The Viking Guide to an Evening Out

Legitimate advice from the Havamal is made accessible for the current generation.

Wait, What?

Via Hot Air:
SESSIONS:
Let me ask you this: In the workplace of America today when we have a high number of unemployed, we’ve had declining wages for many years, we have the lowest of Americans working, who has more right to a job in this country? A lawful immigrant who’s here, a green-card holder or a citizen, or a person who entered the country unlawfully?

LYNCH:
Well, Senator, I believe that the right and the obligation to work is one that’s shared by everyone in this country regardless of how they came here. And certainly, if someone here, regardless of status, I would prefer that they be participating in the workplace than not participating in the workplace…
The part of that statement Allahpundit is interested in is the part where people who are illegally in this country have a "right" to work.

The part that I want to hear more about is how the obligation to work is shared by everyone.

Really? Where is that coming from? How is this obligation grounded? What should be done to those who don't meet this obligation?

Interesting Analogs

How about a former US Assistant Treasury Secretary and working economist who proposes we think of Iranian nuclear issue in the model of The Lord of the Rings? Picture that in your mind for a minute.

Did it look like this?
If we use J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings as a metaphor for the West, the West is Mordor and Washington is Sauron.

It is pointless for Iran to negotiate with the West in hopes of gaining acceptance. Iran is on the same list as Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi, and Assad. The only way Iran can be accepted by the West is to consent to being an American puppet state. Suspicion about Iran’s nuclear energy program is a contrived issue. If it were not the nuclear issue, it would be some other contrived issue, such as weapons of mass destruction, use of chemical weapons, terrorism, and so forth. Iran’s leaders should understand that the real problem is Iran’s independence of Washington’s foreign and economic policies.

Now There's A Headline I Never Expected to See

"Chemists find a way to unboil eggs."
“This method … could transform industrial and research production of proteins,” the researchers write in ChemBioChem.

For example, pharmaceutical companies currently create cancer antibodies in expensive hamster ovary cells that do not often misfold proteins. The ability to quickly and cheaply re-form common proteins from yeast or E. coli bacteria could potentially streamline protein manufacturing and make cancer treatments more affordable. Industrial cheese makers, farmers and others who use recombinant proteins could also achieve more bang for their buck.

When everything you know is wrong.

The WSJ editorial board wants the President to have a Seinfeld moment:
Mr. Obama is now taking credit for 2014’s job gains that his policies inhibited, much as he is for the boom in oil and gas drilling that his Administration resisted. Thus comes the opportunity for a late-term “Seinfeld” economic epiphany. Imagine the possibilities if the President realized that everything he thought about economics is wrong.
A President Costanza would cut the tax rate on capital, not raise it; reduce the incentives to go on disability, not increase them; and reduce regulatory costs on business, not add to them. Whatever economic instincts you have, Mr. President, do the opposite.

"How We Won the War on Dungeons & Dragons"

The "we" in this sense is the folks who enjoyed playing Dungeons & Dragons back when there was a huge uproar against it. Apropos of Tex's posts about nerd culture. They may feel oppressed, but sometimes they win!

We used to play D&D when I was a teenager too, and I think it's very helpful for kids. That kind of role-playing is one way of working out who you really want to be, and what's important to you. You can't actually be a barbarian king or a wizard, but you can explore what it might be like to have the virtues of courage or knowledge, and decide where you want to focus your own efforts to develop those virtues in yourself.

Of course, at some point, it's time to 'put away childish things,' and get on with the business of developing real virtue (although you can probably get back to it, as with other childish things, once you get old enough). At a certain age, when you aren't sure yet who you are or what you want, the games are helpful things.

PC Nonsense

Jonathan Chait tries to take on the whole internet, at least according to the weaklings at Gawker.
I am white and male, a fact that is certainly worth bearing in mind. I was also a student at the University of Michigan during the Jacobsen incident, and was attacked for writing an article for the campus paper defending the exhibit. If you consider this background and demographic information the very essence of my point of view, then there’s not much point in reading any further. But this pointlessness is exactly the point: Political correctness makes debate irrelevant and frequently impossible.
I doubt Chait and I have agreed about ten things in ten years. That's why PC is nonsense. These categories are just analogies. I doubt we have ten things in common, including 'being white' and 'being male.' He's a New York writer from a Jewish family -- which is fine, and I in no way mean to suggest otherwise, but it's almost totally different from my own Scots-Irish heritage in Appalachia.

And as for what it means to be a man, I doubt he and I agree at all. He'll answer to God for his conscience, and I for mine, but don't think they're similar -- let alone the same.

Good for You, Lady

I checked the history, and most mentions of Michelle Obama here at the Hall are from Tex or Cassandra (who has posting privileges she may have forgotten). I think the American tendency to pay attention to the First Lady and families of Presidents is a mistake, probably JFK's fault, that only hurts their ability to carry on with family life during a difficult few years. Best to ignore them and what they do, almost all the time, for the sake of the President's mental health and the individual good of each family member.

However, I'll break tradition this once. It's not mandatory for women from outside Saudi Arabia to go veiled, but it's good for an American not to. She may not have felt she had much choice, given the constant rumors that her husband is a secret Muslim, but all the same it's a healthy signal of independence. It's good for us, and it's good for the women of Saudi Arabia.

Fascists Have The Best Uniforms

"The Front National now has the support of a quarter of Paris’s gay voters – and only 16 per cent of the straight ones."
The Front National now offers a welcoming home to gay people who feel judged by Muslims and share wider concerns about immigration and the loss of French identity... Marine has worked hard to expand the FN’s membership beyond obvious bigots, racists and skinheads. She has publicly condemned anti-Semitism and insists that, far from being racist, her party is the only one that defends secularity and democracy against Islamisation. A key part of this strategy is using the Islamist threat to court the sort of people that the far right has traditionally persecuted. It’s working.
That's not just 'working,' that's amazing. It sounds like a leading indicator.

"Control Your Thoughts."

Apropos of a story about a Christian blogress who decided to quit wearing Yoga pants in public so as to avoid tempting other men into violating the commandment against coveting another man's wife, some advice:
Meanwhile, others criticised the entry for feeding into the idea that what a women chooses to wear dictates how men behave. “How about you learn to control your thoughts?” said one commenter.
That's great advice! Let's try it. Don't think of a pink elephant.

Snow and School Cancellations

A visual guide, with commentary.

