The First Americans

Assistant Village Idiot posted a link to this very interesting interactive map and timeline of human worldwide migration as suggested by mitochondrial DNA evidence.  Most of it was what I'd generally gathered from reading over the years, but there were two discontinuities that were new to me.  First, the Mt. Toba volcanic catastrophe of about 74,000 years ago cut off a lot of people who had managed to migrate east through South Asia to Indonesia.  After that, they radiated into Southeast Asia and Australia, but also back the way they came, all the way to Europe, reversing the direction of the pre-Toba migration.

Second, the East Asians made it up to the Bering Strait and crossed into North America between 25,000 and 22,000 years ago, including a significant group that arrived on the mid-Atlantic coast.  Between 22,000 and 15,000 years ago, however, an ice age wiped out nearly all settlements and movement north of the 55th Parallel, cutting off the New World from Asia.  When things warmed up, there was a whole new migration from Asia, this time mostly hugging the west coast of the Americas and spreading all the way down into the southern hemisphere.  In the meantime, the old settlements on the mid-Atlantic coast also spread down into South America, but mostly hugging the east coast.

I thought of the map today because of a Maggie's Farm link to a Smithsonian article about the long-simmering debate over whether the Clovis culture represented the first arrival of people in North America about 13,500 years ago.  The "science was settled" for quite some time, but more recent archaeology has led many to open their minds to the possibility of pre-Clovis cultures.  There may have been two major migrations, widely separated in time and geography.

Hey, That's Funny, Because Usually Only States Have 'Regulations' Against Murder...

“In providing mail service across the country, the Postal Service attempts to work within local and state laws and regulations, when feasible,” wrote Breslin, after reminding “To Whom It May Concern” that postal workers promptly deliver over 200 billion pieces of mail annually.

“However, as you are probably aware, the Postal Service enjoys federal immunity from state and local regulation,” she continued.

Police State (part 42)

Instapundit points to this item out of New York. An application of the new gun control law just recently passed. 

Keep telling yourself it's not a police state. 

The wages of consent

Grim has been arguing with me lately about how wages work, what they reflect, and how they should be set.  We even discussed the possibility of selling freedom, in effect:  commanding a higher or more secure wage by bartering away long-term freedom, as in an indenture.  These proposals, like thought experiments about selling organs, were mostly ways to explore why neither of us could tolerate the idea.

It occurs to me now that we were missing something that's not merely a thought experiment or even a cautionary tale, but a real live, functioning economic system:

A welfare state threatens to become a system in which the most valuable service some voters can offer the market is to elect a politician who will drain resources from those who didn't elect him.  The politician pays for this service by routing a fraction of the loot back to his loyal voters.  The welfare state differs from our earliest attempts at state-administered charity in that the politician no longer is commandeering and redistributing only a small fraction of the nation's wealth to a small number of the most desperately needy.  Now he's commandeering from 49% of voters and redistributing to 51%.  Once the politician realizes that that's the path to staying in office (where he makes a handy living by skimming off the top of the redistributed funds), we are well on our way back to a command economy, one in which a centralized power directs where most of the resources shall be routed.  That way lies poverty for everyone.

How do we stop a pernicious system of votes for hire?  Honestly, I don't know.  On my darkest days I think the franchise should be weighted by the amount of taxes one pays.  Obviously that system would create its own problems.  I'm tempted to say that, once the wheels come off the cart in this particularly way, it can't be fixed.  And yet many countries that suffered behind the Iron Curtain have turned their kleptocracies around and begun to increase their prosperity again, so it's clearly not impossible.  Is it like drunks, who have to hit a hard, hard, rock bottom before change can come?

Well, That May In Some Sense Be True, But...

Outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responds to criticism on Benghazi.
There are some people in politics and in the press who can't be confused by the facts. They just will not live in an evidence-based world. And that's regrettable.
Yeah, funny thing about that: some of us would really like to base our criticism on Benghazi on solid evidence. For example, an investigation that was actually allowed access to the site would have been very desirable.

