

There's no reasoning with them, and it's not worth an effort. I'm certainly not going to waste any pixels on people who aren't interested in thinking.

The answer is No.

Monday, July 20, 2020

You have to start somewhere.

When I was a child, neither coloring nor painting--even by numbers--was one of my bags.

"Jackson Pollock Seizing" is the best way to describe my style in those rare forays into the visual arts.

So when the first miniatures arrived and I realized I was going to have to paint them....hoo, boy.

Base-coating is a breeze.

The detail work is forcing me to develop something I have never had: a light touch.

So I figured "why not start your very first miniature painting with something ridiculously-intricate like a Techmarine?"

After a harsh "Delete" of a first draft with paint thinner, I decided to switch gears (rimshot!) and try some detailing. 

I focused on the metallic tools, breastplate and Mechanicus right pauldron. I am going to make his powerpack red, too. But he's going to be an Ultramarine tech nerd when I am finished.

The bright light shows I need some extra dabs in spots. But so far I am...not appalled.

Prayer request.

My wife's dear Aunt Jill, a big-hearted woman who refused to respond to the often-harsh road of her life by becoming unkind herself, passed away suddenly yesterday.

Prayers for the repose of her soul, and for her grieving family, would be greatly appreciated.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Product recommendation.

If you are looking for a lap desk for your computer, the folks at AboveTek have a great one here.

It is all-around excellent, and I recommend it unreservedly.

And while I would prefer that America manufacture more of its own stuff, at least this is made in Taiwan, so you aren't pouring more money into the pockets of the Chinese Reich.

Remember: China is Asshole--support Island China instead.

Don't let the door hit ya...

I was originally a bit intrigued when Justin Amash won his Congressional seat in Western Michigan in 2010. A young, articulate strongly-libertarian Republican and pro-lifer, he promised to add a valuable voice to the halls of Congress.

How wrong I was.

He made the occasional interesting speech about liberty, but voted against a sex-selection abortion ban in 2012, claiming it was a "thought-crime" bill. Odd, but otherwise he was solidly pro-life in his voting record, even if there was not the slightest chance of passing anything during his first six years in Congress.

And then with the election of 2016 he began fretting loudly about "hyper-partisanship" (from Republicans) and not at all about abuse of FISA warrants and out-of-bounds law enforcement activity.

Because why would a "principled libertarian" care about politically-motivated surveillance and government overreach?

Now he's announced that he's not running for reelection at all, so I can happily watch the door hit his tuchus on the way out.

From here on out, he can spend more time crafting his brand and continuing to evolve into what most libertarians are: upscale leftists who like cheap foreign goods and decriminalizing narcotics.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Another one from the vaults that I am particularly proud of.

As a quick scan of the archives proves, I published nothing at this blog in 2019.

But that doesn't mean I didn't get something published in long form back then.

Since (1) I am proud of it, (2) I think it has broad applicability to hunting down used books in general, (3) it provides an historical perspective and (4) it allows me to quote myself, here's a sample:

As the 19th century gave way to the 20th, English-speaking Catholics finally had their footing in both Britain and North America. Decades of emancipation in the former and successes in beating back fiercely anti-Catholic movements in the latter had led to legal and financial stability.

As a result, the English-speaking Catholic world enjoyed a publication explosion during the sixty years prior to the most recent council. Numerous publishers sprang up and offered not only works from Anglophone writers, but also translations of significant European Catholic material.

We can measure the publishing burst thanks to the remarkable efforts of the late Walter Romig (1903-1977) of Detroit. Romig was an energetic editor, author, compiler, and publisher of things Catholic. Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit keeps his memory alive with an annual award for distinguished lay alumni of the school.

But he deserves to be far better known for his tireless efforts on behalf of Catholic literature. For twenty years, he painstakingly chronicled the growth of Catholic works in the first six volumes of The Guide to Catholic Literature and in his six-volume The Book of Catholic Authors series. As a publisher, he also printed reference works to black Catholic and American Catholic convert authors. While I haven’t been able to find any verifiable biographical details about him online [1], I can say with confidence that Romig made it his mission to tell fellow Catholics and the world about the Catholic impact on the written word. All of this was done in the age of snail mail, card catalogues, and databases consisting of file cabinets, pens, and paper.

The Guide bears witness to this. The first volume covers 1888-1940 and totals 1,240 pages. The next volume covers 1940-44 and clocks in at 633 pages. So even in the midst of the planet’s worst conflict, Catholic publishing saw an astonishing expansion. The subsequent volumes show the growth continuing. The last volume edited by Romig covered 1956-59 and came in at 729 pages. Catholic books poured forth like an oil strike geyser.

By the end of the 1960s, the geyser guttered out, and the great old Catholic publishing houses – Sheed & Ward, Bruce Publishing, Burns & Oates, Benziger Brothers, Hanover House, B. Herder, P.J. Kenedy & Sons, Longmans Green, Newman, Joseph F. Wagner – went out of business, were bought out, or became shadows of their former selves.

Anglophone Catholics not only left “the ghetto” after Vatican II, but blew up their publishing industry when they departed. And while some new companies have come into existence since, most have little connection to the fallen giants of the past.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

I can hear the rattle of the Governor's executive order pen from here.

