May 30, 2017

Quote of the Day

Mr. Trump should decline [signing on to the Paris climate accord] if he wants to fulfill his campaign promises to lift the U.S. economy. Mrs. Merkel's embrace of green-energy dogmas has done enormous harm to the German economy. She reacted to the Fukushima meltdown by phasing out nuclear power, and her government has force-fed hundreds of billions of dollars into solar and wind power that have raised energy costs. As Der Spiegel once put it, electricity is now a "luxury good" in Germany. -- WSJ Ed Page
But johngalt thinks:

It would seem that WSJ joining the ranks of climate "deniers" is big news. Don't they understand that "climate change is undeniable?" And "climate action is unstoppable?"

When did Breitbart acquire the WSJ?

Posted by: johngalt at May 31, 2017 6:24 PM
But jk thinks:

At the risk of missing a touch of sarcasm, I'd point out that the WSJ News Pages are most certainly all-in for the risks of man-made climate change. The Editorial board, however, deserves awards for decades of reasonable skepticism. They've published a gooberload of guest editorials from Richard Lindzen of MIT, John Christy of UAH, and Bjorn Lomborg.

Posted by: jk at June 1, 2017 2:49 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Fair enough. And I willfully conjoined the two wings of that newsprint bird-of-prey. And they earn this disapprobation from me for being tools of the pre-Trump status quo once referred to as "RINO" or "Establishment." That they, and even the likes of Mitch McConnell, now endorse exiting the deal is evidence, to me at least, of their redeemability.

Posted by: johngalt at June 1, 2017 3:27 PM
But jk thinks:

But it's not a function of time. I assure you you will find consistent and stern opposition to the Paris Agreement. The differences I see between you and the Ed Page are issue by issue, not last administration versus this.

On a lighter note, I was thinking about prey-bird-wings today -- which I fairly-or-not ascribe to you and Mr. Pat Buchannan. My own biological brother was passionately commenting on an "Anonymous" meme with Guy Fawkes and "both parties are bought by the same Corporations" yadda-yadda. It was "a lie, repeated so often that it is thought true" and "the reason we got Trump."

Pragmatism -- maybe we are related after all.

Posted by: jk at June 1, 2017 3:42 PM

May 28, 2017

Review Corner

John Stuart Mill claimed that "the battle of Marathon, even as an event in English history, is more important than the battle of Hastings." 7 Hegel, in the more expansive tones that one would expect of a German philosophe, declared that "the interest of the whole world's history hung trembling in the balance."
I'm just finishing up a free online course at Hillsdale College on Athens and Sparta -- which I highly recommend. Lectures alternate between Victor Davis Hanson and Paul Rahe. Readings are provided in PDFs from the authors books, as well as sections from Thucydides, Xenophon, and Herodotus. A brief excerpt was also included, in the first lecture, from Tom Holland's Persian Fire and I purchased the whole book.

Persian Fire begins centuries before Thucydides, tracing the rise of Persia, Sparta, and Athens, and culminating in the two repelled invasions: the battle at Marathon against Darius's forces, and the battles at Thermopylae and Salamis which repelled Xerxes.

The ascension of Persia, Holland admits, contains speculation. They were not given to documentation and historians as were ancient Greeks. There's an extant scaffolding of facts around large events, the author seeks to fill the lacunae with plausible speculation. I was reminded of Lisa Alther's Blood Feud on the Hatfields & McCoys. [Review Corner].

How far back? Encountering the mention of Nebuchadnezzar III, Assyrian Empire, Babylon, and Nineveh, I was struck with a sense of some historical continuity with biblical stories. The Persian Empire eventually grows out of empires and city-states and the detritus of regimes in the Old Testament.

It was not only priests and businessmen who were eager to collaborate with the Persian king. Babylon was also filled with the descendants of deportees, scattered throughout the suburbs. Few of these were willing to die in the cause of a Nebuchadnezzar. The cosmopolitanism of the great city, once the mark and buttress of its imperial might, now threatened it with anarchy.

