Strange Days

Strange Days:

In a government that prides itself on its democratic roots, we've entered some strange days. Arizona passes a law that seventy percent of its citizens support, only to draw an immediate rebuke from the President of the United States.

The rebuke is understandable. This law sounds terrible: giving police the ability to stop people for no reason at all and demand they produce papers and identification is not something I support. I've never liked the anti-DUI checkpoints at which drivers are stopped and identification demanded, for example. I have my identification, of course, and it's merely a momentary irritation; and preventing DUI is a perfectly reasonable public policy goal that protects both lives and property.

Is immigration in Arizona a public policy problem at the same level as DUI? That is, does the threat to life or property rise to anything like the same level? It's hard to say. I've looked around this morning to try and get a sense of why there is such a high level of support for this law, but information is not easy to find. Missing from the coverage of this law in Arizona is any sense of why so many of her citizens feel that this is also a public policy goal that merits such intrusive measures. Is it because the offenses are so numerous and regular that they have ceased to be newsworthy?

The closest thing I can find is in this story, which also doesn't provide numbers, but says that there are "epidemic" spikes in "home invasion and kidnapping" associated with cross-border drug gangs; hundreds of people a year dying in the wilderness areas; and "numerous" police officers having been killed by illegal border crossers. That sounds like a public policy problem of at least the DUI level, does it not?

So what is the Federal government intending to do to answer the concerns of the citizens? This same President, with a unified Congress, just passed a health care law that was opposed by a majority. In February, Rassmussen found that only 21% said the US government has the consent of the governed. This month, Pew found that nearly eighty percent don't trust the government. The reason these citizens are feeling so negatively is that the government's interests are its own interests -- it doesn't seem to be tethered to what the people want (nor to its own Constitutional limits; but we'll leave that for the moment). Will the Federal government act in the interest of the people of Arizona, or in the political interest of the Democratic party at the national level? To ask the question is to answer it.

If there's a better way of dealing with these problems, fine: I don't like the idea of police stopping people and demanding papers either. The concerns of the 30% of citizens opposed to the new law also deserve consideration. Yet it won't do to simply wave your hand at Arizona and say, "Bad!" The fact that a supermajority of its citizens are ready to support such strong measures should be a warning that we need to take serious and careful action to solve the problem that is driving them.

Unhelpful and Uninteresting Ideas

Unhelpful and Uninteresting Ideas:

I imagine this kind of thing doesn't seem 'interesting or relevant' to many; but we'll see how they feel about it in November.

It's interesting to me that this comes from the Republican Governor's Association. This is a pretty intense ad for state governors to post up about the activity of the Federal government. Eric has often pointed out that state resistance to Federal authority would be one of the signs of serious tension; so here is another example.

UPDATE: Guy Fawkes! That's funny -- I didn't catch the reference at all. The story is somewhat obscure in America, if you didn't see "V for Vendetta" (as I have not).



Eric Blair's old favorite:

And another:

"The cops are comin'.... You can hear it too, if you're sincere."

Take a ride.



So, once again -- I think this question gets asked by various liberals at least ten times a year -- are conservatives nuts?

Serious thinkers on the right have finally gotten around to a full and open debate on the epistemic closure problem that's plaguing the conservative movement. The issue, to put it in terms that even I can understand, because I didn't study philosophy much in college: has the conservative base gone mad?
Fortunately, I did study philosophy a bit. Let's get clear on exactly what "epistemic closure" means.

Stanford's Encyclopedia of Philosophy has an article here. If you don't want to work through it, though, the easy way to understand the issue is this: let's say you know a thing or two. Doesn't really matter how you know it, for our purposes: epistemology is the study of knowledge. Exactly how you come to know things, and what you can claim to know, are serious, deep subjects we can set aside for the moment. For now, let's say you do know something. What can you do with it?

Well, one thing we'd normally like to say that you can do with it is reason from it to other things you'd like to know about. You can make deductions, which is to say, you can reason down: I know that I have a dollar, so I know that I have some money (as a dollar is a kind of money). You can also make inferences: I know that I have a dollar, so I know that someone is printing money.

Closure is normally related to deduction. It is meant to have limits: there are only so many things I can deduce from a given piece of information. Once I have approached it from all possible sides, I've reached closure. This means that, given what I knew, if I have reached closure, there are some other things I ought to know.

This is the closure principle:
SP: If person S knows p, and p entails q, then S knows q.
Is that right? No; no one thinks it is. The interesting aspect of the question is how you can fail to know q, if you know p and p entails q. Are you making an error, or is it natural that people don't chase everything down logically? Why do people hold beliefs that might not sort logically?

