The Empire Strikes Back

Japanese troops build monumental snow sculpture.

Terrible Things Have Been Done whose name, exactly?

More than the Spanish Inquisition, nine times as often as Bush. But he gets to be the preacher chiding the Christians to get off their high horse.

Be Still, My Heart

After more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, America’s most profound legacy could be that it set the world order back to the Middle Ages.
You're probably thinking of the President's Iraq policy allowing a 7th century quasi-government to seize control of much of the Levant, while playing along with Iran's nuclear ambitions in a way likely to secure the theocracy's position among the nations of the world, while making it ever more likely that we'll see a renewed war in the Holy Land.

What he's actually thinking about is the way private contractors remind him of 14th century mercenary armies. There's a strong argument for privatizing our response to groups like ISIS, though, which is that small private firms can offer a short decision chain similar to our enemy's. We don't lose the capacities provided by formal government armies, but those have Schumpeter's disadvantage in dealing with highly adaptable small forces. This is why Marx was wrong about capitalism leading inevitably to monopoly: small competitors lack the economies of scale, but they can often pick off pieces of the larger businesses because their ossified decision-making chains take too long to compete.

That works with 'monopoly on force,' too. As long as contractors are employed by legitimate governments and held accountable according to the ordinary laws of war, there's no reason they should not be used to deal with ISIS-type threats. It's my sense that it's actually much easier to hold private firms and their employees accountable using government mechanisms than for the government to hold itself and its own accountable. There's no sense of protecting one's own that would derail prosecutions, and it's very easy to cancel a contract.

Besides, the 14th century was the during good part of the Middle Ages.

Early blogging

The American experiment with liberty has been under fire since its creation.  The following is an excerpt from a curious little pre-Civil War publication called "Stephen H. Branch's Alligator." Mr. Branch announces that he has reluctantly concluded he must leave his homeland, in view of the alarming political developments. After a lot of fire and brimstone, he suddenly closes in a calmer mood:
Go on, then, ye fanatics and devils of all sections, to your hearts' content, in your apostacy to the living and departed patriots of your distracted and divided country. Stop not until your wives and children run wild through streets and fields of blood, and this whole land is a pile of bleeding and burning ruins. Go on ye incarnate fiends in your bloody enterprise, until the mounds of your fathers are divested of their fragrant verdure, and are trampled by foreign marauders, who wildly gloat over your impending suicide. An irresistible horde of demagogues and vampires, and fanatics and lunatics, are at the throats of the American patriots, and threaten them with strangulation and utter annihilation. Go on, then, ye demons of hell, and tear to fragments the glorious Constitution that was created by Washington, Greene, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Warren, Franklin, Adams, Lafayette and Kosciusko, and nobly defended by Jackson, Perry, Taylor, Webster, Clay, Calhoun, Harrison, Grogan, Decatur, (and the living Scott), whose sighs and tears, and expiring energies, were consecrated to its eternal duration. Go on, then, ye slimy vultures, in your ruthless desecration of their graves, until despotic soldiers line our streets and frontiers, and stab the patriots who breathe the enchanting word of liberty. Go on, I say, in your inhuman sacrilege, but I will fly to Switzerland, in whose deep mountain glades I will strive to efface that I was born and reared among the gang of consummate fools and knaves who now level their rifles at the race of noble birds that have graced the American skies for nearly a hundred years. Go on, then, ye dastard traitors, in your bloody demolition, but I will go and live and die in the land of William Tell, whose fair posterity evince a purer fidelity to their remotest ancestors, than those pernicious monsters whose infernal madness will soon surrender the bones of Washington and Jackson to the despots of Europe, whose shafts they foiled, until they went down, with tottering footsteps, into their immortal graves. Farewell, then, ye crazy parricides--farewell, ye Burrs and Arnolds--and when you have consigned your deluded countrymen to all the horrors of anarchy and eternal despotism, think of the humble admonitions of one who, rather than behold the downfall of his beautiful and glorious country, sought peace, and succor, and a mausoleum in the mountains of Switzerland, once traversed by William Tell and his gallant archers, who created a love of liberty that has survived the flight of centuries, and which can never be subdued by foes without, nor fools within, her borders. In my voluntary exile, I will implore God to visit you with His displeasure, through the withering curses of your children, and their posterity to the remotest age, for destroying the liberties of their country, which you should bequeathe to them as they came to you from your illustrious fathers, whose sacred and silent ashes you dare not visit and contemplate at this fearful crisis, amid the pure and tranquil solitudes of the patriotic dead lest the memory of their heroic deeds and sacrifice should remind you of your hellish treason, and paralyze your hearts, and smite your worthless bodies to the dust, and consign your pallid livers to undying torture. Although these admonitions are inscribed in tones of burning scorn, yet they emanate from a bosom that glows with love for my bewildered countrymen. And my last request is, that every patriotic father will gather his little flock around him at evening shades, and read this parting admonition in a clear and feeling voice, and then kneel before the God of nations, and implore Him to preserve their liberties, with a blessing on the humble author of this production, in his unhappy seclusion in a distant land. I would write more, but gushing tears blind my vision, and swell my heart with dying emotions.
Stephen H. Branch. 
New York, May 30, 1856
Later, he offers this theory of his fiery nature:
And if, in the morning of life, we do not reflect Vesuvius in our eyes, and belch lava and brimstone from our mouths, we seldom effect much in the great scuffle of life, and go down to our graves with Miss Nancy inscribed at the head and tail of our grassy mounds.
Man, like a horse, must have mettle, and plenty of it, with an immense bottom, or he cannot expect to contend with the fiery steeds of the turf and the forum. And, above all, a man must have a crop or two of worms at 40. All men have more worms in their bellies than they are aware of, (or their physicians, either,) and some have quarts.