Empire is assembled over generations, but it is more Firefly or Star Wars than the singular military approach more common to the west. Satrapies have an air of federalism: they keep their Gods and public feasts, and local customs are rarely disturbed There was always the danger of succession risk, and of course uprisings were nonzero. But a generous mixture of bribery, fear, and diplomacy conquered all of Asia and set its sights on using that capital and manpower to spread the worship of Ahura Mazda to Europe.
The priests of Marduk, confirmed in both their primacy and in their extensive property-holdings across Mesopotamia, were not the only natives to have collaborated enthusiastically with foreign rule. Big business had also flourished. Inflation, galloping out of control under Nabonidus, had been stabilized; trade routes, no longer blocked by Persian sanctions, had filled with caravans again. For merchants and financiers, the absorption of Mesopotamia into a world empire had opened up unprecedented opportunities. Sentimental notions of loyalty to the old regime could hardly be expected to stand in the way of profit.

While the Satrapies are not always converted at the sword, however, it is a powerful motivator for the Persian troops.
For there had been, in this otherwise obscure and unmemorable campaign, the hint of something fateful. Darius, testing the potential of his religion to its limits, had promoted a dramatic innovation. Contained within it were the seeds of some radical notions: that foreign foes might be crushed as infidels; that warriors might be promised paradise; that conquest in the name of a god might become a moral duty. Not that Darius, even as he ordered the invasion of Elam, had ever aimed to impose his religion at the point of a sword; such an idea was wholly alien to the spirit of the times. Nevertheless, a new age was dawning -- and Darius was its midwife.

When warned by the Ionians in Asia Minor not to push too hard lest they anger the Spartans, Cyrus asked "Who are the Spartans?"

Holland details the rise of Lacedaemon and Athenian power as well, but the stories are a little more familiar. Except the extremely NSFW Athenian creation myth which presages the rise of democracy. (I'm not typing it, you'll have to buy the book).

Naturally, just as they had always done, the Athenians required that subscriptions to the league be paid in full. Liberty, as they pointed out, did not come cheap. But many of the increasingly disgruntled allies began to mutter that Athenian -- sponsored freedom was proving a good deal more expensive than slavery to the King of Kings had ever been.

I'm getting an inkling of life as an Oakland/LA Raiders fan. Athens can be a difficult city-state to cheer for. There's a lot of lip service to democracy and liberty, but she fails to live up to her principles like the sleaziest back-bencher Congressperson.

And yet, I cheer when Athens bloodies her enemies. I tolerate massacres and a bit of corpse mutilation. Go Athens! In a heroic period of heroic empires, there is a distinct paucity of real heroes. One of the joys of reading Thucydides is his realization of this. The Athenian Admiral lacks a trace of jingoism. Professor Hanson, in one of the Q&A sessions discusses this. Athens is America against the Soviet Sparta in the Peloponnesian War.

No longer, under the constitution established by Lycurgus, were the Spartans to be counted as predators upon their own kind, the rich upon the poor, the Heraclids upon the farmers, but rather as hunters in a single deadly pack. Every citizen, be he aristocrat or peasant, was to be subsumed within its ranks. Henceforward, even "the very wealthy were to adopt a lifestyle that was as much as possible like that of the ordinary run of people." 15 Merciless and universal discipline was to teach every Spartan, from the moment of his birth, that conformity was all.

But the East vs. West in Persian Fire is even more difficult to accept objectively. Our history is poised to be wiped out, 2400 years before we get here. The superiority of force in the Persian side is unfathomable.
"And from where he sat, gazing out across the bay, he could take in the spectacle of his army and his navy in a single sweep . . . And when he saw the whole of the Hellespont covered with ships, and all the beaches and plains of Abydos filled with men, Xerxes counted himself truly blessed." -- Herodotus 7.44-5

It testifies to Holland's narrative capability, therefore, that the reader gets excited at the battle scenes. Even knowing how they end, even as I said celebrating grisly butchery. Not Homer, real life.

Fascinating book, five stars for certain. I enjoyed the Kindle version, but kept my Landmark Thucydides handy to look at printed maps. I might recommend a hard copy.

