Between the lines

I don't feel this brief account gives us the necessary insight into all aspects of this fascinating couple's lives.  It's the old story:  they met in something called a "hacky-sack" circle, agreed to marry, then quarreled.
Hall took his few possessions and moved out of his fiancée’s home and into a tree at McLaren Park.
Soon, matters took a squalid turn.  After the fellow got cold and decided to return home, he was disappointed to see his fiancée returning from a date with a Marine, who found it necessary to assist his date's ex-betrothed in regaining his composure.  Bear-spray ensued, and it all ended up in criminal court, but everyone decided there was no real harm done.

Can't we at least get a reality show out of this?

H/t Rocket Science.

The Delian Ship

Douglas is interested today in an old discussion we had, in which Bthun spoke of his father's ax.
I think I've mentioned dad's axe here once or twice before. The one on which my bro replaced the head and a decade or two later, when it came into my possession, I replaced the handle...

Yup , I surely cherish 'dad's axe.
This raises a puzzle that has been spoken of since ancient Greece, at least. The Athenians who used to debate it used as their example a ship that they had in the harbor, supposedly the same one that Theseus himself used on his voyage to defeat the Minotaur and save the Athenian youths from being sacrificed. Every part of the ship had been replaced over the centuries (as with our own USS Constitution), but had been done so in such a way as to recreate the old piece as faithfully as before. Annually this ship sailed to the island of Delos for a ritual festival celebrating, among other things, Theseus' salvation of Athens.

The ship plays an important role in the history of philosophy for another reason. It was because the garlands for this annual voyage had been put on the ship before the conclusion of Socrates' trial that he was not executed until the entire voyage was completed. The laws of Athens did not permit executions during this sacred festival, which began when the garlands were displayed on the ship, and did not conclude until the ship had returned from Delos. For that reason, Socrates was kept in prison for quite some time. If Plato is right, it was a very fertile time for Socrates' discourse with his students; or possibly, it was the point at which Plato realized he needed to start writing some of this stuff down.

Socrates himself wrote nothing down. He doesn't seem to have cared for the written word, apparently because he thought of the written word as dead. What he wanted (as professor Gregory Nagy of Harvard puts it) was the life of the living word: he wanted the arguments to live in the minds and speech of his students, who would carry them forth and continue to debate these high questions of the soul, the nature of the world, the nature of mathematical objects, of virtues, and other good things. Plato met him halfway by writing them down, but in a form that preserves the structure of a dialogue between people trying to figure it out. This is why Plato reads so differently from Aristotle, who gives you the old arguments but then explains his position on them clearly. Most of the time Socrates in Plato's works ends with an admission that he hasn't quite got the whole answer, but wouldn't it be nice to start fresh there again some time?

One of the last questions he takes up is the question of the nature of the soul, and he proposes an idea very similar to my own -- it occurs to me now that the chief difference between them is accidental, because my idea of it was available to me because we have different technologies to use as analogues for how it might work. His model is a lyre -- which produces a harmony -- and mine is a technology like a radio or television, which can be tuned differently so as to receive different signals. I think that may even answer at least some of the problems he raises for the harmonic model, though it leaves open the question of what is producing the signal that can be received by a properly tuned body.

Is that an answer to the problem of the ax or the ship? It seems to me it is. In fact, it happens all the time to us: every day, we eat food, from which our body takes elements and makes itself new again. Over time every part of you is replaced. We have no problem saying that it is the same you, do we? We do this with animate rather than inanimate objects because they have a soul: an organizing activity, I mean, which itself is doing the constant work of rebuilding and maintaining itself. The ship doesn't have a soul, but it has an organizing activity, which is found in its maker and maintainers. As long as we continue to remake the ship, it is the same ship.

But what if we stop? Can we rebuild the Constitution once it is gone? To say that is to say that if we should die, but some future being should remake our body in such a way that it was again tuned to receive our soul, then we would live again. That happens to be the orthodox position on the resurrection of the body, as a matter of fact, but is it true? Or would we necessarily be different, and not the same, in the way that a new Constitution would be a different ship?

