Carnies for Romney

I went to the county fair last night. Good crop of beef on display, well-rounded and well-handled. Down toward the midway there was a dunking booth. Now you know how this usually works. Usually if this is a carnie ride, you have a clown who badmouths the crowd as they walk by, so people hate him enough to dunk him. When the local folks are running it, sometimes they get lovely women to agree to suffer sitting on the stool.

Well, this was carnie-run, but there were no clowns to be seen. Instead, you had two guys dressed up in white shirts and black ties, one wearing an Obama mask and the other wearing a Romney mask. I think you got to pick who you threw at, but Romney's shirt looked pretty dry. Every time I went by, the Obama clown was on the stool. Missed shots would be answered with a cry of, "Four more years!"

That's pretty clever. I'm guessing they made good money off that.

Lakota Nation Secedes

For the last hundred years or so, we've engaged in a political fiction in which we treated the Native American Nations as sovereign, and they pretended they believed we really meant it. The Lakota Nation has chosen to call that bluff.

It happens that Aaron Two Elk, whom I mentioned recently, was Oglala Lakota. I'm sure he would be proud today. What we must watch is how the US government responds. In the past it hasn't taken movements of this type seriously; it may (and indeed will likely) simply ignore the declaration. What the Lakota Nation does in response, and what we do in response to that, will be interesting to watch.

Speaking of the Forthcoming Games.... about some bagpipes?

Rathkeltair will be there, and so will Marc Gunn, formerly of the Brobdingnagian Bards.

I guess Saturdays are when we do the bawdy songs around here. I usually think better of it by Sunday, but this one might survive.


Our friend Lars Walker is apparently kicking ass and taking names: at least, so I judge from these modest words, taken with his usual aversion to self-promotion.
Another good day for the Vikings yesterday, especially in terms of fighting. I found, to my amazement, that I won most of my fights against much younger, faster opponents. I can only conclude (and Ragnar concurs) that all these years of slogging it out, one on one, with a very good sword fighter have borne fruit in a little actual skill.

I don't expect it to last. The young fighters will learn quickly, and they'll learn my weaknesses faster than anything else. I think I can see it happening even now.
Also this:
We have two young couples in our group this year, one of them newlyweds, and a family with teenage boys. This livens up everything.... The high point of yesterday's fights was when I "killed" the new bridegroom, raised my sword, and shouted, "SHE'S MINE!"
I gather that Hostfest is the Norse-American version of the Stone Mountain Scottish Highland Games, which by the way is coming up later this month. I hope to be there.

Any video, Lars?

It's your fault I'm stabbing you

From Theodore Dalrymple, exasperation with a French imam who purports to believe in freedom of expression but blames a French magazine for the violence of protestors:
Freedom of expression requires not so much the exercise of self-control in what is said as its exercise in reaction to what is said.  I can hardly look at a book these days without taking offense at something that it contains, but if I smash a window in annoyance, the blame is only mine—even if the author knows perfectly well that what he wrote will offend many such as I.
Or, as the Queen Latifah character said in "Living Out Loud":  "My husband used to cheat on me, made me feel like I was the crazy one.   One day he told me it was my fault he was cheating on me. I picked up a knife and told him it was his fault I was stabbing him.  I did jail time, but it was worth it."

No WARNing

The WARN Act is supposed to protect workers from unexpected layoffs, by requiring 60 days' notice of planned facilities closings.  A couple of months back, someone in the Obama administration noticed that the timing of the impending sequestration is such that the WARN Act would require notices to go out just before the election to many, many voters who happen to work for defense contractors -- can't have that!  So the Department of Labor issued advisories that under the, er. special circumstances, the WARN Act didn't apply, because, election.

The defense contractors thought about it for a while and decided that it might not be safe to rely on the Labor directive, since workers would have a right to sue under the plain terms of the Act.  So the OMB has stepped up:  now they're promising to indemnify the employers against not only the legal fees they will incur but also the amount of any judgment rendered against them.  Using taxpayer money.  Is the purpose to delay bad news until after the election?  No, the OMB explains that issuance of an unwelcome WARN notice would
waste States' resources in undertaking employment assistance activities where none are needed and creaty unnecessary anxiety and uncertainty for workers.
Including PTSD, no doubt.  It remains to be seen whether the employers will fall for it.  There are public policy restrictions on indemnifying people against the consequences of deliberate violations of law, and it's a big gamble, anyway, on the perserverence of these hacks in their  present positions of authority to dispense goodies from the public funds for their personal benefit.

