13 Days of Glory

Well, I did it again, yesterday was the 182d anniversary of a seminal event in Texian, no make that American history, the fall of the Alamo. Which cannot be mentioned without this…

Brave men holding the line, until death. It’s a recurring story in our history. But let’s just enjoy the music and think about those men.

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That Mexican Army that was delayed at the Alamo got itself surprised at San Jacinto with a bit of help from an unlikely source.

Yeah, I know that this is the cleaned up Mitch Miller version but, I suspect we all know the story, and I like this one. Something about those Texas girls, isn’t there?

Then came the big war, and over Sam Houston’s objections, Texas cast its lot with the South.

Those of us that keep up with history will notice something in that song, in the English speaking world revolutions are fought to restore rights that government has taken away. It’s a tradition that reaches back, at least, 800 years to Magna Charta, and it still lives.

Back in 1898 in that “Splendid Little War” with Spain, well there were a lot of cowboy boots that went up San Juan Hill, with those Yalies.

And you know, it just keeps going on, there were a fair number of those boots flying in those Mustangs and Fortresses, back in the Forties as well. To the point that one officer in the Eighth US Army Air Force provoked a protest from the Ambassador from Ireland when he commented that the Allies would have lost if it weren’t for Ireland and Texas. But he may have been right, although he actually meant the Irish-Americans.

But you kind of have to feel for the Mexican Army, they’ve always done their best, and twice they’ve won engagements fought to the last man but both times the glory has gone to the losers. The first was the Alamo, and the second made this unit famous.

Who is, of course, no one but the French Foreign Legion. Sort of sad though, when your best and most famous military unit is made up of every nationality on earth, except the one whose flag it fights under.

DIY Texas Style

So we had a mass shooting, and it ended abruptly. Well, they usually do, in a hail of police bullets. Not this time. This time, one good man, with a AR 15, but without shoes, ended a murderous spree by a crazy man with a AR 15.

The murderer should not by law have had anything more than a BB gun, he had a record for abusing his family, of mental treatment and a dishonourable discharge from the Air Force, after a year in the stockade. That’s several things that disqualify him from buying a weapon. But the Air Force couldn’t be bothered to make the proper notifications, and so his record was clean.

I doubt there is any legal responsibility, but there are people who are (or were) in the USAF that bear a fair share of moral responsibility for this event. God have mercy on their undeserving souls.

But what happened? This guy decided to shoot up the Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, TX. Well, for lots of reasons many people who usually do carry a weapon, don’t to church. Also out here in small towns, we can get complacent because this sort of thing never happens, until it does, and if we are honest, carrying even a small pistol isn’t all that comfortable. There’s also the fact that going up against a guy wearing tactical gear and a rifle with a small pistol increases the pucker factor considerably.

And so he got a free ride at the church, until Stephen Willeford recognized the sound of gunfire and rolled on into the fight, and ended it.

It’s quite the story, so let’s let him tell it, as he did to Steven Crowder

And that is what I call a real American Hero.

Johnny Langendorff, who drove Stephen Willeford in pursuit

But you know, we remember times when there were lots of Americans just like that, but when I first heard this story I thought of a Brit, a Londoner, who a few months ago when confronted with three knife-wielding terrorists charged on in barehanded yelling “F*ck you, I’m Millwall”. Well, usually we think Americans are the loud and rowdy ones, while Brits are a little quieter. But you know, free men are free men.

It highlights something else, I live in a town not much bigger than Sutherland Springs, and it’s not because I have to. My skills are good enough and have been for 30+ years that I could live anywhere I wish, and make a hell of a lot more money too. But here is where I am, and although this town is a bit too big for me, still it’s one of those wide places on the road, where we mostly know one another, and even if we don’t get along, we don’t go out of our way to hurt each other.

You know, back in the day, when my ex and I bought our house, the former owner told us that they couldn’t find the key for the door, so we’d have to get one made. They were right, we had to, after our divorce when we sold the house. Never had any reason to lock the joint up. Try that in the city, and then you’ll know the real reason so many of us live out here. We may not have all the toys you city folk do, but we’ve got everything we need, neighbors we can trust, and God’s world to look at. Damned close to heaven.

I’m hearing a lot of media fools, saying the shooting was over, well it’s simply bullshit, the shooter was alive and walking around and had both guns and ammunition available. At best it was an intermission, and Mr. Willeford ended it.

One of the things that struck me in that interview, even with directions, Mr. Willeford ended up maintaining security on the scene for 5 to 7 minutes before the police arrived. That’s about the same time it took him to shoot all those people at the church.

God, guns, and guts. The recipe for freedom.

