The Next Wave

Obamacare supporters seem to think that, since the website is mostly working now, and we got past that whole 'you can keep your plan' thing, if they can just get past this next SCOTUS case it'll be clear sailing.

If you can do basic math, you can probably figure out that many small businesses are about to get hit with a penalty of $36,500 per employee through no fault of their own. If you have any familiarity with small businesses, you know that the overwhelming majority of them are simply not going to be able to pay an unforeseen penalty of $36,500 per employee and are going to be forced to simply shut their doors.
Small businesses aren't the last problem either. They pieced out the consequences of this law past 2016 in the hope of avoiding the blowback from the really bad stuff. For that reason, the hits are just going to keep coming. For years.

You Are What You Would Do

In the Science Fiction film Total Recall, Arnold Schwartzenegger's character has his memories replaced. Meeting with a mutant who can restore his memory, he is asked why he wants it back. "To be myself again," he answers. "You are what you do," the mutant replies.

There's a philosophical assumption there that goes back to Locke that suggests our identity comes from our memories. Nina Strohminger argues that this is not plausible. When people suffer radical memory loss, their sense of self generally remains the same -- and their personalities are often quite stable.

If you are what you do, it isn't what you have done, in other words. It's what you would do.

Which claim seems right to you?

Motte and Bailey

A great piece by Nicholas Shackel got linked in passing by Charles C. W. Cooke writing in the National Review. The piece is from Metaphilosophy, and describes in clear terms a mode of argument characteristic of many postmodern thinkers. To help you understand the way the argument works, he suggests you compare it to a motte and bailey castle.
A Motte and Bailey castle is a medieval system of defence in which a stone tower on a mound (the Motte) is surrounded by an area of land (the Bailey) which in turn is encompassed by some sort of a barrier such as a ditch. Being dark and dank, the Motte is not a habitation of choice. The only reason for its existence is the desirability of the Bailey, which the combination of the Motte and ditch makes relatively easy to retain despite attack by marauders. When only lightly pressed, the ditch makes small numbers of attackers easy to defeat as they struggle across it: when heavily pressed the ditch is not defensible and so neither is the Bailey. Rather one retreats to the insalubrious but defensible, perhaps impregnable, Motte. Eventually the marauders give up, when one is well placed to reoccupy desirable land.

For my purposes the desirable but only lightly defensible territory of the Motte and Bailey castle, that is to say, the Bailey, represents a philosophical doctrine or position with similar properties: desirable to its proponent but only lightly defensible. The Motte is the defensible but undesired position to which one retreats when hard pressed. I think it is evident that Troll’s Truisms have the Motte and Bailey property, since the exciting falsehoods constitute the desired but indefensible region within the ditch whilst the trivial truth constitutes the defensible but dank Motte to which one may retreat when pressed.You see this everywhere.
There's a great example in this piece by CounterPunch on FBI surveillance.
We’re constantly told that “criminals” are the dregs of human history. Yet “criminal” is an ideological term. Only some forms of behavior of criminalized—and those doing that criminalizing, given the barriers to entry in such professional fields, tend to come from powerful, privileged parts of society who often do not engage or need to engage in such behavior. Structural forms of oppression shield powerful and privileged classes from the consequences of their ill actions.
The motte claim here is that 'only some forms of behavior are crimialized, and those doing that... tend to come from powerful, privileged positions." It's obviously and absolutely true that not all forms of human behavior are criminal, and it's true by definition that those who write the laws and those who enforce them are in positions of power.

The bailey claim is that all laws are mere exercises in ideology. There are thus no objective standards for what ought to be a crime that we can arrive at through human reason. There is no natural law, there are no objective virtues, there is nothing but a pure exercise of power by the privileged to advance their own interests.

The latter claim is garbage, and would be easy to disprove. The motte claim can be defended forever, because it's true by definition.

An Uber for Education

Jim Gerraghty caught flak this week for proposing that, as long as we're going to let the federal government take over our lives, why don't we have a federal mandate requiring states to give parents school choice?  I take to heart his readers' objections that he was indulging in the same fascist tactics that we so deplore in his opponents, but I don't see why we couldn't make federal education dollars contingent on support for vouchers, home-schooling, and other forms of school choice.  I'd rather see the federal education dollars dry up, anyway, so if states decided to start refusing them, that wouldn't bother me.

The Renaissance of the Middle Ages

...part whatever.

Citizen's Arrest

Now this is rather inspiring.
Kirk Allen and John Kraft — two military veterans — live in Edgar County which just might be the most corrupt county in the country. For a couple of watchdogs, it’s a target rich environment.... Considering the fact that, according to Forbes, their home county’s government has racked up over $79 million in debt all on its own while serving only 18,000 residents, Kraft and Allen have their work cut out for them....

