Sunday, October 20, 2019


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Unknown by Peder Ilsted

Unknown by Peder Ilsted

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The prejudice against the ill-regulated mind

From The Art of Thinking; or The Port-Royal Logic by by Antoine Arnauld and Pierre Nicole.
There is nothing more desirable than good sense and justness of mind, in discriminating between truth and falsehood. All other qualities of mind are of limited use; but exactness of judgment, is of general utility in every part, and in all the employments of life. It is not alone in the sciences, that it is difficult to distinguish truth from error, but also in the greater part of those subjects which men discuss in their every-day affairs. There are, in relation to almost everything, different routes the one true, the other false and it is reason which must choose between them. Those who choose well, are those who have minds well-regulated; those who choose ill, are those who have minds ill-regulated; and this is the first and most important difference which we find between the qualities of men's minds.
Indeed. One of the most subtle of prejudices but perhaps among the strongest. The prejudice against the ill-regulated mind which leads the unfortunate to foolish errors. The enemy of progress is the poorly populated mind that is also an ill regulated mind. See Congress.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Off Beat Humor


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Best of the Bee




It is impossible for human nature to believe that money is not there.

From Busman's Holiday by Dorothy Sayers. Page 166.
The gardener walked up to the table with a slightly belligerent air, as though he had an idea that the police were there for the sole purpose of preventing him from exercising his lawful right to obtain payment of forty pounds. He admitted, briefly, when questioned, that his name was Frank Crutchley and that he was accustomed to attend to the garden one day a week at Talboys for a stipend of five shillings per diem, putting in the rest of his time doing odd jobs of lorry-driving and taxi-work for Mr. Hancock at the garage in Pagford.

"Saving up, I was," said Crutchley, with insistence, "to get a garridge of my own, only for that there forty pound Mr. Noakes had off of me."

"Never mind that now," said the Superintendent. "That's gone west, that has, and it's no use crying over spilt milk."

Crutchley was about as much convinced by this assurance as were the Allies, on being informed by Mr. Keynes, after the conclusion of the Peace Treaty, that they might whistle for their indemnities, since the money was not there. It is impossible for human nature to believe that money is not there. It seems so much more likely that the money is there and only needs bawling for.

Escape of the H.M.S. “Belvidera” from the U.S. Frigate “President,” ca. 1815 by Thomas Buttersworth (1768–1842)

Escape of the H.M.S. “Belvidera” from the U.S. Frigate “President,” ca. 1815 by Thomas Buttersworth (1768–1842)

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I broke his mouth, which closed the business.

From The Road to Guilford Courthouse by John Buchanan. Page 399. On General Daniel Morgan.
Cowpens was Morgan’s last fight. But when Cornwallis’s army was ravaging parts of Virginia, Morgan took the field once more at the behest of Lafayette, who asked him to raise a force of riflemen and come to his aid. Morgan, who liked the young Frenchman, never hesitated and joined Lafayette’s command on 7 July 1781. Morgan and General Anthony Wayne tried to corner Tarleton during one of his raids, but Benny had had quite enough of Morgan and went far out of his way to avoid him. The excessive activity brought on a severe attack of sciatica, and Morgan soon was forced to return home, where he apparently came close to dying.

Morgan’s great will to live served him well, however, and he survived and the years were good to him. His daughters Nancy and Betsy gave him nineteen grandchildren, upon whom he doted and to whom he told war stories in language one of them remembered as “powerful and graphic.” A non-martial adventure sometime in the mid-1780s resulted in the birth of a son, Willoughby Morgan. The boy’s mother is unknown, and Morgan never wrote to him or to our knowledge spoke of him and left him out of his will. The boy resembled his father physically and took after him in compiling a distinguished combat record in the War of 1812. He became a career soldier, attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and died in 1832. In 1782 Morgan completed a personal monument that still stands eleven miles from Winchester. The handsome two-story stone house, today privately owned, he called “Saratoga.” Tradition has it that it was built by Hessian prisoners of war.

He engaged in business activities locally and with Eastern merchants. And of course he speculated in land. By 1795 he owned 250,000 acres in various states and territories. At the same time he saw to the good education of his daughters and entertained old army friends who visited him at Saratoga—such familiar names as John Eager Howard, Horatio Gates, and, above all, his closest “old sword,” Otho Holland Williams. They were opposites, Williams a frail man, well educated, cultivated, but they truly enjoyed each other’s company.

Like most who claw their way from the bottom of the heap, Daniel Morgan craved respectability, and he attained it, along with honors and distinctions enough to please any man. But there was always something of the Old Waggoner in him, and he remained pugnacious to the end. In 1794, during the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania, Major General Daniel Morgan led part of the Virginia militia against the rebels. The distinguished Hero of the Revolution wrote to Light Horse Harry Lee, then Governor of Virginia, that at Parkinson’s Ferry on the Monongahela River he “was obliged to give the tavern keeper where we lodged a knock on the mouth, for selling whiskey to the soldiers for a dollar a gallon—these sales he kept up nearly all night, and when I told him his fault, he began to treat me with indignity, and I broke his mouth, which closed the business.”

Morgan was not cut out to be a congressman. He was elected to the House in 1797 and was a staunch, even rigid Federalist. His most memorable statement during his short political career was his description of the party of Jefferson as a “parsell of Egg sucking dogs.” He was too ill to run for reelection in 1799.

It is as a soldier that he must be judged, and only one conclusion can be reached: he was an exceptional field commander, and as a battle captain he would have had few superiors in any age. All the necessary attributes were his: command presence, coolness under fire, uncommon inspirational qualities, and the ability in critical situations to “think on his feet.” Contemplation of his military career gives fresh meaning to that word charisma. Add his tactical brilliance and you have a commander of rare gifts.

By the turn of the new century the illnesses that had plagued him in the waning years of the Revolution wracked him once again and persisted. In the final months of his life he became feeble, but the spirit and the will that marked this uncommon man of the common people never died. According to the son of the attending physician, the following conversation took place between Morgan and Doctor Conrad.

“General Morgan, if you have any worldly matters to be settled, I think it is my duty to inform you of the importance of attending to them. I know you have faced death in battle and I presume it will not be a cause of alarm or surprise to you.”

Doctor Conrad presumed too much. “Doctor, do you mean that I am about to die?”

“I do.”

“Why, won’t I live some time, a month or so?”

“I think not, sir.”

“Well, a week?”

“I don’t think you can possibly last a week.”

There was a long silence.

“Doctor, if I could be the man I was when I was twenty-one years of age, I would be willing to be stripped stark naked on the top of the Alleghany Mountains, to run for my life with the hounds of death at my heels.”

Daniel Morgan died on 6 July 1802, aged sixty-seven, surrounded by family and friends. The epitaph on his long-lost gravestone expressed the honors due him but was commonplace. His unofficial epitaph, by his old friend and comrade in arms, Light Horse Harry Lee, best described the Hero.

“No man better loved this world, and no man more reluctantly quitted it.”

Friday, October 18, 2019

Off Beat Humor


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Best of the Bee




Man Ming by Yves Berube

Man Ming by Yves Berube

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Tired old ideologues flogging a still dead horse

From Twitter's Gender Imbalance by Colleen Flaherty. Reporting on the original study Gender Differences in Twitter Use and Influence Among Health Policy and Health Services Researchers by Jane M. Zhu, Arthur P. Pelullo, and Sayed Hassan.

Kind of astonishingly shallow and obviously ideologically driven and interpreted. From the Abstract:
Ample research has documented the lower visibility and success of women compared with men in academic medicine. Against this setting, social media platforms such as Twitter offer academics opportunities to promote their research, network professionally, gain visibility, and, in turn, foster opportunities for career advancement. These opportunities are particularly critical in health policy and health services research, in which dissemination of policy-relevant research and engagement with health care decision-makers impacts academic influence, recognition, and promotion. Herein, we describe gender differences in Twitter use and influence among health services researchers.
That very first sentence is the tell. There are all sorts of disparate impacts in every field based on almost any variable you choose - gender, religion, height, education attainment, handedness, income, etc. What tends not to vary so much are results when you control for duration in the field, hours invested, etc. People who work the hardest, the longest and most consistently tend to rank the highest in that field. Not always, but on average.

