Collin Thomas

When I took these pics I knew at some point I would use them to honor the death of one of our people. I was pensive when I took them. I did not know the man's name would be Collin Thomas.

Rest in peace, Brave Warrior.

How to Catch a Foul Ball

How to Catch a Foul Ball

Grim must be rubbing off on me. If I'd seen video a few years ago of the guy who recently ducked and let a foul ball hit his girlfriend, I think my reaction might have been less harsh. She should look out for herself, right?

Sorry about the rude subtitles in this version, but the other versions have been yanked or disabled; I guess this one has been altered enough to pass copyright muster. Anyway, at a family gathering last weekend, my niece's husband made a casual joke about needing to know how long the guy had been dating her before he could judge -- and I found myself wanting to scold him for his failure in chivalry. I also hoped, for my niece's sake, that he was mostly joking.

I was much happier with this performance:

Night at the Museum and The Chariot

Night at the Museum?

 (Roman men, Hellenistic ladies, and little blue dudes from Egypt -- could be fun!)

And how about taking this baby for a spin?

Explanations for "The Chariot" - as it's known by museum goers, after the jump.



I love Assistant Village Idiot's site. Possibly the explanation for my pleasure lies in the subject of a couple of his recent links to Orin Kerr at Volokh: Brilliant People Agree with Me and People Who Disagree with Me Are Just Arguing in Bad Faith. AVI often puts things in just the way I might have done if I knew more about them and had thought them through more carefully -- so he must be awfully smart! His links to the Orin Kerr articles actually aren't a perfect example of the brilliance of people who agree with me. They're on right subject -- confirmation bias -- but the articles and their accompanying comments are a little frustrating, presenting as they do the age-old sterile conflict between people who are confident there is such a thing as the right view (and that they have it) and people who suspect that all viewpoints may be equally correct/incorrect. Chalk me up in the "it's possible to be right" column, even if I also believe we're obligated at all times to subject ourselves to the correction of better evidence and reason from any source.

I did appreciate an article on conflict resolution that one of Kerr's commenters linked to. A good part of it was the sort of "everyone has an equally incorrect viewpoint" attitude that gets right up my nose, but there was a sensible piece of practical advice towards the end:

Ross’s suggested solution to this problem is to have members of a group discussion each give one point of the other side’s argument that they think has some legitimacy. The study that Ross has done on this potential solution to conflict had the impressive result of 100% agreement being reached using this method.
My husband has learned to his great cost over the years that when I don't feel I'm being heard, I become Very Difficult to Live With. I may be an extreme example, but I imagine many people respond well to defusing a very tense argument by finding some common ground and focusing on it for a moment. It has to be a real point of agreement; condescension or cheesy moral relativism won't work.

Maybe some of us are so constituted that, as long as our listener doesn't acknowledge the obvious truth and justice of the point we feel so strongly convinced of, we become sure he simply is not listening. Knowing that he's heard and understood some subsidiary point allows me to calm down and realize that communication is possible, even if we won't entirely be able to agree. In a calmer state, I may realize that I don't mind negotiating a compromise, or even adopting another plan altogether. I know I find it easier to give something up to please someone who shows that he knows and cares that it's important to me.

"Millin, Black Bear."
LONDON — Bill Millin, a Scottish bagpiper who played highland tunes as his fellow commandos landed on a Normandy beach on D-Day and lived to see his bravado immortalized in the 1962 film “The Longest Day,” died on Wednesday in a hospital in the western England county of Devon. He was 88.

There were giants in those days.

For T99

Wasps and T99 Both Hate Fakers:

From New Scientist, an article about female paper wasps. We don't usually think of wasps as being all that gentle and friendly, but apparently what really makes them aggressive is faking.

The article ends by noting that this is why 'they haven't evolved a strategy of lying and cheating.' We need to think about how we might import this lesson into our own species.

Songs for a Friday

Songs for a Friday:

Cassandra is running a horrible song contest. Most anything a 20-year-old would know well enough to sing probably qualifies.

However, htom submits this:

That's a ram among sheep, as Homer said of mighty Odysseus: setting the standard, holding the line.

A Murder of Crows

A Parliament of Rooks, A Murder of Crows, and Seven Drunken Nights:

One of the more interesting terms to emerge from Mrs. Palin's writing is her description of those who 'hijacked the feminist movement,' a subject that I know is dear to the heart of several of you. (I'm looking directly at you, Elise.) She apparently described them as "a cackle of rads."