Friday Night: The Killer at the Star Club

Scary Christians

Nice one, Bobby:
"The Medieval Christian threat is under control, Mr. President. Please deal with the Radical Islamic threat today.”

What To Tell Sons About Women

So Cassandra and I seem to agree about something, which is that we as a culture need to do a better job teaching our sons about how to understand women. She wrote in a comment:
I wish we could find a way to teach our sons that women aren't lesser or even necessarily weaker. We are stronger in some ways, and undoubtedly weaker in others. But the "lens" here can't be, "compared to a man".

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could see being fully human as a spectrum, along which men tend to position here and women there, but in which - as we mature and grow - the area of overlap grows too?

I always thought that was the entire purpose of marriage: for men and women to teach each other how to be better rounded, more flexible, wiser?
Points on which I agree:

1) We should find a way to teach boys to think of women that doesn't convey that women are "lesser." That's very important, especially if we want boys to consider the woman's interests as something for which they should (at least occasionally) set their own interests aside.

2) There are senses of the words "stronger" and "weaker" in which it can be said that women are stronger than men.

3) The lens shouldn't be "compared to a man," but rather we should teach them to understand that there is an independent and valid perspective they should respect.

4) Part of the purpose of marriage is the unity of husband and wife, which is the only way to experience the fullness of human nature. That's one of St. Thomas Aquinas' three "ends" of marriage.

5) As men age, the natural decline in testosterone reduces one of the major factors that result in very different experiences of the world between men and women. Thus, it makes sense to speak of older men as being better able to understand women's perspective.

Points on which I don't agree:

1) "Being fully human as a spectrum" is only a wonderful thing to teach if it's true, and there are problems with the model. It seems like a lot of people think that way today, which is why you read journalists writing without irony about a man "transitioning to a woman" as if he were transitioning from one job to another. That can't be right, though: at the end of the process, what you will have is not a woman but a surgically altered male who is taking artificial hormones his body won't ever produce on its own. Whether this is in any sense a woman is a topic we've discussed at length, but it seems to me that the only available answers are that there is never a woman or there was always a woman. The idea of transitioning along a spectrum doesn't seem defensible.

2) The lens in a sense has to be "compared to a man" insofar as we are talking about how to raise sons. The very thing we need them to understand is that there's a contrast between the world they live in and the world a woman lives in -- and that requires talking about how their experience compares to hers. That's a problem, given that we agree in the goal in (3) above, but it's a problem we need to grapple with.

