Fantasy v. Reality:

I thought this video had some good points. Especially about 'Our old pal, the sacred Earth.' Not that the earth isn't sacred.... just as much as we are.

On Love

On Love:

Our last discussion on Chaucer took an emphatic, and unexpected, turn in the comments. For that reason I'd like to refer to this piece from the Nation on the subject of love.

It mentions feminism, but I'm not at all interested in what the author has to say about that subject. I am interested in the debate with C. S. Lewis.

Lewis considered Ovid to have written the Ars Amatoria as an "amusement," an "ironically didactic" poem that "presupposes an audience to whom love is one of the minor peccadilloes of life, and the joke consists in treating it seriously." Nehring describes Ovid's work as a "first-century self-help book" as well as "the first dating book ever written," though she recognizes that the "rambunctious" Ovid was "forever making fun." She points not to Lewis but unnamed "modern-day editors" who consider the work a "'tongue-in-cheek' parody." She asserts that "Ovid takes his subject seriously," and whether or not he did, it seems worth noting what Lewis sees as the distinction between Ovid's perspective and the troubadours'. According to Lewis, the "conduct which Ovid recommends is felt to be shameful and absurd," but
the very same conduct which Ovid ironically recommended could be recommended seriously by the courtly tradition. To leap up on errands, to go through heat or cold, at the bidding of one's lady, or even of any lady, would seem but honourable and natural to a gentleman of the thirteenth century or even of the seventeenth century[.]
That love as we know it had been invented by these poets was important, Lewis argued, because that meant it was no product of human nature. What goes one way can go the other; and Lewis warned that love might not survive. There is reason to think we might be living at the end of its life even now.
"Real changes in human sentiment are very rare--there are perhaps three or four on record--but I believe that they occur, and that this is one of them," Lewis ventures. Earlier he reminds us that "it seems to us natural that love should be the commonest theme of serious imaginative literature: but a glance at classical antiquity or at the Dark Ages at once shows us that what we took for 'nature' is really a special state of affairs, which will probably have an end."

Sixty years later, in The End of the Novel of Love (1997), the critic Vivian Gornick argued that what Lewis prophesied had finally come to pass. When Gornick was a girl, she recalls, the whole world believed in love. This was the Bronx, New York City, sometime around World War II. The mothers had various advice for their daughters about the nature of love and its embodiments of greater or lesser disappointment, but whatever their admonishments, "love" itself was the creed, a simple operating principle in an unpredictable world. "It's just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor man"; "Don't do like I did. Marry a man you love"; "You're smart, make something of yourself, but always remember, love is the most important thing in a woman's life."

When Gornick was a girl, love wasn't just meaningful--it was the quality that gave life meaning.
The author of the book being reviewed takes a substantial beating from her critic, and it seems she deserves much of it. Her ignorance of C. S. Lewis' argument, when she undertook to dress him down, is the sort of thing that merits an academic beating. (I read another such review recently, Francis Lee Utley's "Chaucer and Patristic Expressions," which reviews D. W. Robertson's A Preface to Chaucer. Utley remarks, "[O]ne is tempted to dismiss it simply as a strange hodgepodge of patristics and puzzle-solving, insulting to the community of scholars and, indeed, to the twentieth century itself." Well, and doubtless it was partly that; the question is whether the twentieth century merited the insult.)

Yet our critic is sympathetic to the author's basic view that modern relationships are not love at all, being bland and "safety-checked," and lacking the heroic quality. The critic ends by asking to be 'signed up' for such a cult of love as once ruled the West, and now survives only in certain echoes.
We should embrace love, she tells us, as ecstatic, risky, transgressive, unequal and perhaps violent. It is, she has said, a faith, a demon and a divine madness, but the suffering it induces may be the crucible in which we refine our souls.
That vision is just the one I endorse. Tom asked if I might be mad to do so. Well, indeed I might be. A man who follows love may well go mad -- it is one of the most regularly repeated features of the tales. That may be part of the point.