Structural oppression

Grim linked to two very interesting articles on the subject of the War Between Nerds and Feminists.  In the first, Scot Alexander expounds on a number of topics, such as how useless it is to define human relations in terms of relative oppression, so that every identification of unjust behavior becomes a competition to determine which of us has it the worst: "You couldn't go to college? Well, I had to be subject to the draft! Top that!" He calls it the "one-dimensional model of privilege." Then he really grabs me with this:
And this is why it’s distressing to see the same things people have always said about Jews get applied to nerds. They’re this weird separate group with their own culture who don’t join in the reindeer games of normal society. They dress weird and talk weird. They’re conventionally unattractive and have too much facial hair. But worst of all, they have the chutzpah to do all that and also be successful. Having been excluded from all of the popular jobs, they end up in the unpopular but lucrative jobs, for which they get called greedy parasites in the Jews’ case, and “the most useless and deficient individuals in society” in the case of the feminist article on nerds I referenced earlier.
. . .
I am saying that whatever structural oppression means, it should be about structure. And the structure society uses to marginalize and belittle nerds is very similar to a multi-purpose structure society has used to belittle weird groups in the past with catastrophic results.
Of course it's also true that, for instance, a group of guys with some terrible habits about treating women as sex dolls might simultaneously be the target of crippling society hatred and the beneficiaries of lavish societal rewards of a different sort. It's even true that their distressing sex-doll mentality might be rooted in an oppressive social gender structure, even though they continue to suffer from some gender-based social structures and to benefit from others. It's not always about who's getting the short end of the stick in every possible walk of life. Sometimes it's just about treating people as individual human beings rather than as either objects or rigid categories. I'd really just as soon never read another article explaining that the "real" oppression is the plight of guys who would like to have sex with someone who doesn't happen to agree with the program, and therefore it follows as the night the day that all talk of oppression in the form of treating women as something less than human is illegitimate. I'm also all done listening to how a particular behavior couldn't possible be unjust or reprehensible, because the perpetrator also feels genuine pain about his life.  That's just suffering one-up-man-ship, and it's not shedding light on how we can treat each other decently.

Alexander continues explaining how little help oppression-talk can be:
If we’ve learned anything from the Star Wars prequels, it’s that Anakin Skywalker is unbearably annoying. But if we’ve learned two things from the Star Wars prequels, it’s that the easiest way to marginalize the legitimate concerns of anyone who stands in your way is to declare them oppressors loud enough to scare everyone who listens.
And if the people in the Star Wars universe had seen the Star Wars movies, I have no doubt whatsoever that Chancellor Palpatine would have discredited his opponents by saying they were the Empire.
(seriously, you wanted to throw the gauntlet down to lonely male nerds, and the turf you chose was Star Wars metaphors? HOW COULD THAT POSSIBLY SEEM LIKE A GOOD IDEA?)
He really dismantles theories of how Silicon Valley cleverly excludes women from lucrative STEM jobs while allowing women so to swamp the medical field these days that people are starting to worry who'll see all the patients when they start taking pregnancy leave.

Then there's this spot-on summary of the social atmosphere in a STEM-dominated office:
Any space with a four-to-one male:female ratio is going to end up with some pretty desperate people and a whole lot of unwanted attention. Add into this mix the fact that nerds usually have poor social skills (explaining exactly why would take a literature review to put that last one to shame, but hopefully everyone can agree this is true), and you get people who are pretty sure they are supposed to do something but have no idea what. Err to one side and you get the overly-chivalrous people saying m’lady because it pattern matches to the most courtly and least sexual way of presenting themselves they can think of. Err to the other, and you get people hollowly imitating the behavior they see in famous seducers and playboys, which when done without the very finely-tuned social graces and body-language-reading-ability of famous seducers and playboys is pretty much just “being extremely creepy”.
The second article grabs me just as hard with a nerd woman's paean to perseveration:
What I’ve got, and what I wish the rest of the “women in tech” community who rage against the misogyny they see everywhere they look could also have, is a blazingly single-minded focus on whatever topic I happen to be perseverating on at the moment. It has kept me awake for days puzzling out novel algorithms and it has thwarted a wannabe PUA at a conference completely by accident. It is also apparently the most crashingly successful defense against attempts to make me feel inferior that has ever been devised. When I’m someplace that says on the label that it’s all about the tech, so am I. I may have come by it naturally, but it is a teachable skill. Not only that, it’s a skill that transforms the places where it’s exercised.
The fact that Shanley Kane dismisses experiences like mine as “denial,” and regards them as “colluding in my own oppression,” both saddens and baffles me.
The author is perfectly describing the dreadful "Uncle Tom" or "Oreo Cookie" criticism. She's found a home in the STEM world, she knows why it works for her, and she's not interested in apologizing because it doesn't work for people not like her, whether anyone thinks the necessary qualities sort themselves out along gender lines or not.

The more I read about this, the more it seems like a war between people on opposite ends of the autism spectrum.

When privileges collide

Who's more aggrieved, feminists or nerds?
“I was terrified that one of my female classmates would somehow find out that I sexually desired her, and that the instant she did, I would be scorned, laughed at, called a creep and a weirdo, maybe even expelled from school or sent to prison,” Aaronson said.
....
The feminist response was swift and harsh, with controversial blogger Amanda Marcotte calling Aaronson’s mini-memoir “a yalp of entitlement combined with an aggressive unwillingness to accept that women are human beings just like men.” His essay boils down to a belief that women are “a robot army put here for sexual service and housework,” she said.
I assume the article omitted the intervening comments that formed some kind of rational bridge between the nerd's cri de coeur and the feminist backlash.  These two groups don't seem to be communicating well.  I've always been fond of nerds, myself, especially since I are one.

Gandhi Takes a Yoga Class



UPDATE: The Onion on a similar topic.

Landings you can swim away from

I had no idea such a thing existed:

Speaking of the 1st Amendment

Sometimes when a seemingly disgraceful story hits the right-wing news outlets, I like to check to see whether any mainstream sources have picked it up.  For one thing, if the news needs to be spread, experience suggests that the message can be heard more widely and without so much static if it comes in a more soothing wrapper than the Fox News banner.  Also, the rightosphere has been known occasionally to push a story for political purposes, shocking as that may be.  (I understand the leftosphere and the MSM occasionally err in this fashion as well.)

Anyway, when I heard that Bowe Bergdahl is to be charged with desertion but the White House is trying furiously to bury the story, my first reaction was to un-bury it as vigorously as one puny individual can.  My second was to see whether I might get some confirmation.  Naturally, confirmation in a case like this is tricky; if the White House really is squelching the news, can I trust the New York Times to carry it?  The question answers itself.

The upshot is that I'm getting hits on all kinds of sites like the Daily Mail, with The Washington Times perhaps being the closest to a traditional news outlet, but nothing in any sources like Reuters or the AP. Duffleblog is on the job, though:
For his own personal safety Bergdahl has gone into hiding in Idaho, a rugged mountainous area far from civilization, where he is being guarded by several of the local hill tribes.
The Taliban have asked the U.S. to immediately extradite Bergdahl back to Afghanistan to face criminal charges. The U.S. Department of Justice has vowed to work overtime to fulfill their request.

Thank you, Mr. Moore, Mr. Rogen

When Michael Moore and Seth Rogen exercise their First Amendment right to criticize "American Sniper," it's a tribute to everyone who served in uniform.

Syllabi

Glen Reynolds today:
HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: U.C. Berkeley Students Complain About Having To Read Aristotle, Plato, Hobbes, Locke, Hegel, Marx, Weber and Foucault. In course on classic social theory. And if that makes it hard for you to focus on the course material, cupcakes, you don’t belong in college.
I thought that sounded like a pretty good syllabus, really. You could quibble a bit -- I'm not sure Hegel's comments on social theory are at all useful except as a prelude to Marx, and I might substitute out Foucault for Rousseau (since allegedly this is about "classic" social theory). So what could be the problem?

