Blind Peer Review

If it works, it's really blind. That can lead to stories like this.
This week, the prestigious Journal of Political Philosophy published a series of articles under the heading “Black Lives Matter.” One problem: All the authors published in the series are white.... The editors of the Journal of Political Philosophy have also not deigned to feature a single black philosopher in its pages. As Lebron (who is moving to John Hopkins this summer) wrote: “So far as I can tell, not one black philosopher has seen her or his work appear in the pages of your respected journal, on race or any other topic.”
Naturally, they apologized and are taking steps to make sure that blind peer review ceases to be the standard at their journal.

Our SecDef

CBS' John Dickerson asked SecDef General James Mattis a question, and the general answered him.

Right on, General.

Eric Hines


Taliesin was one of the five worthy poets according to the Historia Brittonum; as of the time of Culhwch and Olwen, he was supposed to have been of the court of King Arthur. As such he is a righteous companion of ours.

This Memorial Day weekend a young man bearing his name (and the Welsh form of Merlin's, as a middle name) walked into a knife for a good reason. A Bernie Sanders supporter who turned towards Jill Stein killed him, and another man, after he stood up to protect others that the knifeman was harassing.

His mother gave him a good name, indeed a pair of them. He did his best to live up to those names, which does him honor. But Arthur's court, and Arthur's peace, was won with good swords. The good names followed the work of those swords.

Too often that is forgotten, and this weekend of all weekends it ought not to be forgotten. It is wise to give a name that remembers, but it only counts if you also teach their hands the skill that can effect anew what is remembered.
And though skies alter and empires melt,
This word shall still be true:
If we would have the horse of old,
Scour ye the horse anew.

Memorial Day Weekend

Martial Law in the RP

I'm sure that the Filipino troops charged with exercising these extraordinary powers will be measured and responsible.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte joked Friday that soldiers could rape up to three women, as he reassured them of his full support under his newly imposed regional martial law.

Duterte, who often peppers his language with man-on-the-street curses, made the comments in jest during a speech at a military base to lift the spirits of troops tasked with quelling what he says is a fast-growing threat of Islamist terrorism.

"For this martial law and the consequences of martial law and the ramifications of martial law, I and I alone would be responsible. Just do your work. I will handle the rest," he said.

"I will be imprisoned for you. If you rape three (women), I will say that I did it."
That sounds less like a joke, and more like encouragement.

Well, a Lot of the Votes were In Early

So, today we're hearing theories about why the loss of a cowboy poet in Montana to a man charged with assault on election day is great news for Democrats or, alternatively, horrible news for the republic.

Normally politicians aren't supposed to physically assault journalists, but there are exceptions. Rep. Duncan Hunter said of the alleged assault, “It’s not appropriate behavior. Unless the reporter deserved it.”

One might be tempted to think (as the Washington Post piece suggests) that we are near a Preston Brooks vs. Charles Sumner moment. But that isn't necessary. Montana has early voting, and a number of partisan votes that might have been embarrassed by the assault were already in. There's no reason to think that the vote represents either 'great news for Democrats' (as they likely outperformed on the actual election day what they would have done absent an assault) or 'rising tribalism' (as many votes were cast in ignorance of the forthcoming assault).

I'm not sure how much to read into the thing. On the one hand, the cowboy poet did greatly outperform Hillary Clinton in losing by six points instead of twenty. On the other hand, he was a far better fit culturally for Montana than Hillary Clinton. He ought to have outperformed her substantially simply by being a native, a cowboy, a cultural icon, and not on record as despising the majority of the population of Montana as deplorable. All else being equal, I'm not sure how different last night looked from any given night. If anything, I'd guess the assault helped Democrats a bit; but not enough, given the early votes.

A Leaking Ship

This is a good point. (H/t Insty)

Trump is plausibly guilty of some very bad judgment in his sharing of American secrets -- the deployment and precise number of American nuclear submarines near Korea, for example. It was the press, however, that shared that information with the world. Perhaps the President shouldn't have shared with the Russians information that might lead them to a sensitive source belonging to an allied government. It was the press, however, that made sure that everyone in the world knew just which government.

And, as the author points out, it was the press who made sure that the Manchester bombing cell knew everything the US had been informed by our British allies. Before the cell had been rolled up. While it was still a threat to England's eight-year-old girls.

These aren't ordinary citizens, these leakers, but people who have passed security clearance investigations at high levels. Everything we think we know about how to find the people who will loyally protect crucial secrets has to be called into question in light of this continual bad behavior. If it comes to the point that an American president cannot trust anyone who is not from his own political faction, American presidents will make it a habit to purge these security institutions at every election. That will greatly harm everyone, not only by removing the people with experience from these positions but also by dangerously politicizing these institutions.

There is much to criticize where the President is concerned, but he is not doing the lion's share of the damage right now. People who think of themselves as security and intelligence professionals are. Our systems for ensuring that such professionals exist are being badly undermined, and with them, the existence of reliable security and intelligence institutions at all.

Rio Lobo

Just the introductory guitar, which is lovely.

Ethics & Leadership

These questions are posed in a military context, but they have broader application. Indeed, most of them are drawn from the broader debate about human ethics -- only some of them have their origin in explicitly military concepts.
1. What are the ethical dimensions of power and authority in the military? This includes formal command authority, giving rewards and punishments, informal power/influence and personal power (friendship, loyalty, and expertise.) What is the ethical power or temptation of self-interest? Does power magnify moral characteristics that are already there? Or does it corrupt moral character?

2. Is the morality of the leader a matter of what they do in their public role or also their private life when not in that role? Is it possible for these to be separate or different, or must they be in harmony and alignment? Can a good leader have immoral or bad private morality? Is it important that the leader serve as an ethical role model?