In what was one of their most epic displays of political crime-fighting, which was captured on video, Allen and Kraft held the entire Clark County Park District Board under citizen’s arrest on May 13, 2014, for violating the Illinois Open Meetings Act, a Class C misdemeanor.

When asked if there would be public comment, one of the board members said, “I vote no.” Followed by five other board members.

Board attorney, Kate Yargus, could be heard on video saying there would be no public comment that night, and told the board members they were “free to go,” even after Kraft’s citizen’s arrest announcement. She tried to cite statute to Kraft, but before she could finish, he said, “Just sit down, you are making yourself look like a fool.”

Deputies were dispatched to the scene, but instead, Clark County Sheriff, Jerry Parsley, personally responded that night. Parsley said he knew it was a heated situation and felt it would be best if he handled it. He said that Kraft handled the citizen’s arrest responsibly, and the board was definitely in violation of the Open Meetings Act by not allowing the public to speak.

“It’s not that they should have. They’re mandated to,” Parsley said. “The people need to have their voice. It’s not a dictatorship. It’s a democracy.”

The sheriff arrested six of the board members. The seventh board member was not arrested because he voted against the other members. As they were escorted out of the building, the crowd cheered.
That's citizenship.

Price Signals Work

At least, they work if they aren't entirely hidden from the consumer.
Prices for common medical tests like mammograms and MRIs are notoriously opaque. Negotiated rates between insurance companies and doctors or hospitals are sealed tight by contract. We know there's price variation, but comparing what one insurance company pays versus another is virtually impossible. That's why we here at KQED in San Francisco turned to members of our audience to help us find out what medical tests and devices cost....

We thought we would find variation, and indeed we did. In California, commercial insurers paid from $128 to $694 for a screening mammogram. In Los Angeles, one woman's insurer paid $600 more than the lowest-cost screening mammogram reported in the area. "I'm sure every woman who's had a mammogram had the exact same experience I did," this woman said. "It was a friendly technician, but I don't think that's worth maybe 600 extra dollars."

In lower-back MRIs, we found that for CPT code 72148, insurers paid from $467 to $1,567. But when we looked beyond commercial insurers, we found even greater variation — from a low of $255 to a self-pay price of $6,221 at an academic medical center. That $255 MRI was paid by Medicare, and was just a fraction of the facility's charge of $2,450.
How can market functions hold costs down if we have no way of comparing the costs? Competition doesn't work at all in an environment like this.

At Risk

H. R. McMaster's speech at Georgetown included the following charges:
The warrior ethos is at risk because fewer and fewer Americans are connected to our professional military. Separation from our society is consequential because warriors depend on respect for what they do to maintain their self-respect.

The warrior ethos is at risk because fewer and fewer Americans understand what is at stake in the wars in which we are engaged. How many Americans could, for example, name the three main Taliban organizations we are fighting in Afghanistan and Pakistan?

The warrior ethos is at risk because some argue that victory over an enemy or winning in war is an old idea that is no longer relevant in today’s complex world.

The warrior ethos is at risk because some continue to advocate simple, mainly technologically based solutions to the problem of future war, ignoring war’s very nature as a human and political activity that is fundamentally a contest of wills.

The warrior ethos is at risk because popular culture waters down and coarsens the warrior ethos. Warriors are most often portrayed as fragile traumatized human beings. Hollywood tells us little about the warrior’s calling or commitment to his or her fellow warriors or what compels him or her to act courageously, endure hardships, take risks, or make sacrifices.
It was not always thus.

Somebody Broke Cass

Possibly me. If so, I've done myself a great harm, because her place has been one of the first things I've read each day for years.

Since she's disabled comments, I'll say here: I'll miss you. Fighting with you was one of my very favorite things. I'm guessing it wasn't always fun, but you asked for it, and it was always meant as a mark of respect. I'd rather fight with you than agree with almost anyone. That's why I kept doing it.

Pax tecum.

The Reverend Horton Heat

I mentioned this band in conversation at Cass' place, and it occurs to me that some of you might appreciate them.

Good one, Glen

Prof. Reynolds paraphrases the President:  I did not mislead the American public with that man, Jonathan Gruber.

Double Heh

I know not everyone here is a fan of Anonymous, but surely we can all enjoy this little tale of the time the Klan decided to declare a cyber war on the hackers.

As Jayne Cobb would say, "Saw that comin'."