"Rads" is obviously "radicals," but "cackle" is new. I wonder if she was aiming at "gaggle" (as in geese), or if she was thinking of things that actually cackle (as do hyenas, chickens, or the Wicked Witches of various cardinal directions).

Either way, it's remarkably descriptive, and nicely captures her idea of the sort of person who 'hijacked feminism.'

By the way, this is an opportune moment to address Elise's argument that men who joke about depriving women of the vote are necessarily unprincipled. (Cassandra also took umbrage at the post at National Review.)

I once wrote a piece on a similar topic. It happens to touch on the very point that they raise, which is that "women" couldn't be replaced by "Jews" or "African Americans." That was the argument raised then, too, except that time it was men who were the butt of the joke:

Lucas says that you couldn't replace "men" in the insults with any other group of people without raising an uproar. That's not quite true, though: there is one other group that could fit in the space, which is women. I can't count the number of bumperstickers I've seen for sale that said something to the effect of: "I miss my ex-wife; but my aim is getting better," or "My wife said to give up fishing or she'd leave; I sure will miss her." (There was a successful country music song about the last one.)
Could you raise a joke about the importance to the country of disenfranchising men without raising an uproar? I think so; in fact, jokes about the relative stupidity of men are so common in sitcoms, etc., that the only bar against anyone making such a joke is that it is probably too obvious to be funny.

The earlier movements accomplished this: they moved the culture from a place where the idea of "women's suffrage" was a joke, to a place where the idea of "ending women's suffrage" is the joke. That is a remarkable thing; and if it takes the telling of the joke to make that clear, so be it!

In the meanwhile, the best antidote to this -- as on the last occasion -- is more jokes, bawdy songs, and the like. Comments are open!

UPDATE: Another piece I wrote on humor, in this case humor and religion, may be relevant. Also, the jokes in the comments were better.
The point here is Chesterton's point about the pessimist. Marcotte doesn't get into trouble for criticizing religion; she gets in trouble because she doesn't love the thing she criticizes.
UPDATE: Since I'm telling jokes tonight, how about one at my own expense?
The university professor called in the head of the physics department, and read him the riot act. "How can you ask for this expensive lab equipment? You know how much our budget is being cut with this bad economy!" he shouted. "We're having to let professors go, not hire new ones, cut scholarships, the works. And all I hear from you is how you can't do your work without all this lab equipment."

"Physics research often requires this kind of laboratory," the department head ventured.

"Nonsense!" the president shouted. "You should be more like the Mathematics department. They could be using expensive computers, but all they ever ask for is paper, pencils, erasers and calculators.

"Or better still," he added thoughtfully, "you could be like the Philosophy Department. They don't even ask for erasers."
You could substitute "the journalism school," and it would still be pretty funny.



An interesting chart from young Mr. Klein. He isn't that impressed, but mostly it looks to me like the American people are judging correctly according to their lives. A home computer really isn't a necessity for many Americans -- if you work at a more-or-less traditional job, and buy what you need from local stores, you can live without one. There are a vast number of Americans for whom the 'evolving nature of the economy' he mentions is both invisible and irrelevant.

Outside of certain cities, however, you mostly can't live without a car. There are a few cities where you can do so, and there are a few remaining farms that are genuinely self-sufficient (or have small towns or general stores within walking distance). Otherwise, if you don't have a car, someone else has to have a car for you -- for example, a senior citizen whose children or grandchildren will go to the store for them, and bring back the groceries.

The ones that are dispensable are: air conditioning, clothes dryer (or any major appliance), and microwave. I've lived without all of those at various times. We did the clothesline thing for quite a while, I've never liked microwaves, and obviously in China there was no air conditioning.

However, in the American South, if you are going to do without air conditioning during the summer it has to be because you don't really have to accomplish anything much. When Cotton was King, this was the growing season -- the hard work of planting and harvesting lay in the other parts of the year. It was possible to go to church meetings (this is famously 'revival' season in the South), or lay by the creek with your feet in it to keep cool. If you're free to do that, yeah: you can live without air conditioning.