3. What are the duties of the leader to her followers? Is it permissible to use followers merely as a means to another end, or must they always be viewed as ends in themselves? Are the duties of leaders and followers two sides of the same coin or are they fundamentally different? Do followers have ethical duties to the leader beyond obedience?

4. How should leaders think about the Big Picture (Mission) or the Greater Good? How does a leader decide what is best for the Greater Good (Mission)? What if some of their followers (or others) must suffer for this to be achieved? Is that ethically permissible? What are the leader's obligations to those who suffer? What happens if these actions lead to guilt and/or moral injury in leaders and followers?

5. How important is charisma or personal power (The Great Man/Woman) in contemporary military leadership? What are the ethical implications of charisma in leading? Do leaders need an emotional connection or appeal with followers to be effective? What kinds of connections make good, ethical leaders? Trust? Servant Leaders? Transformative Leaders? Relational Leadership?

6. How do cultural and moral differences (ethical relativism) impact the intersection of leadership and ethics? How ought a good leader navigate moral disagreements, tensions and conflicts? Ought the leader's view of what is 'right' prevail? Must one have ethical agreement to work together and achieve the mission?
Those are important questions.

UPDATE: Related: The Army Chief of Staff wants to remind junior officers that they are empowered to disobey direct orders, but they had better be "morally and ethically correct."
Milley then made news headlines by calling for “disciplined disobedience.” This idea undoubtedly caused jaws to drop among many Army leaders, but it actually echoes back to the idea of “selective disobedience” one of his predecessors endorsed in the late 1970s. In Milley’s formulation, disobeying orders can be justified to achieve the larger purpose of the mission. According to Milley,
[A] subordinate needs to understand that they have the freedom and they are empowered to disobey a specific order, a specified task, in order to accomplish a purpose. Now, that takes a lot of judgment … it can’t just be willy-nilly disobedience. This has got to be disciplined disobedience to achieve the higher purpose.
He added, “disobedience, when done, must be done with trust and integrity, and you must be morally and ethically correct.”
Being morally and ethically correct will often mean answering these questions "correctly." Are there correct answers to all of them? That would make it a lot simpler.

American Geography

Trump to a roomful of Israelis: "We just got back from the Middle East." Slate's correspondent is extremely dismissive.

In fairness to the President, though, American geography is really confused where Israel is concerned. Officially Israel is in EUCOM, not in CENTCOM with all the countries that surround it. That's so the CENTCOM commander never has to meet with any Jews, making it easier for him to work with Arab leaders. So officially, according to the US military, Israel is in Europe.

The State Department, meanwhile, considers Israel to be part of the "Near East." (Although Saudi Arabia also qualifies as "Near East" rather than "Middle East" on this model; and, even more confusingly, "Middle East Peace" is one of the things that the "Near Eastern Affairs" bureau is tasked with handling.)

And apparently nobody is sure if the Western Wall is in Israel, though it is definitely in Jerusalem, which may or may not be in Israel depending on which American you ask.

An Unlikely Charge

Donald Trump may be a lot of things, but a Crusader is not plausibly one of them.

That's not to say there aren't Crusaders on staff.

A Truly Oppressed Religious Community

On ex-Muslims, who must meet in secrecy even in Portland, Oregon.

Wolf Time

Mentioned in the comments to the "American Gods" post below, Lars Walker pointed out that he wrote another book featuring Odin as a character at about the same time. I picked up a copy yesterday. I'm only about a fifth of the way through it, but it's an interesting read that some of you might like to join me in discussing later. Mr. Walker accurately predicted some things back in 1999.

The book is called Wolf Time, and it is available in Kindle format for those of you who might like to join me.

The Cowboy Hávamál

(Thanks for noticing this, Douglas.)

Is It Time to Get Angry?

Spiked Online argues that the Manchester attack marks the right moment to "get angry."
After the terror, the platitudes. And the hashtags. And the candlelit vigils. And they always have the same message: ‘Be unified. Feel love. Don’t give in to hate.’ The banalities roll off the national tongue. Vapidity abounds. A shallow fetishisation of ‘togetherness’ takes the place of any articulation of what we should be together for – and against. And so it has been after the barbarism in Manchester. In response to the deaths of more than 20 people at an Ariana Grande gig, in response to the massacre of children enjoying pop music, people effectively say: ‘All you need is love.’ The disparity between these horrors and our response to them, between what happened and what we say, is vast. This has to change.
Compare and contrast the response to the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal. Those also targeted young British girls; they were permitted to go on for a very long time, even though the authorities were repeatedly informed about them. Here, too, the perpetrator of this suicide bombing was well known to police authorities, as seems to be usually the case. Nothing was done.

Will this get a bigger response because, this time, the young girls were killed instead of repeatedly raped? Will it get a bigger response because, this time, the girls were the daughters of richer families who could afford expensive concert tickets, and not the daughters of the working class?

Or is it the case, instead, that nothing will change? The institutional inertia in Western governments is very great. We can't build a bridge anymore because of all the regulations that exist to govern the building of bridges. We know -- it seems we always know -- who is likely to conduct a mass murder like this, but we can't do anything to stop it. We aren't allowed. We won't allow ourselves.

I don't know that getting angry will fix that. What needs to change, whether to repair our infrastructure or to secure our nations, is to peel off whole layers of institutional regulation and control. These are simple problems in need of simple solutions.


"MacLeod," for your information, means "Son of Ugly."