3) I think Aquinas is right that the understanding of human nature across the sex divide is not the "entire purpose" of marriage, but rather part of the purpose of marriage. I'm not sure this is a serious difference -- Cass may have been using "entire purpose" for emphasis, rather than being committed to the position literally.

4) As women age, they also endure significant changes in their hormone structures that alter their perspectives in all new ways that men don't experience and need to learn to understand by communication and intimacy. We don't grow closer by nature, in other words; one difference diminishes, a new one appears.

5) Even granting agreement on point (4), we can't rely on marriage to solve this problem because it will generally occur after the period in which misunderstandings are most dangerous. It may be the eventual and complete solution, but we still need an interim approach.

So, all that said --

What should you teach your sons about women?

Stay Classy, Gawker


Oaths & Loyalty

A man once took an oath to have, hold, love and cherish a woman until death did they part. They had a son together. Then she told him he had to choose between them.
Soon Forrest walked into his wife's hospital room with Leo in his arms.

Her reaction was unlike one he ever expected.

"I got the ultimatum right then," he said. "She told me if I kept him then we would get a divorce."

Attempts to reach the hospital for comment weren't immediately successful. The baby's mother, Ruzan Badalyan, told ABC News that she did have a child with Down syndrome and she has left her husband, who has the child, but she declined to elaborate.
The philosophical problem here is a dilemma of duty. You have an explicit duty of loyalty to your wife that lasts until death. You have a natural duty of loyalty to your child.

It's easy to condemn the woman, who violated both duties. I wonder if there's unanimity among us that he was right to choose his natural duty over his sacred oath?

Paradoxes in Cosmology

Two things we think we have very solid evidence for are an expanding universe, and the Law of Conservation of Energy and Matter. At least one has to go:
Perhaps the most dramatic, and potentially most important, of these paradoxes comes from the idea that the universe is expanding, one of the great successes of modern cosmology. It is based on a number of different observations.

The first is that other galaxies are all moving away from us. The evidence for this is that light from these galaxies is red-shifted. And the greater the distance, the bigger this red-shift.

Astrophysicists interpret this as evidence that more distant galaxies are travelling away from us more quickly. Indeed, the most recent evidence is that the expansion is accelerating.

What’s curious about this expansion is that space, and the vacuum associated with it, must somehow be created in this process. And yet how this can occur is not at all clear. “The creation of space is a new cosmological phenomenon, which has not been tested yet in physical laboratory,” says Baryshev.

What’s more, there is an energy associated with any given volume of the universe. If that volume increases, the inescapable conclusion is that this energy must increase as well. And yet physicists generally think that energy creation is forbidden.

Baryshev quotes the British cosmologist, Ted Harrison, on this topic: “The conclusion, whether we like it or not, is obvious: energy in the universe is not conserved,” says Harrison.
There's more at the link.

Rape and Violence

Heather Wilhelm mocks this blog post as "an impassioned defense of making your rapist breakfast," but that's even more unfair than it sounds. It's not a defense of having done it at all, let alone an impassioned one. Just the opposite: the author wishes she had been brave and fought, but admits that she didn't. What she did instead was to try to tell herself a different sort of story about what had happened, one in which this was a sort of romance.

I find it clarifying and helpful, because I think I understand why the man she calls "my rapist" thought it was appropriate to stay the night and have breakfast in the morning. Most likely he doesn't think of himself as a rapist at all. He may have no idea that she thought it was rape at the time.

The story as she tells it involves her not fighting him. She says no, but when he asks "why not?" she doesn't tell us if she replied, or how, except that it was not by fighting (or even by cursing, her graphic implies).

One of the ways in which men and women experience the world radically differently is in our experience of violence. Men are the victims of all forms of violence (including criminal violence, except possibly rape) at much higher rates. It's an ordinary part of our childhood and adolescence, as testosterone kicks in and young bucks clash for position and respect.

My guess is that this didn't seem like violence at all to him. She invited him in, she didn't fight, she didn't curse or spit, perhaps she didn't even argue when asked "Why not?" In the morning she made him breakfast and carried on as if there was a romance. He may well have no sense of her experience of the evening at all, and can't be expected to without having it explained to him.