Of the others, the clothes dryer really does limit the amount of physical labor most of the several major appliances. Having done without every major appliance at one time or another, the clothes dryer is the one that really proves to save time v. doing it the old fashioned way. Americans justly consider it more important than the other things.

Notice, though, that only 59% consider it a 'necessity.' 41% think they could do without one, if indeed they don't already do without it. The only thing that really is rated a "necessity" by almost all Americans is the car.

Fallacies and Argument

The Informal Fallacies:

Here is an article called On the Fallacy of Proclaiming Fallacies. H/t to the Normblog. I don't read the Normblog as often as I should, but it's on the sidebar (under Eric's Favorites), and once in a while I remember to click through. Today he's talking about the misuse of logic in argument. He's making a point that I was just making ref: gay marriage over at Winds of Change.

Normblog says:

For my own part, I have no idea whether charges of fallacious reasoning are more commonly on target or not on target. I wouldn't know how to start quantifying it. But, to focus merely on this one example, there's a simple and basic point. Sometimes it's appropriate, and involves no fallacy, to point to the personal interests of an opponent in argument; and other times it isn't appropriate and is fallacious.
We can go further than "sometimes." There's a particular quality that makes an argument a fallacy: it is when you are using that argument as the guarantor of the truth of a logical claim.

Here are two uses, one fallacious, and one not.


"Senator X has a conflict of interest, and therefore should not be trusted on this issue."

Not a fallacy:

"Senator X has a conflict of interest in this matter. Further, she does not appear to have accounted for it in public. Finally, the unspoken interest appears to drive her in the direction of the policy she is proposing. Therefore, we should not trust her on this issue."

The first is a fallacy because it is an error in logic. "An error in logic" is, actually, what the word fallacy means. The fact that a conflict of interest may exist does not entail that someone cannot be trusted. A given person may have that conflict, be honest about it with themselves and with you, and do his or her best to ensure a just and fair conclusion.

However, it's perfectly fair to mention the fact of the conflict as part of a chain of reasoning. It's only a fallacy if you are using it fallaciously: as if it were sufficient to entail your conclusion, when the fact by itself is not.

It's possible for both sides to misuse fallacies: "Robert Byrd is a former Klansman, and therefore we should not listen to him on this [unrelated] subject" is a logical error because it is a fallacy (argumentum ad hominem). It is being used as if it entailed a conclusion that it does not.

"Any attempt to mention Byrd's past with the Klan is to be dismissed as a fallacy," however, is a more serious error in logic. It is a category error, one of the most serious types of logical errors. In this case, you are putting any mention of a true-but-negative fact about someone into the category of "things not to be considered." You can see why this is a serious error: it leaves you in the position of believing that you simply may not consider issues of character when making decisions. All negative information about a man's character ends up placed in the category of "inadmissible evidence." Logic does not suggest that to be a wise course, let alone a necessary one.

At WoC, the alleged fallacy was 'argumentum ad antiquitatem,' the appeal to tradition. It's a fallacy to say, "We have always done it this way, so we should do it this way." It's not a fallacy to point out the facts of history, however; and any category building that dismisses tradition and history as possible sources for information on future decisions is a serious error indeed. Logic is meant to be a torch, not a blindfold.

Lies and Courtesy

Lies and Courtesy:

I have told the story of getting paid in China. Apparently, it's much the same in Turkey.

As the First General Law of Travel tells us, every nation is its stereotype. Americans are indeed fat and overbearing, Mexicans lazy and pilfering, Germans disciplined and perverted. The Turks, as everyone knows, are insane and deceitful. I say this affectionately. I live in Turkey. On good days, I love Turkey. But I have long since learned that its people are apt to go berserk on you for no reason whatsoever, and you just can’t trust a word they say. As one Turkish friend put it (a man who has spent many years in America, and thus grasps the depth of the cultural chasm), “It’s not that they’re bad. They don’t even know they’re lying.”


Take, for instance, my former landlord. Last year, my apartment was burgled. Under Turkish law, if your apartment is burgled, you have the right to insist that your landlord install bars on your windows. When I put this to my landlord, he objected, screaming violently, as so often people here do for no reason any American would accept as legitimate. First, my landlord screamed, there was no risk of burglary: there had never before been a burglary in our neighborhood. (Actually, our neighborhood was notorious for it.) Second, he screamed, to install bars would create a hazard: burglars would use them to climb up to the second floor. He offered both arguments in the same sentence. He was unperturbed by the obvious problem with his line of reasoning.

