"Authority and Freedom"

The roots of every good thing...
Some regard religious freedom as a product of the Enlightenment. However, the roots of a later understanding of religious freedom as articulated in Dignitatis Humanae of the Second Vatican Council lie in the Middle Ages. These roots are threefold: first, the relative academic freedom of the period together with the scholastic theological method of doubting, secondly, the rise of constitutional government and the dualism of the Church and the State in medieval society and thirdly, the theological speculation on the freedom of conscience all eventually contributed to the idea that everyone has the right to live his or her relationship with God in a freedom that is constitutionally and judicially protected against any form of coercion.

Education and Climate Change

The more you know, the more strongly you believe your side.
In Gallup’s view, “These opposing trends by party suggest that higher levels of education reinforce core partisan positions; in this case, Republicans’ strong tendency to question or deny global warming and Democrats’ inclination to affirm it. The trends also suggest that partisanship rather than education is a main lens through which Americans view global warming and its effects, particularly for those who claim allegiance to one of the two major political parties.”
I think the explanation is simpler. It's probable that they aren't being educated in the same way. The late founder of Arts & Letters Daily was chided for setting up a parallel site, Climate Debate Daily, that provides a constant feed of good arguments from both sides of the discussion. That's not how the academy operates, especially not when teaching undergrads. Those who are inclined to skepticism will look for the skeptical arguments, and educate themselves in them; those who are not will not otherwise encounter them.

I'm inclined to think that this field is much like physics: there's a broad consensus that we're close to understanding what's going on, but a small minority of stubborn scientists who persistently poke holes in the proposed consensual theory that are hard to close again. I think that means that, most likely and in both cases, the overarching theory is analogous to Newtonian physics, and Aristotelian physics before that: it's going to give way fundamentally at a point we haven't quite identified yet.

That's still no reason to avoid being concerned about many conservationist issues, such as the excess of plastic wastes in the oceans. Those are clear and persuasive problems that we ought to try to fix.

Scholarly Economics

You might be asking yourself, 'How about a Grim post fully in favor of capitalism for a change?' I can do that.
The first scholarly journals appeared in 1665, and since then, they have not paid authors, peer reviewers, or editors. “All the key players have been giving away their work for 350 years,” says Suber. “Scholars write journal articles for impact, not for money. They are freed to do this because they have salaries from their institutions.” Yet the physical aspects of print technology, still cutting-edge in the seventeenth century, today limit scholars’ ability to circulate their ideas and findings. Now, Suber says, “the Internet allows them to give it away to the whole world.”...

CONSIDER for a moment the business model of traditional subscription journals. Scholars contribute their articles to the journals for free; they receive no royalties or other revenue. Scholars also act as peer reviewers and provide other editorial services to the journals on a pro bono basis.
There is, actually, no guarantee that salaries from institutions exist to provide for those giving away their work. The people who need to give away work the most are graduate students and adjuncts hoping to receive, someday, one of the increasingly-few tenure track jobs. Grad students are actually paying for the privilege of access to the libraries and research facilities that would allow them to give away work for free. Adjuncts are being paid, but usually at poverty-line levels for schedules that make additional research work a massive burden. Those who run the journals enjoy tremendous prestige, which they bestow where they will in return for free labor to produce free research which -- if it is successful -- increases the prestige of the journal as well as the author. That increased prestige for the journal produces subscriptions, and therefore revenue: but there are no royalties to the author.

Academic conferences run on a similarly exploitative model. Those same grad students producing free work for the journals will show up early to perform free labor for the conference. Usually these conferences cost money to attend, which leads to the strange spectacle of unpaid graduate students taking money to pass on to the conference itself. They money passes through their hands and by their labor, but none of it accrues to them. They may shuttle people back and forth from airports to hotels to conference centers. They may fetch donuts and coffee for conference attendees. A capitalist model would have this being done by taxi drivers and caterers and temps from the employment service: jobs without a great deal of prestige, but whose members are at least paid for their time.

The tenured scholars exploiting the grad students and adjuncts are at least engaged in the business of education -- they are, at least, actively involved in the pursuit and distribution of knowledge. The school administrations have absorbed the lion's share of the recent increases in tuition, while leading the charge to reduce tenured faculty as teachers in favor of badly-paid adjuncts and graduate teaching assistants. This serves no one's interests except the administrators'. Students are injured by having teachers who are not as experienced or distinguished. Faculty are injured by being trapped in adjunct positions for most or all of their careers. Grad students gain valuable experience as teachers, but graduate into a career path in which their options are far less attractive than even a few years ago, and in which ever more "free work" is expected of them if they are to be considered for one of the increasingly-few tenure track positions.