The markers that he would rely upon to know that he was entering the territory of violence are not present. In the world he likely lives in, if it's anything like my world, violence and force are accompanied by clear markers of rage and reaction. She showed no sign of either. What she experienced as a horrible violation, he probably experienced as a moment of hesitation quickly overcome by passionate ardor.

This is something you really need to teach young men, because you can't expect them to have learned it from their very different experience of the world. Her honesty in making this cartoon helped me understand it, perhaps more clearly than ever before. She should be praised for that honesty. Though Wilhelm calls her "weak kneed" and she herself says she "is not brave," this took significant courage to admit to herself, let alone to the world. If we listen to what she is saying, it might provide a useful lesson for young men. The concept of violence for many men is clear and has bright lines, but they are far removed from the much larger space to which she gives the same name.

There's a lesson there, for men and for women.

Right to Try

This is an idea I have advocated for years, though I don't know if I've done so here.
On Monday, the Montana State Senate unanimously passed a “right to try” bill, which would allow terminally ill patients to ignore federal restrictions on experimental treatments and drugs. Too often, patients who cannot be cured by conventional treatment are denied the ability to try new options thanks to onerous regulations by the FDA.
I think of this as somewhat like donating one's body to science, with the alteration that you might possibly not have to die. Even if you do, you were going to die anyway, and you're helping all of us someday solve the problem you are facing. It's the right thing to do.

How dangerous is measles?

The Phenomena website is running an article with good information about measles.  It clears up something that was confusing me, which is exactly how dangerous this disease really is.  An ordinary case of measles comes in through the lungs, attacks immune cells, circulates for a while, and ultimately moves back into the respiratory system, where it can be coughed back out in order to find a new host.  There are a couple of characteristic ways for measles to get out of hand.  One is that, on rare occasions, it spreads into the nervous system, with horrific results.  Another is that it severely depresses the immune system for several weeks, leaving its sufferers vulnerable to dangerous bouts of opportunistic pneumonia.  In a wealthy society with good medical care, this translates into one to three deaths per thousand.  In a grisly refugee camp, the death rate can be 25%.

Measles, an airborne virus, is fantastically contagious.  Something like 90% of non-immune people in a room with an infectious measles patient can expect to contract the disease.

This Hoover article runs through some of the legal history of the police power in the field of epidemiology and public health.  It's an old controversy.

Þæt wæs god cyning!

Apparently the King of Jordan has begun bombing ISIS-held strongholds with Napalm, and may be flying one of the bombers personally. Members of Jordan's air force flying against ISIS targets were already volunteers, but their pride and morale must be through the roof if that report is true.

A Competing View: Political Correctness Defends Against Anti-Intellectualism

'Academic book bannings' has a wicked ring to it.
The anti-ethnic studies law passed by the state prohibits teachings that "promote the overthrow of the United States government," "promote resentment toward a race or class of people," "are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group," and/or "advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals."... I invite you to take on as your summer reading the astonishingly lengthy list of books that have been removed from the Tucson public school system as part of this wholesale elimination of the Mexican-American studies curriculum....

There are a number of factors at play in the current rash of controversies. One is a rather stunning sense of privilege, the confident sense of superiority that allows someone to pass sweeping judgment on a body of work without having done any study at all.... This is not mere arrogance; it is the same cocooned "white ghetto" narrow-mindedness that allows someone like Michael Hicks to be in charge of a major American school system yet not know "Rosa Clark's" correct name.
OK, so, not knowing Rosa Parks' name is a pretty embarrassing lapse. Perhaps, we may hope, he misspoke. In perfect fairness, as I get older I find that I often misremember things.

On the other hand, how much scholarship must I undertake to be allowed to criticize these specialty "studies" curricula? I'm willing to join the author in asserting that the answer is not "none at all," but I also don't think it requires obtaining a degree in the study being criticized.