Later, when I discussed the matter with Turkish friends, they explained to me that I had made a critical negotiating mistake: I had insulted his honor by telling him I would have bars installed rather than asking him. The argument, they explained, had nothing to do with the real risk of burglary, and certainly nothing to do with my rights under Turkish rental law. It was about my failure to show the man the proper respect.
Honestly, it's amazing we manage to have peace between the nations for two or three years at a stretch.

Truck Envy

Truck Envy

This isn't a picture of one of our fire brush trucks. Ours is even older and funkier than this 1967 model -- and much less shiny -- but it is roughly similar in configuration. Like all of the shoestring volunteer operations in this part of the country, it's a military surplus 2-1/2 or 5-ton truck with a bunch of stuff welded onto it.

But, now, this is a brush truck. Or at least a pre-production conception of one that some Australian has dreamed up. We don't assign our trucks to particular drivers; it's first-come first-served, which has a lot to do with who lives closest to the station and is most motivated to get there fast. I can see fistfights breaking out over who got to a truck like this first. We'd never get the guys to quit training with it.

This is a beauty!

The truck operates with a crew of two instead of our usual five or six, employing remote-controlled water cannon. From the website, these are specs to make you emit those pig-noises Tim Allen used to make when describing his latest power-tool purchase:

The purpose-built monocoque design means the the shell takes most of the stresses and gull wing doors provide the most effective access to its unconventional form. Bodywork is protected by military-grade sacrificial thermo-ceramic intumescent paints (swelling, heat-resistant paint to you and me), and windows and bodywork are further insulated by advanced aerogel laminated insulation.

An auxiliary water store supplies an intelligent temperature-controlled spray-down system which allows the vehicle to stay fully operational and mobile while in use. It maintains current 4WD capability with generous approach, departure and over-ramp angles, suspension travel, ground clearance and minimized turn circle, and additionally employs central tire inflation (CTI) and run flat tire (RFT) technology coupled with beadlock tires that allow an extensive band of dynamic pressure control to aid in traversing complex terrain. It has a mechanically injected large displacement diesel engine designed with fire ground conditions in mind.

I can't even imagine what a beast like this would cost. Alas, the fabulous shower of Stimubucks it would take to enable us to buy it is something that never will happen in this truculent red state. We'll just have to wait 50 years.

The Role of Defenders

The Role of Defenders:

We have talked occasionally (scroll to "Threats and the Tea Party") about the difference in threat perception between those who are more conservative and those who are not. There may be some evidence that conservatives are more inclined to perceive both real and false threats; whereas liberals are less inclined to be able to perceive a threat whether or not one actually exists.

If true, that suggests that conservatives need to check themselves carefully against false positives -- and work on extending the benefit of the doubt. It also means that liberals should be a little more careful to listen to conservatives, who have a capacity they don't have when it comes to recognizing dangers. Or, you could say, we should each of us stand to what we feel is our duty: recognizing that, by each side fighting for what it believes, we will eventually come to the right solution.

In other words, both mental capacities are useful. Neither approach accurately perceives the world as it is. We need each other: the conservative to defend the tribe, and the liberal to try to relax what could otherwise become punishing standards.

I mention this in reference to three recent pieces. The theory offers a useful way to understand both past and future. From the NYT:

This is typical of how these debates usually play out. The first America tends to make the finer-sounding speeches, and the second America often strikes cruder, more xenophobic notes. The first America welcomed the poor, the tired, the huddled masses; the second America demanded that they change their names and drop their native languages, and often threw up hurdles to stop them coming altogether. The first America celebrated religious liberty; the second America persecuted Mormons and discriminated against Catholics.

But both understandings of this country have real wisdom to offer, and both have been necessary to the American experiment’s success. During the great waves of 19th-century immigration, the insistence that new arrivals adapt to Anglo-Saxon culture — and the threat of discrimination if they didn’t — was crucial to their swift assimilation. The post-1920s immigration restrictions were draconian in many ways, but they created time for persistent ethnic divisions to melt into a general unhyphenated Americanism.

The same was true in religion. The steady pressure to conform to American norms, exerted through fair means and foul, eventually persuaded the Mormons to abandon polygamy, smoothing their assimilation into the American mainstream. Nativist concerns about Catholicism’s illiberal tendencies inspired American Catholics to prod their church toward a recognition of the virtues of democracy, making it possible for generations of immigrants to feel unambiguously Catholic and American.