I'm most interested to see if the White House will figure out a way to impose penalties on employers who decide to play it safe and send the notices anyway.  Penalties, that is, in addition the withhold of their bribe.

Mentioned in Despatches

As most of you will know, the armed forces of the United Kingdom have continued an old tradition called "mentioned in despatches," here "MiD" for short. From a time when dispatches (to use the American spelling) to headquarters were relatively rare and limited to matters of significance, a soldier's gallantry being included was a high honor. It remains one in the UK today.

You can read more about the latest ones from BLACKFIVE, but as Matt notes this one is special.
MiD: Sergeant Mark Moffitt, who stayed in the line of fire for half an hour to foil an enemy ambush after promising his wife he wouldn’t do anything brave in Afghanistan.

The Onion Claims Another Scalp

This time, it's the Fars news agency. The original Onion piece is here.

The best part is at the bottom, where they link to a page capture of the news story with the tagline, "For more on this story: Please visit our Iranian subsidiary organization, Fars."

Foreign Policy

Mark Salter points out that he has been a consistent critic of Mr. Romney's, which should (he appears to hope) raise his credibility as a critic of President Obama's. The offense is significant:
This week the president of the United States and purported leader of the free world breezed into New York City for a quick game of softball catch with the ladies of “The View,” and a drop-by at the United Nations General Assembly to give a speech. Then he was off to Ohio to resume his most pressing engagement, his re-election campaign, having refused to be detained by pesky world leaders whose requests to meet with him were rebuffed en mass....

[Of course m]eetings between the president and various heads of state would not instantly ameliorate any of these problems. And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who’s been designated as a sort of acting chief executive this week, will, I’m sure, manage the responsibility competently.
It's true. If you voted for Clinton, be happy: right now, she's the President of the United States.

This isn't the first time this has come up. The problem is especially large with Israel, for some reason. The Obama administration has committed a series of public, diplomatic snubs of Israeli leadership, which I can only assume are purposely designed to show "the Muslim world," widely presumed to hate America in part because of Israel, that Israel and the United States aren't all that close after all.

The President refused to meet with the Israeli Prime Minister (previous link), but found time for a television appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. (It turns out that the President's afternoon on the day when Prime Minister Netanyahu wanted to meet with him is entirely free.) The US delegation at the UN remained seated throughout another Iranian speech condemning Israel, in contrast to long practice of leaving during these speeches (as the Israeli delegation did). Then, our top UN diplomat didn't bother to attend the Israeli Prime Minister's speech.

At this point, we've moved beyond explanations that merely point to the Presidential re-election campaign's internals suggesting a tighter race than he wants to admit. This is a clear policy decision by the United States to at least publicly downplay the existence of a US/Israeli alliance.

Now, having gone back to look at the President's remarks to the UN, I see no actual recognition of an alliance (or even "friendship" or something similar) between Israel and the United States. The President does speak against the actual elimination of Israel, and he says that hatred of Israel, the West, or the United States should not govern anyone's policy. He speaks against Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, and seems to leave open the door that the US might take some sort of steps beyond negotiation to resolve the matter. Those steps, and what might provoke them, are unsaid.

Still, the main thing that strikes me is this: when President Obama took office, we had four allies in the Middle East. The most important was Egypt, formally a "Major Non-NATO Ally" with whom we engaged in major military exercises. Now, the President says he doesn't consider Egypt an ally, and the President of Egypt says he doesn't think we're allies either. Not enemies, to be sure, but not allies.

The second was Saudi Arabia. One has head nothing much on that front lately, but they cannot be happy about the steady progress of Iran toward a nuclear weapon.

The third was Iraq, with whom we had negotiated a long-term agreement for engagement and support by what was intended to be a major diplomatic effort, based out of the largest US embassy in the world. There were negotiations in process to provide for their protection, as well as a long-term presence of US military trainers to engage and advise the Iraqi Army. Instead the President allowed the negotiations to die, so that our forces had to withdraw entirely, our diplomats were so unprotected that they had to disavow almost all of their intended mission, and Iraqi political leaders were left alone to feel the pull of Iran and the Sunni powers.