Well, of course, I should have known.
...a standardized canon of theory that began with Plato and Aristotle, then jumped to modern philosophers: Hobbes, Locke, Hegel, Marx, Weber and Foucault, all of whom are white men. The syllabus did not include a single woman or person of color. We have major concerns about social theory courses in which white men are the only authors assigned.
I am glad that the students didn't try to rope Plato and Aristotle into the category of "white men." That's a category that wouldn't have made sense to them, and which they would have rejected once it was explained to them. All those "white men" are from the category they would have referred to as "barbarians."

This reminds me of an attempt by Georgia State University, a couple of years back, to introduce a quota of 20% female authors in philosophy courses. If you're teaching a course on contemporary philosophy, that's not at all hard to do. If you're teaching a course on "classic social theory," it's pretty hard. You could grab something from Christine de Pizan, who had some social commentary. But it's more commentary than theory, as she was accepting a Christian framework and challenging members of society to live up to it better than they did.

So that's probably what you'd do here: grab works by contemporary women who are commenting on the classical authors. You could fold them in side-by-side with the original authors as a kind of running critique by contemporary female thinkers of what the classical tradition has to say. Maybe that would be interesting to do.

It would be done at the expense of at least some of the classical authors, though. That means students will be less prepared to do novel work of their own, as they will be less aware of and engaged in the great questions. That's where I finished when talking about the 20% experiment:
I would think the way to draw women into philosophy would be to engage them with the great problems, and get them excited about wrestling with them. (It might not hurt to suggest, which is actually true, that any university will be especially considerate of a female philosopher who wants a job -- you can be sure the academy is aware of the disparity, and will bend over backwards to help ensure their numbers reflect a devotion to doing something about it.) Engaging them is what will really qualify them to do the work, as it is only someone genuinely engaged with the questions who will perform at the level at which real contributions are made -- the kind of contributions that would justify your inclusion in a class reading list.

That's also the way you'd do best by your female students as students, which is the right way for you to relate to them if you are a professor or a teaching assistant. It is, perhaps, the only way you ought to engage them.
I wonder how that 20% experiment worked out? Looking around Google, I only find the fanfare that accompanied its beginning, and no further comment on whether it has been continued or what the results were.

UPDATE: In terms of "people of color," Charles Mills has a thoroughgoing criticism of this whole tradition. Of course, he's a man, so if you read him you'd have to also separately include female critiques. The more of these things you do, the less of the tradition itself you can read.

My Support for Walker Solidifies ...

Walker '16

Good Luck, Yankees

Sometimes making history isn't much fun.

Good Topic

A good reflection on how you can be wrong about the most important things. I like the comments section especially, because it shows people reflecting on the question in their own lives.

I think I was wrong about isolationism in the 1990s. I was really against intervening in Somalia, and then in Bosnia, Serbia, etc. I thought that was none of our affair, and that we should let these people kill each other if they wanted to do so. I agreed with Otto von Bismark's opinion that the "whole of the Balkans is not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier." If you'd have suggested to me that, just a few years later, I would support an American invasion of Afghanistan I'd have laughed out loud.

"The Greeks defeated the Persians because of Aeschylus"

I completely agree with the claim about intelligence and strategy being made here, ably defended by Jakub Grygiel.

Unemployment benefits vs. unemployment

The National Review tries to make sense of data about unemployment rates in areas with greater and lesser unemployment benefits.  It's a notoriously difficult subject to examine, and would be so even if the trigger points about callousness toward the jobless weren't always being pulled.  Ends and means, intentions and results:  there's just no guarantee they'll match up.

The skills needed for unskilled work

Again via Maggie's Farm, the experience of a California employer with a business model built on unskilled labor.
I am not an economist, I am a business school grad. We don't worry about explaining structural imbalances so much as look for the profitable opportunities they might present. So a question we business folks might ask instead is: If there are so many under-employed unskilled workers rattling around in the economy, why aren't entrepreneurs crafting business models to exploit this fact?
. . . .
The reason for my despair comes from a single source: the government is making it increasingly difficult and costly to hire unskilled workers, while simultaneously creating a culture among new workers that short-circuits their ability to make progress.
It would be nice to say that the things "government" is doing along these lines are confined to California, and they're certainly at the absurd end of the spectrum there, but the rot has spread.

Neurotypicality and Tolstoy

Via Maggie's Farm:  Interesting findings about connectivity patterns between right and left brains in most people and in people on the autism spectrum:  people without autism symptoms generally share a typical left-right connection pattern, but autistic people show patterns that not only different from the ordinary, but each from all the others.

The King of Jordan and al-Sisi

The quest to deal with radicalism in Islam expands. The two regional leaders are going to hold a conference aimed at finding ways to "modernize" Islam in the hope of constraining groups like Daesh.
Although their voices may be stifled by tightened anti-terrorism laws, many of his subjects are dubious. In a country where some 90% of the population is Sunni Muslim, many wonder why their monarch has joined the American-led coalition against jihadists from Islamic State (IS). “We don’t understand why the king has joined the alliance against Syria’s Sunnis in IS and is helping to prop up Bashar al-Assad, who has far more blood on his hands,” says a Jordanian writer. After the capture by IS of a Jordanian pilot whose plane came down in Syria in December, a group of retired army officers issued statements arguing that Jordan should not be involved.

The king’s appearance at a march in Paris alongside world leaders after the attack on Charlie Hebdo caused further unhappiness. Shortly after the king returned home, a protest gathering against the magazine and its cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad drew thousands of people.

The Wisconsin way

Scott Walker's name is surprisingly unfamiliar to American voters, even Republican ones.  I hope they'll soon get a little more familiar with him.  A good link here to a recent 22-minute speech.

Wealth redistribution

Glenn Reynolds goes right to the Willie Sutton explanation, too:
The truth is, in our redistributionist system politicians make their careers mostly by taking money from one group of citizens that won't vote for them and giving it to another that will. If they run short of money from traditional sources, they'll look for new revenue wherever they can find it. And if that's the homes and savings of the middle class, then that's what they'll target.
For the moment, Americans are safe. With both houses of Congress controlled by the GOP, Obama's proposals are DOA. But over the long term, the appetite for government spending is effectively endless, while the sources of revenue are limited. Keep that in mind as you think about where to invest your money ... and your votes.

The life-cycle of a tariff

Suppose you're a virtuous person in California. You are troubled by the plight of egg-laying hens in large, crowded commercial farms. You go to D.C. and try to persuade Congress to require all American farmers to give their hens twice as much room, but you fail. You then try the same thing in the California legislature, and succeed.

But wait. California consumes more eggs than it produces, so it's a big importer from other states. What's more, requiring California farmers to give their hens twice as much room will put them at a competitive disadvantage with out-of-state egg producers. You could rely on the innate chicken-empathy of your fellow California citizens, but you worry that some of them lack ideological purity and will buy cheap, unenlightened out-of-state "conflict" eggs.