How about declassifying relevant documents so we can criticize you based on the evidence? Apparently Congress isn't up to the task, and most of the media hasn't exactly pulled out the stops either. For example, this interview appeared not to involve a great deal of pressure on her claims here. 'Secretary Clinton, let me ask you about Benghazi.' 'Well, my opponents are a regrettable and disappointing lot who don't know what they're talking about.' 'I see, thank you. We'll rush that right to press!'


Mr. Mom

Ann Althouse links to last week's WSJ article about the different parenting style of a stay-at-home dad: less process, more results.  Less empathy and sharing, more self-control and perseverance.  I liked this Althouse commenter's impression of Dad's first question to Junior in the morning:
"You wanna beer?" 
"It's 7 o'clock in the morning!" 
". . . Scotch?"


From the comments to a RedState article about immigration:
My question is why did the GOP pick up the amnesty flag at all?  This was a priority? 
The GOP "reasoning" seems to be this . . . 
Budget, nah, can't be bothered. 
Exploding Deficit, just doesn't seem important. 
Runaway Government both in size and power grab, not really worth addressing. 
Amnesty, that’s the ticket, it wrecks the budget, explodes the deficit, increases the runaway government and best of all it peeves our base!  One other benefit, it increases the Democrats base.  Wow, why didn't we think of this before!

Tax relief

No comparison of Perry's brains to those of Ted Cruz should be taken as a criticism.  Perry stumbles now and then, and he may not be the world's most articulate spokesman of conservative principles under fire, but his instincts are often right on target.  One of his newest initiatives is a website to collect comments on the best way to refund $1.8 billion dollars of what is now a $12 billion Texas state budget surplus.  (The rest will remain in the state's rainy-day fund.)

Sticker shock

As my husband noted in forwarding this link to me, the first step in controlling costs is finding out what they are.  Employees of large companies are just now receiving their first W-2's revealing the cost of the health-benefit portion of their compensation.

Voter suppression

I don't find this argument persuasive.  David Fredoso, author of “Spin Masters: How the Media Ignored the Real News and Helped Reelect Barack Obama,” maintains that Chris Matthews engaged in a voter-suppression campaign by calling Republicans racist.  However stupid or partisan Matthews's remarks may have been, I think we go off the rails if we equate unfair or irrational criticism of political parties with voter suppression.  Is Matthews supposed to have scared potentially conservative voters away from the polls by lying about the Republican leadership?  Persuading voters away from the polls is not the same as bullying them, even if the persuasion is mistaken or dishonest.  Would we be in patience with liberal complaints that Republicans suppress votes by criticizing the incumbent Democratic president?

There can be only one

AVI offers a more tasteful look at race relations than MSNBC.

Don't you hate hate?

MSNBC network contributor and former DNC communications director Karen Finney deplores the tone in the immigration debate:
Even Republicans in the Republican Party who were Latino [were] just disgusted with the tone.  Those crazy crackers on the right — if they start with their very hateful language — that is going to kill them . . . .

Die Like A Man

A post from the new site Helen's Page explores how cancer is like America:
On January 16, my father and I learned that he has terminal cancer. He's eighty-four. Yesterday I discovered that he's known about his soft-tissue pelvic sarcoma for almost two years but did nothing about it. My father is terrified of cancer, so he denied that he had it. He pretended it didn't exist.... My father has lived in a state of blissful denial his entire life. He used to smoke five packs of cigarettes a day, and until he was seventy he drank a quart of scotch a day. His diet consists of steak, salami, potatoes, bread, cheese, mayonnaise, ice cream, and pie....

He told me recently that until he was eighty, he honestly thought he'd live forever. I didn't say, "Really? You thought you'd live in your house here in Los Angeles for trillions and trillions and trillions of years, making your wooden toys, watching Bill O'Reilly... for all eternity?"...