The fourth was Israel. At this point the status of that alliance must be said to be unclear. If US military planners are focused on keeping us clear of Israeli actions and their consequences, though, it's dubious whether there is anything like a true alliance at all.

Libya was a good move by the Administration, one that I expect to bear fruit in the medium term. I don't criticize all of what he has done. But our policy in the Middle East -- I do not even include the disaster in Afghanistan -- has been a characterized by a shocking loss of strength and support.

An Unexpected Concession

One thing we rarely see is the admission by a political partisan that he is wrong, his opponent is right, and his opponent's arguments are really much stronger than originally believed. Witness now one Mark Thompson, supporter of Elizabeth Warren:
Professor Jacobson has uncovered this morning a case in which Elizabeth Warren entered an appearance in a federal appellate court as a representative of a Massachusetts client in a case that appears to have clearly implicated Massachusetts law. Although this is still a federal appellate court, because we’re dealing with a Massachusetts client and issues of Massachusetts law, this looks really, really bad for Professor Warren. With this bombshell, I would no longer view the case against her as weak.
He went on to send a personal email commending Professor Jacobson's research and conceding the point.

That's well done, really by both men.

They found them in someone's trunk

Usually we have to wait until after an election for this kind of convenient discovery.


I don't know.  Maybe I'm in a perverse mood today.  I rather like many of these shoes.

Hallelujah Trail

"Women will remake the world."

Well, maybe. Hey, did you ever see this old movie?

UPDATE: She won.

Is this torture?

Protestors in Texas are handcuffing themselves to construction equipment in order to block the XL Keystone Pipeline.  The pipeline's developers asked police to get harsh with them.  The protestors eventually agreed to remove themselves after they found a combination of pepper spray and tasers unendurably painful.

Is this torture?  I don't call it torture unless they're in custody.  Personally I'd have preferred to get some hydraulic snippers to chop the handcuffs loose, but I don't think people have a right to expect an official paralysis in the face of a forcible sit-in.  I'm trying to imagine if I'd feel differently if, say, the sit-in had been in aid of keeping Elian Gonzalez in the country.

Frank J. on Elections

This is a good piece. My favorite part:
Why would minorities have a hard time getting photo IDs?

Because… um… minority stuff that you just wouldn’t understand, cracker.

Considering all the things one needs a photo ID for, such as writing a check, boarding an airplane, and even purchasing cold medicine, if people care about minorities, shouldn’t they focus on getting them photo IDs rather than blocking the requirement for having a photo ID to vote?

No, because… um…

This is pointless. This type of voter fraud never even happens anyway. It’s science fiction. I mean, someone going to the polls and pretending to be someone else is like some sort of space alien that changes shape — that’s just crazy.

Is free speech overrated?

Prof. Posner is stirring things up this week by suggesting that we Americans take our freedom of speech way too seriously.  It's a parochial attachment, he argues, and insensitive to the feelings of the rest of the world.  "Americans need to learn," he says, "that the rest of the world — and not just Muslims — see no sense in the First Amendment."

And how's that working out for them?  But to return to Posner's supporting argument, it seems to be this:  the First Amendment must not be that important, because until the 1960s it didn't stop the government from cracking down on seditious speech by Communists, etc.  Also, freedom of speech is not a legitimate concern for conservatives, because in the past they've argued that some kinds of obscenity undermine the public order; conservatives took interest only when political correctness got out of control in the 1980s.  When liberals figured out that freedom of speech is just another way of letting people "disparage" the ideas of others, conservatives countered that the "marketplace of ideas" would sort out the good ideas from the bad.  But we all know that some ideas are irretrievably bad, so there's no point in permitting their expression, especially since we also all know from sad experience that they won't go away even when exposed to sunlight.  What's more, America during the Cold War failed to uphold the Constitutional principle of state's rights under pressure from enemies who exploited our civil rights abuses for their own purposes of propaganda, so why should we now uphold the Constitutional principle of free speech in the face of worldwide animosity?   After all,
It is useful if discomfiting to consider that many people around the world may see America’s official indifference to Muslim (or any religious) sensibilities as similar to its indifference to racial discrimination before the civil rights era.
In the technical terms employed by those of us, like myself, who benefited from formal Constitutional training, this is balderdash.  Posner seems unable to think through some critical distinctions.  One is the difference between private curbs on behavior, on the one hand, and official government mandates, on the other.  There are many things I'm quite free to say legally that I have no intention of saying, for my own private reasons, including kindness, respect, or discretion.  The point is that someone has to decide when those reasons are good enough, and I insist that that person be myself, not my local speech-control bureaucrat.