Not only that, but the rewards in almost all fields also follow a log or Pareto Distribution. The top 20% of the performers obtain 80% of the rewards. And often with minuscule differentials in absolute performance. A runner with a 400 meter speed half a second faster time than their nearest competitor will win most the rewards.

Performance and Pareto Distribution seem to be the drivers of the results reported here. And setting aside the discussion of whether twitter performance is a suitable measure of academic performance.

We have to go to the article for greater detail as the research is gated.

The article also starts with a clanger.
Women on social media face disproportionate levels of harassment compared to men.
It is an article of faith among the true believers of postmodernist beliefs but most the replicated studies and meta-analyses I have seen indicate that men receive slightly more harassment but that the nature of the harassment tends to be different (women suffering more sex-related taunts, men suffering more raw ad hominem attacks). But let's set aside this tell as well.

Flaherty goes pretty much from sketchy summary of findings to full blown gender theory interpretation in no time flat.
A new study says that female academics also have disproportionately fewer Twitter followers, likes and retweets than their male counterparts on the platform, regardless of their Twitter activity levels or professional rank.

Women were also more likely than men to reciprocate relationships with followers and follow back, and to follow other women.

Observers of gender dynamics, casual or expert, probably won’t be surprised by the findings. But they do have implications for scientific impact and careers and the general sharing of information. And because this study, in particular, involved health policy and health services researchers, there are implications for public health. So it’s important to understand what’s happening, and why -- as best we can, since the study was more quantitative analysis than a deep dive into the psychology of Twitter.

The short answer, said lead author Jane M. Zhu, assistant professor of medicine at Oregon Health and Sciences University and a senior adjunct fellow in health economics at the University of Pennsylvania, is that the “same power dynamics that exist in the real-world office settings seem to exist online.”

The slightly longer answer, she said, is that while women may be supporting other women and “amplifying each other’s professional voices online, men may still be considered the more authoritative voices, even within the same academic rank.”

Additionally, Zhu said, “Men may not find the content of women’s tweets as compelling as other men’s, or they may not feel obligated to reciprocate relationships and follow women who follow them.”
There is a lot of speculation and ideological projection in a piece that is supposed to be science-based. You have to get deep into the article and the social justice muck before a clearer picture begins to emerge.
For their study, the researchers identified the names and institutional affiliations of authors and speakers at the 2018 AcademyHealth annual research meeting. They excluded trainees and those without medical degrees or doctorates and then pulled Twitter data -- including the most recent 3,200 tweets -- for the remaining sample. About one-third of that group had a Twitter account, some 492 women and 427 men.

The men followed about 375 people, on average, while women followed 332. In addition to following fewer people, women had been on Twitter for less time, on average -- about 4.5 years, versus 5.1 years for men. They also had fewer original tweets, at about 71 per year, compared to 98 for men. But the study asserts that that doesn’t account for the dramatic difference in followers: 567 for women, on average, versus 1,162 for men.

Similarly, women’s tweets generated fewer average likes than men, at 316 per year versus 578, respectively. Same for retweets, at 207 per year on average for women and 400 for men. Per tweet, not just per year, the same was true. Most gender differences were between full professors.

The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, notes that men and women are using Twitter at equal rates, and that social media offers women “opportunities for engagement, perhaps with fewer barriers than may be present in day-to-day academic interactions.” The gender disparity was also less pronounced at lower ranks, suggesting things may be changing.

Yet while some have hoped that social media would “help level the playing field in academic medicine by giving women an accessible and equitable platform on which to present themselves,” it says, the danger is that these forums “may do little to improve gender parity and may instead reinforce disparities.”
So their goal becomes clearer. They expect to see men and women deriving the same level of exposure benefit from Twitter even though there are disparate usage patterns.
Men have been using Twitter 13% longer than women.

Men generate 38% more original content than women.

Men follow 16% more Twitter accounts than women.
So the male users are more experienced using Twitter, generate significantly more original content, and engage with others more.

In every other field this greater engagement on a sustained basis is what generates differential outcomes. It appears that Twitter is the same. The more engaged, high productivity, more experienced males experience higher results, consistent with the well established Pareto Distribution found in virtually all human endeavors.
Men have 105% more followers.

Men get 83% more likes.

Men get 93% more retweets.
So it appears that Twitter, like all other fields, rewards engaged, high productivity, and experienced participants disproportionately more than those who are less engaged, lower productivity, and less experienced.

The researchers profess to be shocked by this outcome and, ignoring Occam's Razor, leap to more imaginative explanations. Explanations which are consistent with feminist and social justice theory.

The final tell in this "research" is the dog that's not barking. There is an easy test for gender bias here and that is to compare apples to apples. Compare males who perform at the lower levels (4.5 years instead of 5.1, following 332 instead of 375, 71 original tweets instead of 98) and see if they have more followers, more likes, and more retweets because they are male than women with that profile, or whether, as should be expected, they have the same lower outcomes as those women.

The fact that this comparison is not done would seem to indicate that either the researchers are poor at designing their research or that they did such a comparison and it showed that lower productive twitters users have the same results whether they are male or female.

This is well traveled ground. Forty years ago, it was excusable to do crude comparisons of men and women's incomes and conclude that possibly women were being discriminated against. For thirty years now we have known that when you compare like-with-like (profession, education attainment, years in service, hours per week, etc.) men and women earn the same income.

Which isn't especially surprising since that is what cultural values would predict, economics would predict, and the law requires.

There is one further piece of evidence that this is a productivity/experience/engagement effect, not a bias effect.

In the article they include a single graph.

Click to enlarge.

This seems to indicate that the correlation between original content and number of followers is pretty weak. In aggregate, the overwhelming majority of the 919 participants have virtually no relationship between how much they are tweeting and how many followers they have. Indeed, the most prolific original content tweeter of all, with some 3,100 tweets, is a male with perhaps at most a few hundred followers.

This weak correlation between original content volume and number of followers suggests that perhaps number of years and level of engagement might actually be the stronger predictors of number of followers.

The other thing that leaps out about the graph is that women seem to be heavily concentrated in the low volume tweeting quadrant. They don't tweet much and they have few followers. Just as is the case for low tweeting men.

If we accept that there is some base level of presence and activity, say at least 1,000 tweets, the correlation between volume of tweets and number of followers strengthens substantially but is still overall pretty weak.

Finally, look at the twelve accounts which have more than 10,000 followers. 35% of them are women. As I have documented elsewhere on this blog, in virtually any competitive field in the US (authors, artists, CEOs, surgeons, partners in law firms, etc.), virtually all of them have between 15-30% of their top performers who are women. And this level of representation is higher in the US than every other OECD country. Which suggests that the issue is not bias but choices.

Henry Lee graduated from Princeton (then the College of New Jersey) when he was seventeen

From The Road to Guilford Courthouse by John Buchanan. Page 352.
The march from Cowpens to the army’s rendezvous 150 miles away at Guilford Courthouse was a skillful, orderly retreat accomplished in stages. Now, however, a race began to the Dan River. It also was conducted with skill and precision and the added fillip of heart-pounding tension. The key players on the American side were Morgan’s light troops, now commanded by the intelligent, highly competent Otho Holland Williams. They were reinforced by a small but very professional unit of horse and foot led by a brave and dashing cavalryman from Virginia.

