On David Stokes' Thoughts on George W. Bush -

On David Stokes' Thoughts on George W. Bush:

I ran into this article recently - about George W. Bush in the aftermath of Bin Laden's capture. The author rightly gives President Obama some credit for inviting Bush to a ceremony at Ground Zero. He then discusses Bush's post-Presidential attitude, and includes this line:
Most people aspire to office because they want to “be” something. A few, in contrast, seek leadership roles in order to “do” something—and when that job is done, they move on with their lives.
I don't know if he's right to put Bush in the latter category, but I would love it to be true. The historical parallels are obvious. It's an attitude I try to cultivate towards my own rank - to remember that I don't have it because I am something special (it's not as if lawyers are rare), but rather as a tool to get things done. (For me - to open doors that need opening.) Should everyone? I doubt it.

Beowulf & C

On Noam Chomsky's Thoughts on Bin Laden:

Nor shall lilt of harp
those warriors wake; but the wan-hued raven,
fain o'er the fallen, his feast shall praise
and boast to the eagle how bravely he ate
when he and the wolf were wasting the slain.

The famously anti-war thinker Noam Chomsky asks some questions that are, he says rightly, the sort of questions that ought to provoke thought. His thoughts and mine are rather different.

However, he is quite right to point out that the Taliban made an offer regarding Bin Laden in the event that we could show evidence of his guilt. As I recall, however, the Taliban standard governing guilt was the traditional sharia standard, that is, three eye-witnesses who would testify. We could probably meet that standard now, but it would have been hard to meet at the time. In any event, I do remember the offer, and I also regretted that we didn't try to take them up on it.

His remarks on the Iraq war are without merit; it was not an act of aggression ('the supreme crime,' etc.), but a legitimate and just response to humanitarian crisis. (As to which, Arts & Letters Daily has an interesting piece on the subject of how Tolstoy and Dostoevsky debated the subject of humanitarian intervention in their own day: you may not have realized that it was a concern in imperial Russia. The Tolstoy piece being cited also contains one of the most poignant descriptions of the fate of a philosopher who becomes unmoored from God; and of the necessity, and means, of bringing that ship back to harbor.)

How to respond, though, to this line?

We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic.
I expect we might have invaded their country and overthrown its government, seen to a democratically elected replacement, and then turned the old leadership over for trial and execution. That seems like a reasonable surmise, all things considered.

I knew one of those Iraqi commandos, by the way; one of the tribal leaders I used to deal with fairly regularly in Iraq had been in the Special Republican Guard. I always liked him. He and I saw eye to eye, because his perspective was that of a tribal member of of an honor culture -- remember that "tribal" does not mean anything like "primitive," but in Iraq as in many other places is entirely integrated into the modern world. He has tribal duties as well as duties to the state, just as you may have family duties as well as duties to the state; and, like him, you may take the personal duties at times as being the more compelling.

He surely understands that the function of the Bin Laden raid is to deter violence. Honor cultures get this in a way that 'international law' types often do not. In the Beowulf, after the death of the dragon and the king, a warrior laments that the Swedes will now be on their way to pillage and plunder the Geats. With the strong defender gone -- and given the standing feud, and given especially the cowardly behavior of Beowulf's war band in the face of the dragon, with the noble exception of Wiglaf -- the coming of the Swedish raids is taken as a certainty. At the funeral that takes up the final verses of the poem, an old woman laments the coming doom and shame that will befall the Geats.

This killing of Bin Laden was an obligation of honor. We have fulfilled it, but it was he himself who required it of us. There was never any choice. Any man should know that.

Avoid Iran

Note to Self: Remove Iran from Vacation Itinerary

Not a good week to be in the service of the President of Iran. Or me, if I were there!

Ayandeh, an Iranian news website, described one of the arrested men, Abbas Ghaffari, as "a man with special skills in metaphysics and connections with the unknown worlds".
Special skills in metaphysics! Who knew that was a crime?

Busy Week

Busy Week:

Here at the undisclosed location, it's been a very busy week. I apologize for not being around more, but certain events have kept me engaged.

I trust you are all well. How about a little doom and gloom to take your mind off it?

Their methods are scientific and philosophical, and they all come down to trying to understand what all those zeroes in numbers like “6 billion” really mean. Scientists now have firmly grounded hypotheses about how Earth and the solar system will be different in 50 million years, for example, as distinct from 500 million or 50 billion, and can rule out some possibilities for what will happen at each point. Armed with data from history, they can use rough computer models to simulate how human populations might rise and fall, how their technology might accelerate, and how thousands or millions of years of human activity might or might not change the planet.

Most important, they’re systematically analyzing for the first time the worryingly numerous ways in which humanity might fail to survive to see that long future.
Isn't that what the girl says in the Terminator? "Look on the bright side -- in a hundred years, who's going to care?"

National Offend a Feminist Week 2011

National Offend a Feminist Week 2011

As anyone who's ever had fleeting contact with me probably already knows, I'm a feminist. But this is funny:

If happiness is the problem, feminism is the solution.

Feminism views all women as victims of patriarchal oppression, and any woman who is happy is therefore suffering from “false consciousness.” As soon as a woman becomes enlightened — once she is made aware of her victimhood — she will be miserable and angry. Which is to say, she’ll be a feminist.

Q. How many feminists does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A. That’s not funny.

Feminism is a philosophy of militant misery. The humorlessness of feminists is therefore not accidental. And so feminists must be mocked, and often, and by someone who knows how.

Now run along, sweetheart. And bring me a cup of coffee.

H/t Little Miss Attila.