There also is a critical difference between words and action.  Even supposing I felt a need to explain my Constitutional consistency to skeptical residents of other countries, I'd have little difficulty explaining why I might feel more qualms about pre-civil-rights-era racial discrimination than about my country's official indifference to anyone's religious sensibilities.  One involved violence and active injustice that deprived people of employment, education, and sometimes life and limb.  The other involves words and thoughts that hurt someone's feelings.

I'll add one more distinction that is fuzzier than it should be in Posnerland:   the difference between what we decide for ourselves and what the Muslim world abroad may think about it.  If Muslim leaders are willing and able to filter out our messages at their borders, that's up to them.  We don't need to become their agents in that censorship project.

We've had some form of freedom of speech so long in this country that coddled professors can forget the lessons of what it was like before the American War of Independence.  There was a reason our forefathers didn't trust the government to decide who should be locked up for expressing unacceptable ideas.  For one thing, they didn't much like the idea of life under a government that looked and acted very much like an Islamocracy.  Leaders naturally dislike being criticized.  Leaders also have to have some power, or they can't lead.  That's a dangerous combination, just the kind of thing the Constitution is there to keep a lid on.

Intra-Lutheran strife

The incomparable Iowahawk had these people's number six years ago:
Over the past five years, the volatile Midwest has produced violent rage like the knockwurst output at Milwaukee's venerable Usinger's -- sudden, repeated, and in long unbroken strings.  One of the principal catalysts was the rise in Uff Da insurgency, led by the enigmatic Pastor Duane Gunderson, who seek a unified Lutheran caliphate stretching from the Great Plains to Lake Huron, and the banning of non-Big 10/Pac 10 apostates from the Rose Bowl.  Gunderson remains in hiding, but his influence was seen last year in the widely publicized Lutefisk desecration riots that rocked the Heartland amid the pancake breakfast holidays. 
Still, outside of the Dells and a handful of violent outposts near its western Mississippi River border, Wisconsin remained a relatively calm exception to the Midwestern maelstrom surrounding it -- a fact that experts attribute to subtle differences in culture and religion. 
"Unlike the ultra-extreme, radical Lutheran sectarians of Iowa and Minnesota, most ethnic Wisconsinites belong to the Wisconsin Lutheran Synod," said Joseph Killian, a Midwestern Studies professor at Emory University in Atlanta.  "And if you add in three Super Bowl titles, easier access to beer, and walleye fishing, and you're going to have a much calmer and more stable culture." 
All that would change in November with the publication of four cartoons in a Texas office newsletter -- cartoons that today have brought this once happily beer-goggled society to the precipice of all-out culture war.
H/t Instapundit.

Ride the Thunder

Here's my retirement plan, friends and neighbors.

By the way, when he says that he never thinks about the next moment when pushing off, he says this: "The past doesn't exist. The future doesn't exist. There's only now."

That happens to be an exact paraphrase of St. Augustine. One of you and I were speaking of this recently, via email. Augustine is right, as we can attest. The now is what does exist: what was "now" even an instant ago is gone, and does not exist in the same way as now. Yet that creates a problem for us: if the past no longer exists, and the future does not yet exist, what to make of how we live our lives? We depend on time, on extension of time, not just on a present instant.
I am about to repeat a psalm that I know. Before I begin, my attention is extended to the whole; but when I have begun, as much of it as becomes past by my saying it is extended in my memory; and the life of this action of mine is divided between my memory, on account of what I have repeated, and my expectation, on account of what I am about to repeat; yet my consideration is present with me, through which that which was future may be carried over so that it may become past. Which the more it is done and repeated, by so much (expectation being shortened) the memory is enlarged, until the whole expectation be exhausted, when that whole action being ended shall have passed into memory. And what takes place in the entire psalm, takes place also in each individual part of it, and in each individual syllable: this holds in the longer action, of which that psalm is perchance a portion; the same holds in the whole life of man, of which all the actions of man are parts; the same holds in the whole age of the sons of men, of which all the lives of men are parts.