In Which Monty Python Proves That Washington Irving Was Responsible For The Idea That Medievals Belived The World Was Flat

No, really. He has trouble getting started, but Terry Jones knows his stuff.

"The Blip"

You probably saw the hook for this on InstaPundit yesterday, but I finally had a little time this morning to read past it to the responses and counterarguments later in the piece. That's the part that's worth reading, because the optimist case is almost as bleak as the hook. The problem is one we often have discussed here: technology continues to improve, and we are learning to do amazing new things, but they aren't likely to produce jobs for people. They're likely to produce jobs for robots. Yet if they are going to provide goods and services that are economically viable, people have to be able to afford to buy the goods and the services.

They don't talk about biotech, which is what I would have thought the optimist's case would revolve around. People will pay for biotech if they can, because it is literally about life and death. So there's a potential for very robust, strong economic growth even with an aging society -- provided that the aging (and, ideally, everyone else) can afford to pay for the evolving goods and services. Standards of living may rise more in terms of health and longevity than in moving from ice boxes to refrigerators, but that still represents a huge potential for improvement.

If, that is, the market will bear the cost of the innovations at an adequate rate. It will, if it can, because the people in the market will absolutely want the good. The question is whether, or rather just how, we make sure that they can themselves be wealthy enough to afford to constitute a market that will bear the costs.

The Bee Plague

Alas, it may not be a simple thing to fix.

The ewww factor

From Jim Geraghty:
I suppose I should give some credit where it's due; some prominent women Democrats in California have finally awoken and recognized that A) the number of accusations against Filner is reaching critical mass, as are his increasingly lame and implausible excuses ("I'm just a big hugger!") and B) their double standard was getting glaring enough for even low-information voters to notice.  Had Filner been a Republican, he would already be at least as well-known as Todd Akin, with his face on the cover of Time magazine under the headline: "PARTY OF CREEPS:  WHY THE GOP'S PROBLEMS WITH WOMEN KEEP GETTING WORSE."
Dianne Feinstein adds, "[Weiner and Filner] have both admitted they need therapy. I think maybe that therapy could better be accomplished in private."  Geraghty "marvel[s] at how Weiner can make even the most basic statements exponentially creepier":
"I don't believe I had any more than three," he said when asked at a press conference how many relationships since his resignation were sexual in nature.

Standing Your Ground and Manhood

For the last couple of weeks, some of my liberal friends have been on a tirade against Stand Your Ground (SYG) laws. They are following the lead of the liberal press, about which more in a moment, and although my friends are thoughtful people the press normally is not. Thus we've seen some stunningly bad arguments fielded, which can be supported in the sense that you can send me a link to an article that makes the claim. It is only that the claims don't hold up.

Of course the leading wrong claim is the idea that the Zimmerman verdict had something to do with Florida's SYG law, when in fact the defense didn't reference the law and explicitly waived the pre-trial SYG hearing to which they were entitled if they'd care to make a claim under the law.

Equally wrong is the idea that the law is "new," a pure innovation of conservative gun rights advocates. Nothing could be farther from the truth. When friends suggest to me that Georgia should "repeal" the SYG law, I point out that this would accomplish exactly nothing, because our SYG statute merely codified what has always been the law in Georgia, as determined in over two hundred years of case law precedent (also known as common law). Even the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has to admit to this tradition since the Georgia State Supreme Court decided in its favor in 1898, three years after the US Supreme Court did likewise in an unrelated case (Beard v. the United States, which we will come back to momentarily, but for now note that this was not the last time SCOTUS endorsed it). The only thing that repealing the 2006 statute would accomplish would be to make the law harder to understand, as citizens would have to learn how to read case law instead of just looking up the legal standard in the Official Code of Georgia, Annotated.