Lieutenant Colonel Henry Lee, Jr. (1756–1818) was the father of a far more famous American, General Robert E. Lee. But at the time of which we write the father’s was a household name in America. Known in his lifetime and since as Light Horse Harry, he ranks as one of the nation’s finest cavalry commanders. The Lees arrived in Virginia about 1641. Henry Lee graduated from Princeton (then the College of New Jersey) when he was seventeen, and would have gone to London to study law at Middle Temple had not the war intervened. He was commissioned a captain of Virginia cavalry in 1776; the following year his company joined the 1st Continental Dragoons with Washington’s army. Despite his youth he became an intimate of George Washington, and they were friends to the great man’s death. It was Lee who wrote Washington’s funeral oration, with its immortal words, “First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen.” Lee was promoted to major in 1778, and on 19 July 1779, he overcame his own youthful errors to score one of the brilliant coups of the war by surprising the British at Paulus Hook, New Jersey. It was a small victory but important as a morale builder and for establishing Lee’s reputation. He received from Congress one of the eight gold medals awarded during the war. On 30 November 1780 Light Horse Harry Lee was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and given command of Lee’s Legion, consisting of his original three troops of cavalry to which was added three companies of infantry: their original strength was 100 horse and 180 foot. They wore short green jackets similar to Tarleton’s British Legion—an important detail to remember. A passionate admirer of good horseflesh, Lee saw to it that his cavalry troops were always mounted on well-bred, powerful stock. It was Nathanael Greene, ever seeking good cavalry, who arranged Lee’s transfer to the Southern Department, and on 13 January 1781, Light Horse Harry and his Legion reported to Greene at his camp on the Pee Dee.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Classroom effects were mostly nonsignificant

From Estimating classroom-level influences on literacy and numeracy: A twin study. by Katrina L. Grasby, Callie W. Little, Brian Byrne, William L. Coventry, Richard K. Olson, Sally Larsen, and Stefan Samuelsson. From the Abstract.
Classroom-level influences on literacy skills in kindergarten through Grade 2, and on literacy and numeracy skills in Grades 3, 5, 7, and 9, were examined by comparing the similarity of twins who shared or did not share classrooms with each other. We analyzed two samples using structural equation modeling adapted for twin data. The first, Study 1, was of Australia-wide tests of literacy and numeracy, with 1,098; 1,080; 790, and 812 complete twin pairs contributing data for Grades 3, 5, 7, and 9, respectively. The second, Study 2, was of literacy tests from 753 twin pairs from kindergarten through Grade 2, which included a sample of United States and Australian students and was a reanalysis and extension of Byrne et al. (2010). Classroom effects were mostly nonsignificant; they accounted for only 2–3% of variance in achievement when averaged over tests and grades. Although the averaged effects may represent a lower-bound figure for classroom effects, and the design cannot detect classroom influences limited to individual students, the results are at odds with claims in public discourse of substantial classroom-level influences, which are mostly portrayed as teacher effects.
I am not disputing their findings because they are common and frequently replicated.

Its just that I really don't want genes and randomness to be key determinants of cognitive outcomes but that is what most the evidence suggests. I want parents and teachers to matter more than we can prove they do. And I don't know how to reconcile my championed evidence-based decision-making when it collides with my deeply held emotional beliefs.

If I set aside my biases and assume that these findings are correct, then we are left with a massive disconnect. We pour inordinate amounts of money into schools and education training and ever-evolving new teaching practices. And they don't make a lick of difference if we are to believe these results.

IQ, personality traits, strong supportive cultural incentives for learning, a safe environment. Do that, and, this research suggests, you've done all you need to do to get the best results.

I agree that our educational institutions are hide-bound and more like sinecure-protecting guilds than paragons of education, but I do believe individual teachers can make a world of difference to individual children at particular moments in time. It just doesn't easily show up in the data.

Off Beat Humor


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Forcing the Hudson River Passage, October 9, 1776, ca. 1835 by William Joy (1803–1857), after Dominic Serres, the Elder (England, born France, 1722-1793)

Forcing the Hudson River Passage, October 9, 1776, ca. 1835 by William Joy (1803–1857), after Dominic Serres, the Elder (England, born France, 1722-1793)

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Best of the Bee




At the Kitchen Window by Isabel Codrington (1874-1943 )

At the Kitchen Window by Isabel Codrington (1874-1943 )

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Robert’s flight was only stopped when, “I saw my lame schoolmaster, Beatty, loading his gun by a tree."

From The Road to Guilford Courthouse by John Buchanan. Page 346.
Silent the British camp may have been the evening of 31 January, but the Rebel spies should have maintained their watch. Cornwallis and his troops rolled out of their blankets at 1:00 A.M. on 1 February. It was very dark but the rain had stopped. Sending Webster with half the army and most of the artillery to Beattie’s Ford to create a diversion, Cornwallis marched downriver with the Brigade of Guards, the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, the German Von Bose Regiment, and the British Legion Horse, the latter led by Tarleton. Their guide was a local Tory, either Dick Beal or Frederick Hager, depending on whose recollection you accept, Robert Henry’s or Captain Joseph Graham’s. Both were there, but Robert Henry was closer to the action at riverside, and said he saw Dick Beal taking aim at him.

About daybreak, through the thick mist, some 1,200 British and German soldiers approached Cowans’s Ford quietly enough so that the Americans on the other side had not an inkling of their arrival. The soldiers carried heavy knapsacks and unloaded muskets with bayonets fixed. Their cartouche boxes containing ammunition were tied around their necks. Cornwallis could see Rebel campfires flickering on the other side and was surprised that there were so many, for the King’s Friends had led him to believe that Cowan’s would be lightly guarded. But the sight did not stop him. Nor did the swift, treacherous waters of the Catawba that might have given pause to a timid general. And in time of peril for his troops the man always knew where he belonged. Sergeant Roger Lamb of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers watched as “Lord Cornwallis, according to his usual manner, dashed first into the river, mounted on a very fine, spirited horse, the brigade of “guards followed, two three pounders next, the Royal Welch Fuzileers after them.” The water became breast high, reported Sergeant Lamb. The current wrapped around them and tugged. Following their general on his “very fine, spirited horse” the British troops struggled forward to about midstream, past where the horse ford forked off, before Joel Jetton heard the splashing of horses in the river.

Robert Henry stated that the Tory guide “Dick Beal, being deceived by our fires” had not turned downstream onto the horse ford but had continued straight ahead on the wagon ford, or, as young Robert put it, “had led them into swimming water.” That was the noise Joel Jetton heard. “Jetton ran to the ford. The sentry being sound asleep, Jetton kicked him into the river. He endeavored to fire his gun, but it was wet.” He ran back to the campfires. “‘The British! The British!’” Joel Jetton cried.

Robert Henry and his comrades jumped to their feet and ran to their posts. At riverside Robert thought he was seeing red from lack of sleep and threw water in his face and then knew his eyes were not deceiving him: “I then heard the British splashing and making a noise as of drowning.” For the current was sweeping men and horses off their feet. General Leslie’s horse was swept downstream but recovered. General “O’Hara’s horse,” wrote Sergeant Lamb, “rolled with him down the current near forty yards.” A bombadier tumbled away head over heels but was saved by Sergeant Lamb. But what happened to some did not deter the rest. Hundreds of Redcoats and Hessians led by their general successfully fought the current and bore straight ahead. Cornwallis’s horse was hit but did not fall until he carried his rider to the far bank. At his stand Robert Henry “fired and continued firing until I saw that one on horse-back had passed my rock in the river, and saw that it was Dick Beal, moving his gun from his shoulder, I expect, to shoot me. I ran with all speed up the bank, and when at the top of it William Polk’s horse breasted me, and Gen. Davidson’s horse, about twenty or thirty feet before Polk’s horse, and near to the water’s edge.” Robert heard Colonel Polk shout, “Fire away, boys! Help is at hand!” But Robert’s flight was only stopped when, “I saw my lame schoolmaster, Beatty, loading his gun by a tree. I thought I could stand it as long as he could and commenced loading. Beatty fired, and then I fired, the heads and shoulders of the British being just above the bank. They made no return fire. Silence still prevailed. I observed Beatty loading again. I ran down another load. When he fired, he cried, ‘It’s time to run, Bob.’” During this action Robert recalled that Beatty, “an excellent marksman, fired twice at a distance of not more than twenty five yards . . . and I fired twice about the same distance. I . . . think Beatty . . . killed two, and I killed one.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Off Beat Humor


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Best of the Bee




Reminds me of the ecclesiastical woman in England several years ago who was trying to claim adherence to both Christianity and Islam.

A Little story by Evgeny Lushpin

A Little story by Evgeny Lushpin

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Into our town the hangman came

In this era of anger and cancel culture, When They Came for Those Other People by David Foster.

The poem he brings attention to.
Into our town the hangman came
by Maurice Ogden

Into our town the hangman came,
smelling of gold and blood and flame.
He paced our bricks with a diffident air,
and built his frame on the courthouse square.