It's a Small World After All

Not to make light of a tragedy, which will be devastating to the families who lost daughters tonight.  I just happen to notice that the artist canceled her "World Tour," which included "England, Belgium, Poland, Germany and Switzerland."

So, you know, a World Tour from Tennessee to Texas.

The World We Live in Now

Police: Denver man arrested after removing transgender woman's testicles

...A police affidavit says James Lowell Pennington, 57, removed the testicles and sutured the opening while the woman's wife witnessed the 90-minute procedure.
I could have explained this story to my grandparents, but not without using language that would today get me sued, arrested, or barred from productive employment.

How'd that Toby Keith Show Go?

In case you were wondering, there's some video -- as well as the usual sneering HuffPo commentary -- available here. It sounds like everyone had a good time. The Saudi performer was the big draw, and you can hear a bit of his stuff as well.

Female Infantrymen

America’s first female Army Infantrymen are here, but not all of them made it through.

In fact, only eighteen of the thirty-two female infantry recruits made it through the One Station Unit Training (OSUT) program at Fort Benning, Georgia.... the females needed only to meet the much-lower female standards for physical fitness that separate them from their previously all-male counterparts.

That said, there were some women who certainly gave their male colleagues a run for their money.

“There was even one female that did better than 90 percent of the males on the PT test,” said one 22-year-old male trainee, who reportedly had high PT scores.
An attrition rate from a training program that approaches fifty percent is pretty striking. Some of the special operations training/selection courses are higher than that, of course, but those are built around higher standards -- not lowered standards. Some percentage of the women (at least one of them, I gather from the article) might have met what was until yesterday "the standard." They would have been better served, though there would have been fewer of them, by being held to the same standard as the male infantrymen.

UPDATE: A related story in the Marine Corps Times: "New Concerns that Lower Fitness Standards Fuel Disrespect for Women." The creator of Terminal Lance is among those interviewed.
“Women, from Day One, do not have to do the same PFT as men,” said Maximilian Uriarte, a Marine veteran and the creator of the “Terminal Lance” comic strip. “

“To men, that’s immediately like: ‘Oh, they have not accomplished the same thing I have … Therefore, they do not rate the same respect that I do,’” he said.

One way to erase the gender gap, Uriarte said in an interview with Marine Corps Times, would be to have women meet the same standards as men on the PFT and CFT.

“I think you’d probably lose a lot of women, but the ones you’d keep would be really stellar, fighting, fit Marines that the men would respect on that level,” he said.

A Sense of History

Security removed a school principal from his campus after he was photographed at the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, near a Confederate flag.
However, Dean said the fact that he was shown standing next to monument supporters was pure coincidence.

"I didn't go to protest for either side. I went because I am a historian, educator and New Orleans resident who wanted to observe this monumental event," he said. "People who know me know that I am a crusader for children and I fight tirelessly on their behalf."
If he has a degree in history, of course he'd want to document a historic event. Whatever else these removals of Confederate memorials in New Orleans are, they are events that mark something important in the region's history. It can be hard to say just what that something is until time has passed; perhaps it's just that enough of the generations closer to the Civil War are now dead, and thus the balance of who cares about that war has shifted demographically. Perhaps the racist killings in Charleston, SC, moved many hearts. Perhaps it is something else.

Still, if the principal had been a fervent supporter of Robert E. Lee, could he be fired for it? Would an educator who was also a member of, say, the Sons of Confederate Veterans suddenly be a security risk who needed to be forcibly removed from campus? The law seems to suggest that even those with disapproved opinions have some rights under the law; that's why we have to let the Westboro Baptist Church protest the funerals of soldiers and Marines.

It seems that leeway does not apply to every disapproved opinion. I suppose we shall see if it still applies to historians who merely wanted to document the event.

The Murder of an American Soldier at the University of Maryland

The author of this piece thinks it was a racially motivated killing; perhaps it was. Of greater importance is that he was a lieutenant in the United States Army.
Collins, of Calvert County, was scheduled to graduate with a degree in business from Bowie State University Tuesday, and was commissioned May 18 to join the United States Army. He was involved with Bowie State's ROTC chapter, police said.

Darryl L. Godlock, a pastor who was serving as a spokesman for the Collins family, said the young man had obtained his airborne certification. Collins wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, a military veteran, Godlock said.

"He wanted to make his parents proud of him so he went into the military to serve his country," Godlock said.
We should avenge him as a soldier.

"A Communist Fanfic"

No kidding. His argument that the recent Mad Max movie fits this plotline is basically right, though. It just ends with the release of all the water that was being wrongfully hoarded to grow plants, rather than continuing to the point at which the now-held-in-common water is all gone and the plants have been swept over by the desert that surrounds them.

But hey: "Make sure to buy the t-shirt!"


It is amazing to me that no US President has before visited the Old City. I had read and studied the conflict for years before I went, but only standing there did I understand the close scale and what was at stake. The "pre-1967 borders" of which you hear so much would require yielding up the Old City, including the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, and -- of moment to Christians -- the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

For Christians, it may well be enough that the city is controlled by those who will protect the sites and permit access to pilgrims. We have seen the Taliban and others destroy heritage sites of other religions in order to establish the primacy of their own faith; but actual control may not be of special importance if protection is guaranteed. Muslims also care about the preservation of their shrines. The Iranians use the protection of special Shi'a shrines in Syria and Iraq as a major focus of their recruiting of local militias who will serve as reliable proxy forces. But the Muslims also assert a physical claim more boldly: the Old City's Muslim quarter is closed to non-Muslims lacking special permission. As a practical matter they do rely on the Israelis to protect their shrines, but it is clear that the Muslims of Jerusalem do not trust any outsider to do it: not even to pass nearby.

