Mimsy Were the Borogoves

For the wisdom of the wise are the criterion of your madness.

Slavery does not create wealth—Wednesday, January 17th, 2018
Frederick Douglass: Slavery is barbarism

Last night I saw the strangest meme, a backhanded compliment to slavery:

You have to first of all understand nothing about the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade.

You have to not understand anything about the systematic theft of African bodies and lives. And you have to not understand how that theft built the wealth we have today in Europe and the US.

The emphasis is mine, and the problem with that part of this meme is that it makes the unwarranted assumption that, as evil as it is, slavery is useful for something. That slavery is more effective than freedom at creating wealth. But history says that it isn’t—and former slaves agree. In fact, slavery kills wealth, and what wealth it seems to create is a hollow shell that crumbles once it is no longer propped up by the state. This was true in Sparta—it is why we use the adjective “Spartan” to mean living in minimal wealth—and it was true in the American South. That’s why the Confederacy was at such a disadvantage during the war: because the North was so much better at wealth creation, and had been since the North abandoned slavery. Because the North abandoned slavery earlier, they were ahead of the South in wealth creation, which meant the ability to wage more effective war.

Throughout history, the slave trade has retarded wealth growth everywhere it has been used, from Sparta to the American South. That was one of the things that (somewhat paradoxically) most disappointed Frederick Douglass when he escaped to the North: he had assumed that even though slavery was evil, at least his suffering had enhanced the lives of slaveowners. Instead he found that even many former slaves in the North lived in greater luxury than slaveowners in the South.

2018 in Photos—Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

For photos, memes, and perhaps other quick notes sent from my mobile device or written on the fly during 2018.

Apple TV: Movie Streaming Overload—Wednesday, December 27th, 2017
Classix (King Solomon’s Mines)

Classix is probably the best-curated and easiest to use of the public domain streaming services.

My original plan on buying the Apple TV, since I don’t have time to watch several streaming services, was to subscribe to one per month, switching back and forth between Netflix, Hulu, maybe even The Great Courses, and whatever else became available later.

With the addition of the Tablo 2-Tuner, I’m not sure I’ll be doing that; I seem to have reached a tipping point where I will never be able to watch what I have queued up, so why pay to queue up more?

The Tablo 2-Tuner provides access to over-the-air broadcasts almost as if they were a streaming service. I have to pay attention to the TV Guide and schedule a recording, but once recorded it’s just like any other streaming service on the Apple TV box.

Vudu even lets me watch a lot of my DVDs through the Apple TV instead of through the DVD player. But I’m not buying nearly as many DVDs as I used to, because the Apple Movie App has a $5.00 bargain bin just like the box stores where I used to buy DVDs. It also has a 99-cent rental bin, where I finally saw My Cousin Vinnie. And the Amazon Prime app isn’t just for Amazon Prime members: if you have purchased any streaming movies on Amazon (or acquired any through giveaways, as I did) you can watch those on the Prime app without joining Prime.

Tablo TV: Pause and rewind live television—Thursday, December 21st, 2017
Tablo TV: Hatari!

This is a photo of Tablo’s Apple TV app; this list of shows is might nicer to scroll through than the one built in to my Samsung television.

Back in the mid-seventies, when I was young and the recording industry thought it was old, I bought a cheap tape recorder at a yard sale. It was a portable cassette recorder, portable in the sense that it had a handle and was smaller than my dad’s breadbox-sized reel-to-reel. I used it to record songs off the radio, by putting its cheap plastic microphone on the carpet near the speakers on my parents’ console stereo.

It was an amazing experience and hooked me on listening to “my” music, when I wanted to and how I wanted to. It was a very short jump from there to the Columbia Record and Tape Club, where, of course, I bought cassette tapes at least once a month.

I listened to these tapes constantly, playing, pausing, fast-forwarding, and rewinding through my music collection. I distinctly remember a few months (or, given my frame of reference at the time, a few weeks) later, watching television, deciding I wanted to watch a scene over again, reaching my hand out to hit the rewind button on the television, immediately realizing how silly of a mistake it was.

So when I saw the Clearstream TV app show up for Apple TV and realized it was an app for pausing, rewinding, and occasionally even fast-forwarding through live television, I immediately wanted one. Even though I don’t even watch broadcast television anymore.

Turns out there were or were about to be several devices for watching live TV through an app. The Clearstream looked nice because of the price—only a hundred dollars. But the reviews were bad, and I preferred something that works over Ethernet. Mohu, whose Mohu Leaf antenna works reasonably well on my downstairs television, was about to come out with one that would connect to Ethernet. It was a hundred and fifty dollars, but I was toy-crazed and waited impatiently.

Unfortunately, the initial reviews for that were also bad.

The institutional forgetfulness of the press—Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

A killer in Texas murdered at least 26 church-goers, and was stopped from killing more only because a bystander was armed with an AR-15. Before we even knew how the killer acquired his weapon or his victims, the left was already trying to disarm the Good Samaritan.

After California’s San Bernardino terrorist attack, I wrote a post asking, what is the left’s real goal when criminals ignore the law and the left asks for more restrictions against non-criminals? The accompanying meme image was gallows humor at best, but given the left’s response to the Sutherland Springs murders it sounds prophetic.

The church shooter disobeyed the law by purchasing the gun. He disobeyed the law against murder. He could have been stopped by the government1 but the nature of government is to be more effective against the law-abiding than against criminals. He was finally stopped by a bystander who legally owned an AR-15. The left’s solution? Ban the bystander’s firearm. That, they say, will solve the problem.