What does all this mean? Well, one thing it means for the current debate is that people are throwing around a philosophical concept very loosely. The idea that is being put forward is that conservatives have accepted a 'closed set' of beliefs, and are not accepting as knowledge anything that is not entailed by that set of beliefs.

That's not what closure really means, though. Refusing to learn new things might be a kind of madness, but the closure principle has nothing to do with that.

I offer this just for the record. Speaking as someone who might be described as a conservative, and who actually does understand these terms that are being so blithely tossed about by people who (sometimes even openly admit that they) don't: you might be a little less cocksure about your claims.

Now, is it the case that conservatives refuse to learn anything new? Well, speaking only for myself -- assuming I qualify -- I find the idea laughable. You can think what you like, but thinking it doesn't make it true. (And how many of you bothered to look up "epistemic closure" this last week or so, before you used the phrase in your articles? Fine time to complain about other people not bothering to learn new ideas.)



The WSJ would have you believe that people don't propose marriage anymore.

In 1972, on a park bench in Birmingham, Ala., Garner Lee Green's father proposed to her mother. The proposal came out of the blue. She said yes.

"That doesn't happen to people anymore," says Ms. Green, who is 30. And it certainly wasn't the way her husband asked her to marry him several years ago. The two of them talked for a long time about how and when the proposal would happen. "I was ready before he was, so we had to come to a meeting of the minds about a time frame. The negotiations lasted about six months," Ms. Green says.
I don't know about "Ms." Green, who is 30; but since she's talking about something that happened "several years ago," we're planning to celebrate our 11th anniversary this summer. I proposed in just this way:

It was the day before Christmas eve. My girlfriend -- how odd it seems to say that, instead of "my wife"! -- had booked a flight to take her home for Christmas. She was down in Savannah, working on a Master of Fine Arts in painting; she wanted to be with her family over the holidays. They're dead now, both her parents; younger readers, take note. That can happen fast, and her deep wish to be home was wise.

I hadn't been around Atlanta much in several years, but my father was still trekking downtown regularly. I asked him for advice on how to get her to the airport that morning. The advice he gave me sent me into the worst traffic I'd seen in years. We missed her flight by half an hour, easy.

As we were in the traffic, before we reached the airport far too late, she began to panic. I told her, to calm her down, that if we missed the flight I'd just drive her to Indiana. Well, we missed the flight; so I drove her to Indiana.

Her father put me up on the floor of his house, downstairs by the door.

Watch him: he says, "Bei." That means: "Drink."

After he went to bed, she crept downstairs and slept on the floor next to me. That was the night I asked her if she would mind my asking her father's permission to seek her hand. She agreed; and the next morning, he agreed, saying that he'd raised her to make her own decisions.

That was eleven years ago. We were married the next June. I might love another, in the course of my life; but I will never fail to love this one, as long as I live.

The movie Rob Roy says that 'honor is a gift a man gives himself.' That's a lie; honor is something quite different, and it takes a community to give it. Yet romance is a gift that a man gives himself; and he gives it, at the same time, to another. It makes life worth living. Love is not a small thing. It may be the most important thing.

Posting a Scoundrel

Posting a Scoundrel:

MikeD sends a link to an example of an old tradition. Posting was supposed to be done only in cases of honor when the duel had either been refused by another gentleman, or if they had agreed to a duel and then not shown up for it.

There's an interesting backstory to this particular posting. General Leigh Read refused this duel partially on the grounds of being a poor shot, but partially because he didn't feel that Tradewell was his equal. He accepted the duel offered by Tradewell's superior within the Whig party, one Augustus Alston, whom he killed.

Tradewell was right to be furious, as the claim that Read was too good to fight him was not proper. European nobility might disdain to fight a 'mere gentleman' on the grounds that they would duel only with equals; but in America, where nobility did not exist, the tradition was that all gentlemen were on a par. Saying that Tradewell was not good enough for him to fight was a tremendous insult.

Leah acquitted himself well, though -- far better than Alston's brother, who chose to pursue revenge through murder. He made two attempts on Leah's life, both dishonorable, and finally succeeded by shooting the general in the back.

He was later killed himself by a lynch mob, for murdering a doctor who rightly derided his honorless conduct. An interesting story all the way around.

The Collapse

The Collapse:

Africa's "forever wars" seem to offer a terrible picture of what human nature might be like. These groups are brigands, but somehow the brigands fail to provoke the response you would expect even in places where all governmental authority has failed: a few local families or tribes getting together and going out to hang the bunch for the common good. These are not soldiers they are fighting, after all, but criminals.