(Confessions of St. Augustine, Book 11 chapter 28)
St. Augustine's conclusion is surprising, even shocking: he asserts that time is a creation of the soul. So why is it the same, more or less, for every soul?

That's the kind of question that deserves an answer. It happens that there is a good one; but rather than giving it to you, I'll ask you to give it to me. I want you to think it through.

The Tomahawk Chop

Before he died in 1999, a man named Aaron Two Elk led a campaign in Atlanta against the Tomahawk Chop, that sort-of chant that originated with sports fans of Florida State. It came to the Atlanta Braves with Deion Sanders, a Florida State alumn, and became infamous in 1991 when the Braves went to (and very nearly won) the World Series after being the worst team in baseball the year before.

Aaron Two Elk was one of the American Indian Movement who participated in the Wounded Knee 1973 uprising. It is an interesting story if you haven't heard it; many of them were Vietnam veterans who had served their country, but found when they returned to the reservation that they were no longer prepared to endure the corruption and abusive police tactics that were endemic at the time. Here is a photo of Mr. Two Elk during the uprising.

I met him while he was leading his anti-Chop protests. He was a very nice person, and very brave: often he would be out there protesting alone while hundreds of baseball fans poured out abuse on him as they passed his protest. Atlanta was not the safest city in America back then, and the city was caught up in the fever of supporting their team. There was no little danger of becoming the object of more than verbal attentions from a mob doubly drunk on stadium beer and the thrill of victory.

He went out there alone anyway, because he was proud of his heritage. While the "Tomahawk Chop" was not on the same scale as the abuses afflicting the reservations, he objected to it as a way in which the broader American society mocked Native American heritage for its own purposes. Whether you agreed with him or not -- even famously-sensitive Jane Fonda could not see the Chop as anything other than harmless fun -- you had to respect his conviction and his courage.

This is all in the news today because Scott Brown supporters were apparently doing the Tomahawk Chop at an Elizabeth Warren rally.

The Blue Mass Group says that Scott Brown has to explain his supporters' tone.

Yet it occurs to me that this might be one place where even Mr. Two Elk might have thought the "Chop" was appropriate. She and it belong together. They are precisely parallel. If you object to one, you have exactly the same reasons to object to the other.

BMG also cites this video, which they attribute to Republican activists. Maybe instead of dismissing it for that reason, they should have listened to what the people in it have to say.

The President's Speech to the United Nations

It was a rather long address, but one that has some well-crafted moments. The fears that it would be an apology by the President of the United States for the free speech of an American citizen were either unfounded, or were addressed in revision once Drudge leaked the rumor.

Most speeches at the UN are pretty empty affairs, and this one lacks teeth just where teeth are most needed -- on the issues of Syria and Iran. Still, it's not weak, just non-specific about exactly when and what shall be done. As Israel has so often asked of late, what are our red lines? "Let me be clear" is not enough if it isn't followed by actual clarity.

Still, overall it wasn't nearly as bad as we were told it would be, and a few parts of the speech are very solid. Let us give credit where credit is due, on the occasion that the man was representing all of us to the world.


John Bolton is not happy with the speech.

Bolton's remarks aside, most of the reaction has been on one line: “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.” Well, slander is a known lie about someone's character. Of course you ought not to speak known lies.

If you can defend the distinction between "debate" and "slander," there's no problem. The question is whether America will have the strength to defend that distinction.

Nuts & bolts of democracy

Some of you may have heard that we have an election coming up.  It's possible you've noticed one or two news clips about voter fraud as well.

OK, I know we're kind of political junkies here.  That's why I'm linking this plea from a woman in Illinois who's fighting an uphill battle against voter fraud in one of the most straightforward and uncontroversial ways possible:  by recruiting Republican election judges for 500 precincts in a deep-blue state.

If you're not in the habit of working the polls on election day, you may not realize that there are supposed to be election judges from both parties present at every polling place.  In areas where one party is particularly demoralized, it can be hard to find a judge from the minority party.  We have a constant problem in my precinct, for instance, finding a Democratic judge to serve.  Luckily for the Democrats in my precinct, I wouldn't dream of countenancing any shady behavior at my polls and would deputize armed fellow citizens to nip it in the bud.  Sadly, that is not the case for all precincts in America.  Even where there is no entrenched, deliberate corruption, we live in an imperfect world:  some people need the constant presence of those with opposing political viewpoints in order to avoid drifting into slipshod practices on election day.