Harvey and the Response

HOUSTON, TX – AUGUST 27: A military truck navigates along Interstate 10 which has been inundated with flooding from Hurricane Harvey on August 27, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Harvey, which made landfall north of Corpus Christi late Friday evening, is expected to dump upwards to 40 inches of rain in Texas over the next couple of days. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Well, the Texas coast is one heck of a mess, by all reports. Not as bad as the Galveston Hurricane back in 1990, that one killed between 6 and 12,000 people. But much of that was the lack of warning and the Weather Service does a remarkable job of predicting catastrophic weather events. So, we have much lower casualty counts these days, thank God. But it’s bad, and it’s going to be bad for a while, and may get worse, , not least because Harvey was left with nowhere to go, and so stopped and just plain kept on raining. Reports of between 20 and 50 inches of rain are not uncommon, and no watershed system is going to handle that. But Americans are being Americans and pulling together. Here’s a bit from The Victory Girls.

The images emerging out of Texas after Harvey struck were jaw-dropping and devastating. With the initial hurricane winds coming to an end, the rainfall has caused massive flooding.

Flooding in Houston on Sunday, August 27, 2017Photo by: photo: Ernest Scheyder/Reuters

The National Weather Service says there has never been anything like this before.

FEMA is already looking long-term at the recovery efforts.

And a bit more from The Federalist.

Sheriff’s officers rescued two small children from their home while it was being engulfed in water.

This man carried a mother and her baby to safety amid waist-high waters.

Members of the so-called “Cajun Navy,” a group of recreational boat owners and grassroots volunteers who rescued people during the Louisiana Flood of 2016. mobilized to help out thousands of Texans left stranded.

When a reporter asked this man what he planned to do with his boat, he responded: “I’m going to go save some lives.”

CNN captured the moment this man with a boat saved an elderly man from his flooded home.

This deputy reportedly rescued people throughout the night until he could no longer stand.

Texas police herded cattle from higher ground to save them from drowning.

And on and on these reports go. As always differences are forgotten and the people, and the emergency services on the ground just get on with it. I won’t say other people don’t do this, it’s a human reaction, but Americans do it better than most, and always leave me with a tear.

Yes, there was some criticism of the Houston mayor, for not ordering the city evacuated, including in my mind, although I didn’t write it. But the Mayor of Dallas made a good point, how exactly do you evacuate 6 million people? Well, if I think back to the bad old days of the Cold War, the answer is, you don’t. It just cannot be done, you simply do the best you can for them, where they are. Not ideal, but we live in a practical world.

In many ways, Texas is the heart of America, they exemplify many of our attributes strongly, and the way they are handling this is just wonderful to watch and donate to. Even catastrophic storms are learning.

You’ll find the rest of us right there, cheering them on.

Monday Miscellany

w1056This is interesting:

If the data is any indication, most of us use our phones more than we think: Participants estimated an average of 37 uses throughout the day (anything that turns on the screen, from hitting snooze to making a call), but the actual number was around 85. The slight majority took less than 30 seconds. (Participants also underestimated duration of use by about an hour — the real total was 5.05 hours — which included phone calls and listening to music when the screen was off.)

If you are awake for 16 hours, turning on or checking your phone 85 times means doing so about once every 11 minutes (and doesn’t account for internet use on a computer), and 5.05 hours is over 30 percent of the day. What might be the effect on reflection of this compulsive behavior?

In 2010, researchers led by Dr. Stephen Fleming at the Wellcome Trust Center for Neuroimaging at University College London published a paper in the journal Science in which they correlated introspective ability with the amount of gray matter in the prefrontal cortex. (Introspective ability was defined for the study as the accuracy of measuring one’s own performance on a visual-perception task, a sign of metacognition, or “thinking about thinking.”)

via The End of Reflection – The New York Times

I think they may be on to something here, when’s the last time we really thought something through?

So is this:

The eight-hour workday is an outdated and ineffective approach to work. If you want to be as productive as possible, you need to let go of this relic and find a new approach.

The eight-hour workday was created during the industrial revolution as an effort to cut down on the number of hours of manual labor that workers were forced to endure on the factory floor. This breakthrough was a more humane approach to work 200 years ago, yet it possesses little relevance for us today.

Like our ancestors, we’re expected to put in eight-hour days, working in long, continuous blocks of time, with few or no breaks. Heck, most people even work right through their lunch hour!

This antiquated approach to work isn’t helping us; it’s holding us back.

The Best Way To Structure Your Day

A study recently conducted by the Draugiem Group used a computer application to track employees’ work habits. Specifically, the application measured how much time people spent on various tasks and compared this to their productivity levels.

via Why The 8-Hour Workday Doesn’t Work

Maybe that’s why I tend to be more productive when I need new glasses, in about an hour the headache gets started. 🙂

In an article on boredom, my friend Amyclae note that Evagrius said this about the ‘demon of acedia’.