The Cold War's end bred state collapse and chaos. Where meddling great powers once found dominoes that needed to be kept from falling, they suddenly saw no national interest at all. (The exceptions, of course, were natural resources, which could be bought just as easily -- and often at a nice discount -- from various armed groups.) Suddenly, all you needed to be powerful was a gun, and as it turned out, there were plenty to go around.
That is not all you need, though; one thing we know from our own Dark Ages is that resistance is possible even when the walls collapse. Organized resistance can be successful in building a wall against such predation that, even if it is not universally effective, raises the costs of predation to such a degree that the predators go elsewhere.

This doesn't have to entail high costs; we saw the Anglo-Saxons resist Danish raiding with a fire beacon system and a small but organized group of people who would respond to raids when they saw the fires lit. The Danes were far more powerful and organized, in turn, than these African bandits. Saying that the system has collapsed explains the opportunity for violent predation. It doesn't explain how new systems don't spring up to resist those predators.

Sir Walter Scott

Sir Walter Scott's Influence:

Is it true that everyone read Scott, but no one was influenced by him? It seems to me that he was tremendously influential, and remains so.

There are essentially two sorts of novel, the open and the closed, even if many straddle the frontier that divides them. The closed novel is self-sufficient, free of the influence of public events. In the open novel, such events become characters in the action. The open novel is exposed to the winds of the world, its characters actors in history or victims of history. Given the difficulty of understanding the confusion and turbulence of the ever-changing present, it is natural that authors drawn to the open novel should turn to the past. Hence, in our present uncertainties, the attraction of the historical novel and the vogue it once again enjoys. Meanwhile, the Waverley novels that delighted several generations wait on the shelves to be discovered by those who have never known them, to be read again by those who, like Virginia Woolf, already love them.
My favorite line from the Waverly novels comes when they are contemplating an attack on British forces from a position of superior height. The phrase "even a haggis can charge downhill" is apparently a Scottish Gaelic proverb; though whether it was one before Scott wrote Waverly, I could not say.

Oh, Yawn, Yawn

Careful Moderation:

From today's column, our friend Mr. Brooks tries another stab at understanding the Tea Party. This time, he gets it pretty much right:

As government grew, the antigovernment right mobilized. This produced the Tea Party Movement — a characteristically raw but authentically American revolt led by members of the yeoman enterprising class.
Better than "WalMart Hippies," at least. However, it seems like he hasn't fully grasped how the Tea Party influences what he sees as a 'standing script' of American life.
The government war is playing out just as you’d expect it to, strengthening those with pure positions and leaving those of us in the middle in the cross-fire. If the debate were about how to increase productivity or improve living standards, people like me could play. But when the country is wrapped up in a theological debate about the size of government, people like me are stuck crossways, trying to make distinctions no one heeds.
I doubt that's true. First of all, he doesn't actually attempt to draw any wise distinctions here; this is just a meditation on how difficult it is for people like him to have people further to the right energized and powerful.

More, though, the Tea Party movement is a "small government" movement, but it's not an "anti-government" movement; and it isn't a "small government" movement in some sort of generic way. Rather, it has a very precise set of goals: it wants "small" government, but more than that, it wants explicitly Constitutional government.

The Federal government has quite a few legitimate functions. The Tea Party doesn't want to see the military done away with, for example; it doesn't want to see air traffic control shut down. It does want to see the Constitution respected, and for the Federal government to stop doing things where it does not have clear, specific authority. It wants to see the government shrunk as a practical matter, but only because the government has so far exceeded its Constitutional role.

When the government is doing all and only the things it is supposed to do, the Tea Party will be satisfied. When the Federal government can point to specific authorization for every function it is performing, and abandons all the functions that do not have specific authorization, that will be enough. The Tea Party doesn't just want "small government," in other words. It wants Constitutional government. It wants the government to take the Constitution seriously, and agree to be constrained by it instead of constantly trying to stretch its powers ever farther.

Barter & Health Care

Barter & Health Care:

So, apparently today the big thing for the 'progressives' is this video.

This is supposed to be evidence of the woman's idiocy, but phrased as it is -- as a comment about what people used to do in "the old days," before health insurance -- it's quite true. This is what they used to do, if they couldn't pay the country doctor in cash.

If we were to indict Obamacare on one thing, it might even be this thing: why is it that doctors aren't free to consider barter for poor, rural patients today? It is because they have to carry malpractice insurance, which forces them to set rates of pay above the level that the poor can afford.