Michigan has the highest new case count since May: 891 cases.

The trend has been slowly but gradually upwards since the tail-end of June. Now a spike, 11 days after the Fourth.

Buckle up.

Mitch Albom and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar point out the obvious.

Namely, leagues and athletes giving a pass to some forms of hate won't work.

So it might seem surprising that after NFL star DeSean Jackson posted several anti-Semitic messages on Instagram last weekend — including a quote he (wrongly) attributed to Adolf Hitler claiming Jews “will extort America” and “have a plan for world domination” — there was no mass outrage from his industry, and no immediate punishment from his team.

In fact, although they labeled the posts "offensive" and "appalling," it took nearly a week before the Philadelphia Eagles finally announced the consequences for Jackson’s hateful messages: An undisclosed fine.

Think about that. A fine. Meanwhile, despite Jackson repeating the worst form of Jewish stereotyping and citing not only Hitler but Louis Farrakhan, who has called Jews “satanic” and likened them to “termites," only a handful of athletes (several of them Jewish) and some notable media voices criticized him.

And then Albom finds this gem from one of the NFL's most fervent BLM proponents:

Malcolm Jenkins, an NFL player with the New Orleans Saints known for social justice advocacy, seemed bothered that this was “a distraction” from the Black Lives Matter movement, saying: “Jewish people aren’t our problem, and we aren’t their problem ... We’ve got a lot of work to do, and this ain’t it.”

Albom's column is worth reading in its entirety--measured, eminently irenic and respectful throughout. It ends with a plea to not downplay any forms of hatred, and asks a rhetorical question about the silence. Which, it should be said, is not one which suggests a hopeful outcome. Nor should it.

Abdul-Jabbar also wades into the same waters, and reaches similar conclusions in a read-it-all column:

Recent incidents of anti-Semitic tweets and posts from sports and entertainment celebrities are a very troubling omen for the future of the Black Lives Matter movement, but so too is the shocking lack of massive indignation. Given the New Woke-fulness in Hollywood and the sports world, we expected more passionate public outrage. What we got was a shrug of meh-rage.

When reading the dark squishy entrails of popular culture, meh-rage in the face of sustained prejudice is an indisputable sign of the coming Apatholypse: apathy to all forms of social justice. After all, if it’s OK to discriminate against one group of people by hauling out cultural stereotypes without much pushback, it must be OK to do the same to others. Illogic begets illogic.

Ice Cube’s June 10 daylong series of tweets, which involved some creepy symbols and images, in general implied that Jews were responsible for the oppression of blacks. NFL player DeSean Jackson tweeted out several anti-Semitic messages, including a quote he incorrectly thought was from Hitler (not your go-to guy for why-can’t-we-all-get-along quotes) stating that Jews had a plan to “extort America” and achieve “world domination.” Isn’t that SPECTRE’s job in James Bond movies?

Abdul-Jabbar lists several more episodes, offers the fascinating backstory for the song "Strange Fruit" and ends with this clarion call:
The lesson never changes, so why is it so hard for some people to learn: No one is free until everyone is free. As Martin Luther King Jr. explained: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.” So, let’s act like it. If we’re going to be outraged by injustice, let’s be outraged by injustice against anyone.
I suppose we can always hope. But even in the story of Nick Cannon getting the boot by Viacom for anti-semitic statements, the fact he could regurgitate a facsimile of the Nation of Islam's creation story about whites without a whisper of corporate objection isn't fully heartening.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Hatred in action.

These bullies deserve the rhetorical equivalent of a broken nose.

Because make no mistake, our future ruling class will be made up of such people.

I need something light, so: memes.

Self explanatory.

Having a Space Marine Uncle could be really cool. 
Not so by the way, I used to toss Maddie up to the rafters like this. I'll have to find that picture.

"There are no aliens at Area 51" is confirmed.

The Black Templars are kinda loopy. 
But Grimaldus is pretty awesome, even if he was rude to Vulkan's boys at Helsreach.
"Excuse me, Miss--I speak Lore."

Yeah, everybody knows who the Ultrasmurfs are. Can't let that slide.

"And I'm putting this cup down and un-holstering my assault bolter. No hard feelings, old man."

Louis Armstrong like you'll never hear him.

Rolling Money Pit Update.

Note: Not actual family vehicle. Too new, for starters.

My father is technically a "Baby Boomer," but was born in rural northern Michigan to parents who had struggled through the Depression. None of that hippie crap for him.

What happened is that he acquired scrounging skills necessary to survive in a part of the country that hasn't seen a boom since logging was a thing.

Also, my wife thinks Dad's a Jedi with persuasive powers beyond those of normal mortals.

The short of it is, I will be able to get the 5000 pound paperweight's transmission replaced for $1100, parts and labor included.

"Those labor costs are too high. You want to charge less."

Family and good neighbors--now more than ever, we need each other. And I thank God for having both.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Never mind. It *was* the transmission that went bad.

So on top the $1160 I spent on the radiator and transmission lines, I am looking at a range of additional $1700 to $3700 to replace the whole damnable thing.

Which I can't afford, unless I switch careers to chemistry teacher.

Current status:

A rough stretch.

  Forgive the vagueness and ambiguity, but I am going through a tough patch at the moment. July was full-stop awful, and August, while bette...