The critic is right to say that the vision wasn't Ovid's, but that it very much was the troubadour's. Lewis was right, I fear, to say that it was a vision that might die. Yet it need not die; it lies in our power to save it, if we dare.

Jim Webb

Jim Webb For President?

Back when he was first running for Senator, I supported Jim Webb. I admired him for his career of service and for his book Born Fighting, which offers a remarkable account of the contribution of the Scots-Irish to the United States of America.

Since his election, I've taken a lot of heat from those of you who didn't support him, and probably rightly so. He hasn't exactly been what I had hoped to see him become, which was a second Zell Miller: we had every reason to hope that he might likewise stand up for Jacksonian principles and the dignity of the conservative Democrat, but instead we've seen some very odd behavior. I don't have a good explanation for how a man of distinguished service, and an insightful author, should prove to be so apparently unstable and unreliable. He has done some good things in Washington, too, like his work on his G. I. bill, but I can't say that I'm as happy with him as I had hoped to be when I supported his candidacy.

So now word comes that the Senator from Virginia is bedeviling President Obama, and that suggests he may be interested in a primary challenge. My thoughts on this are these:

1) Sen. Webb, in spite of his strange behavior, might still represent an improvement. His patriotism and love of country are undeniable, and he would clearly support the nation's interests in foreign policy.


2) His actions over the last few years suggest a certain instability that makes me wonder if he is genuinely fit for the office. Since he would have a full two terms to serve, whereas a re-elected Obama would have only one, there is a concern that his primary challenge might actually succeed.

If I still thought he was the man that I thought he was in 2006, I would be enthusiastic about his candidacy. Now, I'm not even sure if I feel it is a good idea to support him in a primary run against President Obama. Most likely I would, but I have strong reservations about doing so.

What do you think?



Wasn't this story in the Onion a few months ago?

The Obama administration is considering several steps that would review the legality of the controversial Bowl Championship Series, the Justice Department said in a letter Friday[.]
I thought this was a joke when I saw it. "Ha, ha! I get it! Obama thinks the government should be involved in everything! Sure seems that way, but..."

No, really. College football. It is apparently critical that the US Department of Justice spend time making sure there is an equitable outcome in the ranking of college football teams.

Pop quiz: Which Founding Father was it who said that Federal government would ensure just outcomes in every aspect of life?

Public Choices, Public Money

Money and Choice:

If I'm paying for something, I get to be in charge of how that thing is delivered. Right? Yes, if and only if I am in the market. Once government gets involved... no, they choose.

Consider the following clip, in which Reason's Nick Gillespie has a clash with a very energetic woman who is outraged that he doesn't want the government to step in between us and our kids.

Now, he makes a convincing argument that this is a very good reason to abolish socialized medicine as a concept, and find ways to phase out Medicare and Medicaid over time. Yet I'm not sure he's completely correct to say that the government will use control of the purse to force us to abandon unhealthy behaviors.

For example, what it came to our attention that someone drinks a lot of booze?

Maker's Mark whiskey, Courvoisier cognac, Johnny Walker Red scotch, Grey Goose vodka, E&J brandy, Bailey's Irish Crème, Bacardi Light rum, Jim Beam whiskey, Beefeater gin, Dewars scotch, Bombay Sapphire gin, Jack Daniels whiskey … and Corona beer.

But that single receipt makes up just part of the more than $101,000 taxpayers paid for "in-flight services" – including food and liquor, for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's trips on Air Force jets over the last two years. That's almost $1,000 per week.
Now, not every penny of that grand-a-week is booze, but there's quite a lot of expensive stuff on that list. Who's paying for it? The government.

Does anyone think the government is going to step in and force Speaker Pelosi to, ah, cut back a bit?

Of course not. She's an important figure in the Inner Party. But surely the rest of us will receive similar treatment?