What was the #1 thing we could have done to address that? Tort reform. What was the #1 thing left out of Obamacare?

Tort reform.

Doctors today have a lot of problems: huge student loans, for example. Yet if you could do something to get the tort/malpractice issue under control, they'd be a lot more free to help the poor get the care they need, at a price they could afford. Barter isn't as absurd as the Left seems to think: my father traded an old truck for roof repairs just this year. These things happen out in the country; why shouldn't they?

A lot of the price issue with health care has to do with access to new and expensive technology, including diagnostics and drugs. Barter can't do anything much to address that issue. Yet, if we wanted to enable a class of "country doctors" who could work among the poor and make their living in the old fashion, tort reform is the #1 thing that is keeping that old reality from being possible today. That's a shame, and it's a shame that Harry Reid explicitly chose not to address that issue. It would have made things easier for doctors, and for the rural poor: but I guess the thing that really matters is ensuring that insurance companies and the trial lawyer lobby have their interests protected, instead.

The Simplicity Movement

The Simplicity Movement:

Another one from Arts & Letters Daily is this piece on a magazine, and a movement, that is not quite what it would like you to believe.

Welcome to the simplicity movement, the ethos whose mantras are "cutting back," "focusing on the essentials," "reconnecting to the land" - and talking, talking, talking about how fulfilled it all makes you feel. Genuine simple-living people - such as, say, the Amish - are not part of the simplicity movement, because living like the Amish (no iPod apps or granite countertops, plus you have to read the Bible) would be taking the simple thing a bit far. Modern simplicity practitioners like Jesus (although not quite so much as they like Buddhist monks, who dress more colorfully) because he wore sandals and could be said to have practiced alternative medicine, but they mostly shun religious movements founded in his name. Thus, simplicity people are always eager to tell you how great the Amish are, growing their own food (a highly valued trait among simplicity people), espousing pacifism (simplicity people shy away from even just wars), and building those stylishly spare barns (aesthetics rank high in the simplicity movement), but really, who wants to have eight kids and wear those funny-looking hats?

For similar reasons, genuinely poor people don't qualify for the simplicity movement, mostly because of their awful taste in everything from beer to bling to American Idol. Tattoos, flatbill caps, Ed Hardy T-shirts, and chin piercings are not the stuff of the fashion pages in Real Simple.

Hunting is usually taboo in the simplicity movement because it involves guns (hated by the professionally simple) and exploitation of animals (ditto). However, if you're hunting boar in the upscale hills ringing the San Francisco Bay so as to furnish yourself a "locally grown" boar paté, as does Berkeley professor and simplicity movement guru Michael (The Omnivore's Dilemma) Pollan, or perhaps to experience an "epiphany," as another well-fixed Bay Area boar hunter recently told the New York Times, you're doing a fine job of returning to the simple life. Indeed, the Times article was replete with quotations from portfolio managers, systems analysts, and graphic designers who have taken up shooting boar, deer, and bison in their spare time because it affords them a "primal connection" with the food on their plates and is also "carbon-neutral" (zero "food miles" if the deer you slay happened to have been munching the tulips in your backyard). But if you're a laid-off lumber mill worker bagging possums in Eutaw Springs, S.C., because your main primal connection with food is that you don't have much money to spend on it....
You get the idea.


A Poll About A Debate:

To whit, is there one?

Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Americans now believe there is a significant disagreement within the scientific community over global warming, up seven points from early December just after the so-called “Climategate” scandal involving doctored or deliberately undisclosed scientific evidence first broke.
That seems like an odd thing to ask in a poll question. If you'd like to get a positive answer to the question, however, you can do so at Climate Debate Daily. You won't fail to understand the true answer to that question after perusing it for a while; and if you visit it regularly, you'll be as up to date as most anyone on the topic.

Climate Debate Daily is run by the same people who bring you one of my favorite of all internet sites, Arts & Letters Daily. They track not just the Arts and Humanities, but also quite a bit of science. Today they have a piece on the evolution of childhood play, and how playfulness is linked to high intelligence.

There's even an illustration.

UPDATE: Here's one reason that one might be suspicious of some of the climate change "science."
This week, the Belfast ecologist who collected most of the data, Professor Mike Baillie, described the ruling as "a staggering injustice ... We are the ones who trudged miles over bogs and fields carrying chain saws. We prepared the samples and - using quite a lot of expertise and judgment – we measured the ring patterns. Each ring pattern therefore has strong claims to be our copyright. Now, for the price of a stamp, Keenan feels he is entitled to be given all this data."
Science is not supposed to be about proprietary data. One of the bedrock principles of science is that it is open, so that experiments can be understood and replication can be attempted by anyone who questions your findings. If you "copyright" your source data and refuse to reveal it, you're failing to do science at all.