The obvious next step is to ban the transportation across the California state line of conflict eggs. This prevents your fellow Californians from making the incorrect ethical choice, and protects the local farms from unfair competition. It's arguably a violation of the Interstate Commerce Cause, but that will take a long time to work out in the courts. In the meantime, eggs were $1.18 in California a dozen a couple of years ago but have risen to between $3.16 and $5.00 now. Can price caps be far behind?

Over the holidays I noticed that our local grocery store was having trouble keeping eggs in stock--lots of empty shelves. I thought it was just an outbreak of holiday baking enthusiasm, but maybe not! It may be a ripple effect from the growers in the Midwest who want to maintain access to California markets, and had either to invest $40 a chicken in larger cages or to slaughter half their chickens to make room. In any case, my neighbors who sell fresh eggs may find that their free-range prices are starting to look pretty competitive.  Maybe the next law needs to prohibit all municipal anti-noise poultry-raising regulations and promote "victory" chicken gardens.

Skepticism

Freeman Dyson's patience is admirable but limited.

Montana

My father sent me this.

Knowledge Problems

Since we're doing Kevin Williamson (and markets) today, his piece on Davos has a very strong middle. It begins and ends in easy mockery, but in the center he makes a well-crafted argument.
There exists in every human being, in every human organization, and every human system a sort of epistemic horizon, a real and meaningful boundary on the amount of knowledge and cognitive firepower that that person or agency can bring to any given problem. This is a fact that is at some level known and understood across the political spectrum: It is the cornerstone of the progressives’ case for diversity, in that people with different knowledge inventories, different experiences, and different perspectives are more likely to discover effective solutions to complex problems than are groups that are more intellectually homogeneous. For conservatives of a Hayekian bent, this is the familiar “knowledge problem,” the understanding that markets will allocate resources more productively than political agencies will because markets are the only effective means of aggregating usable information about specific economic situations.

We understand the problem of the epistemic horizon, but we do not apply that understanding nearly broadly enough. Progressives believe that “diversity” increases when an organization dominated by white men who are overwhelmingly graduates of the same five law schools, who have read the same books, watch the same television shows, and hold the same relatively narrow range of political opinions adds to its personnel a white woman or a black man who is also a graduate of one of those same five law schools, who has read the same books, watches the same television shows, and holds political views within that same relatively narrow range. Conservatives, to their credit, generally understand that intellectual homogeneity is different from ethnic or sexual homogeneity, but they, too, are generally too unwilling to carry through the more radical implications of that knowledge.

The intellectual homogeneity of policymaking elites is a serious and underestimated problem. To take an obvious example: The American policymaking class includes both progressives and conservatives, but it is overwhelmingly dominated by college graduates and people in occupations that are largely open only to college graduates. Unsurprisingly, our educational-policy debate is almost exclusively focused on how to get more people prepared for college, how to get more people through college, and how to help college graduates deal with financial obligations incurred in the course of a college education. Even a celebrity like John Ratzenberger (Cliff Clavin of Cheers), whose background is in carpentry and whose interest is in cultivating skilled labor, has a difficult time influencing that debate. This is not a result of ill will, selfishness, or malfeasance on the part of elites; it is just that it seems natural to them that the sorts of problems people like them tend to have are the ones that we need to focus on, and that what worked in their lives will work for everybody else....

People whose profession is the crafting of legislation or the application of regulation reflexively (and understandably) assume that if you want more of something, then the thing to do is to pass a law mandating it, and that if you want less of something, then the thing to do is to pass a law punishing it. The bigger picture — that laws and regulations and other aspects of policy interact with one another in unexpected ways — is generally invisible to them. If you are a lawyer, then you understand most social questions as a matter of law; if you are an economist, you understand them as questions of economics; if you are a teacher, you think that the answer to many social problems is better schools. This habit is only natural.

Conservatives are generally inclined to make a moral case for limited government... but the more important argument is the problem of ignorance. Even if Congress were populated exclusively by saintly super-geniuses, there is only so much that 535 human beings can know and understand. The more that decision-making is centralized in political agencies, or even in elites outside of formal government, the more intensively those decisions will be distorted by ignorance. This is true of market-oriented institutions, too, in the sense that big businesses make big mistakes. One of the lessons of the 2007 financial crisis is that the guys who run the banks do not actually know that much about how banks work, even if they know 100 times what the banking regulators know. Free markets offer a critical, if imperfect and partial, corrective to that in the form of financial losses and business failures, which is why things like cars and computers consistently improve while schools and welfare programs don’t. Big markets with lots of competing buyers and sellers are the biggest thinking machines we have, offering the broadest epistemic horizon that our species has figured out how to achieve.

There is a deep philosophical challenge for progressives in that: Progressives say that they want inclusive social decision-making, but the most radically inclusive process we have for social decision-making is the thing that they generally distrust and often hate: capitalism — or, as our left-leaning friends so often put it, “unfettered” capitalism.
I think progressives would be happier with the market if it came with a guaranteed income: the idea of inclusively deciding what we value by individually deciding what we'll spend money on would be more persuasive to them if people reliably had money to spend. This also may be a privilege problem for them more than it's a capitalism problem.

Mini-crusades

Kevin Williamson really, really dislikes Jon Stewart:
The Left has been losing the Big Idea debate for a generation or more, in no small part because its last Big Idea killed 100 million people, give or take, and not in Mr. Klein’s projecting-abstractly-from-a-CBO-study way but in the concentration-camps-and-hunger-terror way. Marxism was the Left’s Big Idea for the better part of a century, and its collapse — which was moral, economic, political, and complete — left a howling void in the Left’s intellectual universe. Nothing has quite managed to fill it: In the immediate wake of the collapse of Communism, the anticapitalists sought shelter in a variety of movements, few of which grew to be of any real consequence, with the exception of the environmentalist movement. But the lenten self-mortification implied by a consistent environmentalist ethic has limited that movement’s appeal as a governing philosophy and an individual ethic both, hence its fragmentation into a motley sprawl of mini-crusades. It is easy to be anti-fracking when that does not require you to give up anything, easy to oppose the expansion of the Keystone pipeline network when you can be confident that the gas pumps in your hometown will always be full, easy for well-off Whole Foods shoppers to abominate varieties of grain that are possessed by evil spirits or cooties or whatever it is this week.
I don't think the proposed replacement of the Left's failed Big Idea is only a series of mini-environmental crusades. I think it's an attempt to achieve redistribution and a command-and-control economy by force, without thinking through where the force will lead when free people resist.