My father's mother died of heart disease and diabetes. She screamed and cried and begged God for more time, over a three-week period. It was very traumatic for my father. My grandmother was seventy-eight and had never once changed her diet after her diagnosis of diabetes. She gorged on cookies, cake, and pie and then screamed for more life. Her death was unfair, she cried.
The other day I was cutting down a tree with my chainsaw, and I took a moment before making the final cut to prepare for death. It's not a difficult process. I said the usual prayer, accepted that in a moment I might be dead, and then felled the tree. Sure enough it didn't fall just as I wanted.  Nevertheless, as I took the alternate escape route, I experienced no fear.  Perhaps this is because my studies in metaphysics have led me to believe that death is a small thing; perhaps it is simply because I am practiced in facing death.  Aristotle held that any human virtue was likely to be the result of good practice.

You know you're going to die. It could be today. The good life ideally includes a good death. Why not practice for the great challenge you know is going to come?

Your Kitty, Like Your Host...

OK, sure. They're cold-blooded killers. But so are we. Farming is nothing but killing once you've planted the seeds. Ants, voles, field mice, crows, invasive species, they're all the enemy of the one particular thing you wanted to grow.

Nature doesn't care, but kitty does. So do we. It's why we have them. The dogs are to ride herd on them because unlike dogs, cats can't be trusted.

Come on down

Ted Cruz applies a market approach to Second Amendment freedoms, in light of Chicago Mayor Emmanuel's attempt to bully banks into refusing to loan to gun manufacturers.  To the banks, he suggests moving to Texas, where they can loan to anyone they like.  To the gun manufacturers, he suggests moving to Texas, where we have lots of banks who would be happy to lend to them.  To the Mayor, he notes that the city recently wasted over $1 million in legal fees in an unsuccessful assault on the Second Amendment.
Regardless, directing your attacks at legitimate gun manufacturers undermines the Second Amendment rights of millions of Texans.  In the future, I would ask that you might keep your efforts to diminish the Bill of Rights north of the Red River.
I'm going to like this guy:  Rick Perry with twice the brains.  I really can't say how tickled I am that he replaced Kay Bailey Hutchison.

My head hurts

Over at Ace, Monty sums up beautifully what's confusing about an extraordinary piece of babble from the CNBC website:
See, here's the problem:  A spending limit isn't a limit unless it actually functions as a bar to further spending.
The CNBC piece struggles hard to reconcile a lot of contradictory ideas.  For example, Obama promised the sequester wouldn't happen, but the article's author notes with some surprise that it turns out absolutely nothing has been done so far to avert it.  That's because of "entrenched politics in Washington."   (We know who those entrenchers are.)   "Many" thought that the recent Republican agreement to delay the effective date of the debt ceiling signaled a willingness by Republicans to "co-operate" with the White House, but now it seems that Republicans think spending cuts are a good idea.   (Who knew?)

Republicans would rather see the spending cuts take a different form, but if the sequester is the only form on offer, they'll live with it.  Democrats would rather avoid the spending cuts altogether, but they kind of like them, because they spare Medicare and Social Security, so they're not motivated to negotiate, unless the Republicans offer to raise taxes on the wealthy.   (Wait.  Didn't Republicans just agree to do that?)  Republicans don't want to raise taxes on the wealthy again, a negotiation position that apparently has taken the Democrats completely by surprise.

So both sides are more or less content to let the sequester take effect, given the alternatives.  But the spending cuts may slow growth, especially since Congress just increased payroll taxes.   (The article can't figure out to which party to attribute that change, so it stays fuzzy.)  And now that Democrats think about it, they don't like the non-defense spending cuts in the sequester.