If I had time I'd write a near-future science fiction novel where all these government benefits prove to be un-cuttable. Rather than forcing us to adopt slimmer lifestyles, it's easier simply to start behaving like the Empire we're always accused of being: using our military might to force other nations to pay tribute to support our benefit programs here at home.

Prophecy and Global Warming

Prophecy in the Modern Age: Economics and Global Warming

Nassim Taleb speaks of a kind of statistical modeling that cannot work. It is what he calls "the Fourth Quadrant." There are three others; they are arranged on a square grid. In the first and third quadrants, decisions are binary: yes or no. In the first and second quadrants, there is very little difference from the mean. That is to say, if you say 'yes' and you are wrong, or if you say 'no' and are wrong, the consequences are not that very different from if you were right.

So, in the third quadrant, there is a great difference between being right and being wrong: but you have a simple, binary decision. Yes, or no.

In the fourth quadrant, the decisions to be made are complex, and also the difference in being right or wrong is great. Mankind does not know how to build models that work in this place, Taleb says. There are two reasons why. The first is that we cannot imagine everything that might affect the model: if we are building a model of the economy, what if there are massive snows that year? How does the model compute the possibility, and account for the costs to production of having various roads closed? Did you even think to include that in your model at all?

The second is that we haven't lived long enough to have reasonable ideas about what probabilities are. If we say that something should happen 'once in a century,' how do we know? By looking at how often that thing has happened before, of course. But how many centuries have we had an industrial society? Less than two? Six, if you are very generous? We have nothing like the data set we'd need to build truly accurate models.

As a result, he says, when you are in the Fourth Quadrant you must stop making models. They don't work, and they can't work. We don't have adequate imaginations to work in every possibility; and even when we successfully imagine the possibilities, we don't have adequate experience to know how to compute the real odds of the thing occurring.

So, we must stop making models in this area: wherever there are complex decisions, and the range of possible outcomes is large.

Taleb has been writing about economics, but it works very well for climate change.

All those models of how the climate works? If Taleb is right, every single one of them is necessarily wrong. His theory, if correct, is a sufficient condition for discarding every single one of them.

People hate this. "All you're telling us is that our models are bad, but we still have to make decisions," they say. "Tell us how to make better models." But he can't do that; the thing to be learned is that no model can work at all here. Prophecy is not to be trusted.

At the least, we must say that we have absolutely no idea whether the models are correct -- nor even a capacity for guessing how likely it is that they are correct.

The whole environmentalist movement is based on Fourth Quadrant models. Rationality says that, unless someone can demonstrate that Taleb is wrong -- and I cannot see any way in which that could be demonstrated even in theory -- we must set every one of those models aside. They are necessarily unreliable, and cannot guide us.

Congratulations to Doc Russia

Congratulations, Doc!

May very great good cheer, and even greater good fortune, follow you and your newborn daughter. He writes:

And before I forget, let me fail to describe what I experienced when I first held her in my arms. Something happened. I cannot describe it, but it was like something reached up out of nothingness, grabbed my very existence and shook it awake.
Now here, at least, is a man who fell in love at the first sight of a girl whose rightness is certain. Hail the young lady, and welcome!

By the way, Doc, what did you decide to name her? You didn't say, although given the lack of sleep that I recall from my own first few weeks as a new father, that's quite understandable.

UPDATE: We raised a toast in the hall tonight to you and yours, Doc. One of us toasted with Hi-C, but I trust you will understand and not mind.

To the lady.

Two Visions of Women

Visions of Women:

Geoffrey Chaucer is one of the more interesting voices to survive to us from the Middle Ages. He wrote a great deal about women, who were of obvious interest to him; and well they might be! But he also wrote in the voice of members of many different social classes and stations, and he did so with remarkable clarity. It's easy to imagine that he was really able to see things as his characters might have seen them, and use their own words to describe them.