The scaffold stood by the courthouse side,
only as wide as the door was wide
with a frame as tall, or a little more,
than the capping sill of the courthouse door.


And we wondered whenever we had the time,
Who the criminal? What the crime?
The hangman judged with the yellow twist
of knotted hemp in his busy fist.

And innocent though we were with dread,
we passed those eyes of buckshot lead.
Till one cried, “Hangman, who is he,
for whom you raised the gallows-tree?”

Then a twinkle grew in his buckshot eye
and he gave a riddle instead of reply.
“He who serves me best,” said he
“Shall earn the rope on the gallows-tree.”

And he stepped down and laid his hand
on a man who came from another land.
And we breathed again, for anothers grief
at the hangmans hand, was our relief.

And the gallows frame on the courthouse lawn
by tomorrow’s sun would be struck and gone.
So we gave him way and no one spoke
out of respect for his hangmans cloak.

The next day’s sun looked mildly down
on roof and street in our quiet town;
and stark and black in the morning air
the gallows-tree on the courthouse square.

And the hangman stood at his usual stand
with the yellow hemp in his busy hand.
With his buckshot eye and his jaw like a pike,
and his air so knowing and business-like.

And we cried, “Hangman, have you not done,
yesterday with the alien one?”
Then we fell silent and stood amazed.
“Oh, not for him was the gallows raised.”

He laughed a laugh as he looked at us,
“Do you think I’ve gone to all this fuss,
To hang one man? That’s the thing I do.
To stretch the rope when the rope is new.”

Above our silence a voice cried “Shame!”
and into our midst the hangman came;
to that mans place, “Do you hold,” said he,
“With him that was meant for the gallows-tree?”

He laid his hand on that one’s arm
and we shrank back in quick alarm.
We gave him way, and no one spoke,
out of fear of the hangmans cloak.

That night we saw with dread surprise
the hangmans scaffold had grown in size.
Fed by the blood beneath the chute,
the gallows-tree had taken root.

Now as wide, or a little more
than the steps that led to the courthouse door.
As tall as the writing, or nearly as tall,
half way up on the courthouse wall.

The third he took, we had all heard tell,
was a usurer and infidel.
And “What” said the hangman, “Have you to do
with the gallows-bound…, and he a Jew?”

And we cried out, “Is this one he
who has served you well and faithfully?”
The hangman smiled, “It’s a clever scheme
to try the strength of the gallows beam.”

The fourth man’s dark accusing song
had scratched our comfort hard and long.
“And what concern,” he gave us back,
“Have you … for the doomed…the doomed and black?”

The fifth, the sixth, and we cried again,
“Hangman, hangman, is this the man?”
“It’s a trick”, said he, “that we hangman know
for easing the trap when the trap springs slow.”

And so we ceased and asked no more
as the hangman tallied his bloody score.
And sun by sun, and night by night
the gallows grew to monstrous height.

The wings of the scaffold opened wide
until they covered the square from side to side.
And the monster cross beam looking down,
cast its shadow across the town.

Then through the town the hangman came
and called through the empy streets…my name.
I looked at the gallows soaring tall
and thought … there’s no one left at all

for hanging … and so he called to me
to help take down the gallows-tree.
And I went out with right good hope
to the hangmans tree and the hangmans rope.

He smiled at me as I came down
to the courthouse square…through the silent town.
Supple and stretched in his busy hand,
was the yellow twist of hempen strand.

He whistled his tune as he tried the trap
and it sprang down with a ready snap.
Then with a smile of awful command,
He laid his hand upon my hand.

“You tricked me Hangman.” I shouted then,
“That your scaffold was built for other men,
and I no henchman of yours.” I cried.
“You lied to me Hangman, foully lied.”

Then a twinkle grew in his buckshot eye,
“Lied to you…tricked you?” He said “Not I…
for I answered straight and told you true.
The scaffold was raised for none but you.”

“For who has served more faithfully?
Than you with your coward’s hope.” said He,
“And where are the others that might have stood
side by your side, in the common good?”

“Dead!” I answered, and amiably
“Murdered,” the Hangman corrected me.
“First the alien … then the Jew.
I did no more than you let me do.”

Beneath the beam that blocked the sky
none before stood so alone as I.
The Hangman then strapped me…with no voice there
cried “Stay!” … for me in the empty square
Reminiscent in sentiment to

First they came . . .
by Martin Niemöller

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Heights and precipices




We dispatched the whiskey.

From The Road to Guilford Courthouse by John Buchanan. Page 345.
With the picket guard was young Robert Henry, our King’s Mountain veteran, who had recovered from being bayoneted through his hand and thigh. He was ten days shy of his sixteenth birthday. Born in 1765 in Tryon County, North Carolina, “in a rail pen,” according to his son, he lived in the vicinity of Tuckasegee Ford, ten miles below Cowan’s Ford. His father was an Ulster-born Protestant. After the war Robert Henry became a surveyor and was on the team that surveyed the North Carolina-Tennessee line in the late 1790s. That occupation led him to the law, and a man who knew him called him “a great land lawyer.”19 His narrative of his new adventure in war reveals a mixture of boyish bravado, courage, and terror.
Henry was attending school near his home, taught by a lame schoolmaster named Robert Beatty, when word came to the classroom that Cornwallis was camped about seven miles away, and “that Tarleton was ranging through the country catching Whig boys to make musicians of them in the British army.” Robert Beatty immediately dismissed school and told the boys to spread the news. That night Robert Henry and five of his schoolmates hid outdoors to escape Tarleton’s dragnet, for the tale, true or not, was fervently believed. The next day they went upriver to John Nighten, “who treated us well by giving us potatoes to roast and some whisky to drink. We became noisy and mischievous. Nighten said we should not have any more whisky.” Emboldened by the whiskey, Robert Henry said he would go to Cowan’s Ford if he had a gun and ammunition, whereupon his brother Joseph, who had joined them, gave him his gun. Robert’s schoolmate Charles Rutledge said he would go too if he had a gun, and another schoolmate, Moses Starrett, handed Charles his gun. “When about to start I gave Nighten a hundred dollar Continental bill for a half a pint of whiskey. My brother gave another bill of the same size for half a bushel of potatoes. We dispatched the whiskey.”

Being thus fortified, Robert and his friend Charles Rutledge made their way to Cowan’s Ford, which was about a mile and a half off. The picket guard at the exit of the wagon ford, numbering thirty men, “made us welcome. The officer of the guard told us . . . that each one of the guard had picked their stands . . . so . . . they would not be crowded, or be in each other’s way—and said we must choose our stands.” Robert chose the lowest, where the wagon ford left the river. He recalled quite matter-of-factly that he would man his post as long as “I could stand it, until the British would come to a place where the water was riffling over a rock; then it would be time to run away.” Besides his friend Charles Rutledge, the only members of the guard he knew were Joel Jetton and his lame schoolmaster, Robert Beatty. “Shortly after dark,” said Robert Henry, “a man across the river hooted like an owl and was answered; a man went to a canoe some distance off, and brought word from him that all was silent in the British camp. The guard all lay down with their guns in their arms, and all were sound asleep at day-break except Joel Jetton, who discovered the noise of horses in deep water.”

"I have such little time" is the new "I have too much email."

An article harkening back to when the Atlantic was a reliably interesting and well written magazine. From Why You Never See Your Friends Anymore by Judith Shulevitz. What is the trade-off between efficient productivity and social coherence and engagement?

Shulevitz starts off with an thumbnail history of a Soviet era effort to better manage worker's time. An unsuccessful effort as it turned out.
Experiments like this one have given social engineering a bad name. Nevertheless, Americans are imposing a kind of nepreryvka [a continuous workweek] on ourselves—not because a Communist tyrant thinks it’s a good idea but because the contemporary economy demands it. The hours in which we work, rest, and socialize are becoming ever more desynchronized.