The cure

Victor Davis Hanson on the strategies that do and do not work for Islamic extremism:
[I]f Islamic-inspired violence abroad does not directly and negatively affect the Middle East, or if it creates a sense of fear of radical Islam among Westerners that does not translate into hardship for the Muslim world — or that perhaps even succeeds in winning a sort of warped prestige — then there is no reason to expect the Islamic community will take the necessary measures to curb it.
The sense of perceived persecution in the Middle East is real — analogous to Germany’s lamentations after the Versailles Treaty. The retreat into Islamic-inspired terror reflects a larger, complex stew of anger at the reach of Western globalization into traditional and conservative Islamic societies and of envy of the wealth and influence of the Western world, combined with an inability to offer self-critical analyses about the role of tribalism, statism, gender apartheid, religious fundamentalism, intolerance, autocracy, and anti-Semitism in institutionalizing poverty and instability.
For a sizable minority of Muslim immigrants to the West, a sense of inferiority is sometimes enhanced rather than diminished by contact with Western liberal society. The longer and further immigrants are away from the mess of the Middle East that caused them to flee or at least stay away, the more they are able under the aegis of Western freedom, prosperity, and security to romanticize what provides them with the sense of self that they have not earned in their adopted countries.
In the Middle East, when modern societies reach such a point, they prefer to blame “Jews” or “the decadent West” rather than their own pathologies for a perceived descent from the glories of a past — and religiously pure — age. . . .
When the nihilism of radical Islam manifests itself not just in the bombings in Paris or Boston, but right at home with the rise of the murderous Islamic State, or when the Arab Spring is hijacked by Islamists who typically leave Somalias in their wake, or when Middle Eastern Muslims find it hard to emigrate to and reside in Western countries or to freely import Western goods, or when the leaders of Middle Eastern appeasing states are ostracized from international gatherings, or when states that behead and stone are shunned by the West, then support for the terrorists and what produced them will begin slowly to fade.

Market talk

Thomas Sowell is the man for me.  ConservativeBlog is featuring a series of interviews with him:
[Interviewer] DH: Let’s move on to the next chapter, “Myths about Markets.” Let’s start with the phrase “dictates of the market.” What’s wrong with that phrase?
TS [Thomas Sowell]: The market is in no position to dictate. You can write a whole book on the misuse of the word “power” as it regards markets. The left likes to say Wal-Mart is a powerful force. There are people who have never set foot in Wal-Mart, who never will set foot in Wal-Mart, and there isn’t a thing Wal-Mart can do about it. Insofar as there are voluntary transactions, there are no dictates. People who use that phrase often want to create a situation whereby they, through the government, can dictate to the market.
DH: Let’s talk next about prices. You write about the concept of reasonable or affordable prices, and, here’s a direct quote, “It is completely unreasonable to expect reasonable prices.” Explain.
TS: Reasonable prices are prices that adjust to our budget. Prices, of course, are determined in part by what it costs to produce things and get them distributed and so on, and so there is no reason whatsoever to expect reasonable prices. There is no reason in the world to expect costs to conform to what you are willing to pay. There is no reason to expect the Hope Diamond to be affordable.
. . . .
DH: I think most people hear the term “non-profit” and think of a group that is selfless, works for the public good and not private gain, and embodies just about everything that is good about human nature. You don’t quite see it that way. You write, “What are called ‘non-profit organizations’ can be better understood when they are seen as institutions which are insulated, to varying degrees, from a need to respond to feedback from those who use their goods and services, or those whose money enabled them to be founded and continue operating.” Can you expand on that?
TS: The difference is that a profit-seeking organization has to please simultaneously the customers and the investors. A non-profit organization doesn’t have to do that with either one—particularly if it is a long-lived organization. Many of the people who have invested in it are already dead. Among those that are still alive it is very hard for them to monitor what is going on inside the organization.
There is overlap in the things that for-profit and non-profit organizations do, like publishing magazines and stuff like that. And so they compete. Over time, if it was true that non-profits didn’t have the problem of generating profits and had better people, the non-profits would be taking away market share from the profit sector. In point of fact, just the opposite happens. For example, it is very common for college bookstores to be taken over by a Barnes & Noble or cafeterias to be taken over by profit-seeking companies. The test of market share is usually won by the profit-seekers.

A Truly Effective Strategy

Talk about getting chewed up.

45 Degrees is Cold? Please.

Some NYT lib is congratulating himself on surviving a house whose thermostat he set to 45 degrees F.
The lowest the thermostat would go was 45 degrees, which I figured was good because I had to make sure the pipes wouldn’t freeze. At first it was fairly unpleasant. I wore two pairs of wool socks, thermal underwear, a thin pair of pants, sweatpants, a wool shirt, a sweatshirt, a light hoodie, a light jacket, a big poofy winter jacket, two winter hats and those fingerless gloves. Yet I was still having trouble typing because of my numb hands. That’s when I pulled out my down sleeping bag, and decided to wear it whenever I was sitting. With the sleeping bag, now that my core had been warmed, my extremities were warming up, too....

I’m not going to say that I liked living in a 45-degree house, but eventually I didn’t mind it, and it taught me that one’s sense of comfort can be redefined with a bit of grit and resourcefulness. Sitting in my sleeping bag, I began to wonder: If we all set our thermostats to our own “comfortable low,” how many West Virginia mountains could we save? How many fewer wells would need to be fracked? How much less greenhouse gas would we emit?
Here at Grim's Hall, there is no bottom to the thermostat. We shut the heat off when we moved in, and don't turn it on but a few days a year. If the temperature is going to get very low, I shut off the water from the well, open the taps so the pipes can't burst, and let the house freeze.

Doesn't hurt anything. When the temperature gets down low enough to be genuinely dangerous -- say the teens -- we all move into the room with the wood stove, tarp it off with blankets, and sleep snugly. The rest of the time, if you're cold you need to work. There's always work to do.

Is crowdfunding unfair?

Compared to what?  Letting experts decide how the rest of us should allocate our own resources to research?

Robin Hood in Modern Denmark



Amazing what they knew how to do in the old days.

Cruel & Unusual Punishment

Aftenposten sends three young fashion bloggers to work in the Cambodian sweatshops where their favorite garments are made.

It's Time Again for One of Eric Blair's Favorite Songs

This time in Yemen.

More recently in September 2014 Obama hailed Yemen, along with Somalia, as a model of the kind of “small footprint” approach he favored for fighting terrorism–sending American advisers and drones but not combat troops.... Yemen, in short, is on the verge of plunging into a Libya-like or Syria-like abyss, which would certainly make it representative of Obama’s foreign policy in the Middle East but not in the way the president intended.

The administration in recent weeks has softened its anti-Houthi rhetoric. Many inside and outside the administration are tempted to see the Houthis as allies because they are fighting AQAP. This is a big mistake. The Houthis are, like Hezbollah, an Iranian-sponsored militia whose slogan is “God is great; death to America; death to Israel.”
So what you're saying is that we needed a bigger footprint. That's easy for you to say, "Max Boot."

Why Not Tax Savings?

I mean, I know we all oppose doing it, but what's the principle that justifies savings not being taxed that is consistent with our current system of taxation?

The Federal government taxes money you earn, then the state (usually) taxes it again. Any of it you spend get taxed a third time; if you save it, any interest it earns gets taxed. If you invest it, and make a profit, the profit gets taxed. If you buy real estate, the real estate -- which is just something you exchanged for the money -- gets taxed every year (and if you can't or don't pay the taxes, they'll sell it out from under you at auction, making sure they get 100% of what they tax before you get whatever, if anything, was left from the fire-sale price they accepted).