The people being labeled here as anti-intellectual are a school board member, the school board in general, and a writer for the Chronicle of Higher Education. It would be very strange to pursue those opportunities if you really hated intellectual life and wanted no part of it. In fact, the writer mentioned -- Naomi Schaefer Riley -- is the author of several books herself, including a number on education and college! She has a Magna cum laude degree from Harvard in English and Government. This sounds like someone who is probably very well placed to judge the relative value of these studies compared to the humanities or sciences.

She doesn't sound especially intolerant, either, having written a book on interfaith marriages. It turns out she's in one herself, which is also an interracial marriage.

So an alternative theory: while it is possible to find cranks in any political movement, perhaps at least some of the criticism against these 'studies' fields is justified.

A Violation of their Liberty Interests

Following up on the Nozick piece below, a politician descends into mockery. Just as income taxes represent a kind of forced labor, as taking an hour of your labor from you in compensation is not very different from forcing you to work for an hour for the good of the state, forcing you to take time to wash your hands if you work at a restaurant is also a kind of forced labor!

Perhaps he did it on purpose? Maybe not.
“I was having a discussion with someone, and we were at a Starbucks in my district, and we were talking about certain regulations where I felt like ‘maybe you should allow businesses to opt out,'" the senator said.

Tillis said his interlocutor was in disbelief, and asked whether he thought businesses should be allowed to "opt out" of requiring employees to wash their hands after using the restroom.

The senator said he'd be fine with it, so long as businesses made this clear in "advertising" and "employment literature."

“I said: ‘I don’t have any problem with Starbucks if they choose to opt out of this policy as long as they post a sign that says “We don’t require our employees to wash their hands after leaving the restroom,” Tillis said.
Maybe Nozick recanted for good cause.

The Enemy Among Us

I wish I'd been able to have more children, myself, but not everyone feels that way.
Why are children so unwelcome at times? We all know the drill.

They are noisy. They are messy. They are naughty. They are expensive. They get in the way. They are inconvenient. But hey, guess what? They are a part of life. Without children, we have no adults, we have no future, we have no human race. Yet there seem to be some who, if they could, prefer to segregate out this entirely necessary segment of the population and put them all in neat little boxes where they won’t inconvenience anyone in the adults-only world.

Further, as we are reminded by the recent Roe v. Wade anniversary, there are those who believe that children are inconvenient to the point of being expendable at will. Remember when the pro-choice slogan was, “Keep abortion safe, legal, and rare?” Yeah, neither do I....

Forty-two years ago last month, the law of the land ruled that certain reproductive “rights” were of greater value than the lives of the tiny human beings we all once were. And rather than supporting the couples who choose to use their reproductive capabilities to bring life into the world, our culture tends to ridicule and shun them for causing public inconvenience[.]
She ends by quoting Mt. 19:14, which I suppose is so commonplace a sentiment as to be a cliché. Or, is it revolutionary again?

Don't Trust Generals

You know how a serving officer in the Marine Corps Reserve can write a critical piece about those who outrank him? If he is also a sitting Congressman, he can. Oh yes, he can.

Wrecking Balls

There's a lot to like in this piece's analysis, which is the product of the 'daughter of a lesbian raised in an LBGT household.'
The “marriage equality” arguments leverage children.... Not a single same-sex couple can reproduce together. It behooves us to analyze the ways that same-sex marriage demands other people’s children as a “civil right” and in so doing invariably denies both women their own children and children their right to a mother and a father.
That's amazingly strong language, but it's not wrong if we are talking about children who become available for adoption by being 'taken away' rather than 'given up.' It turns out, we are talking about children like that.
These children are never the result of same-sex couples’ accidental pregnancy. In this case, nobody forced them to “adopt” children, so it seems a tad manipulative to use these children to back an argument for marriage. Juxtaposed alongside the description of bad mothers stands the worthiness of the plaintiffs.... [The dissent presents] the birthmothers as horrific... We hear it loud and clear: these mothers did not deserve their own children....

Who could have ever envisioned that the Fourteenth Amendment would become a tool to strip poor and minority women and their children of human rights? A decision from the bench that ignores the questions surrounding children’s rights betrays society’s animus toward women and the poor. Who exactly is being denied “due process” and “equal protection”?
Certainly not the people who have managed to field legal teams to defend their agenda against laws in nearly every state of the union, I expect. Most likely they're much more equal than the sort of people who have to default to public defenders, and who in civil cases must do their best to defend themselves.