Whereas we once shared the same temporal rhythms—five days on, two days off, federal holidays, thank-God-it’s-Fridays—our weeks are now shaped by the unpredictable dictates of our employers. Nearly a fifth of Americans hold jobs with nonstandard or variable hours. They may work seasonally, on rotating shifts, or in the gig economy driving for Uber or delivering for Postmates. Meanwhile, more people on the upper end of the pay scale are working long hours. Combine the people who have unpredictable workweeks with those who have prolonged ones, and you get a good third of the American labor force.

The personalization of time may seem like a petty concern, and indeed some people consider it liberating to set their own hours or spend their “free” time reaching for the brass ring. But the consequences could be debilitating for the U.S. in the same way they once were for the U.S.S.R. A calendar is more than the organization of days and months. It’s the blueprint for a shared life.
Well, that's one way to frame it.

Shulevitz makes the unexamined framing even more explicit.
Remember the old 9-to-5, five-day-a-week grind? If you’re in your 30s or younger, maybe not. Maybe you watched reruns of Leave It to Beaver and saw Ward Cleaver come home at the same time every evening. Today few of us have workdays nearly so consistent. On the lower end of the labor market, standing ready to serve has become virtually a prerequisite for employment. A 2018 review of the retail sector called the “Stable Scheduling Study” found that 80 percent of American workers paid by the hour have fluctuating schedules. Many employers now schedule hours using algorithms to calculate exactly how many sets of hands are required at a given time of day—a process known as on-demand scheduling. The algorithms are designed to keep labor costs down, but they also rob workers of set schedules.
This betrays a historical blindness that is extremely common. Many, many people talk about identified social problems or prospective solutions with a base reference, stated or not, to some idealized magical era which maps roughly to 1945-1970. Traditional nuclear families, full employment, rising incomes, etc.

The reality was much more mixed than that glossy representation. More than that, 1945-70 was nearly entirely anomalous. The US was the surviving market economy and for thirty years managed to dominate a world desperate for goods, food, and capital produced in America. Our hard adjustments in the 1970s represented an easing off of the war-time regulatory structures, a reemergence of real global trade and competition, and a return to social patterns less contorted by war time privations and disruptions.

We cannot return, indeed should not want to return, to the conditions that fed the prosperity of that twenty-five year glide path of increasing productivity.

We had more time back then because we had relatively so much more money than we had had and because the war-time regimentation of the economy (price controls, control of hours, coordination of markets, etc.) protected us from the full opportunities to be dramatically more productive.

The burden we bear today is that we are inconceivably richer across the spectrum of measures than at anytime in history. All of us, from top to bottom quintile.

Our bottom quintile households in terms of income, live better material lives than the top quintile in 1950. Across the board, in terms of longevity, health, capital goods ownership, access to personal transportation, etc.

How did we become so much richer? We opened up free trade and raised our production game in order to compete with the best in the world. We reduced our regulation of the economy in terms of price controls, capital controls, lending practices, etc. It made us more productive, richer, and presented us with more choices.

And one of those choices is how much richer (more productive) do you want to be at the expense of social time, or more precisely, old social time conventions?

Want to have maximum income in a prosperous but rapidly evolving and always uncertain globally competitive economy? Then invest in your education, postpone family, and then be prepared to work long hours over numerous years. The pay-off is huge. If you are willing to do what is required.

Of course everyone would nominally like more time while keeping all their income prospects intact. But that is not an option available to anyone without inherited wealth.

Shulevitz is missing out on that context. She goes straight into frightening stories of middle and upper middle class stories of time constrained and over-worked parents. She elaborates on all sorts of technical work arounds and apps to help mitigate busy schedules.

This strikes me as an anthology of status-signaling gripes akin to those in the late 1980s to do with email. People complained incessantly about the challenge of staying on top of e-mails. All it was was an opportunity to try and create an impression of importance. "I have such little time" is the new "I have too much email."

There is a subtle classism to Shulevitz's article as well. It is very much told from a top two quintiles perspective.

This is also a common blindspot to so many critiques. For example, it is not uncommon to hear about how little opportunity there was for women to work before the 1960s.

Which is nonsense. There were dramatically fewer opportunities for upper class women to work - that is true.

But women worked, they worked hard and they worked incessantly. On the farms, in service, in the textile mills, in retail. It is as if much of our privileged story-telling is blind to everyone in the bottom four quintiles of income before the post-war era.

If you were in the top quintile, you might have time. Everyone else worked. And all those wonderful meals together and shared family and friend events? To a degree true and to a degree necessary. Before any of our modern connectivity and support programs, you had better have close ties within the family, within the community, within the church. Without them, you had no safety net. Yes, it was rewarding to spend time with one another and much of that was spent under the auspices of cultural tradition, but the traditions existed as a mask over necessity.

In many ways this article is asking a wonderfully provocative question which we should, societally, be talking about more. In an uncertain and fast-evolving world of high productivity where our economy is structured to give everyone the greatest opportunity to develop their skills, talents and capabilities, in the fashion which is most rewarding, should we consider spending more time on non-monetary relationship building and less time on productivity enhancements.

The revealed preference of just about everyone is that they would rather spend more time taking more income-accruing chances and building up greater stockpiles of wealth.

I am pretty certain that is not the right answer; I am pretty certain that we should spend more time investing our time into our communities and relationships; I am pretty certain we have eroded and denigrated many of the cultural institutions and practices that once made it easier to do those things.

Is there a policy out there that fixes any of this? No. I don't think this a government or policy fix. We have to anticipate an emergent order solution at the societal level.

As for Shulevitz, her examples of where this might emerge are disheartening and betray the class blindness.
Reform is possible, however. In Seattle, New York City, and San Francisco, “predictive scheduling” laws (also called “fair workweek” laws) require employers to give employees adequate notice of their schedules and to pay employees a penalty if they don’t.
Our three cities most notable for income inequality, generational poverty, social dissolution and family/community disintegration.

I am pretty certain that anything New York and San Francisco come up with will only enhance the well-being of the most privileged at the expense of everyone else.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

It is easy to overlook how far we have come

Fifty years of boxes of books, 10-15,000 in total, take a lot of going through. I try and get through 2-4 boxes a weekend with an intent, occasionally realized, of parting with a quarter of them.

Ah, but so many interesting things to read about. So many old memories. So many books that still need to be read. And some wonderful art books.

One such, this past weekend, combining art and history, was Kids at Work: Lewis Hine and the Crusade Against Child Labor by Russell Freedman.

Lewis Hine, per Wikipedia:
Hine was born in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, on September 26, 1874. After his father was killed in an accident, Hine began working and saved his money for a college education. He studied sociology at the University of Chicago, Columbia University and New York University. He became a teacher in New York City at the Ethical Culture School, where he encouraged his students to use photography as an educational medium.

Hine led his sociology classes to Ellis Island in New York Harbor, photographing the thousands of immigrants who arrived each day. Between 1904 and 1909, Hine took over 200 plates (photographs) and came to the realization that documentary photography could be employed as a tool for social change and reform.

In 1907, Hine became the staff photographer of the Russell Sage Foundation; he photographed life in the steel-making districts and people of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for the influential sociological study called The Pittsburgh Survey.

In 1908 Hine became the photographer for the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC), leaving his teaching position. Over the next decade, Hine documented child labor, with focus on the use of child labor in the Carolina Piedmont, to aid the NCLC's lobbying efforts to end the practice. In 1913, he documented child laborers among cotton mill workers with a series of Francis Galton's composite portraits.

Hine's work for the NCLC was often dangerous. As a photographer, he was frequently threatened with violence or even death by factory police and foremen. At the time, the immorality of child labor was meant to be hidden from the public. Photography was not only prohibited but also posed a serious threat to the industry. To gain entry to the mills, mines and factories, Hine was forced to assume many guises. At times he was a fire inspector, postcard vendor, bible salesman, or even an industrial photographer making a record of factory machinery
The effort was long but eventually, with the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, child labor in the USA finally began to disappear. 1938!

Hine had made child labor real and hard to ignore through his photographs, many captured in this book. You cannot look at these pictures and gloss over the cruel realities of child labor.

I have read a lot of history and many biographies. I can't recall a single one by or about someone who had experienced this kind of child labor. Farm labor, yes. But industrial and mining? Can't think of one. Gazing at those young faces, you have to wonder, how many even survived to adulthood.