So it is today with Islam.
From Five Books (an interesting site that promises to guide you to 'the best five books on anything'):
I think the typical view of politics from inside a partisan mindset is to see politics as a battle of the good guys versus the bad guys. Maybe the good guys are on the left, maybe the good guys are on the right, but it’s this Manichean struggle and the way to get progress is for the good side to win and impose their will. [John Stuart] Mill sees through that and sees that, in fact, politics is a dialectical process. At any given time truth is partly on one side and partly on the other. It’s more a battle of half-truths and incomplete truths than of good versus bad. The excesses of each side ultimately create opportunities for the other to come in and correct those excesses. Liberalism, in Mill’s view and in mine, provides the basic motive force of political change and progress. It will go astray, it will have excesses, it will make terrible mistakes – and a conservatism that is focused on preserving good things that exist now will be a necessary counterweight to that liberalism....

So again here, we have this notion of a conservatism whose role is to moderate a movement in a generally egalitarian direction?

Yes. It is, I’m afraid, their fate often to be decrying cultural trends that they see as leading to chaos, when a generation later those warnings look like the most benighted obscurantism. So we had Bill Buckley in the late 50s warning that enfranchisement of blacks would lead to catastrophic political consequences…

Did Buckley say that?

Yes. He said that the white race is the more advanced race and if it doesn’t have the votes, it should maintain its authority any way it can. There’s a devastatingly frank passage in a National Review editorial in the late 50s along those lines. Of course, that just looks horrible now and, later in life, Buckley admitted that was a terrible error. You had people thinking that a woman working outside the home in traditional male professions was the end of the world – and it wasn’t.
On Sir Winston Churchill, who managed to be both at once:
As soon as he could, Churchill charged off to take his part in “a lot of jolly little wars against barbarous peoples.” In the Swat valley, now part of Pakistan, he experienced, fleetingly, an instant of doubt. He realized that the local population was fighting back because of “the presence of British troops in lands the local people considered their own,” just as Britain would if she were invaded. But Churchill soon suppressed this thought, deciding instead that they were merely deranged jihadists whose violence was explained by a “strong aboriginal propensity to kill.”

He gladly took part in raids that laid waste to whole valleys, writing: “We proceeded systematically, village by village, and we destroyed the houses, filled up the wells, blew down the towers, cut down the shady trees, burned the crops and broke the reservoirs in punitive devastation.” He then sped off to help reconquer the Sudan, where he bragged that he personally shot at least three “savages.”

The young Churchill charged through imperial atrocities, defending each in turn. When the first concentration camps were built in South Africa, he said they produced “the minimum of suffering” possible. At least 115,000 people were swept into them and 14,000 died, but he wrote only of his “irritation that kaffirs should be allowed to fire on white men.” Later, he boasted of his experiences. “That was before war degenerated,” he said. “It was great fun galloping about.”

After being elected to Parliament in 1900, he demanded a rolling program of more conquests, based on his belief that “the Aryan stock is bound to triumph.” As war secretary and then colonial secretary in the 1920s, he unleashed the notorious Black and Tans on Ireland’s Catholics, to burn homes and beat civilians. When the Kurds rebelled against British rule in Iraq, he said: “I am strongly in favor of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes.” It “would spread a lively terror.”


This is a real Churchill, and a dark one — but it is not the only Churchill. He also saw the Nazi threat far ahead of the complacent British establishment, and his extraordinary leadership may have been the decisive factor in vanquishing Hitlerism from Europe. Toye is no Nicholson Baker, the appalling pseudo historian whose recent work “Human Smoke” presented Churchill as no different from Hitler. Toye sees all this, clearly and emphatically.

So how can the two Churchills be reconciled? Was his moral opposition to Nazism a charade, masking the fact that he was merely trying to defend the British Empire from a rival? Toye quotes Richard B. Moore, an American civil rights leader, who said that it was “a most rare and fortunate coincidence” that at that moment “the vital interests of the British Empire” coincided “with those of the great overwhelming majority of mankind.” But this might be too soft in its praise. If Churchill had been interested only in saving the empire, he could probably have cut a deal with Hitler. No: he had a deeper repugnance to Nazism than that. He may have been a thug, but he knew a greater thug when he saw one — and we may owe our freedom today to this wrinkle in history.