All of this is to encourage each of you to consider volunteering as a poll worker on November 6.  If your precinct is traditionally well-staffed, the precinct judge positions may go only to workers with a proven history of volunteering and training as lower-level poll workers.  Don't be surprised, though, if the election judge position goes begging where you live, especially if you're in the minority.  In that case, please look into becoming a precinct judge.  Just check with your party's county chairman.  The position usually pays a little bit, and the training is not difficult.

Speaking of voter fraud/voter suppression, Pennsylvania has been struggling with the issue this season. I read yesterday that someone in that state noticed belatedly that the proposed new voter i.d. law permits nursing homes and universities to issue voter i.d.'s to any resident of their counties, regardless of whether the voter resides at the nursing home or attends the university.  There have been reports that the primary intended issuer, the DMV, was slow or unreasonably nitpicky about minor variations in name.  I'm all for privatizing government functions, of course, in order to ensure better service, so although some Pennsylvania Republicans are squeamish about what they consider an unwise loophole, I don't really share their concerns -- at least not as long as we don't witness over-enthusiastic issuance of voter i.d.'s to people from the citizenship-challenged or differently animated communities.

Good Questions

You probably heard that one of Sec. Clinton's aides got snippy over some questions. We like Sec. Clinton around here, but the questions are pretty solid.
Why didn’t the State Department search the consulate and find AMB Steven’s diary first? What other potential valuable intelligence was left behind that could have been picked up by apparently anyone searching the grounds? Was any classified or top secret material also left? Do you still feel that there was adequate security at the compound, considering it was not only overrun but sensitive personal effects and possibly other intelligence remained out for anyone passing through to pick up? Your statement on CNN sounded pretty defensive–do you think it’s the media’s responsibility to help secure State Department assets overseas after they’ve been attacked?
I'd kind of like to know the answers to those questions, actually. Probably most of us who have handled classified information would like to hear a firm answer here. Is there one?

The (All-Too-Plausible) Story of Tom Sawyer

Once upon a time, one of those firemen who used to make up the rowdy fire-companies of the territory of California went on a bender with a man named Samuel Clemens. Your source for this fairy tale is Smithsonian Magazine.

It's a hard tale, so prepare yourself. Not that Tom Sawyer was easy, mind. The best stories only get harder.

Let Them Eat...

...well, not cake. Let them eat spinach or broccoli or something.
One government official tried to put the blame on the students.

"One thing I think we need to keep in mind as kids say they're still hungry is that many children aren't used to eating fruits and vegetables at home, much less at school. So it's a change in what they are eating. If they are still hungry, it's that they are not eating all the food that's being offered," USDA Deputy Undersecretary Janey Thornton was quoted as saying.
Hey, fruits and vegetables are good for you. Less good for you? Being taught that an American citizen eats what his government tells him, whether that leaves him hungry or not.

Not that the plan doesn't have other advantages.
Despite the fact that the new regulations have increased the cost of a lunch 20 to 25 cents per plate, it’s not pleasing students.
Ingrates. If the government service costs more than it used to, it must be worth more. That's just simple economics.


In a way, that's a very accurate characterization of these remarks.
"Iran has been around for the last seven, 10 thousand years. They (the Israelis) have been occupying those territories for the last 60 to 70 years, with the support and force of the Westerners. They have no roots there in history."
I mean, one couldn't possibly take remarks like that seriously, could one? Oh, by the way, the Holocaust didn't happen, either. Some of you are apparently really bad at history.

It's a shame. There are parts of Iran where the Peripatetic school remains in flower. They are by far not the main influence, and that too is a shame; but they are a living thing there. That's a treasure, one we ought to befriend and conserve; at least, if any among us still know how to recognize how important that school was and is, and again may be, for the West.

Money, Money, Money

More on a question we discussed not too long ago: is money spent on politics just wasted?