This plays into the point I was making last week about business suits. The only function they serve is to signal that you are of a man of a certain class and status. Though men who don't wear them professionally may own one to wear to funerals, they are chiefly worn as a kind of costume that signals a professional purpose. It is possible to 'keep up with the styles' in suits, but it is also possible to purchase simple, classic cuts that don't go in or out of fashion especially. There were very limited rules governing the wearing of such suits even when etiquette was much more binding and universal than it is today. You don't wear a brown suit in the city, or once upon a time you didn't; but you can wear a charcoal suit pretty much anywhere but a truly formal occasion and expect to be well-received.

So we don't really look at the suit. It's not an outfit, it's not a fashion, it's a signal. Once we've received the signal, we don't really even see the suit itself. It doesn't matter what it looks like. Of course no one noticed. No one even looked at it.

He asks a really interesting question about halfway through the video about whether the differential treatment of men and women with regard to professional clothing is sexism, which he suggests -- and the female anchor agrees -- it may not be.

I would say that's right: it's differential treatment, but it's something particular about the business suit for men. If a man wears something besides a suit on a professional occasion, he certainly may be noticed! Lucy Steigerwald can take comfort in being right about this:
Dear feminists, I may be more contrarian than average. But I strongly suspect I am not the only person completely repulsed by your petty myopia. I am not of the right, but you’re certainly not making liberalism or feminism anything I wish to be affiliated with.
I have heard the same opinion expressed by four very different people I know, one of them an extremely left-leaning academic of tremendous age. He did not ascribe the dustup to "feminism" but to "political correctness," for which he has no use regardless of who is involved. In his opinion, the shirt was tasteless, but the reaction was entirely out of proportion, especially given the occasion.

He also made a point I've heard several times from Glenn Reynolds, which is that the enforcers of political correctness have no real talents or accomplishments to balance against this man's, who helped land a spaceship on a comet hundreds of millions of miles away, the first time it's ever been done. It's a good point, which Eric Blair usually expresses: "Deeds, not words."

An Ally of a Sort

The British navy is so famous in history that no one may have recently asked just how potent it remains today.
When the Royal Navy has 38 admirals for 29 warships, the problem is not the 38 admirals, unless you are a British taxpayer (God help you). The problem, for the rest of us, is that one of the West’s great fighting forces only has 29 warships.... The Brits have no aircraft carriers, no cruisers, and a flawed and failing force of destroyers and submarines....

This is not just a problem of too few ships for the heirs of Nelson. The British Army and RAF also faced cuts in personnel and capabilities following the 2010 Strategic Defense and Security Review—and the security review of 2003, and that of 1998, and of 1990. As a result, the British Army is now about half the size of the U.S. Marine Corps.
The thing about the Marine Corps is that it is a corps in size: that is, a force that comes from combining divisions and some separates. Thus, the total force available to defend the realm is only half a corps: a division or two, at most. The article estimates they could currently deploy only one brigade.


The Deep Army speaks:
A video posted online claims to show that ISIS militants have killed the captured US aid worker and former Army Ranger - Peter Kassig...

USAWTFM: To those responsible, maybe tomorrow, next month, maybe twenty years from now someone wearing an arrowhead patch will cut your heart out while you are watching.
It's a debt of honor. Be sure we will pay it.

I Never Cared For You

A very young Willie Nelson never liked you much.

Boy can play guitar, though.

Net Neutrality



For (this one is our own Mike D, so scroll to his comments).




Touché, you little viper

John Roberts unfairly tries to force a redistricting lawyer to explain how race-based policies can be implemented without making race the predominant consideration.

That time of year

This looks worth trying:  flourless expresso chocolate cake.  (Maggie's Farm.)

Do You Sometimes Use A Chainsaw to Fell Trees?

If the answer to this question is "yes," you're entitled to the respect that deserves (which is substantial -- it's a dangerous bit of work if the tree is of any size). If you're a man and the answer to this question is "no," you may be mocked by women on the internet. Don't expect any sympathy from me, though.

Instead, go learn to use a chainsaw.

The FBI and Mortal Sin

Somehow, although I am as historically aware as most Americans can be expected to be, I never knew until this morning that the FBI tried to get MLK to kill himself. The intense surveillance they deployed against him gave them a wealth of knowledge about his actions that they used to assemble this letter, which is disturbing but not surprising. That a police agency would attempt to fool one of its citizens into committing suicide is both horrible and shocking.

Of course, the FBI is only partially a police agency; they also think of themselves as a counterintelligence service. That is an inadequate excuse.

(H/t: InstaPundit.)