How are your human rights?

How Are Your Human Rights?

For those of you who don't read BLACKFIVE, the State Department is taking public comment on your human rights. You may have some comments. It's good that you do.

Two Strong

Two Strong Articles:

One on Mae West, and Congress.

Another on Argentina, and how the US could be come a nation on a similar downward course.


SCOTUS Picks and the Senate:

The negotiations continue, as the President considers his options. The stakes are high:

“The Senate’s reputation is on the line,” said Reid, referring to the need to seat a new justice in time for the fall term.
(Stops laughing and picks self up off the floor, eventually.)

Seriously, though, there are some high stakes involved. Of the nominees, I continue to favor former Georgia Chief Justice Sears, for the reasons described here. I've still heard nothing disqualifying about her, and she does have the good qualities mentioned in the previous post. Assuming nothing truly horrible appears, I would be willing -- for what it's worth -- to write my Senators to urge her confirmation. The Senate's "reputation" aside, it would be good for the country if we could have a relatively easy confirmation process, and a candidate whose view of conservatives embraced the notion that they could be friends in spite of disagreements.

Left on Citizenship


The Left side of the blogosphere really doesn't like Arizona's new law requiring presidential candidates to produce proof of citizenship. Some of these responses are quite remarkable.

I understand the need they feel to defend the President on this score. However, leaving this President out of it entirely -- isn't this a perfectly reasonable requirement? Let's look at the Constitution.

First, the Constitution has fairly minimal requirements for who can be considered a possible President:

No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.
So, can a felon be considered? Certainly! Can someone be elected to the office who is currently in prison? Yes! (And then he can pardon himself!) If you want to exercise your second amendment rights in Georgia, you must provide your fingerprints to the state for a thorough background check; but that isn't necessary to be President.

However, you must be (a) a natural-born citizen, (b) thirty-five years old, and (c) a resident for fourteen years. (That means I would be ineligible: I lived in China ten years ago!)

Now, why should the states have any say in requiring that you prove these minimal standards are met?
Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.
So, the state legislature may direct the manner of the appointment of electors. What does that mean?

Well, one thing it means is that the states can impose requirements on electors. Electors must, say, be college graduates; or they must not be felons; or whatever else you might require (except that no persons holding an office of trust or profit, senators nor representatives may be appointed).

For example, you can require them not to be faithless, according to SCOTUS:
A faithless elector is one who casts an electoral vote for someone other than whom they have pledged to elect, or who refuses to vote for any candidate. There are laws to punish faithless electors in 24 states. In 1952, the constitutionality of state pledge laws was brought before the Supreme Court in Ray v. Blair, 343 U.S. 214 (1952). The Court ruled in favor of state laws requiring electors to pledge to vote for the winning candidate, as well as removing electors who refuse to pledge. As stated in the ruling, electors are acting as a functionary of the state, not the federal government. Therefore, states have the right to govern electors.
So, can the state require its electors to sign a pledge that they will vote for no candidate who has not produced proof that they meet the minimal requirements for the office under the U.S. Constitution? I can't see any Constitutional reason why they could not do so.

Ought the states to do so? Well, somebody should be in charge of ensuring that the Constitutional requirements are met. I'm not sure the state level is ideal, as it would leave some states open to not ensuring that the Constitution was being followed; but there definitely needs to be some place in the procedure where some competent authority checks to ensure that the law is being followed. This isn't a small matter, after all. We're talking about the President of the United States. If the Constitution isn't to be enforced in this matter, which involves the greatest concentration of power and authority within the entire government, where shall it be enforced?

Wither Stoicism?

Wither Stoicism?

Joseph Epstein, whom I have quoted here rarely but with warm approval, considers the Stoics from the perspective of a grandfather.

Epicurus, who met with friends (disciples, really) in his garden in Athens, devised a program to rid the world of anxiety. His method, like most methods of personal reform, had set steps, in this case four such steps. Here they are:

Step One: Do not believe in God, or in the gods. They most likely do not exist, and even if they did, it is preposterous to believe that they could possibly care, that they are watching over you and keeping a strict accounting of your behavior.

Step Two: Don’t worry about death. Death, be assured, is oblivion, a condition not different from your life before you were born: an utter blank. Forget about heaven, forget about hell; neither exists — after death there is only the Big O (oblivion) and the Big N (nullity), nothing, nada, zilch. Get your mind off it.