Here are two descriptions of two women, the first from "The Knight's Tale" and the second from "The Miller's Tale." The Knight is described as a true adventurer and a grim man:

A KNIGHT there was, and what a gentleman,
Who, from the moment that he first began
To ride about the world, loved chivalry,
Truth, honour, freedom and all courtesy.
Full worthy was he in his sovereign's war...

His steeds were good, but he was not gaily dressed.
A tunic of simple cloth he possesed
Discoloured and stained by his habergeon;
For he had lately returned....
The miller, by contrast, was a thief, a boor, and a drunkard.
But first I make a protestation round
That I'm quite drunk, I know it by my sound:
And therefore, if I slander or mis-say,
Blame it on ale of Southwark, so I pray;
For I will tell a legend and a life
Both of a carpenter and of his wife,
And how a scholar set the good wright's cap."
This is a story about how a scholar made a cuckold by committing adultery with the wife of a carpenter. It's a ribald story, unlike the Knight's high and noble tale.

So, here are the women who are in some respects the chief characters of each tale. The Knight says this of his lady:
In honour of the May, and so she rose.

Clothed, she was sweeter than any flower that blows;
Her yellow hair was braided in one tress
Behind her back, a full yard long, I guess.
And in the garden, as the sun up-rose,
She sauntered back and forth and through each close,

Gathering many a flower, white and red,
To weave a delicate garland for her head;
And like a heavenly angel's was her song.
The tower tall, which was so thick and strong,
And of the castle was the great donjon,

(Wherein the two knights languished in prison,
Of whom I told and shall yet tell, withal),
Was joined, at base, unto the garden wall
Whereunder Emily went dallying.
Bright was the sun and clear that morn in spring,

And Palamon, the woeful prisoner,
As was his wont, by leave of his jailor,
Was up and pacing round that chamber high,
From which the noble city filled his eye,
And, too, the garden full of branches green,

Wherein bright Emily, fair and serene,
Went walking and went roving up and down.
This sorrowing prisoner, this Palamon,
Being in the chamber, pacing to and fro,
And to himself complaining of his woe,

Cursing his birth, he often cried "Alas!"
And so it was, by chance or other pass,
That through a window, closed by many a bar
Of iron, strong and square as any spar,
He cast his eyes upon Emilia,

And thereupon he blenched and cried out "Ah!"
As if he had been beaten to the heart.
And here is the Miller's:
Fair was this youthful wife, and therewithal
As weasel's was her body slim and small.
A girdle wore she, barred and striped, of silk.
An apron, too, as white as morning milk
About her loins, and full of many a gore;

White was her smock, embroidered all before
And even behind, her collar round about,
Of coal-black silk, on both sides, in and out;
The strings of the white cap upon her head
Were, like her collar, black silk worked with thread,

Her fillet was of wide silk worn full high:
And certainly she had a lickerish eye.
She'd thinned out carefully her eyebrows two,
And they were arched and black as any sloe.
She was a far more pleasant thing to see

Than is the newly budded young pear-tree;
And softer than the wool is on a wether.
Down from her girdle hung a purse of leather,
Tasselled with silk, with latten beading sown.
In all this world, searching it up and down,

So gay a little doll, I well believe,
Or such a wench, there's no man can conceive.
Far brighter was the brilliance of her hue
Than in the Tower the gold coins minted new.
And songs came shrilling from her pretty head

As from a swallow's sitting on a shed.
Therewith she'd dance too, and could play and sham
Like any kid or calf about its dam.
Her mouth was sweet as bragget or as mead
Or hoard of apples laid in hay or weed.

Skittish she was as is a pretty colt,
Tall as a staff and straight as cross-bow bolt.
A brooch she wore upon her collar low,
As broad as boss of buckler did it show;
Her shoes laced up to where a girl's legs thicken.
It's a fair bit of art, to capture the distance between those views so well. Here is one, who takes but little notice of the elements of beauty -- the long hair is mentioned, and not much else of the physical. It is "bright Emily," whose image burns a man's heart and strikes him down. In the next piece of the story, he goes on to declare to his companion that he is unsure if he has seen a woman, or a goddess walking the garden.