This is the great, enduring paradox of Churchill’s life. In leading the charge against Nazism, he produced some of the richest prose poetry in defense of freedom and democracy ever written. It was a check he didn’t want black or Asian people to cash, but as the Ghanaian nationalist Kwame Nkrumah wrote, “all the fair brave words spoken about freedom that had been broadcast to the four corners of the earth took seed and grew where they had not been intended.” Churchill lived to see democrats across Britain’s imperial conquests use his own hope-songs of freedom against him.

In the end, the words of the great and glorious Churchill who resisted dictatorship overwhelmed the works of the cruel and cramped Churchill who tried to impose it on the world’s people of color.

Cost Effectiveness

Cost Effective?

Before the Grand New Health Care Law of 2010, we were told by the plan's supporters that Republicans had a two part plan for health care:

1) Don't get sick.
2) If you do, die quick.

Now that the new plan is the law, of course, comes this decision by the FDA. It's not clear whether or not this is really about 'cost effectiveness,' but the charge that it is will hardly seem implausible. After all, sooner or later 'free health care for all' has to be paid for by somebody; and that somebody has to make decisions about how much you're really worth to him.



It's been a while since we had a snakebite among our dogs, but we have a 9-month-old here at Chez T99 who came back in from his morning run with some kind of bite on his front paw.

We never see the precise snakes that cause the problem; the dogs just come limping back to the house saying "Mom!" Here in Texas we have all four of the U.S. poisonous types: rattlesnake, copperhead, water moccasin (cottonmouth), and coral snake. The ones we see from a distance here on our mixed woodland-and-swamp site are mostly cottonmouths, but at least one of the past dog bites, to judge from its effects, must have been a rattlesnake.

Normally the only way we can tell what kind of bite a dog got is that a cottonmouth bite swells and then goes down after a few days, whereas a rattlesnake bite leads to pretty nasty tissue damage over the following week or two. I'm not even going to link to any of the pictures of afflicted dogs, which are easy enough to find on the webtubes if you're interested. The best thing I can say about the symptoms is that they look a lot worse than they really are in terms of danger. We've had only one dog suffer those unforgettable effects. He pulled through, despite some alarming brown pee that indicated kidney damage and required a couple of days of IV fluids, with only a little piece of missing lip that gives him an endearing sneer.

The good news this morning is that part of the reason we can't tell what kind of snake it was is the beneficial effects of the rattlesnake vaccine we've administered to all of our dogs. The vaccine is made for rattlesnake venom but has some effect on the similar venom of copperheads. It has no effect, apparently, on moccasins. It's quite moderately priced and available through most vets in snaky country like this. Most reports suggest that it greatly reduces the danger of a rattlesnake bite. I'm encouraged so far: our little 45-pound newcomer's swelling is limited to his foot, whereas past bites to his buddy have led quickly to a severe swelling of the entire leg. The vet administered some penicillin for the dirty puncture and some corticosteroids for pain and swelling. We opted not to drive into the nearest city for wildly expensive and probably unnecessary antivenin.

We have a zillion snakes here. The little guy is going to have to learn to leave them alone. His buddy, a slightly larger dog without much sense, has either learned his lesson or has become immune at last.

Sometimes the Bible

Sometimes the Bible Has Certain Ambiguities:

A group called the National Association of Evangelicals has put together what they call a biblical guide to immigration. What are the Bible's principles?

Once agreed upon metrics for a secure border have been met, a plan can and should be implemented to bring the 12 million undocumented workers out of the shadows where they are too often exploited and preyed upon by unscrupulous employers and other societal predators.

After all, as people of faith, we are called upon to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39) and do unto others as we would have them do unto us (Matthew 7:12). We are instructed as Christians to meet the needs of those who are suffering (Matthew 25:31-36 ) and to give a cup of cold water in Jesus' name (Matthew 10:42). The story of the Good Samaritan informs our spiritual obligation to reach out to those in need of assistance (Luke 10:30-37) and to treat the weak and vulnerable with kindness (Micah 6:8; Malachi 3:5-6 ).