Step Three: Forget, as best you are able, about pain. Pain is either brief, and will therefore soon enough diminish and be gone; or, if it doesn’t disappear, if it lingers and intensifies, death cannot be far away, and so your worries are over here, too, for death, as we know, also presents no problem, being nothing more than eternal dark, dreamless sleep.

Step Four: Do not waste your time attempting to acquire exactious luxuries, whose pleasures are sure to be incommensurate with the effort required to gain them. From this it follows that ambition generally — for things, money, fame, power — should also be foresworn. The effort required to obtain them is too great; the game isn’t worth the candle.

To summarize, then: forget about God, death, pain and acquisition, and your worries are over. There you have it, Epicurus’ Four-Step Program to eliminate anxiety and attain serenity. I’ve not kitchen-tested it myself, but my guess is that, if one could bring it off, this program really would work.

But the real question is, even if it did work, would such utter detachment from life, from its large questions and daily dramas, constitute a life rich and complex enough to be worth living? Many people would say yes. I am myself not among them.
I know a lady who used to say that "Evil is detachment." The Buddha and the Stoics both seem to disagree. Discuss!

Guns and Bazookas

Guns and Bazookas:

So, the question is, apparently, "Does your right to keep and bear arms extend to bazookas?"

In point of fact, it does; the National Firearms Act establishes regulations under which you might, if you choose and if you meet the regulations.

These things are considered relics, and Ed Morrissey at Hot Air says that "No one needs a bazooka[.]" Can we construct a case in which there is a reasonable need for a citizen who is not a member of the government to own or keep a bazooka or similar weapon?

I think we can, using the recent case against a former Blackwater president as a model. The case is a very strange one: he's accused of trying to use the government as a "straw man" in purchasing automatic weapons. It'd be odd to attempt to hide a criminal conspiracy by crafting a written agreement with the local Sheriff to carry it out. (Why isn't the Sheriff in the dock too?)

In any event, why did Blackwater want automatic weapons? At least partially for a fully legitimate purpose: to train for missions protecting State Department employees. The State Department has reasons to want an independent protective capacity in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, so they will not be reliant on the US military for transportation. They also wish to preserve the sense that diplomats are unarmed; so they want to outsource this capacity.

The Founders recognized a very similar concept with their granting to Congress of the right to issue letters of marque and reprisal. This allowed you to arm ships with artillery, to conduct raids on enemy shipping, etc.

So yes, the right to keep and bear arms does extend to "bazookas" and like weapons. However, it's reasonable for the government to institute a much higher standard for regulation here than with personal defensive weapons. Perhaps Congress should get back in the business of issuing letters of marque, thereby certifying groups like Xe as potential recipients of State and similar contracts. Certainly the extensive background checks involved in Class III licenses represent another form of such regulation. But whereas rifles, pistols, swords and knives ought to be regulated either not at all, or by a "shall issue" permit at most, these other weapons might be reasonably regulated in a stiffer fashion.

That does not, however, mean that there is no right at all. Such regulations would not be creating a right that other citizens don't have; it would simply be going to an extra length to ensure that you haven't done anything that ought to disqualify you, such as engaging in criminal enterprise.

A useful history lesson

A Useful History Lesson:

The Politico points out that President Obama's attempt to discipline those Democrats who broke with him on HCR may actually help them out:

During the 1938 midterms, Roosevelt stepped up pressure on recalcitrant lawmakers, campaigning against conservative Southern opponents of the New Deal....

FDR, according to one aide, wanted “to make an object lesson” of Georgia Sen. Walter George “because he thought such a defeat would furnish a lasting lesson to the Southern bloc in Congress” — conservative Democrats who helped torpedo parts of Roosevelt’s agenda....

George called Roosevelt’s appearance “a second march through Georgia.”

FDR’s statements even forced some liberal state officials to remain aloof. But after Georgia Gov. Eurith Rivers, architect of the state’s “Little New Deal,” remained neutral, FDR halted Georgia’s public works aid for nearly a year.
The result of his aggressive involvement? George kept his seat.

From AllAfrica

The Ancient Kings:

From AllAfrica, a piece on why Africans survived colonialism:

Yes, the indigenous people of the Americas were almost wiped out, but many colonised Asians and conquered Europeans also survived. Why doesn't Museveni also say that Asians and Europeans do not die easily? Now, like with victory, we can speak of the management of defeat and subjugation. You can have a vision as a powerful emperor, but you can also have a vision as a leader of weak slaves.