So we can't stand on the principle that the government shouldn't seize the fruit of our labor. We can't stand on the principle that they should only do it once, because we already permit double taxation even on income, and because we permit taxes on subsequent activity even after that. We can't stand on the principle that, at least once you own something and have paid all the taxes up to that point it should be yours free and clear: we continue to tax land you buy (and automobiles, at least if you want to take them off the land you bought). So accumulated wealth is already subject to taxation, in certain forms.

Progressives have been talking for years about a wealth tax, of which this is just a partial version. It strikes me that this form isn't that different from the property taxes we pay every year. Why shouldn't you have to pay for the privilege of holding a certain amount of wealth? There are lots of arguments, but are any of them consistent with what we already do?

If not, does that mean that the tax system we have is unprincipled? If so, does that make it unjust? Or is it fine to have a completely contingent system? If that, then, why oppose a wealth tax? It's just one more contingency.

So That Explains It

Ollie North hits one out of the park.

Evidence-based science

Yes, I have been cogitating on the difficulty of sustaining evidence-based scientific beliefs in human society.  Why do you ask?
There is very interesting news out of Pakistan today that the father of a child who has developed polio has been arrested because he refused to allow his son to be vaccinated:
After a polio case was detected here on Thur­sday, the Kohat administration arrested the father of the affected child because he had refused to get his child vaccinated against polio when vaccinators visited his home. Two health supervisors and a patwari have also been taken into custody for showing negligence in performing their duty. Three-year-old Moham­mad is the second victim of polio in Dhodha area of Kohat district this year. Deputy Commissioner of Kohat Riaz Khan Mehsud told Dawn on telephone that he issued orders for arrest after an inquiry revealed that the father of the affected child, Mullah Mohammad Yousuf, had not allowed vaccinators to give polio drops to his son.
This report probably isn't fair to the Pakistanis.  There's good reason to think that they're not so much motivated by spurious reports linking vaccines to autism as they are to fairly well-grounded suspicion of the people who show up at their doors offering public health interventions.  They may or may not be mistaken about that concern, but it's not really a question of scientific integrity.

It's not "secret" secret

Great moments in transparency:
DAVOS, Switzerland -- The trade rules of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) between the U.S. and 11 Asian nations would cover nearly 40 percent of the world economy -- but don't ask what they are. Access to the text of the proposed deal is highly restricted. Nevertheless, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman defended the Obama administration Friday at the World Economic Forum from intensifying criticism of its refusal to release the full text of the proposed TPP.
“We can always do better on transparency,” he said . . . .
Froman suggested that nations have varying definitions of transparency.
That could explain it.

Snits

No doubt "there will be a price" for Netanyahu's addressing the Congress without the President's blessing, but who will pay it?
[I]f Obama really wanted to hurt Netanyahu’s electoral prospects, he would embrace the Israeli leader. As of last year, 70 percent of Israelis said they had no confidence in Obama to safeguard their national interests. For most of the president’s first term, his approval rating in Israel was persistently stuck in the single digits. Netanyahu could only benefit domestically from being seen as a figure nobly standing opposed to the hostile administration temporarily occupying a historically friendly American government.

A truce in the war on drugs

Johann Hari argues that the "chemical hooks" model of addiction is all wet.  What, for instance, explains why addiction to gambling looks almost exactly like an addiction to heroin?  You can't inject gambling into the bloodstream.  From studies of rats offered cocaine in either cheerless isolated boxes or happy rat parks, to Portugal's experimentation with decriminalizing drugs and pouring resources into restoring human connection and meaning into addicts' lives, Hari concludes that addiction is a feature of alienation and nihilism, not the inescapable danger of the addictive object.  What else explains the relative ease with which miserable broken-hip patients and Vietnam conscripts kick the heroin habit as soon as they escape into a more humane environment?

I don't know.  I do know that people will latch onto meaning anywhere if they can't find it in appropriate places in their lives, and onto oblivion if they can't find meaning.  On a related topic, an MIT professor emeritus of meteorology warns what happens with Jonestown-like cults find their global hotcoldwetdry narrative unraveling.  And the unraveling is getting serious.  It won't be long, surely, before even cult members will have difficulty reconciling their assumptions about a positive-feedback greenhouse mechanism with the 19th or 20th year in a row of catastrophic global climate normalcy.  Mass suicides in store, or only rampant addiction?

Denying grist to the mill

What happens when journalists consider it their duty, not to report the truth, but to prevent facts from being misused by the enemies of society?
Jean-Claude Dassier, director general of the news outfit LCI—France’s version of CNN—admitted in 2005 that his network shielded viewers from seeing the true destruction wrought by angry Muslim rioters who were then besieging France. “Politics in France is heading to the right and I don’t want rightwing politicians back in second, or even first place because we showed burning cars on television,” he confided.
The only rational conclusion is that Dassier wants to keep the French public uninformed because they’d likely vote for Front National, France’s unapologetically nationalist party, if they knew what the heck was happening to their country. Better not to cover the news lest people figure out that the “bigots” have a point.
… I have no doubt that most journalists think very hard about what they broadcast and that’s the problem. They don’t give it to us straight. The constant impulse to shape the news to fit an agenda strips their reporting of any value. That omnipresent question “What would the Right do with this?” hangs over their coverage, influencing editorial decisions to the point that their end product can only be called propaganda.

Ranking Corruption

FiveThirtyEight, defending New York from the accusation of being the most corrupt state in the Union, provides four standards for corruption that "point in different directions." By one of them, Georgia is the #1 most corrupt state of all.
What about good anti-corruption laws? The State Integrity Investigation had “experienced journalists grade each state government on its corruption risk using 330 specific measures” put into 14 categories, including campaign finance, ethics laws, lobbying regulations and management of the state pension fund.

The scores on these laws had little correlation with the other measures of corruption. Georgia took home the honors as having the least stringent anti-corruption laws. Somehow, New Jersey was rated as having the best anti-corruption laws, even though it ranked as the third and eighth most corrupt state, according to the reporter rankings and federal corruption convictions per capita, respectively. Illinois ranked in the top six across all the other categories, except it had some of the best anti-corruption laws on the books.

The lack of connection between the laws and actual corruption shouldn’t be that surprising. Some of the most corrupt states have recently passed laws because they were corrupt. The less corrupt states may not need the stricter laws.
Historians say that laws against a thing are good evidence for the existence of a thing. If you find laws against polygamy, you can be pretty sure that there was some polygamy going on and people didn't like it.

Of course, that's not always true, even if it is a pretty reliable principle of historiography. Alabama just passed a strict rule against the practice of shariah law within its borders, and as far as I know there's very close to none being practiced there.

Where's the Deal?

Meaning Governor Nathan Deal, my governor, who has for some reason vanished off the face of the earth.
Here’s what we know: Deal left Georgia on an economic development trip over the weekend. His office didn’t disclose his destination, and his public schedule remains blank.
That's a little unusual. Hope he's got something big up his sleeve, though, because -- as I may have mentioned -- Georgia's unemployment remains the worst in the nation. A little 'economic development' is just what we need.

