Judging Stephens:

The Honorable Ted Stephens has been vindicated! The judge today overturned his conviction entirely, and ordered an investigation into the prosecutors. Now we know that Stephens was in the right, for example when he said:

A $2,700 massage chair, for instance, remained in his house for seven years but Stevens said it was a loan. He said he assumed a $3,200 stained-glass window was paid for, since his wife takes care of such things. A $29,000 fish statue was a donation to his foundation, he said, and only remained on his front porch because that's where the donors shipped it.
Oh. Ahem.

New theory: Stephens is still guilty as hell; the Federal prosecutors are even worse. Fortunately, we know we can still rely on judges to uphold... um....

Well, back to the drawing board.

Headline contest

Headline Contest:

For this article.

"Women Smell More Than Men."

"Proof: Women Are Better Than Men, But Dogs Are Still Better Than Women."

Your entries, below.



From World Affairs Journal, an article that puts the right name to the issue we've been discussing lately. Having largely (and perhaps unfairly) ignored Fukuyama's writings, I missed the point at which he correctly connected the modern problem to the ancient writings.

The danger he foresees is not simply that bourgeois democracy will cause human beings to degenerate, but that degenerate human beings will be unable to preserve democracy. Without the sense of pride and the love of struggle that Fukuyama, following Plato, calls thymos, men — and there is always an implication that thymos is a specifically masculine virtue — cannot establish freedom or protect it[.]
Maybe not "specifically" but "mostly" would be better here; perhaps some women feel the same way about the society that men seem to feel about it.

And yet the author raises a good point about America, at least, which is that the thymos was slumbering or suppressed rather than absent. The Iraq and Afghan wars show that America had plenty of it ready to export, even if it remains unwelcome as a virtue within American society itself.

It may be that these extraordinarily violent movies that we produce today are a treasury of the virtue (which, as with all human qualities, ceases to be a virtue when there is either too much or too little of it). Having suppressed masculine virtue in other parts of society, a hyper-violent form of it explodes out in unrealistic characters like those portrayed by Vin Diesel and others.

The Homeric epics are marked by a full-throated celebration of the virtues of warriors and their courage in war, combined with a balancing full-throated sorrow of the horrors of war and the destruction of those warriors. It is what raises the Greek epics so far above most other human art; many have done one or the other well, but few have managed to combine the two and show them both to their full effect.
"The Song of the Cid"

I'm in Kuwait awaiting the resolution of a visa issue, which bedevils travel through this country. In the meanwhile, let me refer you to a review of a new translation of one of Spain's great epic poems. I will have to find time to read it when this deployment is at an end.

His evil opponents in the poem are not really the Muslims (who are more prey than enemies) but rather the arrogant Castilian princes of Carrión in northern Spain. They are contemptuous of the Cid's modest origins and embarrassed by their own cowardice in battle. When the Cid is received back into favor by King Alfonso, the ruler arranges for the knight's daughters to marry the princes of Carrión. Their enmity toward the heroic knight is exacerbated by incidents where their lack of courage is obvious and a source of mirth for the Cid's followers. At one point, a pet lion escapes in the Cid's palace and the princes hide themselves in fear, one behind a wine press and the other under the couch on which the Cid is sleeping. ("O! the giggling and chuckling around the court!")

The princes' revenge is a horrific attack on their wives, while traveling from Valencia back to Castile. They strip, beat and flog the Cid's daughters, leaving them for dead in a forest. The women are rescued and the rest of the poem is the unfolding of revenge. The Cid is a courteous and loyal vassal but relentless when provoked. It's pretty clear by the end that, in the words of the narrator: "Whoever beats a good woman, and then abandons her, should be in great trouble -- or worse!"
I know from experience that there won't be time or attention for such a project over here; but I return in July, and hope then to have a moment for study.

April Fools

April Fools:

I'm flying back to Iraq, so I won't be around for a few days. It's been an interesting and eventful leave, if not a restful one. I'd hoped to have more time to think and write, but I have at least had time to do.

I was having a farewell dinner with my father tonight, and he told me about the new title-holder of "Greatest April Fools Prank Of All Time." Car and Driver magazine appears to have captured the flag.

It was a perfect prank, coming as it does the same week that the President was firing corporate (but not UAW!) officers and undertaking to explain the new GM warranty. One suspects that the only reason it wasn't true was that he didn't think of it!

Alternatively, someone leaked to C&D that he was planning the announcement for next week, and they decided to do a pre-emptive strike. Either way, good stuff.

Jingle Bombs.

(Not that anyone complains, but it is humorous for everyone to see that the dogs get treated even better than Air Force personnel, who are treated 2x better than soldiers, who are treated 5x better than Marines. That means bomb dogs are treated at least 10x better than Marines.)

So the working dogs are being treated 10x better than Marines? Heh. I'd be tempted to say that all is right with the world, but Grim would probably come a-huntin'.

Still, heh.

Go and give the doggy a cooling jacket!

(via Instapundit)
Blow it out your ass.

Heh. Somebody's got a sense of humor.

"What is to be done?"

Ruining Your Life

Ruining Your Life:

Salon has a piece they've linked from their front page that wonders, "Does Having Children Ruin Your Life?" (There is also a reply from a male reader.) It enters very nicely into the discussion we were having below.