All these laws about self defense are very old, as should not be surprising, and they all have roots in English law. The roots of those states that impose a duty to retreat are in the laws relating to the English peasantry, whose members were not allowed to defend themselves lawfully if they had other options.

The real root of "Stand Your Ground" isn't in self defense at all, but in the right of the citizen -- like that of the feudal English nobility -- to uphold the common peace and lawful order. It is related to the power to make a citizen's arrest. The real idea here is that you don't have to retreat from unlawful violence, but may meet it and stop it. You can't stop crime if you have to run from it. You can't protect a woman being raped, or a man being robbed, if you are required to retreat as soon as the criminal turns the force against you. You have the right to stop the crime that is hurting them. You likewise have the right to do so if you are the one being raped or robbed. A citizen has that power to confront the wicked and defend the law, as a knight had it. It is your duty as much as it is your right to do what you can to uphold the common peace and lawful order.

You may not be punished at law for doing your duty. That's what really underlies all of this, the same ascent of rights from the feudal bargain that also underlies almost all of the rest of the rights that the Founders secured for us, which were first secured to the knighthood at Runnymede and have since been extended to all free men.

Those of you who have been reading Cassandra's site for a very long time may remember this early conversation, eight years ago this month.
Q: What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate?

A: That a free man must give more attention to his duty than his rights; and that the most important duty, and the most important right, is to uphold the common peace. We must unlearn the notion that enforcing the law is the goverment's job, or that it is first and foremost "police work." The opposite is true, and has always been true in the West: it is the duty of the free citizen. The police are hired to assist us by being easy to call to our aid, and by patrolling to keep an eye on areas not often traveled by honest citizens. But it is our duty first.

The law is actually quite clear on this point: the police have what is called a "general" duty to provide protection for the community, but are never liable for a failure to render aid to a citizen in a specific case. There was a USSC case about that this week, which simply reasserted the old principle. The individual, however, certainly can be brought before the court if he simply ignored a crime or tragedy in progress. The case could be civil, or it could be criminal under several statutes: failure to render aid is an offense in cases of traffic accidents, for example; one could be charged as an accessory after the fact in some cases, and there are other ways in which you are liable as well.

The more citizens who take seriously the notion of being part of the law, themselves, the smaller the area in which criminals can operate. The more of us who become engaged in the performance of that duty, the more capable we will be of restraining the goverment's liberty-threatening expansion, which is always at its most dangerous when it claims to be protecting us. If we would be free men, we must protect ourselves.

By coincidence, this is also a national security issue. I've been talking a lot about 4th Generation Warfare at 4th Rail and elsewhere. One of the key problems of 4gen war is that the enemy blurs the line between civilian and military to the point that it can even vanish -- as in Iraq, where the citizens are now the primary target of the enemy, and must therefore become capable of recognizing and responding to the enemy because they will be the only force in readiness available to protect the common peace. This was true on 9/11, too, when the citizens on the one airplane realized that they alone could rise up to smite the terrorists. Because terrorists choose to strike when police and soldiers are not around, all of us must be ready to do our duty to the common peace at a moment's notice, to the best of our ability. The more we are able to do so, the stronger our nation will be against 4gen threats of any kind -- and the less we'll need Patriot! Acts, intrusive counterintelligence agencies, FBI spies in our own society, and the like.

Q: What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat?

Grim: Obviously, the converse: the notion that only government officials should be armed or trained in arms. A common argument against that is that this road has so often led to genocide or democide, and that is true. But even in cases when it does not, it leads to an unfree citizenry -- either because they end up surrendering their privacy to the point of surrendering liberty (see Mark Steyn's recent article on Britain considering a ban on the wearing of hoods or hats in public, because it interferes with government cameras ability to spy out criminals), or because they become incapable of defending their liberty even when they would.