Communities

Jonah Goldberg:
When Hillary Clinton & Co. talk about how “it takes a village to raise a child” they’re invoking wisdom from what P. J. O’Rourke called the “ancient African kingdom of Hallmarkcardia” to make the case for vast new federal bureaucracies, taxes, programs, regulations, etc. But the phrase itself contains a lot of truth. Unlike bureaucrats in Washington, neighbors, teachers, pastors, coaches, coworkers, and friends can help raise your kids, in ways large and small. Real communities involve extended networks of trust and goodwill. Fake communities have regulations, fees, subsidies, and checklists.

Sick of Lies

I don't get over to Ace's place all that often, but D29 pointed me there today. I can understand the irritation, which boils down to Republican politicians lying to their base about what they really believe. Once elected, they pursue the elite agenda instead of the one they promised to enact when running.

Ace notes that progressives and Republicans view the Republican base in the same way: as a bunch of ignorant children, to whit, who must not be reasoned with but told calming lies. He finds this infuriating, even though he himself shares many of the progressive positions that the elected officials are pursuing.

This is all true. The only reason the Republican party does as well with its base as it does is that it lies to them, whereas the Democratic party has largely stopped concealing its outright contempt for them. This is one reason I hope for a strong Jim Webb candidacy: among Democrats these days, he has a rare interest in the kind of men who built this country, and among politicians in general, an even rarer sincerity. He appreciates them, their cultures and their values.

Of the likely Republican candidates, the one who is far and away the most impressive in his sincerity and respect for traditional values is Dr. Ben Carson. Most of the press I've seen about his possible candidacy suggests that he is very widely respected as a human being and a neurosurgeon, though a political neophyte; The Weekly Standard goes further, and says that if he can pull off a primary victory, he'd be very hard to defeat in the general election.
If nominated, can Carson beat Hillary Clinton or another Democrat? Yes he can. Giles thinks Carson can win 25 percent to 40 percent of the black vote. Williams is doubtful. But Robinson, the draft-Ben leader, says he has “run the numbers” and found that Carson would easily win with 17 percent of the black vote in swing states. “At 17 percent, Hillary loses every swing state in the union, and the Roosevelt coalition is effectively destroyed.” That’s an outcome worth thinking about.
Carson is barely a Republican, having only registered as one in November (having previously been an independent). But if you're tired of a Republican establishment that lies to you about everything, he may be just the guy for you. He's certainly honest and sincere, and he's led a virtuous life.

Friday Quiz

This quiz promises to be "EXTREMELY accurate" about your spirit animal. I have some questions about how that is measured, but for what it's worth, I got "Lion."

Funny. I would have expected Bear, Rampant.

Boko Halal

Perhaps the NRA should open a branch in Nigeria. This story is very much in line with their historical activities -- not that anyone knows the history, these days.

What's a war movie supposed to be?

I hesitate to link Matt Taibbi's petulant "review" of "American Sniper"--really a complaint about the dumb audiences who make a movie like this popular--but I will anyway, because I'm interested in some of his notions about the proper narrative of war.  Taibbi's thesis is that we have difficulty coming to dramatic grips with each war for a certain period after it ends.  In the next phase, we make movies about how hard it was on our guys.  In this category, he prefers stories about how it corroded their souls and therefore destroyed their lives with PTSD; he is impatient with a simplistic storyline about how it demanded a terrible sacrifice in what might conceivably have been a good cause.  In the final, mature stage, Taibbi demands movies about the terrible things we did to our enemies, especially if they're couched in devastating criticism of our hypocritical, lying, warmongering leaders.  ("I wanna talk about Rumsfeld!  I wanna talk about Cheney!")  Bonus points if the movie makes clear that everything our enemies did was a direct result of our own provocative crimes.  We could have avoided the whole thing if our politics weren't so shabby.

This is familiar territory; Taibbi is accurately describing most war movies of recent decades, especially the ones that didn't make any money.  Just the fact that a war movie makes money is sure to mean that a lot of unwashed Americans liked it, and you know what that means about the purity of its politics.  It's not what war movies used to be like, though.  Nor am I referring to a Golden Age of rah-rah agitprop.  Our culture used to have no problem generating a whole range of war movies that adopted the full spectrum of judgments about human life in  the midst of a military conflict, from "Casablanca" to "The Longest Day" to "A Bridge Too Far" to "The Great Escape" to "The Bridge on the River Kwai."  Some had straightforward bad guys and heroes.  Generally the bad guys were our military enemies, but they might also be corrupt or cowardly or incompetent REMFs.  Sometimes the heroes were unambiguously successful warriors, like Chuck Norris or John Wayne.  Other heroes were dark or conflicted, but few enjoyed the approval of their directors while identifying outright with with foreign cultures at the expense of their homelands--"Lawrence of Arabia" being an unusual example.

Until quite recently, it was rare for an American film about any war to focus relentlessly on the horror experienced by our enemies in war zones, with the dramatic assumption that the violence meted out by the U.S. was an inexplicable bolt from the blue; offhand I can remember only "Slaughterhouse Five."  Before the Vietnam War, few American movies adopted the position that all wars are equally evil or misguided for all countries concerned, "M.A.S.H." (ostensibly about the Korean War, but really about Vietnam) probably being the first popular offering in that genre.  Once that precedent was set, it would become almost unheard of to make a movie about guys who go off to war in a just cause, sacrifice a great deal, win, and come home.  In part that may be because, once the nuclear age began, we no longer had a cultural assumption that a war could be fought to a decisive conclusion without precipitating global war and the destruction of the Earth.  The wars all seemed to dribble off into an ambiguous standoff, or a withdrawal of U.S. forces followed by a degeneration of the former theater of war into a killing field from which we largely averted our eyes.

I wonder if we'll ever again see a Hollywood offering that takes a clear look at a horrible eruption of human wickedness followed by the determined use of military power to halt it in its tracks and root it out.  At this point, Hollywood can't ever bear to treat the destruction of Nazi Germany without irony.  Would anyone today make a movie like "The African Queen," in which two noncombatants discover their buried patriotism and risk everything to strike a blow against the enemies of their respective countries?

"Sports Reporter"

Hey, you know what really matters to me? The opinions of sports reporters on things other than sports.
A story you personally took on last season, about the "Eat What You Kill" movement, would you have done that five, ten years ago?
There are a few things I hate more than the NRA. I mean truly. I think they're pigs. I think they don't care about human life. I think they are a curse upon the American landscape. So we got that on the record.
Hey, OK. I'm not really sure who you are, because I actually don't even care about the opinions of sports reporters on sports. I mean, even if on the off chance you know what you're talking about, what's the point of watching the game if there's no element of surprise? I'm not going to gamble on sporting events, less because it's illegal than because there's poker, and therefore I have no reason to care about your opinion in the subject in which you're an expert even if you're consistently right.