May 27, 2017

healthcare as a right

Maybe Sanders didn't stay in Moscow for life after his honeymoon, but went to Caracas?
His statement that healthcare as a right (see article 83) isn't even original, which I'm sure is a shocker around here.

Posted by nanobrewer at 2:24 AM | What do you think? [0]

May 22, 2017

Otequay of the Ayday

"If you choose the path of terror your life will be empty, your life will be short, and your soul will be condemned."

President Donald Trump in Saudi Arabia

But nanobrewer thinks:

I didn't get to read or listen to the whole speech, but I'd say it was as nuanced... as Gen'l Patton. Hear hear!

Posted by: nanobrewer at May 23, 2017 11:57 PM
But johngalt thinks:

This was one of the important reasons I supported Trump for President - because he would identify Islamism as immoral, since it violates the individual human right to life.

It's interesting that you judge it as not being nuanced. As I heard and read various parts of it I concluded that he was essentially stating what was known as, for a fleeting moment, the "Bush Doctrine." But using more words and making it impossible to dismiss as "Islamo-phobic."

Ponder that, blog brothers and sisters - President Donald Trump's anti-terror policy is a nuanced version of Dubya's. Who'd a thunk?

Posted by: johngalt at May 25, 2017 5:07 PM

May 21, 2017

Review Corner

[F]ormer United States solicitor general and associate justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Charles Fried has rightly said, "is the most libertarian and speech protective of any liberal democratic regime." As such, its consequences and implications are profound.

The exceptionalism of the United States in the protections it offers to freedom of expression does not mean that other democratic nations do not respect, honor, and generally seek to protect it; it does mean that American law does so more often, more intensely, and more controversially than is true elsewhere.

A foundational theme in my opposition to anarchy is my appreciation for Bill of Rights protections. We endure interminable nonsense from the EPA, FDA, and that third one -- what was it? At the end of the day, I posit that is worth it because of the rights protections in the Bill of Rights, and that the expectation of those across the huge geography of the 50 states is "pretty groovy."

I might morosely concede my An-Cap friends' complaint that the Constitution of limited government and enumerated powers is "so much parchment" in the way of rapacious executives like President Wilson and opportunistic legislators like Majority Leader Lyndon Baines Johnson. But our Carolene Rights have enjoyed protections in the US unseen in other free nations. And, as a talker, if I have a favorite, it is probably the First Amendment. I celebrate our nation's devotion to protecting speech. It could be a bit better but it could be a whole lot worse.

Floyd Abrams, who has agued important speech cases in the Supreme Court, provides a deep and loving look at our speech rights in The Soul of the First Amendment: Why Freedom of Speech Matters. It is a short but powerful book on the history of the Amendment and jurisprudence surrounding it.

The smart kids sitting up front at ThreeSources already know the controversy surrounding inclusion of a Bill of Rights. Jefferson, in France, was appalled at its omission. Others were not on board:

Noah Webster, tongue deeply in cheek, suggested that if a list of inalienable rights were to be added to the Constitution, it should include a clause stating that "every body shall, in good weather, hunt on his own land, and catch fish in rivers that are public property . . . [ and ] that Congress shall never restrain any inhabitant of America from eating and drinking, at seasonable times, or prevent his lying on his left side, in a long winter's night."

Madison was won over, and the nation got its most enforceable protections against government.
Justice William O. Douglas, in 1973, stated that "the struggle for liberty has been a struggle against Government. The essential scheme of our Constitution and Bill of Rights was to take Government off the backs of people."

Speaking of Justice Douglas, Abrams points out the irony that the most liberal Justices grabbed the First Amendment to promote social justice in the late 20th Century. Yet, today the Right wing of the court asserts rights against hate speech codes and campaign finance restrictions.

But the pre-1950 courts and many otherwise laudable foreign governments allow unconscionable intrusion into communications by government.