Maybe So, Buster...

...but it's only your state that has its own FARK tag.

Nothing Suspicious Here

Headline: "Draft of Arrest Warrant for Argentine President Found at Dead Prosecutor’s Home."
The new revelation that Mr. Nisman had drafted arrest warrants for the president and the foreign minister further illustrates the heightened tensions between the prosecutor and the government before he was found dead on Jan. 18 at his apartment with a gunshot wound to his head. He had been scheduled the next day to provide details before Congress about his accusations against Mrs. Kirchner.

Philosophy Jokes

AVI posted a link to some philosophy jokes, which indicates that at least one of you might be interested in such things. The jokes are usually only funny if you know the philosopher's work (and then they sometimes are too obvious to really be amusing, though the Descartes joke is great).

Also, try this comic strip. It has occasionally done some excellent work.

A Long Piece on Nozick

This piece was written by a left-leaning author who doesn't see the irony in hitting Hayek and Mises for pushing libertarian ideas while being employed by corporate interests, but considering employees of publicly funded universities "disinterested academics." It strikes me that the complaint, insofar as it is valid, is just as valid on either side of the field.

Robert Nozick, though, can't be dismissed on that ground.
To the entire left, Nozick, in effect, said: Your social justice comes at an unacceptable cost, namely, to my personal liberty. Most distressingly, to this end Nozick enlisted the humanist's most cherished belief: the inviolability of each human being as an end unto himself—what Nozick, drawing on Immanuel Kant, calls "the separateness of persons." For Nozick, the principle of the separateness of persons is close to sacred. It affirms, as he writes, "the underlying Kantian principle that individuals are ends and not merely means; they may not be sacrificed or used for the achieving of other ends without their consent. Individuals are inviolable."


To the liberal humanist, Nozick is saying: You don't take your finest hero, Kant, seriously, because if you did, you would never sacrifice Wilt's autonomy to the social planner's designs. To the socialist, he is saying: You don't take your own finest hero, Marx, seriously, because if you did, you would never expropriate his surplus value (via taxation) as blithely as the capitalist. And to his own fellow Harvard professors, he is saying: You don't take your own finest hero—yourself—seriously, because if you did, why would you ever curtail the prerogative of a superstar?
This is by way of taking his ideas seriously in order to criticize them. There's no surprise in learning that the author thinks that Nozick's ideas fail.

What is surprising is that, eventually, Nozick himself came to think so.

I should think so

The White House has made it plain how it feels about Israel, particularly on the subject of negotiations with Iran:
In the context of the anonymous White House threats, having a top Obama campaign official in Israel actively working to defeat Netanyahu is naturally perceived as interference.
The strategy isn't working all that well, though.
Netanyahu is not out of the woods, to be sure, but when it comes to campaigning against Barack Obama, this much is certain: He’s no Mitt Romney.

On Vaccinations

It's a fun day when two different Republican presidential candidates get themselves in trouble about science. We've all heard the stories, Rand. That's why there's an issue. The question is not whether there are stories, but what you would advise to parents.

So here's what I think.

1) As a gambling man, I notice that lots and lots of people get these vaccinations, and almost none of them are the source of scary stories. The diseases seem to have much worse outcomes on average. So, a smart gambler takes the vaccine.

2) As an anecdote, I myself have been vaccinated against just about everything, and I'm just fine. I've even had vaccines for anthrax, small pox, and third world diseases that won't come across your desk unless you travel widely.

3) Furthermore, all the medical professionals I know -- including my favorite cousin -- tell me that they are aware of no evidence that these things are dangerous, and strongly recommend administering vaccinations to your children.

4) Meanwhile, not only will you be protecting your child if the vaccination works successfully, you'll be doing a good deed for other parents of other children as well. These things work much better if we all do it.

Now the fun part.