If decent people can and will stand up and fight, each and every one, neither criminal organizations nor terrorists nor enemy armies pose any threat to our liberty -- and our government poses much less of one. If we can't, or won't, all of these threats magnify out of measure.
I might answer those questions differently now, but not because I've changed my mind on these points. It's only that I pay more attention to metaphysics than I used to, and less to political philosophy. Nevertheless, it remains a critical field. There are a thousand years of gains here to be defended. Stand your ground.


Having said all of that, Cassandra sends me this article from Dr. Stanley Fish, writing in the New York Times. Dr. Fish is actually on to something, which is that he recognizes the view of manhood and duty in play. The problem is simply that he thinks it is a construct of Westerns like Shane. What he doesn't realize is how much Shane was an outgrowth of an earlier heroic tradition: except for a few accidents of weaponry and costume, it reads exactly like large swathes of the Prose Lancelot or Le Morte Darthur.

But that there is at play a view of manhood and its duties is exactly correct. In the ruling Beard v. the United States, the Supreme Court ruled that "no true man" could be obligated by law to retreat when his wife was under attack by armed intruders on his own property. That's exactly right. No true man can be obligated to retreat from a criminal who is raping a woman, should the criminal turn a weapon on him instead. The law should not be constructed so that any conscientious and dutiful man must violate it. That is not a reasonable or a rational standard for the law, even if you are hotly opposed to the idea of men as heroes.

Why aren't banks lending?

Why, that is, apart from the puzzling fact that they don't act as though they were in business to help people realize the power of their dreams?  Noahpinion dismantles the conventional wisdom that quantitative easement should be inducing banks to lend, spurring inflation, and driving down the unemployment rate.

I always assumed that the purpose of QE was to permit everyone to continue lying to themselves so we wouldn't have to confront the impact of deficit spending and entitlements.  I can't say I'm surprised it's not whittling away at unemployment.

For QE and Krugman fans, though, here's a thoughtful piece on why Pittsburgh is recovering while Detroit is rotting.  It turns out the problem in Detroit is sprawl.  I think "sprawl" here means the incomprehensible flight of job-creators from a rotting city.  If only there were some way to force them to stay.


Ghost towns

What is the purpose of a city?  The Sultan of Knish's analysis of Detroit is interesting, but in some ways I prefer the take of his most recent commenter:
Cities fundamentally exist, and always have, to facilitate exchange among groups and individuals.  Geography plays an important part to where a city exists. 
Among other reasons, cities go away when either their geographical location loses its importance or when some important part of what was previously exchanged goes away or becomes much less important. 
Once established, city government exists primarily to improve the possibility of secure exchange.  That would include public safety and transport (roads and streets, wharves, warehousing, etc).  Anything beyond that is gravy. 
Once there is a reasonable service base of security and transport those who make regular, routine exchanges tend to move their families in, provided that the city is seen as "a good place to live." 
. . . Ancient trade cities have vanished, the American West is full of ghost towns based originally on mining, and the upper plains are emptying out due to having fewer farmers. 
When an important part of the echange goes away, the city had better find something to replace or go away, too.
Instead, Detroit seems to think it can survive as a P.O. box for the receipt of welfare checks.

We're not smart enough

The NSA would love to comply with FOIA requests, but it's embarrassed to admit it doesn't have the technical expertise to search its own files.

I'll bet there are 14-year-olds who could figure it out if it were, you know, important to succeed.

Is it safe?

Kevin D. Williamson explains why he thinks conservative rhetoric falls flat with many voters:
Democrats are not buying black votes with welfare benefits.  Democrats appeal to blacks, to other minority groups, and — most significant — to women with rhetoric and policies that promise the mitigation of risk.  (Never mind that these policies don’t work — voters never sort that out.)  Conservatives routinely generalize our own economic confidence, assuming that it is shared by the general public, with catastrophic political consequences.  The health-care debate represented the most notable instance of this faulty assumption in recent years; every Republican politician who could get near a microphone was harrumphing about how we had the greatest health-care system in the world, but they all failed to appreciate the anxiety inherent in being tied to an employer-based insurance plan during times of economic uncertainty.  (In the 21st century, all times are times of economic uncertainty.)