My sense is yes.
[S]igns are few that super PACs have had the major impact that both supporters and critics predicted. The flood of spending doesn't appear to have significantly influenced voter opinion in key states in the presidential contest or in top congressional races.
This follows the form of the surveys that search for hidden racism by asking you if you think your neighbors might be subject to racism. The theory is that if you think your neighbors might be, well, maybe you are and you're just afraid to admit it. Your answer to the question about your neighbor establishes something about you; it doesn't actually establish anything about your neighbor.

Here, we have a strong sense from the political class that their neighbors are terribly subject to paid propaganda. I think this establishes something about that class -- that they are hungry to buy influence, and fear their opponents outbidding them.

In terms of 'their neighbors,' though, nothing has been established. My sense is that most Americans ignore the stuff as an irritating distraction. We know what we're going to do, and why, and the last person who's going to change my mind is a paid spokesman.

Wisconsin seems to suggest that the vast flood of money and activism moved the needle not at all. I think that's going to prove to be generally true. Your average American has been subject to the manipulations of the most clever geniuses of advertising since he or she was born. They know what they are looking at, and they are hard to move.

"What if Bush . . . .?

The traditional game of "What If Bush Were in the White House?" is even more entertaining in an election year, per Walter Russell Meade:
If the president were a conservative Republican rather than a liberal Democrat, I have little doubt that much of the legacy press would be focused more on what is wrong with America.  There would be more negative reporting about the economy, more criticism of policy failures and many more withering comparisons between promise and performance.  The contrast between a rising stock market and poor jobs performance that the press now doesn’t think of blaming on President Obama would be reported as demonstrating a systemic bias in favor of the rich and the powerful if George W. Bush were in the White House.  The catastrophic decline in African-American net worth during the last four years would, if we had a Republican president, be presented in the press as illustrating the racial indifference or even the racism of the administration.  As it is, it is just an unfortunate reality, not worth much publicity and telling us nothing about the intentions or competence of the people in charge. 
The current state of the Middle East would be reported as illustrating the complete collapse of American foreign policy—if Bush were in the White House.  The criticism of drone strikes and Guantanamo that is now mostly confined to the far left would be mainstream conventional wisdom, and the current unrest in the Middle East would be depicted as a response to American militarism.  The in and out surge in Afghanistan would be mercilessly exposed as a strategic flop, reflecting the naive incompetence of an inexperienced president out of his depth.  The SEALS rather than the White House would be getting the credit for the death of Osama bin Laden, and there would be more questions about whether killing him and then bragging endlessly and tastelessly about it was a contributing factor to the current unrest.  Political cartoons of Cheney spiking the football would be everywhere.  It’s also likely we would have heard much more about how killing Osama was strategically unimportant as he had become an increasingly symbolic figure and there would have been a lot of detailed and focused analysis of how the foolish concentration on bin Laden led the clueless Bush administration to neglect the rise of new and potentially much more dangerous Islamist groups in places like Mali.  The Libyan war would be widely denounced as an unconstitutional act of neocon militarism, with much more attention paid to the civilian casualties during the war, the chaos that followed, and the destabilizing effects on the neighborhood.  The White House fumbling around the Benghazi murders would be treated like a major scandal and dominate the news for at least a couple of weeks. 
If Bush were in the White House, the Middle East would be a horrible disaster, and it would all be America’s fault.

A Bit Dramatic, What?

Kings of War (the blog of the War Studies Department at Kings College, London) has a post on freedom of speech as viewed through the lens of an infantry officer. It's a very good piece in terms of its citations, and the officer's own experience, but in the end I find I disagree entirely.
I grew up (such that I have done) as a subaltern in an infantry regiment’s Officers’ Mess, where one of the golden rules was to avoid speaking of three particular topics when guests were present: women, politics, and religion. The reason? Because raising these issues—particularly when surrounded by people with whom we were not acquainted—was known to lead to arguments, which, in turn, were known to lead to fist fights. Since the objective of having a Mess was to create an atmosphere of conviviality—a second home, as it were—our forebears decided (after much trial and error, I am sure) that exercising restraint was a wise path to follow. Of course, this rule was not followed perfectly; when it wasn’t, there were times when the reasoning behind the wisdom of the ages was made plain. (The most popular subaltern we had was a fella who knew how to patch holes in plaster walls.)
A useful skill I've made use of myself. So, how does this lesson from within a self-selecting sub-set of British society translate to the problem at large?
Perhaps the most strident manifestation of this belief can be seen in the oration of Patrick Henry, the American legislator, who famously declared, “Give me Liberty, or give me Death!” Rousing stuff, to be sure…but is it a bit, shall we say, dramatic for our own day and age?
Is it?
Rights and freedoms are not ‘God given’ to us on stone tablets; they are human constructions, instruments designed to bring about a particular state of being. We need to figure out what just what kind of state of being we can live with and use our instruments to bring it about. We need to determine the tools, rather than the other way around. We cannot, in trying to free ourselves from the shackles of apprehended oppression, create suicide vests out of our liberties. In order to do so, we must accept that nothing is sacred. We in the West don’t seem to have a problem with viewing the spiritual as profane. We have to start looking at the material and idealogical in the same way.
The question of whether something is sacred is exactly what is in dispute. You may feel free to 'accept' that nothing is, but that is no compromise: your opponent is on the other side of the question.