Once the borders are secure, we should have a grace period where undocumented workers can come forward, register, pay fines and back taxes, undergo a criminal background check, agree to learn to read, write and speak English, and go to the back of the line behind those who have, and are, trying to enter our country legally. Those who do not choose to accept this generous offer should be deported immediately.

This is not amnesty.
Well, actually it is; amnesty is not, as they go on to say, a "pardon," but rather a period of time in which you can admit guilt and receive no punishment.

Yet it occurs to me that the Bible has more than one mode for dealing with questions of immigration. For example, this mode:
Then Joshua and all Israel with him moved on from Libnah to Lachish; he took up positions against it and attacked it. 32 The LORD handed Lachish over to Israel, and Joshua took it on the second day. The city and everyone in it he put to the sword, just as he had done to Libnah. 33 Meanwhile, Horam king of Gezer had come up to help Lachish, but Joshua defeated him and his army—until no survivors were left.

34 Then Joshua and all Israel with him moved on from Lachish to Eglon; they took up positions against it and attacked it. 35 They captured it that same day and put it to the sword and totally destroyed everyone in it, just as they had done to Lachish.

36 Then Joshua and all Israel with him went up from Eglon to Hebron and attacked it. 37 They took the city and put it to the sword, together with its king, its villages and everyone in it. They left no survivors. Just as at Eglon, they totally destroyed it and everyone in it.

38 Then Joshua and all Israel with him turned around and attacked Debir. 39 They took the city, its king and its villages, and put them to the sword. Everyone in it they totally destroyed. They left no survivors. They did to Debir and its king as they had done to Libnah and its king and to Hebron.

40 So Joshua subdued the whole region, including the hill country, the Negev, the western foothills and the mountain slopes, together with all their kings. He left no survivors. He totally destroyed all who breathed, just as the LORD, the God of Israel, had commanded.
Now, Joshua could be played here by the United States in its period of "Manifest Destiny"; or by the American version of La Raza, today. In any case, it strikes me as at least as plausible a "biblical" interpretation as the one on offer here. Not that they're wrong; just that they may want to tighten up their shot group on just where they think their authority is coming from.



You've got to be patient for the first 60 seconds of this; the young women look bored and distracted going through a pointless little musical number. After that, they'll blow you away. One of those routines is like something disturbing out of a horror movie, a kind of unbelievable skittering and twisting. The last routine is worth waiting for.

More Cute Animal Stuff

More Cute Animal Stuff

I can't help myself. A friend sent this link to pictures of the tiniest bird babies hatching and fledging over a 21-day period. It's several pages with only a couple of photos per page, so keep hitting "next."

I'm posting this in honor of our upcoming annual Hummingbird migration, when we can expect to have thousands of birds on the dozens of feeders strung around our porch, and people will be coming to town from all over to see the show.

The Other White Meat

The Other White Meat

I don't which is funnier, the "Eek, that unfamiliar meat is icky" response or the "Awww, I don't want to eat anything cute" response. For carnivores, we have a bizarre attitude toward eating meat. I don't think most of us have ever been hungry enough.

Of course, I'm as guilty as anyone of thinking of all animals as my pets.

Njal 6

Njal's Saga, Week Six:

This week's reading is here; next week's is here.

Before we move on to this week's reading, though, I want to touch on one section of interest from last week that we didn't discuss. It has to do with Norse beliefs about the afterlife.

Now those two, Skarphedinn and Hogni, were out of doors one
evening by Gunnar's cairn on the south side. The moon and stars
were shining clear and bright, but every now and then the clouds
drove over them. Then all at once they thought they saw the
cairn standing open, and lo! Gunnar had turned himself in the
cairn and looked at the moon. They thought they saw four lights
burning in the cairn, and none of them threw a shadow. They saw
that Gunnar was merry, and he wore a joyful face. He sang a
song, and so loud, that it might have been heard though they had
been further off.

"He that lavished rings in largesse,
When the fights' red rain-drips fell,
Bright of face, with heart-strings hardy,
Hogni's father met his fate;
Then his brow with helmet shrouding,
Bearing battle-shield, he spake,
`I will die the prop of battle,
Sooner die than yield an inch,
Yes, sooner die than yield an inch."

After that the cairn was shut up again.

"Wouldst thou believe these tokens if Njal or I told them to
thee?" says Skarphedinn.

"I would believe them," he says, "if Njal told them, for it is
said he never lies."