Is the most oppressive of all the demons. He attacks the monk about [10 A.M.] and attacks the soul until [2 P.M.]… He makes it appear that the sun moves slowly or not at all, and that the day seems to be fifty hours long. Then he compels the monk to look constantly towards the windows, to jump out of the cell, to watch the sun to see how far it is from [3 P.M.]… he instills in him a dislike for the place and for his state of life itself… He finds it would be better if he were not there.

via But Boredom

I resemble that remark all too often, I fear, sometimes even when I’m doing things.

‘Merica, or why we lead:

Hey, if it’s crazy and it works, is it really crazy? Randy Wagner’s neighbors in Rosharon, Texas, thought he was crazy when he started walling off his house with a big rubber tube:

“I was the crazy guy. Everybody was kinda going by, laughing at me. But today they are really impressed with this AquaDam,” said Wagner.

The Brazos River, known to most Americans only as a geographical feature in the Westerns of the thirties through the sixties, became a real threat to many Texans’ homes and even lives when it flooded. When the people of Rosharon and Brazoria County were warned to be prepared to evacuate, Randy Wagner had a different idea: could he prepare to save his home?

via “Crazy Guy” Saves his House from Flood

I’ll have more to say about Orlando, perhaps tomorrow, but for now, I want you to think about this. The best friends the gay community has are those whom Obama characterized as “It’s not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” Why? Because they’re the ones who will on their own initiative regardless of anything else, defend themselves and others. That too is the American Way.

Fundamental Concepts: Features and Benefits: Part 2

Americas-Largest-Railroads-to-Offer-Insights-on-LNG-Future-in-Rail-IndustryContinuing from yesterday, if you haven’t read part one, you should. These are some of the other things businesses look at when they think about opening new plants.

“Infrastructure: The US is tied together by a tight web of roads, ports, utilities, airports and railroads unmatched in the world. If you want to build a factory here, all you have to do is hook up to public utilities and pave a road from your parking lot to a public thoroughfare. That’s a tremendous advantage that much of the world doesn’t offer.

“Energy: Who here remembers $4.00/gallon gas? Remember dropping 60, 80, even 100 dollars or more, just to fill up the tank? Well, today you can fill up for 20-30 bucks. As much as I bet you like that, businesses like it more. […]

In fact, our infrastructure is so good that it’s cheaper for goods bound from China to Europe to be shipped from China to our west coast, loaded onto railroad cars, moved to our east coast, and reloaded onto ships bound for Europe, than it is to ship directly there by sea. Think about that one for a bit. That’s one reason you see so many container trains in America.

Note, that is not necessarily true for all business. For example, it’s not true for the crony green energy companies, or sometimes for the oil companies, or the big banks, and likely some others. But you know what, they’re big boys, they can adapt, or find productive things to do, instead of sucking at the public teat.

Labor: We’ve talked about labor cost, but as we agreed, that can’t be helped. American labor is the best in the world, and it shows. The problem is that labor is the only one of these things that employers think they have control over. If some other country makes them an offer that they believe balances out the USA’s advantage in stability, infrastructure and energy, and if that country has a much lower labor costs that top shelf American workers, that employer may see a high incentive to relocate, costing American workers their jobs. It would also seem that there is nothing that can be done about that, unless we curb…

“Regulatory expense. This is a big deal, and it is something that the Democrats are NEVER going to talk about. Regulatory compliance costs US companies just over 2 trillion dollars per year. Two trillion dollars. Even in Washington DC that’s a lot of money, it would retire the entire national debt in less than a decade. Hillary won’t talk about this. Bernie certainly won’t talk about this. No Democrat is ever going to mention the cost regulations impose upon American businesses and thus American jobs, because Democrats have only one solution to every problem: more regulation. It’s been said that when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail, and Democrats have been hammering away American jobs with their regulatory hammer for decades.

“It’s actually insane. Clinically insane. Something is seen as a problem. Pass a new regulation! Don’t bother to see if existing regulations already exist or if your new regulation contradicts them, Let the peons worry about that, just pass a new law. Look! We DID SOMETHING!! Cost? Who cares about cost? Full speed ahead.

“More regulations mean more money and more power for the Washington cartel. Meanwhile, out here in the real world, businesses are getting hammered until moving out of the country entirely seems like a good solution. That $2 trillion? That works out to about $10,000 for every working man and woman in the country. Wouldn’t you like to see some of that money come back into your paychecks?

via Fundamental Concepts: Features and Benefits [Weirddave].