On the other hand, as an on-again-off-again member of the NRA, I can assure you that I care about human life. Not, you know, all lives equally: I tend to value the virtuous ones more than the vicious ones. Indeed, I do that so much more that I view it as a good thing when people who are more than a little vicious move on to whatever comes after this life. If a gun is helpful in protecting a virtuous person at the expense of a vicious one, well, that's to the best as far as I'm concerned.

More on Ancient Writing

The mummy story was cool, but I regret the destruction of a semi-sacred object (it was semi-sacred, at least, to the family of the mummy!). These scrolls aren't sacred, but this new technique for reading them means we can do it without destroying them.

Pretty awesome stuff.

The dark gulf

David Foster has a fine piece up about free speech and appeasement.

Realism ≠ "We Give Up"

"Washington's New Realism," however, may.
In his speech, President Obama also demonstrated how a calibrated and balanced approach has worked with Russia. “…Mr. Putin’s aggression, it was suggested, was a masterful display of strategy and strength. That’s what I heard from some folks. Well, today, it is America that stands strong and united with our allies, while Russia is isolated, with its economy in tatters. That’s how America leads: not with bluster, but with persistent, steady resolve.”
Uh-huh. And who owns the Crimea? Those tanks parked in eastern Ukraine? All you're bragging about is that you've made Putin pay a cost he's completely willing to pay in exchange for the new territories. Are you being realistic about that?

How about Boko Haram? Their economy is in tatters too, but that doesn't seem to be what they care about. Iran's nuclear program? Same deal.

Some realism. It is, at best, about imposing purely symbolic costs that don't change the injustices you supposedly care about. Better to be honest that you don't really care.

Satan's kimchi

From James's "I don't know, but . . ." blog, a history of "Things I Won't Work With":
And yes, what happens next is just what you think happens: you run a mixture of oxygen and fluorine through a 700-degree-heating block. "Oh, no you don't," is the common reaction of most chemists to that proposal, ". . .not unless I'm at least a mile away, two miles if I'm downwind." This, folks, is the bracingly direct route to preparing dioxygen difluoride, often referred to in the literature by its evocative formula of FOOF.
Worth reading all the way through, and I'm really sorry I can't get my hands on the obscure book "Ignition!" that James refers to ("Buy Used $7,240.84 + $3.99 shipping"--man, they can't even throw in free shipping?) (5-star review: "I've read parts of this book. I'd do obscene and disgusting things to get my hands on a copy of my own...") (but here's a free PDF version).
So does anyone use dioxygen difluoride for anything? Not as far as I can see. Most of the recent work with the stuff has come from groups at Los Alamos, where it's been used to prepare national-security substances such as plutonium and neptunium hexafluoride. But I do note that if you run the structure through SciFinder, it comes out with a most unexpected icon that indicates a commercial supplier. That would be the Hangzhou Sage Chemical Company. They offer it in 100g, 500g, and 1 kilo amounts, which is interesting, because I don't think a kilo of dioxygen difluoride has ever existed. Someone should call them on this - ask for the free shipping, and if they object, tell them Amazon offers it on this item. Serves 'em right. Morons. 

Bury Me Not...

Apropos of Tex's post about mummy masks, here are some more contemporary thoughts on what to do with your body when you're done with it.

The Oppression is Endless

According to this piece from National Review, men are the worst.

It's a rare satire that manages to keep getting better once you've gotten the joke, but this is a good piece.

Like a box in the attic

Someone has figured out how to pull apart glued paper used in mummification without destroying the writing on the paper.  What kind of papers?  Well, perhaps the earliest copy of the Gospel of Mark, for one, dating from around 90 A.D.  And maybe other interesting things like stories of Homer.

When is an agreement a treaty?

A bipartisan swath of Congress is at loggerheads with the White House over Iran. Well, not just Iran, but the whole idea of our Constitutional system for foreign relations:
Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the White House doesn’t view an agreement with Iran as a treaty that requires Senate approval, but a matter of “executive prerogative.”
How's that again? Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, mentioned something that may be a clue here:
Corker threatened to pull the national security waivers that Congress granted the administration in sanctions legislation, which allow the president to waive sanctions if doing so is important to national security. Such waivers are key to any deal that would involve suspending sanctions at the president’s discretion.
A 2013 article on the Foreign Policy website explained:
The legislation that imposed tough sanctions on Iran’s central bank gives Obama a "national security waiver" he can use to temporarily soften or lift the measures. . . . Congress has tried to make it as hard as possible for the White House to use its waiver powers. To lift the sanctions on Iran’s central bank, for instance, the administration has to certify — in writing — that fully enforcing the measures would harm the national security interests of the U.S. The waiver, which the White House has never used, would also have to be renewed every 120 days, a measure lawmakers inserted into the bills to force the White House to face a heated political fight over the sanctions every four months.
Does the White House agree that the only reason it might have the power to waive sanctions is that Congress granted reversible national security waivers? In a December 2014 article on the National Interest website, Navid Hassibi argued:
Numerous reports indicate that a major reason the P5+1 and Iran failed to reach a nuclear agreement was because Tehran doubted that the White House’ could persuade Congress to lift the sanctions against it.
. . . [A] creative method for ensuring continued sanctions waivers in a post-Obama environment could be to codify them within a UN Security Council resolution. That is, within a larger UNSC resolution, the U.S. could assure Iran that it will honor its commitment to provide sanctions relief. Such action would mandate the United States, the other members of the so-called P5+1 and UN members at-large to repeal sanctions against Iran and refrain from adopting nuclear-related restrictive measures so long as Tehran remains in compliance with the final nuclear agreement.
Supplemented domestically by a blanket executive order by President Obama to continuously and automatically waive sanctions in accordance with the UN Security Council resolution, this will provide future U.S. presidents with the legal impetus and authority to continue waiving the sanctions.
Use the UN to override a bipartisan Congressional revolt!  That should play well.

Even back in 2013, the White House was complaining that Congress wasn't giving negotiations enough time to work. Now the White House is complaining that a bill to trigger additional sanctions upon the failure to reach a verifiable agreement by June 30, 2015, is premature. The White House didn't have Democrats completely signed off on this foreign policy strategy even before the voters gave them a hiding in the November 2014 elections. Things aren't looking any happier now. It's not clear there are 67 Senators willing to override a veto, but when a Democrat senator gets a lot of press complaining that the White House's noises sound like "talking points right out of Tehran," things are getting ugly.

Blue Sky Reflected in Chrome


For January, it was a pretty lovely day.

Plastique Does Not Make Good Dinner Rolls

A lesson from the OSS.

This Guy


Those of us who grew up when Hulk Hogan was the face of professional wrestling probably still have a soft spot for the "sport," even though we recognize it for the complete fakery that it is. I haven't seen a professional wrestling 'match' in decades, but I can still remember how amusing it was to see the poses they would strike to appear evil or noble. The fans responded with hate and love, appropriately, but it always struck me that it wouldn't be very much fun to be the Roy Rogers figure. The "bad" guys were clearly having a lot more fun -- not their characters, but their actors.

Turns out, this actor is a pretty decent guy. I hope he's having lots of fun.