Justice in the Rest of the World

Justice in the Rest of the World

Justice in the Legal World

Justice in the Legal World

The State of Virginia answers with a resounding "yes" the question: Will there be consequences when a big law firm publicly dumps a client for craven, pandering, PC reasons?

Last week King & Spalding announced that it would not continue to represent the U.S. House of Representatives in supporting the Defense of Marriage Act against a constitutional challenge in federal court. (The Obama Administration had already announced it would decline to oppose the challenge.) Another King & Spalding client, the Attorney General for the State of Virginia, concluded that he should reconsider his retention of the law firm to prosecute the state's ongoing challenge of Obamacare in federal court:
King & Spalding’s willingness to drop a client, the U.S. House of Representatives, in connection with the lawsuit challenging the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was such an obsequious act of weakness that I feel compelled to end your legal association with Virginia so that there is no chance that one of my legal clients will be put in the embarrassing and difficult situation like the client you walked away from, the House of Representatives. . . . Virginia does not shy away from hiring outside counsel because they may have ongoing professional relationships with people or entities, or on behalf of causes that I, or my office, or Virginia as a whole may not support. But it is crucial for us to be able to trust and rely on the fact that our outside counsel will not desert Virginia due to pressure by an outside group or groups. . . . Virginia seeks firms of commitment, courage, strength and toughness, and unfortunately, what the world has learned of King & Spalding, is that your firm utterly lacks such qualities.
Ouch. I guess when a law firm plays politics, it works both ways.

"No Fair! You Tricked Me Into Thinking I Was Smarter Than I Am!"

"No Fair! You Tricked Me Into Thinking I Was Smarter Than I Am!"

Via Ann Althouse and Instapundit, I ran across this article, which I was sure would turn out to be a joke. Alas. A tax law professor at Pepperdine is outraged to discover that some law schools offer merit scholarships to incoming students with a high GPAs and/or LSAT scores, but they condition the continuation of the scholarship funds on the students' maintaining a "B" average in law school. What the crafty villains don't reveal is that only a fraction of students keep their law school GPAs that high. Not a tiny fraction, mind you, perhaps a third. Their nefarious motive? To attract students with high GPAs and LSAT scores who might not otherwise attend (thus boosting the schools' rankings), but only if the students can in fact excel in law school. Have you ever heard anything so cruel, so fraudulent, so self-interested?

The author of this article suggests that incoming students have no idea that law schools grade on the curve -- evidently a shocking crime in itself -- or that keeping a "B" average won't be a cakewalk for most of the incoming class, not all of whom can expect to be above average. And apparently the students practically never ask simple questions about the distribution of grades on which their continued access to free money will depend. As one law school official mused, “This isn’t meant to be sarcastic,” he said, “but these students are going to law school and they need to learn to read the fine print.”

I'm perplexed by the harm that's supposed to be suffered here. The students are free to finish law school with a "C" average, but they will have to take out student loans, which they will then have to pay back. They spend only one year finding out that they're not likely to graduate at the top of their classes, and therefore can expect a really tough time landing one of the higher-paying legal jobs. This is information that will come in very handy as they decide whether those student loans are a good bet. They've had one year of law school absolutely free, which (common perceptions to the contrary; I know what you're all thinking!) hardly disqualifies them for a useful and fulfilling life on some other career path.

*I like Ann Althouse's comment-board instructions, by the way:
Join our community of commenters. I'm big on free speech, but if you want to push its limits you'd better be interesting. You can't just stop by to drop an insult or a lie that you can't defend. Earn it. Or be circumspect.

May Day

May Day:

The May Day carol is a part of the memento mori genre, which has existed in the West since antiquity. Not only in the West: the samurai Daido Yuzan wrote:

One who is a samurai must before all things keep constantly in mind, by day and by night, from the morning when he takes up his chopsticks to eat his New Year's breakfast to Old Year's night when he pays his yearly bills, the fact that he has to die. That is his chief business. If he is mindful of this, he will live in accordance with the paths of Loyalty and Filial Duty, will avoid the myriads of evils and adversities, keep himself free from disease and calamity and moreover enjoy a long life. He will also be a fine personality with many admirable qualities. For existence is impermanent as the dew of evening and the hoarfrost of morning, and particularly uncertain is the life of the warrior, and if he thinks he can console himself with the idea of lifelong service to his lord or unending devotion to his relations, something may well happen to make him neglect his duty to his lord and forget what he owes to his family. But if he determines simply to live for today and take no thought for the morrow, so that when he stands before his lord to receive his commands he thinks of it as his last appearance and when he looks upon the face of his relatives he feels that he will never see them again, then will his duty and regard for both of them be completely sincere, while his mind will be in accord with the path of loyalty and filial duty.
I have always thought it was wise advice.

The skeletons in the May Day carol's paintings appear to take the living by the hand and lead them away to the hidden land of the dead. The woodcut of the skeleton leading the child away from his family is particularly moving. Those who travel that road do not reappear, but vanish from the world of men -- just as a branch of May, full of flowers, will soon be gone as if it never had been at all.

Yet today we have a counterpoint in Rome. This tradition of the display of the incorrupt body has a significant history in the West. It has always seemed odd to me to disinter and display the body of the dead; if it were being done by someone other than the Pope, one might say it was sacrilegious. If in this case it is instead religious, it is still the sort of thing that strikes me as strange.

Surely it is intended to seem strange. The branch of May is provided to draw your attention to the order of the world, and remind you of something mysterious and true about it: the order of death, and our powerlessness to reclaim things lost in time. The display in Rome is meant to make an assertion to the contrary, and so of course it must seem strange: it is a claim made in defiance of the ordinary truths of the world.