And there is another, for whom the woman is 'like a weasel' -- doubtless he means that in a good way -- whose perfection is her form. No detail of her physical body escapes his careful eye, but otherwise he has little to say of her.

Chaucer could capture both views, having the eyes to see both and the ears to hear how different men spoke of women. That's a rare gift. Most of us see only our own way, and are not able to understand that the world looks different to others. His knight had a heart that could be broken; his miller only had eyes.

Oddly Enough

The Original:

Oddly enough, I was just watching the original of that video a few minutes ago. As a service to any readers who haven't seen the original -- since it happens to be readily available in my internet history -- here it is:

UPDATE: Actually, since we have quite a few readers who won't have any idea what a Bushmaster ACR is, here's this too:

Exit question: Why would they keep the 5.56mm as standard, in a weapon that can readily switch between several calibers? NATO, of course. So how much is NATO worth these days, compared to having a better round?

The internet meme that will not die. (warning: strong language)

Does sound like a lot to pay, though.

Bill Competition

Uh-Oh: Bill T's Got Some Competition

Not to suggest that I approve of such humor, but the wag commenting on this post deserves some kind of a prize. Perhaps a marmoset.

George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw:

I was looking through Arts & Letters Daily in the hope that they'd have a nice collection of Zinn obituaries for our reading pleasure. However, what I found instead was an old movie of "The World's Outstanding Literary Genius," George Bernard Shaw.

Complete with praise for Mussolini's 'kindly nature'!

But confer with this, starting at the four minute mark (h/t Dad29):

Now, how great a 'genius' do you have to be to appreciate that? But at least you know why he was giving the fascist salute. That part was merely playful. The rest appears to have been in deadly earnest.

G. K. Chesterton and Shaw managed to be great friends, plying their considerable wits against one another.

Chesterton: I see there has been a famine in the land.
Shaw: And I see the cause of it.

Shaw: If I were as fat as you, I would hang myself.
Chesterton: If I were to hang myself, I would use you for the rope.
They also had remarkable debates that infuriated much of the population and interested other parts of it. Perhaps it was easier to take Mr. Shaw's remarks on having 'gentlemanly gas chambers' as merely a transgressive idea before certain regimes began actually to employ that idea. Yet Chesterton did not do so: he said that he thought Shaw was the most serious of men, that 'even his jokes are serious.' Fortunately, perhaps, Chesterton died before the reality of his friend's ideas was laid bare before the world.

Chesterton said many things about Shaw, but he felt his best was this:
And there is no more subtle truth than that of the everyday phrase about a man having "his heart in the right place." It involves the idea of normal proportion; not only does a certain function exist, but it is rightly related to other functions. Indeed, the negation of this phrase would describe with peculiar accuracy the somewhat morbid mercy and perverse tenderness of the most representative moderns. If, for instance, I had to describe with fairness the character of Mr. Bernard Shaw, I could not express myself more exactly than by saying that he has a heroically large and generous heart; but not a heart in the right place.
It ought to be terrifying to see just how far a "heroically large and generous heart" can carry you.


Giving the Lie, Again:

The President slammed the Supreme Court to its face last night.

Nearly every president finds something to criticize about the Supreme Court, but not every one gets to do it to the justices’ faces, on national television, in the State of the Union speech.
Actually, pretty much every President has the chance to do it, since the Supreme Court normally has at least one member present. The fact that it doesn't usually happen has to do with the fact that it's cowardly and unfit to strike someone who cannot strike back.

The opposition party gets to respond formally at the end of the speech, so a certain amount of political grandstanding towards them is fine. (Less fine: calling your opponents liars to their faces, then acting like you're the one who deserves an apology when they give you the lie right back.)

The Supreme Court has no such opportunity to speak directly to the People. They may not, by protocol, even applaud things they like from the President's speech, nor stand to applaud, nor cheer. They are supposed to be outside of politics, and they cannot answer the blow.