The same for the idea that rights and freedoms are not "God given." This happens to be a rare point of agreement for American and Islamist political thought. The Declaration of Independence invokes the Creator, who endows men with inalienable rights: and these rights are, then, sacred. The Islamist believes that God crafted a law for men that is perfect and ought to be unchanging, and that this law -- sha'riah -- is the best guarantee of human liberty. After all, no human government can change it, meaning that the freedoms and liberties you have under that form of law are permanent and untouchable.

What is being advised here is a kind of gentleman's agreement that might be pleasant enough, if we were all prepared to be gentlemen about it. Yet even then, I think it would be unwise to abandon the idea of the sacred. For one thing, it's there whether you want it or not. The sacred is -- whatever else you think it is -- that for which you are prepared to sacrifice. Something fills that space, or you would not be a warrior.

A Prayer for Death

Confer the last request of Sir Galahad, who knew the Holy Grail:
Then he held up his hands toward heaven and said: Lord, I thank
thee, for now I see that that hath been my desire many a
day. Now, blessed Lord, would I not longer live, if it
might please thee, Lord.... And therewith [Galahad] kneeled
down to-fore the table and made his prayers, and then suddenly his
soul departed to Jesu Christ, and a great multitude of
angels bare his soul up to heaven, that the two fellows
might well behold it. Also the two fellows saw come from
heaven an hand, but they saw not the body. And then it
came right to the Vessel, and took it and the spear, and so
bare it up to heaven. Sithen was there never man so hardy
to say that he had seen the Sangreal.
It appears that both prayers were answered. Were they right?

The Trial Garden at the University of Georgia

One of the less well-known features of the University grounds is the Horticulture Department's trial garden. It is well worth a visit, if you're ever down in Athens. The State Botanical Garden is more famous, but the trial garden -- though vastly smaller -- contains an astonishing display of experimental flora.  Here are some.

Arches of flowering vines, protected by swarming honey bees.

A deep purple ornamental capsaicin.

An Asian tree more usually seen as bonsai.

More ornamental peppers.

Ranks of experiments, toward the central gazebo.

A mighty native wisteria.

Red cascade.

Apparently a homestead for boring bees -- perhaps a way of distracting them from the house?

Those boxes from "Siemens"?

. . . They weren't really from Siemens.  And we're not sure whom you sent your payments to, either, but we're not showing a credit in your name on our books.  No, we don't have an Agent K on our payroll.

Or maybe Siemens is playing a very deep game with Iran.


Sometimes it's good to be reminded that we didn't just recently wake up and find ourselves with a media that's stubbornly deaf and blind to what conservatives do, say, and think.  Try watching this news clip from election night 1980, as pundits struggle to understand how Reagan could have won.  My favorite part:  the sad recognition that idiotic voters must have blamed President Carter for a hostage crisis that he couldn't possibly have helped, followed by the snide dismissal of Henry Kissinger's prediction that Reagan's mere election would solve the hostage crisis by inauguration day.  And when did the hostages come home?  January 20, 1981.

Job creation

Tigerhawk has posted a thoughtful list of policies to spur job growth, with a focus on measures that are simple to implement and steer clear of the most contentious issues dividing the electorate.  One proposal is a "pay-go regulation budget" scheme that would mandate the elimination of an old job-killing piece of red tape for every new one created.  A related policy:  "employment impact statements" as a precondition to any new regulation.