For Jews, though, Jerusalem has another importance. Go up on the Mount of Olives, within sight of Jerusalem's Old City and another place that would have to be surrendered. Gethsemane lies between the Old City and the Mount of Olives. The mount is chiefly a graveyard. Thousands of years of Jewish graves are there. For a people whose whole history has been marked by exile, Jerusalem is the one place that is truly home.

You can appreciate all that intellectually from afar, but it takes on a new clarity when you go and see it. All Presidents should go there, at least the ones who intend to meddle in this conflict.


Many Purple Hearts issued even today were manufactured in 1945, because the DOD expected so many casualties from the invasion of Japan.
As late as 1985, the Defense Logistics Agency still had about 120,000 refurbished Purple Heart sets dating back to World War II, said DLA spokeswoman Mimi Schirmacher.

“There could be a small number of WWII-era medal sets still in the hands of military service customers and it is possible that recent and current issues of medals were made from stock produced in previous time periods,” Schirmacher said in an e-mail.

The DLA has ordered about 34,000 Purple Hearts since 1976, of which 21,000 were ordered in 2008, she said.

But Giangreco, who wrote a book about the planned invasion of Japan, maintains that the bulk of Purple Hearts in stock date back to World War II. His research found that most of the refurbished Purple Hearts were sent to military depots, units and hospitals between 1985 and 1999.

Mr. Wednesday

I don't know the book or the TV show, but here's a video by a scholar on how well it fits the mythology. He was mostly impressed. There's some good lessons along the way on Old Norse versus Old English, the stories being drawn upon, and so forth.

Andrew C. McCarthy on Comey, Trump

Jim Comey is a patriot. That I have disagreed with him on some big things, does not change that. Disagreeing is what Americans do – that’s self-government by people who care passionately about how we are governed.

But let’s assume for argument’s sake that I am wrong. Let’s say that, as Sean Spicer says, Comey is a grandstander who has intentionally politicized an investigation in order to undermine the president. He’s still not the Russians. “America First,” remember? Comey is an American who believes in America; Lavrov and Kislyak are Putin operatives who oppose America at every turn. Comey believes in freedom and the rule of law; the Putin regime believes in Soviet tyranny and the rule of Putin.

Comey is one of us. Lavrov and Kislyak are two of them.

Treason Prospers

The word "treason" is getting thrown around a lot these days in very loose ways, and on very limited evidence. Let me say that by "treason" I mean the explicit Constitutional definition of aiding the enemy, and by "enemy" I mean an actual enemy that is trying to kill American soldiers using physical violence. By this standard, PFC Bradley Manning was clearly a traitor. He was saved from the charge only by the good fortune of having a chain of command that terminated in someone uncomfortable with the traditional definitions of "traitor," "treason," "enemy," and similar things.

Now it looks like the traitor, styled "Chelsea," is likely to be the focus of a documentary. Naturally, there will be a substantial payment to the principle.
On May 17th, Chelsea walks free and will reveal herself to the world. XY Chelsea is the journey of her fight for survival and dignity, and her transition from prisoner to a free woman.
Celebrate what you like, I suppose, but be clear on what the offense is. Manning betrayed the trust of fellow soldiers, and indeed of every American on the ground in Iraq, by recklessly trading secrets whose contents he hadn't bothered to learn himself to anyone who would broadcast those secrets to the enemy. In doing so, he endangered and doubtless cost the lives of fellow Americans who had deployed with him to war. He broke his oath and he broke his trust.

Fight as Manning will, there is no dignity now to be had. Not after that.

Jim Webb on Trump, Democrats

Loyalty & the Oath

I take this essay to be significant. Its subject matter is eternally so. Its timing is perhaps more so. Even eternal things have their special hour.

A Convincing Piece on Fraternities

I never even considered joining a fraternity at any point in my college life. This piece convinces me that I may have made a mistake.
Reform is not possible because the old-line, historically white social fraternities have been synonymous with risk-taking and defiance from their very inception. They are a brotherhood born in mutiny and forged in the fire of rebellion. These fraternities have drink, danger and debauchery in their blood — right alongside secrecy and self-protection.

They cannot reform.
That sounds awesome. I thought they were just a bunch of loud-mouthed rich boys.

Fake News, Right and Left

Don't believe in fake news, says National Review's Kevin Williamson -- be suspicious of internet-sourced stories, he says, but then claims that traditional journalism is more or less reliable. There isn't really 'fake news.'

Oh, yes, there is, says Vox on the left. And -- they go on to add -- our side does it too.

An interesting pair of admissions against interest, both aimed at trying to restore some capacity for a reasoned debate between the factions.

UPDATE: In addition to genuinely fake news, there's also the more traditional problem of bias.
A major new study out of Harvard University has revealed the true extent of the mainstream media’s bias against Donald Trump... They found that the tone of some outlets was negative in as many as 98% of reports, significantly more hostile than the first 100 days of the three previous administrations.
That was a European outlet, though. The major American outlets were much closer to nine out of ten than ten out of ten.

UPDATE: The actual Harvard study is here.

ESP is Real and Science is Broken

So argues an article at Slate.
Having served for a time as an associate editor of JPSP, Bem knew his methods would be up to snuff. With about 100 subjects in each experiment, his sample sizes were large. He’d used only the most conventional statistical analyses. He’d double- and triple-checked to make sure there were no glitches in the randomization of his stimuli.

Even with all that extra care, Bem would not have dared to send in such a controversial finding had he not been able to replicate the results in his lab, and replicate them again, and then replicate them five more times. His finished paper lists nine separate ministudies of ESP. Eight of those returned the same effect.