5) As a philosopher, I can tell you that the strongest argument is the argument from gambling. There's a lot of empirical evidence about outcomes. You're placing a wager of a sort, with your child's life and health as the stakes. If you view this as a wager, it's pretty clear what the smart bet is.

All the other arguments are suspect. My anecdote is of no use to you, because anecdotes are not data and your child's body chemistry is not the same as mine. In fact, even if we get to data, you still get no promises. Cabbage is widely administered to the population. Almost no one has any problem with it. My wife happens to be allergic to it. Weird body chemistry things happen all the time.

The appeal to medical professionals and scientists is an appeal to authority, which is an informal fallacy. This is their area of expertise, which makes it less dangerous, but it's still no guarantee of truth. The fact is that the best they can tell you is that they have no evidence, yet, of any connection. That's an argument from ignorance, which is another informal fallacy.

The final argument is an appeal to ethics, but ethics doesn't have a lot of clear objective standards. The only place you find objective standards in ethics is virtue ethics. You can show that courage is objectively a virtue, because no matter what your goals are, being courageous will (always or for the most part, as Aristotle says) help you achieve them. Vaccination is a virtue on this account: always or for the most part, it will lead to the best outcomes for your child. Vaccination is the virtuous thing to do just because it passes the gambler's test.

The ethical argument that you should take the risk to help other peoples' children, however, is suspect. It's not clear that there's a virtue involved in risking your child to save other peoples' children. Any claim that there's any sort of duty to do it is not objective: now we've left virtue ethics for what is called "Deontology," and nobody really agrees about what roots duties. It is not clear to me how you would ground any duty that required a parent to risk their child's life or health for any reason.

So, what should you do? Vaccinate your children. It's virtuous, and it's the smart bet. Don't let anyone tell you that it's not a risk, though, or that you're stupid for worrying about it. There's still a lot we don't know.

UPDATE: Speaking of Republicans seeking the nomination, Dr. Carson is a pediatric surgeon by training and his opinion is to vaccinate.

Joltin' Joe Rides Again!

The US is behind the attempted coup in Venezuela – that is the accusation President Nicolas Maduro has leveled amid widespread protests back home. And it’s none other than Vice-president Joe Biden who’s behind the entire operation, Maduro alleges.

Masada Wins

For thousands of years, the date palm was a staple crop in the Kingdom of Judea, as it was a source of food, shelter and shade. Thick forests of the palms towering up to 80 feet and spreading for 7 miles covered the Jordan River valley from the Sea of Galilee in the north to the shores of the Dead Sea in the south.

So valued was the tree that it became a recognized as a symbol of good fortune in Judea. It is chronicled in the Bible, Quran and ancient literature for its diverse powers, from an aphrodisiac to a contraceptive, and as a cure for a wide range of diseases including cancer, malaria and toothache.

However, its value was also the source of its demise and eventual extinction. The tree so defined the local economy that it became a prime resource for the invading Roman army to destroy. Once the Roman Empire took control of the kingdom in 70 AD, the date palms were destroyed in an attempt to cripple the Jewish economy. They eventually succeeded and by 500 AD the once plentiful palm had completely disappeared, driven to extinction for the sake of conquest.

But all was not lost, because in 1963, the late archeologist Yigael Yadin began excavating Masada, a mountaintop fortress built over 2,000 years ago on the shore of the Dead Sea where King Herod built a spectacular palace. Masada was the last stand of a small band of Jewish rebels who held out against three Roman legions for several years before committing mass suicide in A.D. 73.

Buried beneath the rubble, Yadin unearthed a small stockpile of seeds stowed in a clay jar dating back 2,000 years.
The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. The Roman Legions are long dust but today in a reborn Israel, Masada's seeds are growing again.


Debaun was accused of not providing the information to a male sexual partner. But Debaun’s attorney persuaded a circuit judge to dismiss the charge, arguing that state law and courts have defined sexual intercourse as being between men and women — not between men.
I'm pretty sure that's not true, but even if it were it would take a lot of guts for the lawyer of gay man to make that argument before an American court these days!