I've lost the thread of what Democratic negotiators in Congress are trying to achieve.  I know they want to avoid slowing the economy.  They see spending cuts as slowing the economy; they may even see tax hikes as slowing the economy.  They sometimes express an interest in reducing the deficit, which surely requires either cutting spending, raising taxes, or expanding the economy.  Is the idea that you can expand the economy by raising taxes as long as you tax only the rich?  In other words, the higher taxes on the rich will shrink the deficit as long as they don't slow the economy too much?   I understand the notion that it's fair to tax the rich more, without agreeing with it, but I don't understand the notion that it will not slow the economy.  It sure isn't working in Europe, or California.  We can concentrate on not slowing the economy by avoiding either tax hikes or spending cuts, but then we're ballooning the deficit.  Eventually, that will lead either to runaway inflation or to a drying up of the national credit.

No matter how many times we play this shell game, how is there ever any real alternative to living within our means?

I hope that the debt-ceiling deal will lead to a budget from Congress by the agreed deadline.  It's got to be less irrational to try to negotiate spending cuts within the context of a specific budget than to negotiate with people who say, "If I can't spend as much as I'd like on absolutely everything, I'm not going to pay any bills at all."

It's a wonder people don't like lawyers

This kind of story is just sad, I think:
A unanimous panel of [a New York State appellate court] yesterday affirmed the dismissal of a $77 million wrongful termination suit against Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman brought by an ex-associate, Gregory Berry.  Berry worked in the software industry for 15 years before going to the University of Pennsylvania Law School.  After graduating in 2010, he was hired by Kasowitz, but was fired after less than a year. 
According to his suit, Berry took the job because he was told that Kasowitz gave associates a high degree of freedom and responsibility.  However, he said those representations proved false, and he was fired for asking for more responsibility in an email in which he wrote, among other things, that "after working here for several months now it has become clear that I have as much experience and ability as an associate many years my senior, as much skill writing, and a superior legal mind to most I have met."
The way this kind of negotiation is supposed to work is that an associate of unusual ability or background gently reminds the powers-that-be that he is a valuable member of the team who can remain happy only if he is granted the kind of freedom and responsibility he'd been led to expect.   If he doesn't get it, he may have to start listening more carefully to the many offers he is getting from other firms, though he hopes they can remain friends even if he leaves.   It's a pretty delicate conversation to have with people who need to like you at least a little bit if they're going to continue working with you 16 hours a day.  "I have a superior legal mind" is not a charming approach.  Letting that email be published on the Net is almost as bad as a really awful Facebook picture.

And although I'd be the last to disparage the ability of an exceptional lawyer to earn exceptional pay, I have to laugh out loud at the idea of $77 million in damages, or at his unhappiness with $27,000 in severance, especially after he agreed to take it.

Just Random Bad Luck

An article making the rounds considers the case of a Chicago mother whose four children have all been killed in what the article describes as "gun violence." The latest "child" to die was 34 years of age, and had -- the article does not mention this, so you have to scroll to the comments -- a history of some 29 arrests, and gang membership. There is some confusion about whether he was a former or a current member of the Gangster Disciples when he died. The drive-by nature of the shooting suggests gang violence, but no one has been arrested.

The article is similarly circumspect about the other shootings. The first is described as a shooting by "a high-school classmate" "after an argument." The others are just described as having been close together in time.

If only Chicago had some more gun control laws, I guess we are meant to take from the article, this kind of thing would not happen.

Real or fake? Does it matter?

Mark Steyn nails it, as usual:
[T]he secretary of state denied that she’d ever seen the late Ambassador Stevens’s cables about the deteriorating security situation in Libya on the grounds that “1.43 million cables come to my office” – and she can’t be expected to see all of them, or any. . . . 
When a foreign head of state receives the credentials of the senior emissary of the United States, he might carelessly assume that the chap surely has a line of communication back to the government he represents.  For six centuries or so, this has been the minimal requirement for functioning inter-state relations.  But Secretary Clinton has just testified that, in the government of the most powerful nation on earth, there is no reliable means by which a serving ambassador can report to the cabinet minister responsible for foreign policy.  And nobody cares:  What difference does it make? . . . 
Nor was the late Christopher Stevens any old ambassador, but rather Secretary Clinton’s close personal friend “Chris.”  It was all “Chris” this, “Chris” that when Secretary Clinton and President Obama delivered their maudlin eulogies over the flag-draped coffin of their “friend.”  Gosh, you’d think if they were on such intimate terms, “Chris” might have had Hillary’s e-mail address, but apparently not.  He was just one of 1.43 million close personal friends cabling the State Department every hour of the day.