This is a model built on a love of learning rather than a love of money, which seems wise and proper. It is insulated from much of the disciplines imposed by capitalism, which are alleged to lead to inequalities and unfairness. Yet it appears to be one of the most unfair and exploitative systems out there: one that provides wealth and prestige to the people at the top, on the backs of a great deal of "free" labor being provided by those struggling honorably below. It does not appear that capitalism can be blamed for these outcomes: at least under a capitalist system, the weakest members of the system would still be paid something.

Religious Freedom

As frequently annoys several of you, I think that economics should always and in every respect be subordinate to moral philosophy. I think that permits a great deal of freedom to pursue one's economic interests, whatever they may be. Still, when they come into conflict, I expect you to do what you think is right, not what you think is likely to make you more money. Those two things may line up, of course. When they don't, duty and virtue have priority.

I am thus inclined to view threats of economic boycotts if we do not surrender religious liberty principles as strong evidence in favor of the validity of the proposed laws. Similar evidence lies in the court rulings that bankrupt families which have tried to assert, however politely, their refusal to surrender their moral objections in favor of physical wealth.

It's not a question of agreeing with their interpretation of their faith. Some of you may; I know at least several of you do not. That is fine. We have room for disagreement.

What is important is the correctness of their priorities. When someone tries to use economics to force you to abandon morality, you are correct to stand on morals and refuse to consider economics until your moral concerns are satisfied.

The moral concerns themselves may be right or wrong. Under the First Amendment, that's not a public concern. Moral concerns arising from religious interpretations are for the religious individual to decide. Even if you think they are wrong to believe as they do, what they are certainly right about is standing up for what they believe is right instead of for what they believe will make them wealthy.

Those who would use wealth to subvert faith are not virtuous. Those who would use wealth as a lever to try to force others to abandon their faith and their morals ought not to win the day. Laws that strive to protect people from their machinations are wise laws.

If you really need a cake you will find that there are many more bakeries in America. If the wedding gift you really wanted was to force the religious to kneel before your moral opinions, that is a right you do not and ought not have.

Not This Time

Some folks wrote to ask about this.
Hillary's spymaster was a former director of the Clandestine Service for the CIA in Europe. He now owns his own private intelligence firms. These are not the sorts of services purchased by poor men. These are the sorts of services purchased by very, very rich men, and big well-capitalized corporations, and even governments.
That's not true, actually. They're often provided for free. If you're providing free intelligence to the Clinton machine, it's with the expectation of a quid pro quo somewhere along the way. But if you're providing it to the Secretary of State, it might be for patriotic reasons entirely separate from remuneration. Say you happened to be in position to know something important, which could really help the US government get something right. And you happened to have the right personal connections -- not directly, but you knew someone who knew how to get it in Madame Secretary's daily reading list. You might very well pass it on.

Private intelligence is often a business expense, not a profit-making venture. Sometimes it's a necessary condition for protecting other business interests, especially in places like Libya. Passing on what you were collecting anyway may not require any payoff.

Sometimes, the whole thing is a purely patriotic volunteer effort from concerned citizens who just want to help hold the world together. The people I've known from the Clandestine service have been extremely patriotic, which is no surprise since they are selected in part for that kind of deep personal commitment to the good of the nation. They already have networks from their days on the job. Sometimes they pass it on, even after they retire. Maybe that's the case here and maybe not. The Clinton machine has a well-deserved bad reputation. That doesn't mean they don't know people who are better people than they are.

All of that is to say: you can try to follow the money, but there may not be any money to follow. There may be favors instead of hard currency. There may be nothing to follow at all. It might even, conceivably, have been done for all the right reasons.

A Horror Story

Imagine an eleven-year-old girl, home alone by night. A vehicle pulls into the driveway outside, and a man gets out. He comes to the door, and knocks loudly. She doesn't answer, so he goes around to each door in turn knocking on it, seeking entry. When no one comes to any door, he forces his way into the house with a prybar.

She hides in her closet, locked in a bedroom, and hears him prowling through the house. He forces his way into the room. She hears him coming her way. He opens the closet door.

He sees her.

Then, he runs away.

Looking up

Twenty-six areas of global progress.

Another Lesson in Spirituality

I think this one is very helpful even for those of us who aren't planning to date, but merely have to talk to these people once in a while.


Once upon a time...

So that reminds me of this tremendously unfair and inappropriate video.

With apologies to DL Sly at least, as I don't doubt that woman can drive anything with wheels.


In other words, the swing votes here, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito, may have voted for a liberal social policy because of a conservative method of statutory interpretation. Yes, the end result is to expand the social safety net for women. But the reason that result was reached was because of a close, conservative reading of the statute in question.

Just the Facts, Ma'am

We recently had an invigorating discussion about facts, so I thought I'd actually look the word up. I know, linguists tell us that dictionaries don't define words, they document usage. I'll make no appeals to authority here! Nonetheless, it's an interesting selection from the OED. Who knew that facts can be acts, disputed, and guilt? Or that Sgt. Friday never said,"Just the facts, Ma'am"?

fact, n., int., and adv.