What the hell problem are they trying to solve?

After the Las Vegas shooting, I quoted Chesterton about utopians assuming the greatest difficulty—that criminals break the law, in this case—as fixed, and then working toward pointless solutions that don’t address that greatest difficulty. They’re doing the same thing now. Laws can only affect the law-abiding. Gun control would only have helped the killer continue his spree, by disarming the bystander who stopped him.

This is obvious from the evidence, and yet they keep trying to push solutions that haven’t worked in the past and objectively would not work now.

Was Weinstein treated better than Spacey because his accusers were women?—Tuesday, November 7th, 2017
Bill Clinton and Kevin Spacey

“Hey, I’ve got something to show you.”

I recently saw this complaint about how the accusations against Kevin Spacey were handled vs. the accusations against Harvey Weinstein:

Interesting how one man accuses Kevin Spacey and immediately everyone believes him, and takes KS’s TV show away, and decries what a terrible asshole he is—and all of that happens in a DAY

Meanwhile dozens of women had to accuse Cosby or Weinstein over the course of decades before anyone took notice

And dozens of women have accused Trump and he’s the GD MFing president

WHAT IF WE BELIEVED WOMEN LIKE THAT, EH?

This is making an unwarranted assumption: the writer is assuming that Kevin Spacey has not been accused before and has not had those accusations covered up and/or ignored just as the accusations against Weinstein were. This assumption is wrong. Just as the Weinstein deluge came only after one accusation finally made it through Hollywood’s protective shield, the same is happening to Spacey. Kevin Spacey has been at the center of rumors for years, just as Weinstein was; possibly even worse rumors than Weinstein, involving underage orgy after-parties. The history of accusations against Spacey is very similar to the history of accusations against Weinstein, but with men instead of women and sex parties instead of workplace harassment. The culture of deception is the same one that protected Weinstein.

The first I heard Spacey’s name in connection with sexual harassment was back in 2014 when Bryan Singer was accused—by a man—of sexual harassment. That accusation hasn’t affected Singer’s standing in Hollywood either, at least not over the long term.

National Sandwich Day: Whole Wheat Sesame Bread—Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

Today might be Hallowe’en, but this Friday, National Sandwich Day is again upon us. So to counter the gooey candies get ready for a fresh sandwich on by making this hearty bread.

For anyone who was in Ithaca, New York in the eighties, one cookbook was on almost every shelf: Mollie Katzen’s The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. The Moosewood Restaurant was a bit too expensive to be a regular habit for me at the time, but it was definitely an interesting place.

The sesame-lemon bread in Broccoli Forest is also interesting, not least of which because I could pretty much never make it come out. But then, I pretty much couldn’t make any bread recipe come out consistently well until I got a bread machine.

Still, when I tried to make this one in the bread machine, it turned out almost as bad as if I made it by hand. Particularly, when I compared it to some other recipes, the liquid content seems awfully low. So I experimented a bit, and came up with this variation that works in my bread machine and is perfect for toast and for sandwiches.

Toasted sesame seeds

If you have a toaster oven, it is the perfect place to toast sesame seeds. It will take only a minute or so. Err on the side of undertoasting, not overtoasting.

The order of ingredients here isn’t just the standard liquids-first that bread machines require. Most importantly, measure the one tablespoon of oil first so that the three tablespoons of honey will easily slip from the spoon. And grind the seeds dry. Otherwise, they will stick to the sides of whatever you’re using to grind them; once they are ground, add the oil.1

The total sesame seeds in this recipe is a half cup: a sixth plus a third equals a half. So if you are starting with untoasted sesame seeds, you can toast half a cup all at once, and then remove a sixth to grind and pour the rest into the bread machine at the appropriate time.

How do we keep this from happening again?—Friday, October 6th, 2017

Imagine this: you’re a police chief or an FBI district chief, and you get a notice from the automated warning system: a man who has twice been investigated because he threatened a terrorist attack has just bought a couple of firearms.

Do you investigate? Of course you do. And when you investigate, you find out that he also tried to buy body armor.

There is no question that you will act immediately to stop this terrorist attack before it happens.

This is the way that the Pulse nightclub attack should have been stopped. In the immediate aftermath, the left tried to turn the attack into a call for more gun control, but when the facts came out it turned out the terrorist would not have been affected by more gun control. He didn’t want to commit a gun crime. He wanted to kill people at a gay bar.

But also when the facts came out, we discovered that law enforcement should have been warned about him ahead of time. The terrorist had twice been investigated for threatening terrorism. The investigation came up inconclusive, with, according to the authorities, not enough evidence to put him in jail or even put him on the no-fly list. But it certainly seemed that there was enough to keep him on the lesser watch list that notifies law enforcement whenever there’s further suspicious activity.

Unfortunately, he was removed from that list.1 So law enforcement was never notified. Conservatives suggested fixing that; the NRA suggested fixing that; the people who had been calling for more gun control moved on to something else. If this has been fixed, I’m unaware of it; FBI Director Comey publicly stated that he didn’t think anything needed to be fixed, once it came out that it was the FBI that had removed the terrorist from the notification list.

The same is true of the Charleston church murderer last December. The law already should have kept him from buying his gun and should have notified law enforcement that he tried, because he had a previous felony narcotics charge against him. But laws to keep people with a record from buying guns don’t work if the records themselves aren’t appropriately handled. There was an obvious fix that would have stopped that shooting, and it did not involve new gun bans. But, again, if it’s been implemented, I’m not aware of it, although at least this time Comey didn’t act as though they’d done nothing wrong.

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