It does not help that the President's claim about just what they had done was a... well, it was 'not true.'

The Justices did not deserve to be treated in that way. It was an honorless insult, and a cowardly act.

Teddy on Populism



Pope and Patriarch

Pope and Patriarch:

Here is an amazing story about people who may really fix a social problem that is many centuries old. (H/t: Dad29.)

The international mixed commission for theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches started discussing this text in Paphos, on the island of Cyprus, from October 16-23, 2009.

It has started to examine the preaching of Peter and Paul in Rome, their martyrdom and the presence of their tombs in Rome, which for Irenaeus of Lyons confers preeminent authority on the apostolic Roman see.

From there, the discussion continued by examining the letter of Pope Clement to the Christians of Corinth, the testimony of St. Ignatius of Antioch, who identifies the Church of Rome as the one that "presides in charity," the role of popes Anicetus and Victor in the controversy surrounding the date of Easter, the positions of St. Cyprian of Carthage in the controversy over whether or not to rebaptize the "lapsi," meaning the Christians who had sacrificed to idols in order to save their lives.

The intention is to understand to what extent the form that the primacy of the bishop of Rome had in the first millennium can act as a model for a rediscovered unity between East and West in the third millennium of the Christian era.

In the middle, however, there has been a second millennium in which the primacy of the pope was interpreted and lived, in the West, in increasingly accentuated forms, far from the ones that the Churches of the East are willing to accept today.

And this will be the critical point of the discussion. But the delegations from the two sides are not afraid to face it. Benedict XVI himself said this last January 20[.]
This is one of those things like having discussions between the United States and England over us rejoining the Commonwealth. You'd tend to think that there's just no possibility that an egg so badly broken can be restored.

Sometimes, though, things can go the other way. A Christianity that is set upon by external pressures may start to cling together more than it did at other times. One might not be so shocked to see it start to pull together; and from that, it would not be shocking to see it flower anew.

Book Review

The Time It Never Rained:

Joel Leggett has posted a short book review of a story about a man who refuses to take Federal handouts. I remember this story from the New York Times about people who live on nothing but food stamps:

About six million Americans receiving food stamps report they have no other income, according to an analysis of state data collected by The New York Times....

Their numbers were rising before the recession as tougher welfare laws made it harder for poor people to get cash aid, but they have soared by about 50 percent over the past two years. About one in 50 Americans now lives in a household with a reported income that consists of nothing but a food-stamp card.
The map breaks down the data in several different ways.

What I find odd is how many of the people are in the South, outside of urban areas. I realize that the rural South is poor, but it's a good place for growing food -- one would think that there would be less need for rural Southerners to buy food. Even poor, you'd expect that they would (as we do) substitute much of their food needs out of what they can produce.

Freakonomics says that may not be true:
Is it cheaper to grow your own food? It’s not impossible but, as my little ice cream story above illustrates, there are huge inefficiencies at work here. Pretend that instead of just me making ice cream last weekend, it was all 100 people who live in my building. Now we’ve collectively spent $1,200 to each have a few scoops of ice cream. Let’s say you decide to plant a big vegetable garden this year to save money. Now factor in everything you need to buy to make it happen — the seeds, fertilizer, sprout cups, twine, tools, etc. — along with the transportation costs and the opportunity cost. Are you sure you really saved money by growing your own zucchini and corn? And what if 1,000 of your neighbors did the same?
I have trouble buying that. Specialization is efficient, yes, if there is work to do. However, there aren't really any "opportunity costs" if you're otherwise unemployed. This is true especially in a region like rural Kentucky where there are few new jobs coming online, so there's little reason to devote a lot of time to looking for work.

Seeds are not that expensive, if you're talking about 'enough food to feed a family of four,' for example. Many things like seed cups can be made out of re-used jars or other things that might have been thrown away (soda cans? Yogurt cups? Paper cups?). If you're starting with the model of making an expensive luxury item like ice cream, sure; but if you're just talking about staples, of course we can grow them cheaply at home. This is how most people live worldwide, where population density is often much higher.