Bem’s 10-year investigation, his nine experiments, his thousand subjects—all of it would have to be taken seriously. He’d shown, with more rigor than anyone ever had before, that it might be possible to see into the future. Bem knew his research would not convince the die-hard skeptics. But he also knew it couldn’t be ignored....

[F]or most observers, at least the mainstream ones, the paper posed a very difficult dilemma. It was both methodologically sound and logically insane. Daryl Bem had seemed to prove that time can flow in two directions—that ESP is real. If you bought into those results, you’d be admitting that much of what you understood about the universe was wrong. If you rejected them, you’d be admitting something almost as momentous: that the standard methods of psychology cannot be trusted, and that much of what gets published in the field—and thus, much of what we think we understand about the mind—could be total bunk.
Confirmation bias check: I very much agree that most of what we think we understand about the mind is bunk.

UPDATE: This article later made Arts & Letters Daily, which makes me even happier to have mentioned it here first. It's really worth your time, no matter how devoted to science you are or are not. It raises significant questions about the state of our knowledge, and what it means to know what we think we know.

A White Horse is not a Horse

No, not that one. That one's really not a horse. I mean to refer to a philosophical argument from China's Warring States period. The author is somewhat like Socrates, in that he questions the basic uses of language and points out difficulties in how our concepts apply to the world. He is unlike Socrates, if the historians are right, in that he did this chiefly for fun. For Socrates, these philosophical problems were the most important thing in the world -- literally worth dying for, if Plato's treatment of Socrates' defense and death are accurate.

For Gongsun Long, they were a way of entertaining at court. He offered five proofs that 'white horse is not horse.' You can read them all, and a careful analysis of them, at the link above. Here are two of the proofs by themselves, for you to wrestle with before you click through to read the analysis.
Argument 2.
If someone seeks a horse, then it's admissible to deliver a brown or a black horse. If someone seeks a white horse, then it's inadmissible to deliver a brown or a black horse. Suppose white horse were indeed horse. In that case, what the person seeks in those two cases would be one and the same. What he seeks being one and the same is the white one not being different from horse. If what he seeks is not different, then how is it that the brown or black horse are in the one case admissible and in the other inadmissible? Admissible and inadmissible, that they contradict each other is clear. So brown and black horses are one and the same in being able to answer to “having horse” but not to “having white horse.” This confirms that white horse is not horse.

Argument 5.
“White” does not fix what is white.… As to “white horse,” saying it fixes what is white. What fixes what is white is not white. “Horse” selects or excludes none of the colors, so brown or black horses can all answer. “White horse” selects some color and excludes others; brown and black horses are all excluded on the basis of color, and so only white horse alone can answer. Excluding none is not excluding some. Therefore white horse is not horse.
The translation is a bit confusing here. When he says "'white' does not fix what is white," he means that asking for a "white" thing doesn't tell you what kind of thing is supposed to be white. You fix the issue of just what is white not when you specify white, but when you specify the kind of thing you want. This is the same issue that caused Aristotle to divide the world into substances (like horses) and attributes (like being white). So it's not an idle thing to notice; Aristotle hung his basic ontology on the same point.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

In fairness, this is exactly why people voted for Donald Trump.
Toby Keith is headed to the Middle East to join President Donald Trump on his trip to Saudi Arabia. The country singer will perform at a free, men-only concert Saturday in the capital city of Riyadh alongside Saudi singer Rabeh Saqer, The Associated Press reported.
Over/under on whether he'll perform this fan favorite?

Before you say there's no way, take a moment to watch this video as well. There's a kind of showmanship at work here.

Expel Turkey's Ambassador

So says Sen. McCain.

Yesterday's violence, against American citizens on US soil for engaging in their constitutional rights, is completely unacceptable.

Gonzo Second Amendment Advocacy

From Joe Bob Briggs:
Hunter S. Thompson used to mail me giant photos of objects being blown to smithereens with dynamite or flung from some kind of skeet contraption so they could be exploded midair, and in most cases he was both the photographer and the destroyer. He would scrawl the precise date and time of the explosion on the bottom of the photo and copy it to the sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado, who had repeatedly warned Thompson that he was in possession of illegal military ordnance, that he was in violation of pyrotechnic laws, and that he was in imminent danger of jail. As a Second Amendment radical, Thompson wanted to document exactly when, where, and how he had violated the law, then dare the law to do something about it. To me he would just write, “I’m on it.”
Taki's Magazine prefers that you read the rest there, in order to preserve their revenue stream. The rest is a book review of The Kingdom of Happiness: Inside Tony Hsieh’s Zapponian Utopia.

How to Leak Documents: A Primer from the Patriots at the Washington Post

Just in case any of you were thinking of violating your oaths to keep the secrets you swore to protect, here are step by step instructions.

The Comey Memo

This one may really do it.
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey, according to the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”…
It's only obstruction if he threatened to fire Comey to get him to drop the investigation, says Richard Painter, George W. Bush’s former chief ethics lawyer; but he went beyond threats and actually fired Comey.

And then he explained why he did: because of this Russia probe.
When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.... Look, I want to find out if there was a problem with an election having to do with Russia. Or, by the way, anybody else. Any other country. And I want that to be so strong and so good. And I want it to happen. I also want to have a really competent, capable director. He's not. He's a showboat.
He was competent enough to keep memos on his conversations with an unpredictable President, apparently. Or so we shall discover if the Congressional subpoena produces this alleged memo.