If you like, Africans are tough humanoids, but maybe the way some of their leaders handled the colonial invaders prevented their annihilation.

It is the same today. The concept of the sovereignty of Africa as one people is of course a complete myth.

Museveni and Col. Gaddafi who sing (albeit in different keys) about Africa's oneness know it. The nearest thing to sovereignty was tribal sovereignty.

If today, for instance, Bunyoro Kingdom attempted to forcefully assert its sovereignty over the oil reserves in its territory, Gen. Museveni, no more kindly than a colonial governor, would unleash his military might to crush Bunyoro nationalism.

Words like "reactionaries", "idiots" and "saboteurs" would fly around. So the Banyoro avoid upsetting Museveni, precisely because they know that Africans die very easily; not the other way round.
That's unusual humility, and rightly said. Tribal sovereignty is the most natural form of human authority; it is the natural government of humankind. It is the overwhelming force of the state that suppresses it. This has been going on for a long time: the ancient kings, the empires, the modern state. Maybe it's good and maybe it's not, but the tribes are always there to take things back up if the states should finally fail.
The Devil is always in the details.
A computer game retailer revealed that it legally owns the souls of thousands of online shoppers, thanks to a clause in the terms and conditions agreed to by online shoppers.

The retailer, British firm GameStation, added the "immortal soul clause" to the contract signed before making any online purchases earlier this month. It states that customers grant the company the right to claim their soul.

Apparently the thing is an April Fool's joke, but still.

The power of contracts and deals runs very deep in Western civilization. God knows what could be conjured with something like this.

The Left is Right

The Left is Right:

The Founders were scoundrels! Well, one of them, anyway. There's just no excuse for turning in a book 220 years late.

Trust the Gov't?

The Headline is Not The News:

Headline: "Majority" says you can't trust the government.

Actual story: "Nearly 80 percent."

That's quite a delta.

Good Line Zero

Good Line, Zero:

From Hot Air, on the President's "like it or not, we remain a dominant military superpower" remark:

There’s nothing factually incorrect about what the President said. It’s the tired, bloodless way he said it that provoked a sharp Sarah Palin response. It was a far cry from the way someone like JFK or Reagan would address the same topic. They would have seen the responsibility of power as a challenge we should rise to meet, with confidence and determination, and offered thanks to God that America is the nation entrusted with this challenge.

Sadly, the America of new frontiers and bright mornings was long ago. Today we live in Hospice America, where caretakers with first-class temperaments and sharply creased trousers make us comfortable in the face of inevitable decline… and forward the bills for our end-of-greatness care to our children, who will go bankrupt paying them.

More On Music, Men and Women

More on Men, Women, and Music:

I think I'm convinced by Eric and Bill's posts that we were right to conjecture that folk music would be more interesting, set to electric guitar, than any of these "dude music" forms being written today. The two samples are different, though: Eric's are genuine folk tunes being set to electric guitar (the "All Around My Hat" piece really was good); Bill's shows a band trying to write music with a foundation of serious poetic and eternal themes. That's half the conjecture.

The other half is that -- while there is nothing wrong with writing a song that is about a man's perspective, or a woman's perspective -- achieving a balance might actually improve the quality of the song. Curiously, the next piece of evidence in favor of that comes from the example that the ladies at TigerBeatdown chose as an example of anti-"dude music."

They praise this as an example of female rebellion, and "a venue for angry or self-obsessed or confrontational expression." Probably it's all of those things, and it may be (I take them at their word that, for them, it is) successful in that regard.

However, they also wanted to "talk about these women musically," so let's do that. Musically, this is a terrible song! It's grating; the electric guitar is merely repetitive; and however powerful the protest lyrics are, you'll have to look them up in order to realize it. You can barely make out a word she sings.

Now, P.J. Harvey is not a terrible musician! She has a voice that has a tremendous power and fascinating range: it's just not on display there. But try this:

That's a remarkable piece. I have a feeling that you could remove the electronics and improve it, by removing the distortion that the electronics so often produce (especially live). It's got a simple blues feel, but there's a lot going on with the lyrics: it touches a deep tradition we have on how love, even honest and real love, can destroy as well as save.

Now, how does that meet our test? Could a man sing that song? I think so, if it were the right man: he would need a powerful voice to handle what she's set down here. Putting a man in the role of the singer of this song would change the meaning of the song somewhat: how should a woman react to a lover who curses God and makes deals with the devil in order to be with her? With alarm, one would think! After all, if he will defy God 'to bring her his love,' how ready is he apt to be to accept her "no" if she offers it? If he's ready to accept hell to assert his love, how much will he fear prison if she refuses him?