It's also how we used to do things here, before the idea came along that the government would pay you to do nothing. Charity is a great virtue, when it comes to helping those who can't help themselves. I'd hate to think that one in fifty Americans really can't, and some of them living on good earth that could bring up corn or wheat, vegetables, fruits and peppers.

Folks in the cities, sure, I understand you can't grow your own food. I grew up in poor, rural Georgia though, and I know perfectly well that most of us could.

Who Are You?

"Who Are You?"

From the archives, October, 2008:

"The most dangerous question Sen. Obama has ever had to face is, 'Who are you?'"

From the New York Times, today:

"Who is Barack Obama?"

The danger isn't, though, the one that Bob Herbert expects: that we'll answer the question for him in a way that will be a negative for his agenda.

The danger is that there may be no answer at all.

Potential Disruption

Potential Disruption:

Apparently my beloved Haloscan comments system is dying. I've been told that we (along with all other Haloscan users) will see it end on 10 FEB.

The company that took them over is called Echo, and they say they are willing to let me try their system for free for 30 days. You can see an example of an Echo comment system here.

I can also export the comments (actually, I did that already this evening), to be imported to another system later. Complication: no other system is currently designed to import old Haloscan comments, so there's no guarantee I'd be able to do that.

The comments are the most important part of this operation, since there's much less of value in what I have to say than in the pleasure of conversing with this fine company. So, take a look at the Echo blog, if you would, and see if you can stand it. If not, we'll try something else.

Suggestions? Hit the comments (while they're still there!).

I Love Fight Club

I Love Fight Club References:

So, regarding Mr. Klein, the question is are you Tyler Durden? (h/t Indy.)

Not nearly.

The thing, though, is that Mr. Klein and company really ought to be afraid of those of us who might be. We don't really need them. The country doesn't need them. Our civilization doesn't need them. We can tear this thing down any time we want to, because it depends on us.

It doesn't depend on Time magazine writers. The ones who have fought for it, built it, know how it works? Well, that was Tyler's point when he spoke to the mayor: we're the ones they depend on.

It's best not to mess with us.

Pirates v. Ninjas

Pirates v. Ninjas: Presidential Edition

I wasn't going to post this over the top of Eric's tribute to the late Jean Simmons, but with the Peasant to serve as a buffer, I think it's safe.

Via Southern Appeal:

So let’s get it on: 43 men enter, one man leaves. No “over the top rope” battle royale, because Taft and Cleveland would have an unfair advantage. All men are at the physical peak of their presidency, because Wilson deserves a chance. No firearms.

We are sticking with the classics: 43 men on a remote island, forced to fight to the death in a series of individual battles with a soundtrack by Stan Bush. It will be called Beyond Capitoldome, and it will cost $49.95 on pay-per-view. Who wins?
I think it's Old Hickory, easy. He beat the Creeks, the Seminoles, the British veterans of Waterloo, and fought 13 duels besides.

Now, what I'd like to see is the presidents v. Congress. That would be entertainment.
Dennis the Peasant tears Joe Klein a new hole. (warning: strong language)

Richly deserved, I might add.
Normblog had 3 interesting posts today:

1. He notes the passing of the actress Jean Simmons. As Grim has a habit of noting the cultural ideals and what not of classic Hollywood films, it seems appropriate to note some of Simmons' movies:
Guys and Dolls

I have a soft spot for this movie, having been in the play in high school. Marlon Brando, unfortunately, cannot carry a tune to save his life.

The Robe

Nice smile as there as they're being led off to get martyred. This is the sort of movie that nobody would get caught dead making anymore, but seemed to be a staple of 1950's Hollywood.

Elmer Gantry

This is a interesting film that can be looked at a number of ways. I'll leave it each to get what they want from it.