Rethinking Gays in the Military

It's been several years now since "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was replaced with openly gay service. At the time, those of us who were opposed to the repeal worried that introducing sexuality into line combat units would be disastrous for unit cohesion. Military service is rightly conditioned on the needs of the service, without disrespect to those who are excluded for having conditions -- whether blindness or any other condition -- that are not ideal for service.

Our opponents argued that, in fact, asking people to live a lie was too big an ask: they should either be allowed to serve, or not allowed to serve, and realistically with Obama in office that meant they should be allowed to serve.

Some political arguments are about morality, but many political arguments are about forecasting. Once a decision is made and some time has passed, it's possible to go back and examine whether the forecasts were good or not.

On reflection, I think that those of us who opposed the end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" were right about the danger of introducing sexuality to line military units, but wrong to think that gays posed much danger here. There just aren't enough gays, as a percentage of humanity, to create that much change. It's not all that likely that a company of infantry will have one gay guy in it; if they have two, that's unusual. There is thus little reason to be afraid that they will pair up, and even if they do, it's really unlikely there will be a third gay in the unit who might become jealous. The argument that it could happen is not wrong, but as a practical matter it doesn't really happen in the kind of small, line units where unit cohesion is of such critical importance.

By contrast, the Marines United scandal shows that the real dangers come from introducing heterosexuality into line units. Even though there aren't that many more women than gays in line infantry units, nearly all the men are subject to feeling attractions and jealousies towards them. There is a serious threat to good order and discipline when the majority of the unit is involved in competing with each other for the sexual attentions of the rare woman; a male/female pair will become the focus of intense jealousy; and if a breakup occurs, you run into an increased risk of photo sharing of the sort that the Marines United scandal is all about.

Since there is apparently no possibility of asking people not to hook up with fellow servicemembers, nor to ask them not to share nude photos of themselves while in the military, we are left with a pretty damaging dynamic to unit cohesion. The military is trying to address it by cracking down on the photo sharing only, which strikes me as a half-measure that won't be effective because it doesn't begin to treat the emotional issues that are really at work. Young people have higher hormone levels and less experience, and they are easily swayed -- we all remember how easily from our own youth -- by longing and loneliness and jealousy.

Consider too that those high hormone levels, in the form of testosterone, are even helpful for the basic mission of the infantry. Yet insofar as these same high levels make one more likely to make bad love-related decisions that will now result in a mandatory separation review, it sounds as if the introduction of sex to the infantry really is proving disastrous. Not only are these units cracking up over the sexualization of fellow soldiers or Marines, the chosen solution is likely to expel chiefly those whose hormone mix best supports battlefield performance.

So, we were right about the sex. We were wrong about homosexuality, though. It's too uncommon to be the kind of problem we thought it might be. Rather, heterosexuality is the real danger to the military's unit cohesion.

Brief Thoughts on Constitutional Interpretation in a Common Law System

It occurred to me the other day that a lot of Tea Partiers and other sundry and assorted Conservative types tend to treat the US Constitution as if it were in a civil law system rather than a common law system.

In a civil law system, when a judge or court makes a decision, it does not set a precedent that binds future judges or courts. All a court has to look at are the statutes in question and the facts of the case. This is similar to the old "What part of 'shall not be infringed' do you not understand?" rhetoric I've heard many times in discussions of the 2nd Amendment.

Stare decisis, or precedent, is an essential feature of common law systems like ours, which we inherited from the English. You can't just look at the law and the facts in a common law system. You must also look at precedents set by previous courts. As a result, we can't just read the text of the Constitution itself to understand what is and is not constitutional.

Although I think the system we ended up with was brilliant, I personally think the Founders messed up when it came to the judiciary. They have become a rolling constitutional convention because of the role of precedent. I have thought quite a bit about how to solve that problem, but maybe a simple solution would be to strip USSC rulings on the Constitution of precedent.

Of course, I am not a lawyer. I don't even play one on TV. My suggestion would probably wreck the whole system and bring about the Fimbulwinter and eventual Apocalypse. But if you ignore that, it's kind of an interesting idea.

An Amusing Error

In checking the spelling of "ghetto" for my previous post, I searched for "getto" (good thing I checked) and came up with this Urban Dictionary entry:

The more Getto verions [sic] of "Ghetto" for those who are too poor to afford the silent "H"

Rebecca Tuval and Philosophy's Existential Crisis

Oliver Traldi, a writer with an MA in philosophy, wrote about the Rebecca Tuval brouhaha in his article A Line in the Sand for Academic Philosophy. If you are interested, I thought the whole article was worthwhile.

He summarized the Tuvel affair thus:

Rebecca Tuvel is an assistant professor at Rhodes College ... Her essay “In Defense of Transracialism” (Hypatia 32.2 [Spring 2017], pp. 263-78) is, to be fair, not consistently scintillating, creative, or convincing. However, few philosophy papers have any of those qualities, and almost none have all three. What the paper does do is lay out relatively clearly the motivation for a fairly intuitive argument. I’ll give my version of it here:
  1. We have compelling reasons to accept the identity claims of transgender individuals.
  2. Transracial identification is relevantly similar or analogous to transgender identification.
  3. The reasons commonly given for not accepting transracial identification are either not compelling or not relevant.
  4. From 1, 2, and 3, the balance of reasons compels us to accept the identity claims of transracial individuals.
  5. If the balance of reasons compels us to accept something, we should accept it.
  6. From 4 and 5, we should accept the identity claims of transracial individuals.

Other philosophers wrote and signed an open letter calling for the paper’s retraction. ...