In Poland, for example, an article of its criminal code makes criminal "offense to religious feelings" as well as "public calumny." In 2010, a singer was convicted of giving "intentional offense to religious feelings" for saying that she "believed more in dinosaurs than the Bible" because "it is hard to believe in something written by people who drank too much wine and smoked herbal cigarettes."

ThreeSourcers have also likely followed prosecutions in Canada and the UK against climate change deniers and opponents of Muslim immigration. I offer tepid pushback to the former and ebullient opposition to the latter, but I don't want to lock up anybody who writes an editorial against me.
Cambridge University Press had declined to publish a book prepared for it that accused Russian president Vladimir Putin of having extensive connections with gangster elements in his country. Cambridge declined to publish the book, stating that as a matter of "risk tolerance" it could not risk a libel suit. "We have no reason to doubt." it wrote the author, "the veracity of what you say," but the risk of litigation and in any event "the disruption and expense" of such a litigation "would be more than we could afford, given our charitable and academic mission." The book was not published in England. It was published in the United States, and no litigation followed.

A great reminder of its importance. Five stars.

Review Corner Posted by John Kranz at 11:07 AM | What do you think? [0]

May 19, 2017

All Hail Freeman


Quote of the Day

Pope Francis isn't known as someone who holds back in the face of what he regards as gross injustices. On issues like refugees, immigration, poverty and the environment, Francis speaks forcibly and uses vivid language in doing so.

Yet despite the daily violence being inflicted on protestors in Venezuela, a steadily increasing death-toll, an explosion of crime, rampant corruption, galloping inflation, the naked politicization of the judiciary, and the disappearance of basic food and medical supplies, the first Latin American pope's comments about the crisis tearing apart an overwhelming Catholic Latin American country have been curiously restrained. -- Ryan McMaken @ Mises Institute: Why the Left Refuses to Talk About Venezuela

impeachment? Puh-leeze

Rhymes with sleeze... good article from WaPo (yes, it happens!) on the history of that "last resort" option our framers included:

The more deliberate the inquiry, the better chance that the American people will have confidence in it. For Nixon, the process that led to his resignation took more than two years ... Impeachment requires proof of significant abuse of power or breach of public trust. Obstruction of justice, or even the attempt to obstruct, epitomizes that sort of offense, entailing as it does an attack on a system whose integrity the president has sworn to uphold
He offers no opinion on the DNC AV club's latest campaign to establish obstruction.
The House tried but failed three times to impeach Tyler for having done nothing more than protect the president’s authorities to veto legislation and nominate officials. Even though Johnson came within a single vote of being convicted in the Senate, most historians have dismissed his impeachment as driven more by partisanship than a proper basis for impeachment and removal.

Meanwhile, we shan't be surprised by some nasty collusion going on:
“A ranking Republican statesman this week told an off-the-record gathering that a ‘coup’ attempt was in progress against President Donald Trump, with collusion between the largely Democratic media and Trump’s numerous enemies in the Republican Party. The object of the coup, the Republican leader added, was not impeachment, but the recruitment of a critical mass of Republican senators and congressmen to the claim that Trump was ‘unfit’ for office and to force his resignation.”

And lastly, the HOSS of the Millennial crowd Tweets (with video) Stop making sh*t up! that Comey, ever the weasel, has already answered this question on May 3: Comey had *never* been told to stop an investigation for political reasons.

Trump Agonistes Posted by nanobrewer at 12:18 AM | What do you think? [0]

May 16, 2017

It Would be Churlish to Laugh

Today's word is "schadenfreude."


Politics Posted by John Kranz at 11:15 AM | What do you think? [2]
But nanobrewer thinks:

Nice! I also like the Meme featuring E. Warran (aka, Fauxcahontas... other names?) who charged $400k for a class but likes to prattle on about 'free' education.

Posted by: nanobrewer at May 19, 2017 12:17 AM
But jk thinks:

Her employer, as Russ Roberts likes to point out, has a $32.7 <jg_voice>B-b-billon</jg_voice> endowment with a fire-hose input. If they think it's too expensive, they could just stop charging tuition and it would be decades before anybody noticed.