A sampling:

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In the scheme of things, this wasn't much more than the day before yesterday. It was just dying out when my parents were born. Almost within living memory.

It is easy to overlook how far we have come.

Off Beat Humor


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Socialists advocating that the middle and working class subsidize the upper class

From Think Tank Study Shows Democrats Fixing College Loan Crisis That Doesn’t Exist by Mark Tapscott. The original study is Issues 2020: Millennials Aren’t Drowning in Student Debt by Beth Akers.

Neither the article or research are completely compelling in dismissing the student debt crisis. The effort is flawed owing to averaging by category. But it does put some parameters around an otherwise squishy topic. From the article:
“Sixty-six percent of millennials have no student debt at all. That’s because they haven’t gone to college or because they managed to get through without having to borrow,” Akers wrote.

“Those who do have debt tend to have modest burdens relative to their income. Typical four-year-degree graduates who borrow will accumulate $28,500 in debt over the course of their enrollment,” she said.

According to Akers’s calculation, the $28,500 can be repaid at a monthly cost of less $200, which represents only 4 percent of the average monthly earnings for such individuals.

The biggest chunks of the current college loan debt are held by higher-income people with graduate level and professional degrees, Akers pointed out.

“The largest loan balances are held by people who pursued graduate or professional degrees. Fortunately, this group also benefits from higher earnings,” Akers wrote.

[snip]

Contrary to what might be expected, the Manhattan Institute scholar wrote, students from higher-income families tend to take on greater debt because they attend more expensive schools and remain in class longer.

“In 2015–16, students from households in the highest income quartile (those with incomes above $120,000) borrowed about $10,500 more than students from households in the lowest income quartile (those with incomes below $30,000) in pursuit of undergraduate degrees,” according to Akers.
Useful information here.
66% are not affected because they do not have any debt.

Average debt is $28,500.

The highest debts are accumulated by students with higher income degrees.
The article goes into all sorts of safety nets that exist. What is missing is a clear articulation of the number of students who seek degrees, accrue debt, and do not complete the degree; the number of students who pursue degrees at a debt level greater than the degree is worth in the market; the number of instances where parental retirement savings are depleted from co-signing such debts.

I think the truth is that there are a lot more problems than Akers is acknowledging but also that the problems are far different, and probably smaller, than is being made out to be the case by flighty politicians.

The striking thing that comes across is what has been known all along - 1) Federal student loans are a subsidy to an already wealthy and protected sector (education) and 2) Debt loads are a subsidy to the already upper-middle class pursuing masters and doctorates.

In other words our two most avid socialist politicians (Warren and Sanders) are the most vocal in their support of a program which favors and subsidizes the already financially privileged at the expense of medium and low income earners.

Best of the Bee




The Vision of St Francesca Romana, 1615-19 by Orazio Gentileschi

The Vision of St Francesca Romana, 1615-19 by Orazio Gentileschi

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With their homemade swords and draught horses they were cavalry in name only.

From The Road to Guilford Courthouse by John Buchanan. Page 344.
“At the ford Davidson divided his force, for while there was one entrance into the water on the right bank, there were two exits on the left. From the entrance on the right bank the ford led straight ahead about halfway across the river. There it split. The wagon ford continued ahead into the deeper part of the stream. The shallower horse ford turned right at a forty-five degree angle, headed downriver over the end of a little island, and emerged on the left bank about one-quarter of a mile below the wagon ford exit. The bottom was rocky, the water two to four feet deep, the current powerful. Davidson posted a small picket guard where the wagon ford emerged from the river. At the exit point for the horse ford, where he obviously expected any force to attempt to cross, he placed his 250 infantrymen on a hill half a mile above and overlooking the exit. His horsemen were posted several hundred yards in the rear on a small rise; with their homemade swords and draught horses they were cavalry in name only.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Off Beat Humor


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Best of the Bee




Audi alteram partem

An old principle worth reiterating in this time when so many activists wish to suppress free speech.

From Wikipedia.
Audi alteram partem (or audiatur et altera pars) is a Latin phrase meaning "listen to the other side", or "let the other side be heard as well". It is the principle that no person should be judged without a fair hearing in which each party is given the opportunity to respond to the evidence against them.

"Audi alteram partem" is considered to be a principle of fundamental justice or equity or the principle of natural justice in most legal systems. This principle includes the rights of a party or his lawyers to confront the witnesses against him, to have a fair opportunity to challenge the evidence presented by the other party, to summon one's own witnesses and to present evidence, and to have counsel, if necessary at public expense, in order to make one's case properly.

The people pushing hardest for Trump’s early removal are more dangerous than Trump

Fascinating. Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone magazine is very much a part of the Mandarin Class clerisy. He hates Donald Trump.

But . . .

From We're in a permanent coup by Matt Taibbi. A fascinating mix of two firm beliefs.
Donal Trump is almost evil and certainly incompetent

and

We have a Deep State coup going on which threatens our system of government.
Both the article and the commenters (apparently also firmly of the Left) are a clanging cry of cognitive disonance.

From the article:
My discomfort in the last few years, first with Russiagate and now with Ukrainegate and impeachment, stems from the belief that the people pushing hardest for Trump’s early removal are more dangerous than Trump. Many Americans don’t see this because they’re not used to waking up in a country where you’re not sure who the president will be by nightfall. They don’t understand that this predicament is worse than having a bad president.

The Trump presidency is the first to reveal a full-blown schism between the intelligence community and the White House. Senior figures in the CIA, NSA, FBI and other agencies made an open break from their would-be boss before Trump’s inauguration, commencing a public war of leaks that has not stopped.

The first big shot was fired in early January, 2017, via a CNN.com headline, “Intel chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him.” This tale, about the January 7th presentation of former British spy Christopher Steele’s report to then-President-elect Trump, began as follows:
Classified documents presented last week to President Obama and President-elect Trump included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump, multiple US officials with direct knowledge of the briefings tell CNN.
Four intelligence chiefs in the FBI’s James Comey, the CIA’s John Brennan, the NSA’s Mike Rogers, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, presented an incoming president with a politically disastrous piece of information, in this case a piece of a private opposition research report.

Among other things because the news dropped at the same time Buzzfeed decided to publish the entire “bombshell” Steele dossier, reporters spent that week obsessing not about the mode of the story’s release, but about the “claims.” In particular, audiences were rapt by allegations that Russians were trying to blackmail Trump with evidence of a golden shower party commissioned on a bed once slept upon by Barack Obama himself.

Twitter exploded. No other news story mattered. For the next two years, the “claims” of compromise and a “continuing” Trump-Russian “exchange” hung over the White House like a sword of Damocles.

Few were interested in the motives for making this story public. As it turned out, there were two explanations, one that was made public, and one that only came out later. The public justification as outlined in the CNN piece, was to “make the President-elect aware that such allegations involving him [were] circulating among intelligence agencies.”

However, we know from Comey’s January 7, 2017 memo to deputy Andrew McCabe and FBI General Counsel James Baker there was another explanation. Comey wrote:
I said I wasn’t saying this was true, only that I wanted [Trump] to know both that it had been reported and that the reports were in many hands. I said media like CNN had them and were looking for a news hook. I said it was important that we not give them the excuse to write that the FBI has the material or [redacted] and that we were keeping it very close-hold.
Imagine if a similar situation had taken place in January of 2009, involving president-elect Barack Obama. Picture a meeting between Obama and the heads of the CIA, NSA, and FBI, along with the DIA, in which the newly-elected president is presented with a report complied by, say, Judicial Watch, accusing him of links to al-Qaeda. Imagine further that they tell Obama they are presenting him with this information to make him aware of a blackmail threat, and to reassure him they won’t give news agencies a “hook” to publish the news.
I agree. It seems increasingly obvious that our intelligence community, supplemented by the IRS, have become politicized and are no longer serving the great public but are pursuing their own personal partisan/personal agendas. For our great experiment in constrained government to continue to succeed, it depends on a bedrock of trust. Once government agencies demonstrate that they are not serving the public but their own interests instead, we are in perilous waters.

Taibbi then goes on to document the increasingly compelling evidence that various governmental agencies have been actively working and coordinating with the loser of the last election to subvert the power and effectiveness of the winner.