What would we do without Washington

AT&T pointed out that it would need to pause on $18 billion of fiber it intended to lay next year, while the FCC figures out whether it wants to demonize Internet profits to make the President happy. This provoked cries of "extortion," which is what we call it when someone says he's not going to provide a valuable service unless he's got a pretty good idea he can do it at a profit.
Only in Washington could a delay to seek regulatory clarity before spending $18 billion in shareholder money be called extortion. Even after six years of slow growth, the Obama crowd hasn’t figured out that punitive regulation reduces the incentive to invest.
Well, we'll just force them to invest! And if that doesn't work, we'll confiscate their money and let the public sector do a great job instead, with their proven track record of achieving miracles by avoiding the evil profit motive, which is how socialist countries get so rich and ensure that all their citizens have a decent standard of living.

Stirring up the hairstyle

Not much ever happens to my hair.  It's reached a certain length at which entropy just keeps pace with growth.  If I'm not asleep, it's tied back in a ponytail.  It gets washed from time to time.  If I were looking for some high-maintenance options for generating a little drama, though, I couldn't do much better than these.  Dang.

Dress and modesty

From "Kit and Kitty," a 1890 novel by R.D. Blackmore, who had no affection for ostentatious dress:
When I opened the door, I saw a very pretty girl, but no more to be compared with my darling Kitty, than a tulip with a lily of the valley. Although it was close upon winter now, she had a striped parasol, which I detest; and her velvet hat (turned down over one ear, and turned up at the other) had two kingfisher's wings stuck crosswise, and between them a gorgeous topaz humming-bird. You might look at my Kitty fifty times; and if any one asked you how she was dressed, you would have to say, "I have not the least idea," if you happened not to be a woman. But this young lady's attire compelled attention, and perhaps deserved it.
All of Blackmore's works but 1869's "Lorna Doone" have gone out of print, says Wikipedia, which is a shame, because they're delightful.  He was a great favorite of Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, and James Barrie.  Luckily, Project Gutenberg has quite a few of Blackmore's works and soon will have more, including "Kit and Kitty."

The Gutenberg work continues to engross me.  I've done about 30,000 pages.

There's "Colonel."

Also "Sergeant," "Captain," and "Doctor."
For all my marriage has given me, all it has allowed me to be and to experience, there is no title to recognize that. It’s just ‘mister,’ for every man.
I prefer to be addressed by my first name: "Sir."

SWF (Sperm Whale Fishery)

Thus did Melville suggest whalers signify their profession on their calling cards.

I wonder if we're seeing the end of fishing entirely, as we have already seen the end of sperm-whale fishing.
"This isn't predicted to happen. This is happening now," study researcher Nicola Beaumont... "If biodiversity continues to decline, the marine environment will not be able to sustain our way of life. Indeed, it may not be able to sustain our lives at all," Beaumont adds.

Already, 29% of edible fish and seafood species have declined by 90% -- a drop that means the collapse of these fisheries.

Silent Beach Spring

This environmental scare piece about sand depletion reminded us of the old joke about what would happen if the USSR took over the Sahara Desert:  "For five years, nothing, and then a sand shortage."

Sine Qua Non

What would America be without men like these?
A few months later, Nate's battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel William Seely, traveling the country to visit the parents of his fallen Marines, came to see the Krissoff family. Bill and Austin took him for a hike around Lake Tahoe's Emerald Bay, and Bill asked Seely about medical care for Marines in Iraq. Seely told him that every Marine battalion deploys with a surgeon and numerous medics, all from the Navy. As Seely described the role of the battalion surgeon, the penny dropped for Bill.

That's what I want to do, he thought. I want to be a battalion surgeon.

Bill was as lean as his boys. He stayed fit by biking, hiking, kayaking, and skiing. He figured he could meet the military's physical requirements, so he called up a Navy recruiter in San Francisco and offered up his services. The recruiter posed a series of questions. Finally, he asked how old Bill was.

"Sixty," Bill said.

"Um, that's a problem," the recruiter replied. "You're too old." Anyone over forty-two who wants to join the Navy Reserve medical corps needs an age waiver, the recruiter explained. He wasn't optimistic about the possibility of a sixty-year-old obtaining one.
So a little while later...
Three days after meeting Bush, Krissoff received a phone call from the same Navy recruiter who had scoffed at his request to join a few months earlier. "I have orders to meet with you by the end of the day," the recruiter said. When Krissoff replied that he was trailering a horse with his wife and could not immediately drive down to San Francisco -- three hours away by car -- the recruiter was undeterred. "I'm coming up to see you," he said.