But better to ask you and me to pony up some $$$...

Posted by: jk at May 19, 2017 4:34 PM

May 15, 2017



O Canada

A salute to our great northern neighbors. Especially those at the Edmonton game who sang the US anthem when the singer's microphone failed.

Live at the Coffeehouse dot Com


May 14, 2017

Review Corner

Two strides took her to the door. She turned into the hallway and was gone . Some of the color and much of the life in the room followed her. The stones in the wall were once more merely stones, the books merely books. Even the fine tea lost some of its fragrance.
Full Disclosure: Michael C. Glaviano is a friend of mine. Yet the excellent reviews he has scored for his earlier works [Review Corner 1] | [Review Corner2] have been well earned. Thanks -- in large part -- to sweet prose like the introductory quote.

A Fragment of Nothing: The Place Between Worlds Part 2 picks up the story from his "The Locust Queen's Feast." The Locust Queen is dead, and young Reed has settled down in Soapstone, even proposing marriage to his girlfriend, Lena.

First, she wants to come see his world, so the band of four young heroes plan a transit to New Mexico. Red chilies and posolé await. But the smarter students up front have already surmised that the trip involves more excitement than the 25 bus across Albuquerque.

The interstices between chaos worlds and inner worlds are threatened, and the four young heroes have blossomed and become more proficient. Now travelling and learning on their own, their personal and professional development take interesting turns. And we meet some great new characters along the way.

Abbot Harold squinted into the distance. Beyond those jagged peaks, the borderlands merged into the Realms of Chaos. This world, like all others, touched the Great Hub. Even so, few of its denizens forgot the tenuous nature of Form and Substance. He'd lived a long time in this secluded valley. For most of that time, things had remained calm, predictable. Lately however... With a sigh of his own, the Abbot stretched and made ready for the day.

Glaviano holds a PhD in mathematical physics, and brings just enough of that into his prose and plotline to elevate the fantasy / multiverse genre. It's descriptive, surprising and incredibly well-paced. Five stars.

Review Corner Posted by John Kranz at 10:19 AM | What do you think? [0]

May 13, 2017

Adam Smith Smiles

Have I mentioned that I like Deirdre McCloskey? Once or twice?

She has a short piece in Reason. And it is one of those you can hang your philosophical hat upon; it says -- in a few hundred words -- much of what I believe.

She has been taken to Shanghai and her hosts rush her to see The Bund: an attractive district of art deco buildings built by Europeans 100 years ago. But that was not what intrigued the historical economist:

But what gobsmacked me when we got out of the car wasn't the warmed-over continental architecture I'd been brought to admire. On the opposite side of the river rose the Pudong district. Thirty years ago Pudong was farmland, wretchedly farmed because it was collectivized. Then local Communist Party officials decided to plat it and put in water, sewerage, and a few roads--part of an experiment in opening up the economy that continues to this day.

Adam Smith pointed out that were perfect liberty required for prosperity, we'd have none. Entrepreneurs are like weeds in concrete. They'll find just what they need to subsist and, per chance, thrive.

And maybe, sometimes, with a little liberty and Bourgeois Dignity [Review Corner], a billion people (b-b-billion as my blog brother is wont to say!) escape desolate privation.

The bulk and busyness of the buildings proclaim: "Look what can be built in two short generations if the government will but do its modest job moderately competently, and for the rest leave people alone to profit themselves and enrich the nation." The Bund was the old center of 1920s economic modernity, and yet the ordinary Chinese at the time were rickshaw drivers to the Europeans. Now Shanghai and in particular Pudong are the new centers, and in a couple of more generations the ordinary Chinese will be as well off as Europeans.

May 12, 2017

That's My Senator!

Bucking the President on free trade!

I could not support Robert Lighthizer's nomination to become the United States Trade Representative because I'm afraid his policies could hurt Colorado’s farmers and ranchers. In light of the current agricultural crisis facing much of rural America, if we are not open to new trade opportunities, farmers and ranchers in Colorado and across the country will continue to struggle to make ends meet. We have to allow our agricultural products to flow to markets around the world and negotiate fair deals that will boost agriculture exports. Although I did not support Lighthizer's nomination today, I am committed to working with him to advance the interests of Colorado's agriculture community.