This is the dangerous territory Taibbi sees us in and I agree. As he says:
My discomfort in the last few years, first with Russiagate and now with Ukrainegate and impeachment, stems from the belief that the people pushing hardest for Trump’s early removal are more dangerous than Trump.
Interestingly, Taibbi is even more explicit in the comments section.
Matt Taibbi Oct 11

Thanks - see Chuck McClenon’s reply below. I can’t stress enough that the Russiagate insanity, and specifically the Steele leak, began before Trump took office. If it was not framing exactly it was certainly manipulation of wrong intelligence, on par with using Chalabi’s tales to start war. There are only three explanations for the January 7, 2017 “intel chiefs” meeting. One, they sincerely believed Trump was a cultivated foreign agent as Steele reported. I don’t buy that this is possible. They had half a year at least to investigate these extremely serious claims. If they were true, leaking to CNN and letting Trump take office is an extremely weak response. Moreover no evidence to substantiate the idea ever surfaced. Two: Steele was on some level genuinely reporting rumors he heard, and the agencies merely waved this dicey intel on to the public via leaks (and gave it gravitas with leaks of their meeting) because it was explosive and expedient, advancing political goals they had. This to me is the most likely explanation. A sub-possibility is Steele was duped by Russian disinformation and the agencies either knew this and waved it through, or weren’t sure and waved it through anyway. Three: the agencies had a direct hand in creating the Steele nonsense. I think this unlikely. It’s what Trump and Giuliani believe, and it’s not completely unsupported, given Steele’s relationship with the FBI and Fusion’s dubious history, but I have a hard time believing such a Dr. Evil narrative absent hard hard evidence. Still, option #2, i.e. cynically using/leaking wrong intel to cripple an incoming president, would be an awesome corruption/meddling story, beyond anything Trump has done.

chuck mcclenon Oct 11

Right. And this is where I'm also caught, trying to figure between options #2 and #3 -- it's hard to believe #3 in which there is some intentional Dr. Evil master-minding the coup, even if the incestuous relationships among Steele, the McCabes, foreign intelligence partners, etc. Certainly the opportunities were there for some very deliberate collusion, but have all of these players already been totally in the bank for Hillary from the beginning? It seems more likely that there were more tentacles, operating more or less independently -- Steele and Fusion GPS doing their thing, bought and paid for fairly directly by the Clinton campaign, and the IC community/FBI believing this because it was useful to them. But it becomes a fuzzy line between when the IC community is wanting to believe it and wanting more of it. Are they conspirators, or dupes? Which would be worse? As evidence in support of #3, we have McCabe keeping in touch with Steele even after Steele is officially fired, and it appears that the rest of the agency is aware of this. What we lack is the specific individual Dr. Evil who is pulling the strings. But isn't a multi-header Dr. Evil both more plausible and more evil? But, as you say, even option #2 is far more corrupt and awesome than anything Donald Trump is capable of.
I agree with Taibbi that we are suffering a crisis of institutional credibility and not one of polarization. Select individuals within particular agencies are working to subvert the will of the people. And are thereby subverting the entirety of our system of governance. The fact that such actions also constitute a defense of appropriated power and Mandarin Class protectionism is a material, though separate, issue.

I disagree with Taibbi regarding whether it is patently obvious that Trump is an evil dunce. I think that there is an enormous amount of evidence to the contrary. Trump definitely thinks differently than the Mandarin Class, takes different risks than they are comfortable with, and disdains and insults the Mandarin Class. None of that justifies an attempt to overturn the choice of the sovereign people. It is not even clear that those differences are a threat to anyone except the Gilded Clerisy and their utopian fantasy where they are the Philosopher King controlling everyone else.

It is also interesting that the most severe indictment of the Deep State malfeasance hinges on whether "the agencies had a direct hand in creating the Steele nonsense." If that is the only barrier for Taibbi to believing the worst about the Deep State actions, then I think we are very close to a solidly left representative of the Mandarin Clerisy being convinced that the Deep State is undermining our democracy.

I think they are and I would split a hair. I think they have been trying to reverse the results of the election but I do not think it has been a controlled and coordinated effort. Not a conspiracy per se but a native instinct for self-preservation of privilege and sinecures. So bad actions for bad reason's, just not a structured conspiracy.

Unnamed by Michael McCurdy

Unnamed by Michael McCurdy

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No one can form an idea of the character of the roads in winter, at the South, where the red clay abounds, without passing over them.

From The Road to Guilford Courthouse by John Buchanan. Page 340.
It was when he arrived at Ramsour’s Mill only to find that Morgan was two days ahead of him and across the Catawba that Cornwallis probably felt most deeply the primary consequence of the Battle of Cowpens. “The loss of my light troops could only be remedied by the activity of the whole corps,” he later wrote to Lord Germain, in explanation of his solution to his problem. Almost all of Cornwallis’s remaining units were regiments of the line, accustomed to a traditional way of war, to tents at night and all the other impedimenta of an eighteenth-century European army, transported by a long, cumbersome, slow-moving baggage train of wagons pulled by teams of horses that had to be cared for and fed. In the Carolina Back Country that winter, under pelting rains on wretched red clay roads that were quagmires by day and frozen moonscapes by night, Cornwallis faced a logistical nightmare. Benson Lossing traveled those roads in the winter of 1849. They had not changed, and he wrote, “No one can form an idea of the character of the roads in winter, at the South, where the red clay abounds, without passing over them. Until I had done so, I could not appreciate the difficulties experienced by the two armies in the race toward Virginia, particularly in the transportation of baggage wagons or of artillery.” Rain, roads, rivers, and fords were the critical factors in that winter campaign, and to deal with them Cornwallis chose a solution even more unorthodox than Greene’s division of his army.

Cornwallis burned his baggage train. He kept only enough wagons for medical supplies, salt, and ammunition, and four empty wagons for the sick and wounded. Otherwise everything went. At the Catawba a few days later Cornwallis told the troops that “The Supply of Rum for a time will be Absolutely impossible.” This was the cruelest cut of all, for rum was very important to eighteenth-century soldiers. Recall Morgan’s plaintive sentence: “We have nothing to drink.” A huge bonfire was built, and into it went wagons, tents, excess clothing, anything deemed not vital to the army’s functioning. What the troops needed they would carry on their backs. The officers did not escape the sacrifice, for Charles O’Hara reported to the Duke of Grafton, “Lord Cornwallis sett the example by burning all his Wagons, and destroying the greatest part of his Bagage, which was followed by every Officer of the Army without a murmur.” All the fine china and plate and silver and wine and other luxuries that officers then considered their due when they took the field—all were thrown into the vast conflagration.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Off Beat Humor


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In the Library by Maija Laaksonen

In the Library by Maija Laaksonen

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And maybe potato salad is a better way of saying it.

Quoted from Will D. Campbell in Sustenance & Desire by Bascove.
As I drove in she was walking into the house with eggs for breakfast and home made biscuits ready for baking.
Somehow in rural Southern culture, food is always the first thought of the neighbors when there is trouble - that is something they do not have to discuss or feel self-conscious about. "Here, I brought you some fresh eggs for your breakfast. And here's a cake. And some potato salad." It means "I love you and I am sorry for what you are going through and I will share as much of your burden as I can." And maybe potato salad is a better way of saying it.
I first became consciously aware of this endearing Southern cultural attribute when I was ten or twelve, as an expatriate kid in Stockholm, Sweden.

Stockholm's was a small expatriate community, the American contingent about evenly divided between embassy staff and executives for American multinationals. A handful of whom were Southern.

I believe in this specific instance it was a terrorist hostage-taking, though in later cases it covered suicides, severe illnesses, and other traumas. As American kids in a hostile world, we had been drilled on varying our routes to school, maintaining situational awareness, what to do with over-solicitous strangers, what to do if you are grabbed, what to do if someone tells you your parents have had an accident and you need to go with them, etc. All just kind of background realities for third-culture kids having lived in countries from third-world to barely developing, to modern but plagued with turmoil.