But it shows I think, how Simmons was one of those 'visions of beauty' that Grim was on about.


2. Norm also notes Martin Amis behaving badly. Pleading it was 'just satire' is both weak and craven.

3. Norm also notes the British government behaving badly. Which I suppose, is nothing particularly new, but as he notes, the cynicism is rich. Neat trick if you can pull it off.

Situation #1

Situation #1:

Looks like the evidence is coming hard and fast, which is suggestive of a 1 or 3 situation rather than a 2 (see comments of the post below). Per Bthun, here's some circumstantial evidence pointing to "an international PR firm."

They mention the "Ethan Winner Affair" in the post. What is forgotten about that, but was the most important part of the story, was that the connection between that matter and the government of France.

That would explain the regularity of the Baltimore Chronicle being targeted. The Chronicle is ideal if one of your overarching goals is moving America to yield some of its sovereign authority to the ICC (as is a standing front-page goal of the Chronicle's).

So: although this evidence is circumstantial, I'd say it creates an even stronger probability of a #1 situation (which was always the most likely of the three).

What remains is to finish proving it, and then decide what to do about it beyond making it public knowledge. It might be hard to make a criminal case out of it, for example; which part is illegal?

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia:

Patterico asks a question:

Ed Morrissey forwarded me an e-mail he received from Ellie Light several days ago. The mail appears to have been routed through the IP address, which comes back to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia??

I assume this is some sort of masking or spoofing device and not the actual location of “Ellie Light.” Which makes you wonder: why does a grandma writing letters on behalf of Obama use an IP spoofer?
Actually, there's another question that's just as interesting if we assume "Ellie Light" is really writing from Saudi Arabia. Either way, it's a mystery that requires some explanation; though, if it is merely foreign allies of the President's attempting an information operation on his behalf, but without his knowledge, there's nothing illegal about it.

Bendigo Shafter 4-23

Grim's Hall Book Club: Bendigo Shafter, Chapters 4-23

We start right off with an examination of the culture clash between the Indians and the Americans.

No Indian could get a wife or be counted a warrior until he had taken a scalp, and Indians were celebrated among themselves for their victories, just as were the knights at King Arthur's court.
While that is true for at least some of the Indian nations, it doesn't hold for all of them. What L'amour does here is provide a frontiersman's viewpoint, I think; but it is important also to realize how much we changed the Indians we encountered. The Lakota changed rapidly with the introduction of the horse, becoming a power that swept the plains of many other nations. The Commanche achieved their almost imperial power in part because of their relations with the Spanish in Mexico and points south. The greatest of the Indian nations became powerful because of their interactions with the West; that was where they absorbed the wealth and power to go on to conquer their neighbors. The standard narrative -- that the Indian was there, more or less unchanged, until the White Man came to steal his land -- ignores that fact entirely. The great nations had only just finished stealing that same land from someone else, using horses or rifles or wealth that they got through trading with Europeans. The powerful, city-based Indians that De Soto had discovered on his voyage were already gone, collapsing either through disease or their own internal wars.

At this point Bendigo is reading Montaigne, while trying to show mercy to a man who wants to kill him. This is also a culture clash: there is no reason to believe that the indian would do the same for him. It is Christian ethics that drives him here -- L'amour makes only passing references to the religious meetings the town holds, but never shows us one. The religion is a background influence, present and powerful but not in the foreground of consciousness.

There is a discussion of theology in this section, though: the point where Indians are said to be unmentioned in the Bible, and Bendigo points out that the Bible doesn't mention the English either. L'amour views the proper role of religion as humane, and is annoyed by religious prejudice, whether it is toward Mormons or Indians or just people in the community who are different.

How does this comport with your own view of the proper role of religion?

The rest of this section is taken up with the beginnings of the cattle drive. We see that the reputation of his town has spread. A lot of time passes here with only a few words, so when the letter reaches him at the end of this section, it reminds us that he's been gone for months. While he has been gone, things are changing at home.