Etymology:  < classical Latin factum deed, action, event, occurrence, achievement, misdeed, real happening, result of doing, something done, in post-classical Latin also thing that has really occurred or is actually the case, thing known to be true (11th cent.; from 13th cent. in British sources), case, legal dispute (from 13th cent. in British sources), use as noun of neuter past participle of facere to make, do < an extended form of the Indo-European base of do v.

 I. Senses relating primarily to action.

1. An action, a deed, a course of conduct; (formerly also occas.) †an effect, a result. Also as a mass noun: action, deeds, as opposed to words. Now somewhat rare.

Interesting that the word also carries the meaning of actions, deeds, events. Real things, indeed.

II. Senses relating primarily to truth.

6. Law
 a. The sum of circumstances and incidents of a case, looked at apart from their legal bearing.
 b. In pl. with the same sense. Also: items of information used or usable as evidence.

7. That which is known (or firmly believed) to be real or true; what has actually happened or is the case; truth attested by direct observation or authentic testimony; reality.

Firmly believed?

8a. A thing that has really occurred or is actually the case; a thing certainly known to be a real occurrence or to represent the truth. Hence: a particular truth known by actual observation or authentic testimony, as opposed to an inference, a conjecture, or a fiction; a datum of experience, as distinguished from the conclusions that may be based on it.

b. With the and following clause or preposition.
 (a) The actual occurrence of an event; the real existence of a situation or state of affairs.
E.g.: 1986   Amer. Scholar 65 572/1   The fact of their nationality colors the way men and women think, particularly about politics and society.
(b) The circumstance that something is the case.

 c. Uses emphasizing the truth of an assertion, esp. in fixed phrases.
 (a) The (honest) truth. Freq. in the fact is with that-clause, esp. asserting something surprising, unwelcome, or controversial, or making an admission; also colloq. (orig. U.S.) without the.
 (b) A true statement. Freq. in (and) that's a fact.

d. A person, an institution, etc., undoubtedly in existence; a person or thing experienced or seen.

9 is interesting because it goes against what I think a fact is. I'll leave all the example sentences.

9. A piece of information allegedly or conceivably true; something presented as a fact (in sense A. 8a) but which is disputed or unproven; (more strongly) an unproved assertion, an allegation.

1566   W. Painter Palace of Pleasure I. lii. f. 304,   I humblie beseche you to tell me the truth of this facte.
1632   J. Hayward tr. G. F. Biondi Eromena 21   They resolved that the Admirall should goe disguised..to assure himselfe of the fact [It. fatto].
1699   tr. C. de Saint-Evremond Arguments M. Herard 113   The Fact is false, there has been no dissipation of the Cardinal's Goods by Monsieur Mazarin.
a1729   S. Clarke Serm. (1730) V. i. 8   It would have been absurd to allege, in preaching to Unbelievers, a Fact which itself presupposed the Truth of Christ's Mission.
1797   Morning Chron. 27 Aug. 2/4   If another soldier should call you a jail-bird, and the truth of the fact be notorious.
1824   Westm. Rev. 2 209   This is..a false fact, supported by a supposed motive.
1872   W. H. Lamon Life Abraham Lincoln xi. 236   Douglas denied the fact; and Lincoln attempted to prove his statement by reading a certain passage from Holland's ‘Life of Van Buren’.
1941   A. M. Lindbergh Diary 13 Oct. in War within & Without (1980) 233   It bases its accusations on false statements and inaccurate facts.
1968   Hartford (Connecticut) Courant 29 Aug. 16/4   One cannot help but question the credibility of the writer's facts.
2002   Vanity Fair June 160/3   Waksal hotly disputed some of the facts in that story.

10. Guilt, especially actual guilt as opposed to suspicion. Obs.


P9. orig. U.S. "just the facts ma'am" and variants: used with reference to the eliciting or presentation of an unembellished or straightforward account of factual information. Also attrib.: strictly factual; unembellished, dry.With allusion to the investigative technique of police detective Sergeant Joe Friday in the U.S. radio and television series Dragnet (first broadcast in 1949), although the exact phrase ‘Just the facts ma'am’ did not occur in either the television or radio series.


C1 a.   fact-fetishism n.

1957   D. MacDonald Triumph of Fact iii, in Anchor Rev. No. 2. 122   Fact-fetishism is to some extent a class phenomenon.
1964   K. Winetrout in I. L. Horowitz New Sociol. 149   We wind up with fact-fetishism, with a ‘social science of the narrow focus, the trivial detail, the abstracted almighty unimportant fact’.
2010   P. Garrett Victorian Empiricism 201   An all too familiar definition of empiricism as fact-fetishism.