The husband of one of my mother's friends was on a plane seized by terrorists; I think it might have been the Baader-Meinhof group. The wife was of course distraught - dealing the event at all of course; disorienting anyway but especially so in a foreign country, in a foreign language, and with virtually no network of family or institutional support. The American embassy being notorious among expatriates, at least in that era, for providing no support of expatriate Americans regardless of the circumstances.

There were the couple's kids to be fed and put to bed and gotten to school, etc. Somebody needed to be with the wife.

The Southern contingent of the American expatriate community swung into action. Who can get the kids to school? Who can be with her? And of course, almost over everything - Food. From the moment the community became aware of the hostage taking, everyone was already baking, everyone was already thinking ahead about food supplies and meals and keeping things warm and all the small elements of domesticity and love in a tight community lightening the burden of someone suffering.

As a kid, all this is going on in the background. Why all the telephone calls? What's going on? Why all the hushed conversations among adults?

My Mom explains. Well, why all the food? "Its what you do when something bad happens. It always helps."

You can't learn culture by reading about it. You learn it from living it.

We would na have asked any mair favors at thy hands. Amen.

From The Road to Guilford Courthouse by John Buchanan. Page 332. The aftermath of the Battle of Cowpens.
The same morning that Morgan was hastening northward toward the Catawba, well on the road to Gilbert Town, Banastre Tarleton arrived at the Turkey Creek bivouac. Imagine the scene as he trotted—or did he walk his horse—to where Cornwallis stood. Certainly, all eyes had to be on him, including those of an American prisoner, Samuel McJunkin, who later related that as Tarleton reported Cornwallis placed the tip of his sword against the ground and leaned into the hilt, and leaned harder and harder, until the blade snapped. In his fury and sense of loss, Cornwallis swore that he would recover the prisoners. That episode and the letter he wrote four days later to Lord Rawdon reveal his extreme agitation over a defeat so unexpected as to be almost incomprehensible. “The late affair has almost broke my heart,” he confessed to Rawdon. The feelings of other officers were torn between grief for their fallen comrades and a sense that Tarleton, never popular, resented for his rapid promotions over the heads of older officers, had gotten his just reward. “This defeat,” wrote William Moultrie, “chagrined and disappointed British officers and Tories in Charlestown exceedingly. I happened to be in Charlestown at the time when the news arrived. I saw them standing in the streets in small circles, talking over the affair with very grave faces.” When the older British officers who had been captured arrived in Charleston on parole, they were, added Moultrie, “exceedingly angry indeed at their defeat, and were heard to say, ‘that was the consequence of trusting such a command to a boy like Tarleton.’

For ten days Tarleton endured the whispers, the looks, possibly even barely hidden gloating. He then wrote to Cornwallis asking permission to retire and a court martial to determine responsibility. Horatio Gates had asked for the same after Camden and never received it. Nor would Tarleton. On 30 January Cornwallis wrote to him: “You have forfeited no part of my esteem as an officer by the unfortunate event of the action of the 17th. The means you used to bring the enemy to action were able and masterly, and must ever do you honour. Your disposition was unexceptionable; the total misbehaviour of the troops could alone have deprived you of the Glory which was so justly your due.” None of this was true, and Cornwallis must have known it. His biographers believe he had no other choice because he knew that he needed Tarleton for the rest of the campaign. But bureaucracies—and the military is the epitome of bureaucracy—invariably protect their own regardless of the truth, and in this case the other ranks offered a convenient scapegoat. And after months of writing official reports to Clinton and Germain in which he praised Tarleton as the officer without whom they could do nothing, could Cornwallis possibly admit that he might have been wrong? Whatever the case, the words assuaged Tarleton’s wounded feelings and he withdrew his request. Another, homelier, man provided a pithier description of both Tarleton at Cowpens and the entire British effort in the Back Country. His name was John Miller, and somewhere in western Carolina he was asked to give a prayer at a meeting.

“Good Lord, our God that art in heaven, we have great reason to thank thee for the many favors we have received at thy hands, the many battles we have won.

“There is the great and glorious battle of King’s Mountain, where we kilt the great Gineral Ferguson and took his whole army. And the great battles of Ramsours’s and at Williamson’s. And the ever-memorable and glorious battle of the Coopens, where we made the proud Gineral Tarleton run doon the road helter-skelter, and, Good Lord, if ye had na suffered the cruel Tories to burn Billy Hill’s Iron Works, we would na have asked any mair favors at thy hands. Amen.”

Measurement lends perspective

Measurement lends perspective. For those who would but see.

From FBI: More people killed with knives, hammers, clubs and even feet than rifles in 2018 by LET Staff. It has actually been true for years but no one wants to focus on the uncomfortable reality that all the ideological vehemence around long guns does not reflect the realities of violence. Leading the disinterestedly curious wondering about what must be the real motive behind the obsession with long gun control.
According to the FBI, more than five times as many people were killed in 2018 by knives, clubs and other cutting instruments than with rifles.

The metrics show that there were a total of 1,515 deaths by knives or other cutting instruments last year. Compare that against 297 people killed by rifles.

It’s a gap that widened significantly over 2017. In that year, the FBI said nearly four times as many people were stabbed to death as killed with rifles. During that year, the number of murders with rifles was around 400.

It gets better. More than 100 more people were killed with hammers and clubs in 2018 than were killed by rifles. There were 443 people killed with hammers, clubs, or other “blunt objects”.

We need to point out that the data isn’t just semiautomatic rifles – it’s ALL rifles, including bolt action, pump or lever action rifles as well.

If you were to contrast the numbers between JUST semiautomatic rifles and knife homicides, the gap would be even larger.

Here’s another number that will blow your mind. The data also shows that in 2018, there were 672 deaths from “fists, feet and other ‘personal weapons’” – which is once again more than with rifles.
300 deaths from long guns are still a tragedy. And all deaths are equal in their oblivion. But the data suggests that the focus should be on helping people and their behaviors rather than trying to strip away constitutional freedoms.


Saturday, October 12, 2019

Which movie is the real one, if such a thing exists?

From Trump and Ukraine: What We Know by Scott Adams. A refreshing and useful reminder.

Take away all the invective, anger, shouted accusations, pouting, feigned outrage, etc. and what exactly is that we know or at least can agree on early in any clearly political news cycle? Adams' advice:
If you’ve followed the Ukraine phone-call news, you might have noticed reality branching into two completely different movies. In one, President Trump was doing his job of protecting the republic by asking an allied country to help out on an important legal investigation. The other movie involves Orange Hitler bullying a foreign country into meddling in our elections by “digging up dirt” on a political opponent.

Which movie is the real one, if such a thing exists? I’d like to offer a rule of thumb for evaluating political news: If a fact is reported the same by both the left-leaning and the right-leaning press, it’s probably a fact. If not, wait and see.

It’s also smart to wait a week or two before you make up your mind, as the fog of war often makes early reporting unreliable. But after the fog clears, if all sides agree on a fact, it’s probably a fact. Or at least it’s credible, even if future reporting debunks it.
For the specific case example he is using, identifies where the movies diverge but also identifies the facts upon which both sides have consonance of view.
If you strip out the parts of the Ukraine story we can’t yet know to be true, you still know enough to have a responsible opinion. Vice President Biden was handling the Ukraine portfolio while his son had a financial interest in Ukraine, and that is enough of a conflict to merit an investigation. We all agree that the sitting president is responsible for protecting the integrity of American elections and generally keeping foreign interference in U.S. politics to a minimum. That’s what Mr. Trump was doing on the Ukraine phone call. (For those of you who say such matters should be handled at lower levels of government, my experience in corporate America tells me nothing much gets done until the bosses talk and agree. I assume government is similar.)

All sides can also agree that Mr. Trump was serving his own re-election interests by asking Ukraine to investigate Mr. Biden. But we also agree our political system allows that—even encourages it—so long as the president is also clearly pursuing the national interest. Before the Democratic primary, would it be good for the country to know more about Joe Biden’s relationship with Ukraine? Democrats should appreciate finding out soon if there is anything of concern, because I assume they don’t want to go into the general election with a candidate who has some surprises in his Ukrainian closet.
Adams is an entertainer in many ways but he is also a pretty rare public intellectual. Not so much because he knows more but because he usually thinks more creatively.