Riddle: What Can Be Divided Without Being Lessened?

A young Jew travels to Israel on a trip sponsored by a group called Birthright Israel. While there, for reasons that are not hard to understand, he comes to believe that it is a place he wants to defend. So he joins the IDF, to devote his life to its defense. Sunday he was killed in the fighting. He was 24.

This is the sort of story with which we are all well-familiar. So what is the moral of the story?
There are many people to blame for Steinberg’s death. There is the Hamas fighter behind the weapon that actually killed him. There are the leaders, on both sides, who put him in Gaza, and the leaders behind all of the wars between Israel and the Palestinians. I can trace it back to 1948, or 1917, or whatever date suits you and still never find all the parties who are responsible. But I have no doubt in my mind that along with all of them, Birthright shares some measure of the blame.
Blame?

Classics in cartoons


It had to happen

The University of Wisconsin pushes distributional equity in grades.  Seems fair enough.  Why should the smart kids get the good grades?  They already have enough advantages.

Why grade at all, since we have lost all confidence in our ability to make judgments about whether students know more at the end of the year than at the beginning?

Riddling With Dragons


A quiz featuring historic Anglo-Saxon riddles, just the kind Tolkien loved. Unfortunately the quiz is multiple-choice, which makes it far easier than it would be if you had to come up with the answer out of your head! But save them in your mind to delight children of the right age who are encountering The Hobbit for the first time, or others you may know in whom the joy of the book has not faded with age.

Washington and sanity

Speaking of sanity breaking out in unexpected places, the D.C. Court of Appeals just struck down the Obamacare subsidies in states that did not establish exchanges.  The very idea of allowing statutory language to decide a case!  In D.C., yet!

H/t HotAir.  Also h/t to Ace, with the helpful comment, "It's not a subsidy, it's a tax refund."

Semitism and sanity

The Kurds are on track to become the second sane culture in the Middle East.

Second Nature

As the world burns around us, perhaps it is worth revisiting an old post.

UPDATE:  This morning's statement on the situation in Ukraine is on point.  It has the tone of a child complaining to his parents that his brother is being unfair.  'Putin isn't making his friends behave and play by the rules!'

But there are no parents in the "International Community" or the "Community of Nations."  It's just you.  If Putin isn't behaving, you're the one who has to make him.  What are you going to do about it?

Looking Glass


Google, which owns Blogger as well as Picasa, apparently decided to automatically edit my last photo to show off Picasa's tricks.  They uploaded the "effects version" to my photo album, for my consideration I suppose.

Not bad, really.

Anaximander

An excellent piece by a theoretical physicist on the proper structure of scientific thought (and philosophy).
This takes me to another point, which is, Should a scientist think about philosophy or not? It’s the fashion today to discard philosophy, to say now that we have science, we don’t need philosophy. I find this attitude naïve, for two reasons. One is historical. Just look back. Heisenberg would have never done quantum mechanics without being full of philosophy. Einstein would have never done relativity without having read all the philosophers and having a head full of philosophy. Galileo would never have done what he did without having a head full of Plato. Newton thought of himself as a philosopher and started by discussing this with Descartes and had strong philosophical ideas.

Even Maxwell, Boltzmann—all the major steps of science in the past were done by people who were very aware of methodological, fundamental, even metaphysical questions being posed. When Heisenberg does quantum mechanics, he is in a completely philosophical frame of mind. He says that in classical mechanics there’s something philosophically wrong, there’s not enough emphasis on empiricism. It is exactly this philosophical reading that allows him to construct that fantastically new physical theory, quantum mechanics.

Inegalitarianism

Tyler Cowan proposes an interesting take on global income inequality.  Is it more important that members of a particular nation resemble each other in wealth, or that poverty is decreasing globally at the same time that differences in average wealth among nations are shrinking?  It's possible that the process of raising a country's standard of living (the average standard as well as the standard for its poorest citizens) also results in a large new group of extraordinary winners in that same country.  The gap in wealth between close neighbors increases, but the poorest neighbors are less threatened with poverty and untreatable disease, while whole areas of the globe previously left out of the explosion in material prosperity over the last few centuries begin to catch up.

How much harm are we willing to do globally in order to eliminate the gap between rich and poor in a series of individual countries?  It gets back to the old question:  is this about compassion or outraged envy?

A Glimpse of the Wild

Approach from the South

Smoking guns

At least they had the grace to be appalled at what they'd done.  Sort of.

The future of air travel

Israel equips its domestic aircraft with anti-missile defenses, the only country to do so.

Two meanings of "private"

Megan McArdle ably expresses something we were arguing about recently at Cassandra's place: the recent trend to consider everything people do together as some aspect of "government":
In the 19th century, the line between the individual and the government was just as firm as it is now, but there was a large public space in between that was nonetheless seen as private in the sense of being mostly outside of government control -- which is why we still refer to “public" companies as being part of the “private" sector. Again, in the context of largely negative rights, this makes sense. You have individuals on one end and a small state on the other, and in the middle you have a large variety of private voluntary institutions that exert various forms of social and financial coercion, but not governmental coercion -- which, unlike other forms of coercion, is ultimately enforced by the government’s monopoly on the legitimate use of violence.
McArdle's context (like Bookworm's) is the Hobby Lobby decision, and the progressives' conviction that not forcing an employer to buy an employee's abortifacient is the same thing as allowing a religious fanatic employer to impose its crazed right-wing views on helpless employees.

H/t Bookworm Worm.

Burn it!

William Deresiewicz takes on Lawrence Buell's "The Dream of the Great American Novel," a turgid new contribution to the school of subjecting literary classics to a political-correctness auto-da-fé.  The purpose of this approach is not to explore the intellectual or aesthetic achievements of a novel but to determine how closely it hews to this year's most exacting standards of virtue. "I feel as if we’re back in Salem," Deresiewicz laments. "Maybe he should have just thrown the book in the water to see if it would float."

As so often is the case, the most devastating criticism of Buell's book consists simply of quoting a passage:
Admittedly any such dyadic comparison risks oversimplifying the menu of eligible strategies, but the risk is lessened when one bears in mind that to envisage novels as potential GANs is necessarily to conceive them as belonging to more extensive domains of narrative practice that draw on repertoires of tropes and recipes for encapsulating nationness of the kinds sketched briefly in the Introduction—such that you can’t fully grasp what’s at stake in any one possible GAN without imagining the individual work in multiple conversations with many others, and not just U.S. literature either.
Calling the Great American Novel a "GAN" should be enough to tip us off.