The letter’s most important point is hidden in the first complaint: that Tuvel “uses vocabulary and frameworks not recognized, accepted, or adopted by the conventions of the relevant subfields.” In the Daily Nous comments, academics in these subfields struggled to identify precisely which arguments Tuvel failed to cite or address, or where her thinking might have gone wrong on a more than superficial level. Indeed, many philosophers of both gender and race have come out against retraction. But “the relevant subfields” are not really the academic studies of gender and race. They are the political interests and values associated with a certain conception of those topics. The real complaint is that anyone who publishes in a journal like Hypatia, itself a blatantly activist organ, ought to share those politics. In turn, the necessary politics are built in to the “vocabulary and frameworks” used by the academics. This is ideological alignment dressed up as intellectual expertise.

This is fairly well-known background for those who have been paying attention to this. What interests me more is his assessment of how the field of philosophy got to this point. He makes several points, but one of them is:

Another concerns the methodology of philosophical ethics. Much of ethics is quasi-scientific: it involves investigating our intuitions about particular cases and generalizing them into a broadly explanatory theory. However, different people have different intuitions. Norms about the nature of intuitive reasoning (e.g. “reflective equilibrium”) and about how much weight philosophers should give to other people’s intuitions have never quite taken hold, except in the “experimental philosophy” movement. In the modern academy, with its myriad specializations, it is easy to put together a “relevant subfield” of philosophical ethics not by linking together a set of situations, puzzles, or theories but by finding a group of people who share the same intuitions about cases. The actual difficult work of ethics is completely removed, because people with deep disagreements can, if they wish, simply read different journals, go to different conferences, and so on. I will leave a comparison to the state of American politics as an exercise for the reader.
That's exactly what I think has happened throughout the humanities, although it is not universal yet. It might provide us with part of an answer as well. Non-Progressive academics shouldn't just sequester themselves in little intellectual ghettos, but citation is life: making sure to include non-Progressive voices in the conversation could help. (If an academic publishes and no one cites the work, was the work really published?) Similarly, an academic community could form that replaces a certain subfield. At this point, I feel like that is actually a necessity. Race, ethnicity, and gender are far too important to leave to the loonies.

Traldi ends with a call to save the field from mob justice, from which I got the title for this post. I think the humanities are worth saving, but I'm not quite sure how it works out yet.

Church Attendants On the Rise in Nashville

Well, something's up, anyway.

I wonder if there isn't a 'free exercise' claim here?

IRS Execs Think Their Lives are at Risk in TEA Party Case

That's interesting. What are you afraid to tell us, I wonder?
"This documentation, as the court will see, makes very personal references and contains graphic, profane and disturbing language that would lead to unnecessary intrusion and embarrassment if made public," their attorneys argued in a recent court brief. "Public dissemination of their deposition testimony would put their lives in serious jeopardy."
This sounds like the rare case in which intrusion and embarrassment are wholly appropriate.

Plato and Cognitive Bias

One of the ways in which we hide how similar our ancestors are to ourselves, Bertrand Russel noted, is by inventing technical terms for things we knew all along.
[T]he richest precedent for behavioural economics is in the works of ancient Greek philosophers. Almost 2,500 years before the current vogue for behavioural economics, Plato was identifying and seeking to understand the predictable irrationalities of the human mind. He did not verify them with the techniques of modern experimental psychology, but many of his insights are remarkably similar to the descriptions of the cognitive biases found by Kahneman and Tversky. Seminal papers in behavioural economics are highly cited everywhere from business and medical schools to the social sciences and the corporate world. But the earlier explorations of the same phenomenon by Greek philosophy are rarely appreciated. Noticing this continuity is both an interesting point of intellectual history and a potentially useful resource: Plato not only identified various specific weaknesses in human cognition, he also offered powerful proposals for how to overcome these biases and improve our reasoning and behaviour.

Many of Plato’s dialogues dramatise the habits and processes that lead humans to false conclusions. He depicts people believing what they want or what they are predisposed to believe (confirmation bias); asserting whatever comes most readily to mind (availability bias); reversing their opinions about identical propositions based on the language in which the propositions are presented (framing); refusing to relinquish current opinions simply because these happen to be the opinions they currently possess (a cognitive version of loss aversion); making false inferences based on the size and representativeness of a sample of a broader population (representativeness heuristic); and judging new information based on salient current information (a version of anchoring). And this is only a partial inventory of the mental errors that he catalogues and dramatises.
Plato was also very good at math, a point that many contemporary readers miss. The Greeks didn't have algebra, but they did have a highly-advanced approach to geometry that allowed them to solve many complex mathematical problems. Thus, while you might not expect Plato to provide a criticism of contemporary statistical mathematics (since he did not have access to such systems), in fact he's aware of a number of the problems such systems will encounter because he has thought a great deal about the real nature of mathematical objects like numbers and shapes.

It may be hard for contemporary thinkers who are schooled in our advanced forms of mathematics to think there is much to be gained by learning the ancient forms as well. Yet a new way of thinking about the same problems offers unexpected benefits. The philosophical investigation into the nature of mathematicals offers additional benefits. What we often learn is how difficult it is to be sure of what we think we know. Thus:
Intellectual humility and overconfidence can stem from purely cognitive processes, but they are also correctly understood as moral achievements or failings. Someone who always thinks that he is right about everything... is making a moral as well as a mental mistake. Similarly, the cultivation of intellectual humility is, in part, the cultivation of an ethical virtue.

Nussbaum's Jefferson Lecture

It's appropriately ancient, and as always with Nussbaum, I wonder how much more she knows about her goals than she makes clear to her audience. We must transform anger with honor, she says -- or, at least, that Athena did. She does not go on to conclude that we can, and yet it is the clear and correct conclusion from her argument.
As the drama begins, the Furies are described as repulsive and horrifying. They are said to be black, disgusting; their eyes drip a hideous liquid. Apollo even says they vomit up clots of blood that they have ingested from their prey. They belong, he says, in some barbarian tyranny where cruelty reigns.