Vagueness is an interesting problem in philosophy. It's a much less pleasant problem in the law.
Upon initial contact with the Texas Department of Public Safety, a spokesperson stated that the new law would “not be interpreted by just one agency; each agency may interpret it differently.”
Speaking of vagueness, is that 'may' as in might or 'may' as have full permission to do so at will?

On Class

Sarah Hoyt writes about the academic class' pretensions of superiority to the manual laborers of the world. She describes a cheap, working class playground she used to attend with her family, where she would ignore the rides and read books.
It was a safe and fun place for the kids and – remember I understand Spanish, too – not once did anyone say “Hey, look at the dork chick reading a book,” much less “let’s beat her up.”

In fact, it wasn’t till we could afford as a treat, to go to Waterworld, a playground for children in our own “class” in terms of parental education that we found people were rude and made horrible remarks. (Not unexpected in feral children raised mostly in daycares, but a shock, nonetheless.)
One of the things I think the educated class is blind about is how much they do the things they have developed theories to reject. I attended a conference once at which the question of veterans in the classroom came up. Mostly the academics there who were prone to think of war as something so outside the world they could imagine for themselves that anyone who had been must be changed beyond what they could imagine a human being to be. Two of them especially, both of them feminist academics, traded in bald stereotypes about how anyone who had been to war was a ticking time bomb of PTSD and hate. It was exactly the kind of refusal to empathize with and offensive stereotyping of the 'other' that they've doubtless published articles about when the 'other' is women or people of color. These are people who think of themselves as at the forefront of human morality, the leading edge that is pushing everyone else to moral advancement.

They were entirely blind to the fact that they were doing it. They were also shocked to realize that someone who had been to Iraq was in the room, and entirely put off by my suggestion that younger academics who really wanted to understand war could find a recruiting office down the street. You'd think I had suggested they join a cult or host an orgy... well, actually, both of those suggestions would probably have been more palatable to them.


This is one of the "-mas" days Malory mentions occasionally, and until today I didn't know when it was. Apparently it falls on 2 February, "exactly 40 days after Christmas." The date has to do with a Jewish ritual of purification for new mothers and the first presentation of their children at the Temple in Jerusalem. This was to happen forty days after the birth, so this would be the date if we are right about the date of Christmas.

So that's something I didn't know until this morning.

Small Pipes

On Plastic Surgery

This piece from the UK's Daily Mail shows that the left's "war on women" shtick isn't limited to the United States or to condemnations of the Republican party. The game is to suggest that conservatives in general just don't "get" women. Notice, though, how much of the effect is achieved by shifting from "can be" to "is." The headline says that plastic surgery "is" condemned, but the argument in the working paper is that it "can be" symptomatic of a problem.
In the Pontifical Council for Culture's working paper, cardinals noted that going under the knife for elective surgery has been linked to eating disorders and depression.

'Plastic surgery that is not medico-therapeutic can be aggressive toward the feminine identity, showing a refusal of the body in as much as it is a refusal of the 'season' that is being lived out,' it said.
Again failing to understand the difference between a government and a church, the suggestion is that women will be forbidden from doing what they want with their bodies. The actuality is that the council is trying to understand the ways in which the culture is creating or worsening problems for women in Catholic parishes. All they are going to do with this argument is offer it as a way of saying to older women, "It's OK to be who you are."

The failure to understand this is behind their attacks on the Vatican's advertisement, too, I think. There's no reason to make an issue of whether the woman in the ad is old or young. Painting her as "sexy" is out of line; it's not like she's wearing "sexy" attire. She's a Catholic, and a woman who wanted to talk to other women about these cultural issues. Somehow she's not allowed to do that because she's the wrong shape to be taken seriously.

St. Brigid's Day

The beginning of Spring comes in late March according to our calendar, but of old in Ireland it was the first of February that marked the beginning of the coming of Spring. It was a feast, Imbolc, before it became a Christian feast day. This hymn in Gaelic is from the 11th century, in honor of St. Brigid, one of those early saints who is possibly a historical abbess, and possibly a goddess.

Parliamentary Comity

That's how they do it in England.

Nice Essay

It begins:
Dear King,

It is sad that you died of natural causes.
It's got a pretty good last line, too.