Celebrate Diversity of Religion

Some comments on the Right reacting to this piece are improper.

Says Ed Morrissey: "But to 'thank God for abortion' demonstrates a lack of proper formation in religion … or just a bit of demagoguery intended to put on a fake faith to assume speakership for that contingent of people. If Touré really believes in God, perhaps he should take the time to find out what God says about pretty much the entire arc of behavior that Touré admits in this brief clip[.]" But what the man is saying is that he thanks his god that he was able to kill the child he didn't want so he could have a better life (including the child he eventually did want). There is a long American tradition of religion that advocates for the sacrifice of the unwanted in return for a better life.

How unfair to assume that he was speaking of the Christian God -- or that a claim like this refers to "a fake faith." Something ancient is being worshiped here, though the speaker may not have been taught to recognize his god by its right name.


An interesting article at Cafe Hayek explores the transformational value of human inventions.  What is more revolutionary, indoor plumbing or the Internet?  The commenters muse about living on the cusp on an age in which knowledge is shared worldwide in ways that were unimaginable a few years ago.  Not so far back in my life, I couldn't have guessed what conversations I'd be having daily with people all over the world.

You keep using that word "sacrifice" . . . .

Bookworm Room leaps into the socialized medicine fray again, with a post called "When It Comes to End-of-Life Decisions, the State Does Not Love You."  She's reacting to a revolting piece at Slate arguing that it makes sense to "sacrifice" the life of an infant to save its mother.  Whether or not that trade-off makes sense, The Anchoress points out that it doesn't constitute a "sacrifice."  A sacrifice is one person giving up something valuable for another.  Despite the euphemism employed by medical researchers who "sacrifice" an experimental laboratory animal, the killing of an infant to save the mother is not a sacrifice.  It is a killing that may or may not be justified by harrowing circumstances.  If the infant killed itself to save its mother, that would be a sacrifice.  If the mother died so that her baby could be born, that would be a sacrifice.

This is part and parcel of the confusion I so often complain about, that leads us to describe as "charity" the act of taking someone else's money and putting it to good use.  The confiscation of property may lead to many good things, such as justice, mercy, or efficiency, but it is not charity.  Charity is when one man gives of his own property to help someone else in need.

The Bookworm post is well worth reading in its entirety, not just for this point about euphemisms and the mental confusion they generate, but for its treatment of euthanasia, and the broader problem of who will make the best choices about scarce medical resources.  She describes a time when she believed a beneficent state would make better choices about expensive end-of-life care than money-grubbing family members.  She failed to take into account the inevitable shrinking of prosperity and resources under a socialist system, and the need to compare apples to apples:  the question is not whether a flush socialist state will be more merciful than a cash-strapped family, but whether, in cash-strapped situations, the most mercy will be found in people who know and love the patient, or in bureaucrats who are total strangers.

No system of economics or government eliminates the problem of making hard choices about limited resources.  Some systems create more prosperity than others, but we will always bump up against the wall of what can be done for one problem without robbing resources available to solve another.  The question is:  what system solves the conflicts in a way we can live with?

Tourist maps

I like the "mountains in the other direction!"

H/t Bookworm Room.

Women in combat

I find this account incredibly persuasive even though every fiber of my being wants to argue against it.

A British Son of Liberty

In the comments to a recent post at BLACKFIVE, a gentleman posted a link to a song by a British singer that references the Sons of Liberty. The only name he mentions in the song is Watt Tyler, though, so he's reaching a lot further back than the famous Sons -- 1381, in fact.

Musically it isn't much of a song, but the lyrics are encouraging.