Nor, when they awaken, do the Furies give the lie to these grim descriptions. As Clytemnestra’s ghost calls them, they do not speak, but simply make animal noises, moaning and whining. When they do begin to speak, their only words are “get him get him get him get him,” as close to a predator’s hunting cry as the genre allows....

Unchanged, these Furies could not be at the foundation of a legal system in a society committed to the rule of law. You don’t put wild dogs in a cage and come out with justice. But the Furies do not make the transition to democracy unchanged. Until quite late in the drama, they are still their bestial selves, threatening to disgorge their venom on the land. Then, however, Athena persuades them to alter themselves so as to join her enterprise. “Lull to repose the bitter force of your black wave of anger,” she tells them. But of course that means a virtual change of identity, so bound up are they with anger’s obsessive force. She offers them incentives to join the democracy: a place of honor, reverence from the citizens—but only if they adopt a new range of sentiments, substituting future-directed benevolence for retribution. Perhaps most fundamental of all, they must listen to the voice of persuasion.
Nussbaum says they are offered "places of honor," but also "reverence" -- and reverence is a form of honor too. In return, what must they do? They must "listen to the voice of persuasion" -- and that, too, is a kind of honoring. First, it is a kind of honor because it is a show of special respect to listen to the voice while being open to being persuaded. We don't take advice from just anyone, nor lay aside long-established habits. Athena is demanding honor from them, and offering them honor in return.

The effect is transformative, not just of the Furies but for Athens as well. Honor must be given to be received, and when one is brought into the community that gives and shows honor, peace becomes possible.

Yet then Nussbaum, later in her address, invokes honor in a negative way that seems to undermine her entire argument. I wonder why she does, aside from the clear intent to insult Donald Trump.
Elaborate codes of honor and status led, indeed, to constant status-anxiety and to many duels responding to purported insults. What’s wrong with the obsession with status is that life is not all about reputation, it is about more substantial things: love, justice, work, family. We all know people today who are obsessed with what other people think of them, who constantly scan the Internet to see who has been insulting them.
Indeed it is the biggest problem with Donald Trump that he does not know how to give honor, only how to demand it for himself. Yet reputation (another sort of honor: you have a good reputation if people say good things about you, which is a way of honoring you) enables the 'substantial things' she mentions. Consider work, as Louis L'amour often reminded his readers when he writes about why people might have killed over an insult like being called a "liar." Who will work with someone who is called a liar in the streets? In a poorer time when reputations tended to be well-known among smaller communities, such a name could mean the end of your ability to participate in work at all.

Who would bind their lives with such a person, as in love or the marriage that could bring out a family? The fight for what she calls status is not insubstantial, but rather, in earlier societies it played a crucial role in establishing the conditions for attaining the 'substantial things.'

Of course, some might love a man with a bad reputation -- or a woman, like the one John Wayne's character comes to love in Stagecoach. They might because they come to know the individual, and not just the reputation. But their election to trust the person in spite of his bad reputation -- that, too, is a kind of honor. And this honor, as honor does, transforms.

Mike Pence is the Devil, Mother's Day Edition

Now that the 'ctrl-left' is pretty sure it's got Trump on the ropes -- no doubt he'll be impeached any day, since all the newspapers say he should be -- it's time to move on to demonizing Mike Pence. We got round one out of his horrible refusal to dine with women besides his wife; well, at least, fifteen years ago he felt that way and nobody bothered to check if he still did.

Round two: he sometimes calls his wife "Mother."
One unlucky legislator stuck next to Pence tried to make conversation, but found even at dinner she couldn't shift Pence off his talking points. Gov. Pence shouted to his wife, Karen, his closest adviser, at the other end of the table.

"Mother, Mother, who prepared our meal this evening?"

The legislators looked at one another, speaking with their eyes: He just called his wife "Mother."

Maybe it was a joke, the legislator reasoned. But a few minutes later, Pence shouted again.

"Mother, Mother, whose china are we eating on?"

Mother Pence went on a long discourse about where the china was from. A little later, the legislators stumbled out, wondering what was weirder: Pence's inability to make conversation, or calling his wife "Mother" in the second decade of the 21st century.
There's other stuff in this profile: he's a Christian, but not the kind of Christian who thinks that progressive social programs are the ideal tool for religious expression; there are unsubstantiated accusations from people who used to know him, or who like what he did but don't like how he did it; he's way too religious for the author's taste.

If there are so many reasons to dislike Pence, why include this strange tidbit about how he refers to his wife in their own home? They make it sound weird, which to me suggests that the author is childless. Pence and his wife have three children. In a house full of kids, everyone but you is calling her "Mother," and if you want to communicate effectively with those children you'll adopt their usage when speaking with them. So too with her, who is likely to tell the children information they need to know about "Daddy" or "Father." In their own house, eating off their own china, it's not strange that they'd fall into what must have become a common mode of speaking in that particular context over decades of child-rearing.

But of course that's the point, isn't it? Child-rearing is weird now, at least among the readership of Rolling Stone. Being a Christian is weird. Taking your wedding vows seriously is weird. What could be stranger than seeing yourself and your spouse, inside your own house, as related to the context of that household you built in the role of mother and father?

These things used to be ordinary. They almost defined ordinary. Now they're proof of moral wickedness: a failure, I suppose, to evolve.

But don't these same people tell us that evolution is random and without purpose or meaning? Motherhood, so necessary for the process of evolution, is not lacking in these things.