The list of reasons why it appears to the young lady that children might ruin her life includes:

· The thought of pregnancy and birth is literally horrifying (and I don’t understand why most women don’t feel this way – a HUMAN BEING grows IN YOUR GUTS and then tears its way out of the most sensitive part of your body!!! Aaiiieee!!! I got goose-bumps just typing that -- shudder).

· It’s much too risky to make a lifelong commitment to a human being I’ve never even met, who could very well be someone I wouldn’t like at all, or who wouldn’t like me at all.

· I deeply value and enjoy my romantic/sexual relationship and don’t want to ruin it.

· I strive to minimize my financial obligations in all manners possible and a child is the biggest financial obligation I can think of.

· While dogs and cats bring a smile to my face and make me want to touch and interact with them, I’m indifferent to children.

· I’m philosophically uncomfortable with the lack of consent inherent in parent-child relationships – children don’t ask to be born and certainly don’t ask to be born to their particular parents or raised in a particular household. I still sympathize with the teenager’s outrage at being forced to live by rules they never agreed to.

· When I think back to my own childhood I feel quite bad for my parents and all the sacrifices they made, and certainly would not want to live with my adolescent self.

· I cherish sleep and the idea of not sleeping in on weekends makes me want to cry.

· Human society could very well be worse in the future, and there are too many humans.

· I prefer peace and quiet, I’m a low-energy person, and I’m an introverted type who needs to spend lots of time in my own head.
Most of this is the leisure-first principle that Charles Murray was talking about in his essay of a few days ago.* On the occasions that the young lady considers the issue beyond the question of what pleasures she would have to yield, however, she says something more interesting.

It is clear from the pleasure-oriented passages that she lives in a remarkable garden of ease. Further, it is clear that the world has treated her so gently that she has come to believe that human consent is of fundamental importance. She objects to parenthood, for example, in part on the grounds that the child isn't asked if he wants to be born. That suggests that she simply expects that her consent will be asked for anything that has an effect on her. She lives in a world in which her consent matters.

What is probably invisible to her is the degree to which the world-of-consent is a temporary bubble. There will come a time when disease invades the body in spite of all attempts at prolonging health; the world does not ask if you are ready to die. There is nothing in the structure of the world that suggests that human consent matters at all.

It has come to do so only through a great deal of human will, which has implied a great deal of sacrifice. This bubble of safety is a house built by strong hands and long work. If it cannot last forever, the fact that it exists at all is a remarkable human achievement. It is a gift from previous generations, who found the world worth fighting for, and who made this place in which all the good parts of the world can be had -- and the bad ones held at bay, for a time.

To sacrifice some of those pleasures, for some of that time, is necessary to give the next generation a chance to be born. She points out that no one has asked the child if he wants to be born. She forgets that no one has asked him if he doesn't!

It is true that childrearing the end of a life of consent; you are, from that moment, required rather than asked. Many soft pleasures go away, and you cease to be the center of your universe.

Does that ruin your life, or begin it? It is the point at which you begin to experience life on its terms rather than yours. You can no longer hide your face from death, as you must fear it every day -- not for yourself, but for your child. You can not hide from time, and an awareness that every day is numbered and spent.

This points to the "vigor" of life that we have been discussing of late. It is also the part where you begin to pay back your ancestors for the garden they gave you, by tending its walls for the next generation.

* The Murray quote, since it was a longer piece:
Last April I had occasion to speak in Zurich, where I made some of these same points. After the speech, a few of the twenty-something members of the audience approached and said plainly that the phrase “a life well-lived” did not have meaning for them. They were having a great time with their current sex partner and new BMW and the vacation home in Majorca, and saw no voids in their lives that needed filling.

It was fascinating to hear it said to my face, but not surprising. It conformed to both journalistic and scholarly accounts of a spreading European mentality. Let me emphasize “spreading.” I’m not talking about all Europeans, by any means. That mentality goes something like this: Human beings are a collection of chemicals that activate and, after a period of time, deactivate. The purpose of life is to while away the intervening time as pleasantly as possible.

If that’s the purpose of life, then work is not a vocation, but something that interferes with the higher good of leisure. If that’s the purpose of life, why have a child, when children are so much trouble—and, after all, what good are they, really?

Keep Coming

Keep It Coming:

Why not? (H/t: Gwa45.)

Congressman Alan Grayson (FL-8) today proudly introduced the Grayson-Himes Pay For Performance Act of 2009.

"This bill is based on two simple concepts. One, no one has the right to get rich off taxpayer money. And two, no one should get rich off abject failure," Congressman Grayson said. "An economy in which a bank executive can line his own pocket by destroying his company with risky bets is an economy that will spiral downwards. And a government that hands out money to such executives is a government that fails to protect the taxpayers."

The Pay For Performance Act applies to all companies, including AIG, in which the federal government has a capital investment. The bill requires all future compensation to be performance-based. It will be up to the Secretary of the Treasury to establish the standards for fair pay and bonuses. The restriction will remain in place until the company repays all the federal money it received.
What are the standards for fair pay in this industry? How do you know?

Are people free to quit if they don't like their new, "fair" pay? If so, how do you convince them not to quit, if not via pay? This isn't the sector where starvation is haunting the mind. Most of these folks could get another job, if they wanted one; and they are apt to have substantial savings.

The government is supposedly taking over our corporations in order to save them. Right?