I'm getting a little misty-eyed...

Colorado Posted by John Kranz at 4:06 PM | What do you think? [0]

Quote of the Day

I've lived in the Washington area since 1993, other than those years in Turkey. The subway/light-rail Metro system used to be the one smooth-running feature of an otherwise dysfunctional city. Well, now the mayor no longer uses crack (as far as we know), real estate is way more expensive, and the restaurants are better, but the Metro is perpetually delayed and unreliable. -- Jim Geraghty

May 9, 2017

trump right again

Buried in the Comey-questioning last week was something that wasn't about Russia:

Comey responded that out of 2,000-plus “violent extremist investigations … about 300 of them are people who came to the United States as refugees.” So 15 percent of the FBI’s terrorism cases are refugees – far more than their share of the immigrant population, let alone the general population.
So much for the idea that home-grown terrorists are as big a threat as the imports. Still, I was not able to prove this the one time I took a thru stats and dropped them into a spreadsheet for analysis... Now, if you look up "mass shootings" THEN you end up with that down-home flavor of violent hatred.

Vet them, turn them upside down, and do it again!

Immigration Posted by nanobrewer at 11:47 PM | What do you think? [0]

May 6, 2017

Root for US

Power Line has touted this everyday hero of a CEO, who fought and won, unlike Bill Gates. Sayeth one juror to Mr. Root

What the federal government did to you, your company and your employees is nothing short of criminal.


Worth a book review?

But jk thinks:

Please! It sounds interesting.

Posted by: jk at May 8, 2017 2:13 PM

May 5, 2017

All Hail Freeman


Honorable mention:


Posted by John Kranz at 5:32 PM | What do you think? [0]

May 3, 2017

Oh. He's a Dead Man Now!

This actually made me laugh:


The poster is a guitar player buddy. He puts a few anti-Trump things up every day. When somebody (not me -- my Mommy did not raise no fool!) comments or engages from either side, he gets animated "No, no! You're not dragging me into a Facebook political argument!" Umm, then why do you post DemocracyUnderground and The Other 98% every day?

But Dan Ra™er blasting Trump in all caps. Oh, dearie me.

All Hail Freeman


Health Care Posted by John Kranz at 2:59 PM | What do you think? [0]

May 2, 2017

More Trump Apologia from the Atlantic

My lefty friends are all aflutter over President Trump's Andrew Jackson comments. I awoke to a fusillade (is that the word I am looking for?) of smarmy memes about what an idiot he was and he didn't know when the Civil War started and he has fake plaques at his golf club and . . . the Syrian bombing ispired less chatter among the chattering classes! What the hell did he say?

I looked it up and would say he has more confidence in our seventh president than I. But that is not an impeachable event, last I checked.

I harbor grave doubts that the posters are hip to much antebellum history. It was a favorite period of mine. I'm not a scholar of anything, but give me five Jeopardy questions on Clay, Calhoun, and Jackson and I will wipe the floor with my smug progressive posters.

Did you say something about The Atlantic, jk? Why yes. They surprisingly have posted a column by Andrew Exum that -- while not a love letter -- is, well I'll let the title speak for itself: "What Trump Gets Right--and Progressives Get Wrong--About Andrew Jackson." Et tu Atlanticio?

This is why Trump is not wholly wrong, albeit in his rambling way, when he speaks of Jackson saving the Union--not during the Civil War, of course, but three decades earlier. That was no small achievement. It was, indeed, the ultimate achievement of the founding fathers and the generation that followed them. Contemporary progressives, however, apparently see little to celebrate in such achievements. And if Jackson has fallen out of popular favor among the elites, well, the University of Virginia among others should be growing uneasy, because it's only a matter of time before Jefferson, Madison, and many others also fall from grace.
The whole (short) piece is quite worthy of a read. Well done, Atlantic.

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