Security and Hope

This is a great story all the way around. I've often wondered if we really need the security levels for high-level leaders that we invoke for them. It's true that there's a danger in rolling down your window, or getting out with the crowd, but there's also a very great good to be had from remaining one of the people. Perhaps sometimes it's worth running the hazard, in order to have the good.

Duty to retreat

From a commenter on Rich Lowry's article about Detroit:
About time somebody just laid it out about Detroit. I've seen Lefties try to blame it on conservatives, free trade, and "white flight".  Of these, only white flight comes the closest, but they wrongly attribute it to racism.  White Detroit didn't leave because of skin color differences, it left because of riots.  Crime.  As you say, a murder rate that went from 13 per 100k to 51 per 100k in just 9 years.  I guess that in instances like this, where white people are needed to fund the spoils system and corruption of a Coleman Young, said white people do not have a "duty to retreat" to someplace where they are less likely to be mugged, burgled, vandalized, raped, assaulted or murdered.  Far from having a duty to retreat, in the liberal mind they have an obligation to stay, out of guilt or penance.  Detroit marks one of those rare instances where an entire area was racially gerrymandered in favor of black voters by white voters leaving, and they are despised for it. 
Well, when you lose 60 percent of your population, it behooves you to adjust your spending, services, and pensions to reflect the new reality.  If you continue to spend as if that 60% is still there, eventually you're going to resemble Pyongyang.

Riding the Black Motorcycle

You know I was out riding tonight, and when I stopped and looked at my motorcycle I saw I'd worn the rear tire all the way down to the cloth. I guess I need another new tire. But I find I can't mind it. It's not just that I save the cost of a tire on gasoline, long before the tire is gone.

Maybe five things in life still matter to me. One of them is the free road.

God Save the King to Be

I can't forget the good the Queen has done for us in hour of mourning, nor the brother who walked like a warrior. So of course I must wish the newborn well, all things considered. It turns out he comes from a good family.


What does it take to go into a fiery car and save a family? More, if your life is in danger if anyone recognizes you.

But sometimes a man just has to. We won't delve into why he had to do it. It's enough that he did it.


Detroit has me thinking about the Weimar Republic.  A recommendation from David Foster:   Defying Hitler.
A generation of young Germans had become accustomed to having the entire content of their lives delivered gratis, so to speak, by the public sphere, all the raw material for their deeper emotions. . . .  Now that these deliveries suddently ceased, people were left helpless, impoverished, robbed, and disappointed.  They had never learned how to live from within themselves, how to make an ordinary private life great, beautiful and worth while, how to enjoy it and make it interesting.  So they regarded the end of political tension and the return of private liberty not as a gift, but as a deprivation.  They were bored, their minds strayed to silly thoughts, and they began to sulk.
                  *   *   *
To be precise (the occasion demands precision, because in my opinion it provides the key to the contemporary period of history): it was not the entire generation of young Germans. Not every single individual reacted in this fashion.  There were some who learned during this period, belatedly and a little clumsily, as it were, how to live.  They began to enjoy their own lives, weaned themselves from the cheap intoxication of the sports of war and revolution, and started to develop their own personalities.  It was at this time that, invisibly and unnoticed, the Germans divided into those who later became Nazis and those who would remain non-Nazis.
A couple of Mr. Foster's commenters prefer Diary of a Man in Despair.  Both on order now.  I'm looking to learn from these books how people try, and fail, to prevent the decay of a society into tyranny.

Summer Is A Great Time To Study A New Language

...but choose carefully!

The iKnife

Since Apple doesn't seem to be coming up with anything exciting lately, it's nice to know that others are at work on the next new iThing.  Someone has noticed that the cauterization devices that surgeons use put out a little puff of what only be described as smoke from burning tissue.  That little puff can be run through a mass spectrometer and analyzed; it may permit surgeons to use real-time analysis to guide their scalpels during cancer surgery.

H/t Rocket Science.