"Such tokens as these mean much," says Skarphedinn, "when he
shows himself to us, he who would sooner die than yield to his
foes; and see how he has taught us what we ought to do."
The Vikings appear to have believed that dead men retained their physical shape, and indeed their physical bodies. There are stories about men going into the howes to recover ancestral weapons, and having to wrest these by force from the dead: but the dead are physical beings, not ghosts as are often conceived elsewhere.

Gunnar, here, is likewise a physically real, dead being. He retains a connection to the living, and Njal's sons believe he has come to teach them something by showing his afterlife to them: for one thing, he is teaching them that the man who fights and never yields is joyous in the afterlife. Conferring this with the recent post on natural theology, we would call this a 'road two' belief: the soul of a man who fights for what he believes best will do well beyond the veil.

That is, you might say, the old religion of the Vikings at work: but in this week's reading we come to the Conversion of Iceland.

Note how they proceed with the debate in something resembling an orderly manner. They discuss it -- some men say it is wicked to abandon the old faith, but Njal says it is wise. They craft poems about it -- including traditional flyting verses, insults aimed in this case at the old gods. They apply an empirical test, the test of the three fires. Note the use of a control sample!
"Well," says Thangbrand, "I will give you the means whereby ye
shall prove whether my faith is better. We will hallow two
fires. The heathen men shall hallow one and I the other, but a
third shall be unhallowed; and if the Baresark is afraid of the
one that I hallow, but treads both the others, then ye shall take
the faith."

"That is well spoken," says Gest, "and I will agree to this for
myself and my household."

And when Gest had so spoken, then many more agreed to it.

Then it was said that the Baresark was coming up to the
homestead, and then the fires were made and burnt strong. Then
men took their arms and sprang up on the benches, and so

The Baresark rushed in with his weapons. He comes into the room,
and treads at once the fire which the heathen men had hallowed,
and so comes to the fire that Thangbrand had hallowed, and dares
not to tread it, but said that he was on fire all over. He hews
with his sword at the bench, but strikes a crossbeam as he
brandished the weapon aloft. Thangbrand smote the arm of the
Baresark with his crucifix, and so mighty a token followed that
the sword fell from the Baresark's hand.
Berserks were said by Icelanders to have sworn an oath to fear neither fire nor iron, as you can read in the Ynglinga saga. That is why this particular test seemed a good one.

Kids and Freedom

Kids and Freedom

This essay from "Fred on Everything" about growing up without a "vindictively mommified" culture reminded me what we often discuss here, especially concerning the need of boys to explore:

[B]eing Southern kids, we boys knew how to handle guns, and the girls knew how to handle us, and though the country boys were physically tough from doing real work (consult a history book), we were not crazy in the head, as the phrase was. . . . The wretechedness we see today—the kid who shoots ten classmates to death, the alleged students strung out on crystal meth, the suicides, the frequent pregnancies—just didn’t happen. Why? Because (I strongly suspect) we were left the hell alone. . . . I do know that the boys needed, as plants need sunlight, to take canoes up unknown creeks, to swim and bike and compete—without a caring adult.

A fine book on a similar subject is "How to Build a Tin Canoe" by Robb White IV, the renowned boat-builder who also is the brother of humorist Bailey White ("Mama Makes Up Her Mind") and the son of author Robb White III, a Hollywood screenwriter who also wrote many adventure novels for young people. An excerpt from "Tin Canoe":

There were a variable number of my cousins, both boys and girls, some almost babies, and my two sisters, and the girl (best friend of the oldest sister) who would wind up as m wife. Altogether, the whole bunch of children at the coasthouse averaged around seven or eight, and usually all of them wanted to go. As I said, we were not supervised by our parents at all -- didn't even have to come home for meals, but if we did, there it was, if we could find it. We were even exempt from evening muster and often stayed out all night rampaging up and down the wild shore in that old Reynolds. When we ran out of gas, we just rowed and towed.

My cousins and I, too, benefitted from a lot of benign neglect from our parents, who just didn't seem that anxious about us, and indeed we never got into any real trouble.



From Anzio beach:

Police were called to a beach at Anzio south of Rome by a furious mother who said the way the “attractive” sunbather was rubbing lotion on her body had “troubled her sons aged 14 and 12.”
In this day and age, you have to admire policemen who still bother with euphemisms.