I’ll give you just one example here. If I as an electrician walk into the panel room of an industrial plant, I (and the company I work for) am responsible for every code violation in that room. I don’t have to upgrade it to current code, usually, yet anyway. But I’m supposed to fix all violations of whatever version of the code. The problem is, if I don’t, I can lose my license. If I do, nobody is required to pay me for doing so, and they won’t. It’ll come out of my pocket. How’s that working out? Very few electrical contractors will do industrial work anymore. And a fair number of us, have simply retired, because the money, which isn’t bad, just isn’t worth the hassle, in any part of the market, anymore. How do I know that? That’s what I did when I hit 62. Know what? You’re not going to build that factory without skilled and experienced electricians, and we’re damned rare on the ground, not least because we’re just plain tired of the nonsense.

So there’s a quick overview of some fundamentals for you. And you know, I think the American people might just still be smart enough. If Ted Cruz would say this, I suspect many would respond positively to it. Problem is, he’s a lawyer, not a salesman. Ronald Reagan, who said much of this, was a salesman, and we’re still living off his legacy, but the till is getting empty.

Always talk about the benefit, not the feature. Essential advice for us all.

Staddle of the Republic

English: Antonin Scalia, Associate Justice of ...

English: Antonin Scalia, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Georgian (or thereabouts) England they used to build barns on top of mushroom-shaped stones, called staddles. Two of the major reasons they did this was that it is nearly impossible for vermin to climb them, and they allow air to circulate below the floor, keeping the grain from spoiling. Justice Antonin Scalia was rather like that, keeping the vermin who would spoil the Constitution out (as much as possible) and keeping it fresh with his wit.

When his death was announced Saturday morning, my first thought (after prayers for his family) was a sense of discomfort that the Republic had lost a great champion of freedom. I still feel that way. We have unexpectedly lost one of the greats of the Supreme Court, and America.

Ilya Somin posted a sensitive professional remembrance of him here:

Scalia’s most significant legacy is his insightful defense of originalism in constitutional theory and textualism in statutory interpretation. Both textualism and originalism have far more support today than they did back when he was first appointed to the Court, thirty years ago. Significantly, some of that support crosses ideological lines, […]. While the rise of originalism and textualism has many causes, some of that progress is undoubtedly due to Scalia’s forceful and effective advocacy.

Scalia’s views on textualism are well-summarized in his book A Matter of Interpretation. His famous article “Originalism: The Lesser Evil” is probably his best-known defense of originalism (see also this critique by Randy Barnett).

While Scalia’s views on judicial methodology have had widespread influence, many of his opinions on specific legal issues remain highly polarizing, often admired by conservatives but hated by many liberals. Critics argued that his reasoning was flawed in various ways, and that he did not always follow his own methodological commitments when it was inconvenient to do so. In some areas, such as his opinions in affirmative action cases, he did not even try to make originalist arguments for his positions, even though there is a serious originalist case for striking down seemingly “benign” racial preferences. I myself differed with Scalia on a number of important issues, such as the constitutionality of laws banning same-sex marriage, and whether Congress has the power to ban the possession of medical marijuana that had never crossed state lines or been sold in any market.

But whether you agree with his views or not, it is hard to think of any other recent Supreme Court justice who has made a comparably great contribution to debates over both statutory interpretation and constitutional theory. It may be a long time, if ever, before we reach any consensus about Scalia’s legacy. But its importance cannot be denied.

Via: Justice Antonin Scalia, R.I.P.

If you are not familiar with his views, and scholarship, and yes, his wit, here he is addressing the Cambridge Union on 3 September 2012. It’s a fascinating speech.

Governor Abbott of Texas’ statement said it well:

“Justice Antonin Scalia was a man of God, a patriot, and an unwavering defender of the written Constitution and the Rule of Law. He was the solid rock who turned away so many attempts to depart from and distort the Constitution. His fierce loyalty to the Constitution set an unmatched example, not just for judges and lawyers, but for all Americans. We mourn his passing, and we pray that his successor on the Supreme Court will take his place as a champion for the written Constitution and the Rule of Law. Cecilia and I extend our deepest condolences to his family, and we will keep them in our thoughts and prayers.”

From my neighborhood:

Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse:

“A tireless defender of the rule of law, Justice Scalia’s precise thinking, sharp wit, and unwavering commitment to American constitutionalism will be remembered for generations. We are grateful for his service and heartbroken at this sudden loss. Melissa and I uphold the Scalia family in our thoughts and prayers.”

Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer:

“Our nation mourns the loss of a brilliant legal mind and selfless servant of the law. Justice Scalia lived a life dedicated to preserving and upholding the rights granted by our Constitution. Bruce and I join all Nebraskans in offering our condolences and prayers for the Scalia family.”

Iowa Senator, and Senate Judiciary Chairman, Chuck Grassley:

“He was a person who interpreted the Constitution to its original intent, and that he’ll be badly missed for that reason, and he leaves quite a legacy of scholarship.”

My condolences to the family, and may you rest in peace, sir. You will be both mourned and remembered as a hero of America.

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