Yet the song is universal enough that there's room for that change; it doesn't render the song absurd. So we might say that this is a balanced song. (Is it important that a male or female singer be optional? I don't think so, personally; a song that needed to be sung by a man, or a woman, would qualify as 'balanced' if it told the truth about both men and woman. However, in their first post, these ladies had mentioned songs being written around male vocals; so it's worth examining that issue to see if it matters.)

Is it stronger than the rage-filled song, as music? I think it is; but the question is, does that strength come from the fact of it being more balanced, or is it accidental? It seems right to say that songs that represent something honest about the condition of men and women ought to be more powerful than songs that are honest about one sex only, in just the way that the truth is more powerful than a half-truth. The latter may deceive for a time, and therefore seem powerful; but deception is only human, and can therefore only persist for a time.

The truth is a force of nature. Capturing that in music ought to produce true power, the kind that raises mountains or grinds them down.

Are there more examples? What is the strongest half-truth song you can think of for us to examine? I don't think it would even be fair to compare it with the strongest songs of Truth: the fourth movement of the 9th symphony, for example. We might try to take the strongest half-truth songs, and compare them to ordinary songs of truth. My thesis is that the songs of truth will win; but let's see what we come up with.

I'd like to tap some of our lady readers to offer some of their favorites as well. I know one of Cassandra's, at least, that may qualify as a song of truth:

That's a very powerful song, and it's powerful just because of the truth it tells. The music is pleasant, but you can compare versions of the song recorded by a younger lady with a different vocal quality, and see how very well it stands up. She doesn't have the breath to hold the notes anymore; and it doesn't matter.

UPDATE: Here is a post by a writer who differs on P. J. Harvey, and thinks her whole power is that she scares him:

Harvey’s music feels dangerous, harsh, and epic—everything rock music is supposed to be—and it’s this sense of danger that ultimately elevates Rid of Me... [she] goes so far beyond traditional models of decorum and taste that every note becomes a bold gesture, an affront to society at large.
Perhaps I just find gestures designed to cause affront more boring than bold; certainly, I find that I'm as unmoved by the alleged scariness as the authors of the first piece were by "dude music's" focus. It's fine for someone to write music that's about that, but it lacks the power to move me. That was their original point in the first article: this kind of music doesn't make me feel anything. As a half-truth, it is meaningful only to those invested in the half-truth; for those outside it, it's empty.

Continuing the theme.

Submitted for your listening pleasure, because, unlike the music of most bands formed in the ‘70s, Jethro Tull’s was meant to be *listened* to rather than danced to. The songs tell stories. They’re meant to draw you to the tale-teller on an individual basis as a listener rather than a participant – which, I guess, is the reason Jethro Tull never caught on with the “I Didn’t Understand The Words, But I Can Dance To It” Crowd™.

Eric gave you a plethora of riches from Steeleye Span, and bade you choose one or all, as suited you.

I’ll give you only two, but these are of my choosing. Moths, the first selection, throws an interesting twist to Grim’s question: “If you did this song on an electric guitar, it would be more interesting and better than any 'dude music.' How much of that is the viewpoint, and how much is the music itself?”

The music is complex and mixes modern instruments with old – Ian Anderson is credited with being the first to introduce the flute into Rock, and the only musician to use it as the lead instrument – and the lyrics would not be out of place at gentlefolks’ table.

No visual, but the sound quality is the best of those I previewed, and I previewed for the *listening*.

Of course, if I thought your attention span was as short as mine, I might have


Ummmm – anybody know where was I going with this?

And the first moths of summer
suicidal came
to join in the worship
of the light that never dies
in a moment's reflection
of two moths spinning in her eyes

The second is Broadsword. The music has a more dramatic theme, and the choice of instruments – still a mix of old and new -- reflects it. The lyrics are those of a warrior lord – instructions to his squire, prayers before battle followed by orders to his soldiers as to the location of the battlefield and their formation on it. Although the melody wouldn't be out of place today, the words would be anachronistic -- and probably abhorrent -- to a typical modern audience.

And, as befits a heroic tale, some heroic scenery. The volume isn’t the best, but the words are clear, and the viewing doesn't detract from the listening.

Tull and Tolkein. I think JRR would approve.

Bring me my broadsword and clear understanding.
Bring me my cross of gold as a talisman.
Bless with a hard heart those who surround me.
Bless the women and children who firm our hands.
Put our backs to the north wind. Hold fast by the river.
Sweet memories to drive us on for the motherland.

Universal themes frozen in a moment.