C2.  fact-proof adj. impervious to facts, willing to disregard facts.

1828   Foreign Q. Rev. Feb. 28   Nothing softer than the Reviewer's fact-proof cranium could resist it.
1909   G. B. Shaw John Bull's Other Island p. ix,   He is never quite the hysterical, nonsense-crammed, fact-proof, truth-terrified, unballasted sport of all the bogy panics..that now calls itself ‘God's Englishman’.
2010   Sydney Morning Herald (Nexis) 2 Nov. 11   So anger is a standard tool, used by both sides of politics. Is there anything new about it? One striking feature of rage 2010 seems to be that it is increasingly fact-proof.

Source: "fact, n., int., and adv.". OED Online. March 2015. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/67478?result=1&rskey=b6Jdx4& (accessed March 24, 2015).

A Plea For Reform

...to any Constitutional attorney: I can’t pay you (see above), but I have a tax return that will make your eyes bleed. Get me in front of a jury or, better yet, the Supreme Court, and let us ask 12 or nine reasonable people if the burden of completing this particular tax return – a requirement I must meet to retain my liberty and my property – is reasonable or not. And if just one of the jury or bench believes that a reasonably educated person could accurately complete my tax return in a reasonable period, I’ll be happily defeated – as long as he shows me how.

Otherwise, use me as a legal guinea pig to pull down this entire rotten structure that turns good people into unwilling law breakers or liars of both... Our tax code is so complex that people our government deems too poor to buy their own health insurance must fork over nearly a tenth of their income just to comply with it.

History and narrative

David Foster has up an interesting post about fiction and non-fiction. In recent years I've been reading more history than was my early habit, when I tended more to fiction. I find that I have a hard time remembering the history and keeping it straight unless I can tie it into fictional worlds. Modern fiction set in historical periods can be a problem, since most authors jam everything so full of anachronisms, but this problem can be ameliorated slightly by reading fiction written during the time in question. The trick is not to take the fiction as an accurate statement of history, but as a suggestion of what facts an author of that period took for granted, and what things hadn't even occurred to him yet.

Malaria and flowers

How malaria makes its hosts more inviting to mosquitoes when it's time to jump ship:
Plasmodium's ancestors lost the ability to photosynthesize a long time ago. But they still hold onto some of the ancestral enzymes from the bacteria that their forebears swallowed 1.3 billion years ago. As a result, Plasmodium is weirdly similar to flowers and trees. Some scientists have even taken advantage of this evolutionary kinship by looking at weed-killers as potential drugs for malaria.
This ancient heritage also explains why Plasmodium can smell like lemons. Odom and her colleagues found that the parasite make pinene and limonene using enzymes that are related to the ones that plants use to make these chemicals.
There are reasons to think that the parasite are using these chemicals to lure mosquitoes. While we're painfully aware of the appetite mosquitoes have for blood, the fact is that mosquitoes also feed on flower nectar. They depend on the nectar for sugar they need to fuel their flights. Many insects are keenly sensitive to certain colors and odors that flowers produce, which guide them reliably to their next meal of nectar. Odom and her colleagues found that the antenna of malaria-carrying species of mosquitoes are exquisitely sensitive to pinene and limonene. If you want to attract mosquitoes, it makes sense to make those chemicals.

Yes, Let's Do That

"Let's hop into a time machine and go back to the England of yore!"

A small selection of readings in the original accent from a few important periods of English literary history. Well, and actually a bit earlier: all the way to Arthurian Britain, as well as we can guess at it.

But take heart: if you couldn't ask for the beer in Old Brythonic, ask for it in something like Latin. Pretty much any Romance language you know will have preserved a word for beer that Arthur's kindred would have learned to understand.


Obamacare is proving to be a drag on small business growth. Close to two thirds predict compliance costs of the ACA will "increase costs a lot" this year.

That's Some Tight Security

From American Public Broadcasting:
Nearly nine years after Brett first saw combat here, this Detroit native returned to Iraq to defend the Christian faith he holds so dear.... Brett asked us to not to us his last name for security reasons. In 2006 he served in the U.S. army’s 14th mountain division for 15 months in Iraq. Brett was wounded by a roadside bomb and is a veteran on disability.
Good luck looking up his service records from the 14th Mountain Division, ISIS.

V S Naipaul on Daesh

Naipaul once wrote a book called A Turn in the South, which treated the racial problems of thirty years ago with a compassionate eye for all sides. His outright condemnation of the so-called Islamic State is the more powerful given his demonstrated ability to imagine different perspectives sympathetically. Sometimes, it's just because you can accurately imagine someone's inner life that you find them disgusting.

Update on Women in the Combat Arms

As the military drives on with President Obama's orders to integrate women into every military job, the Washington Times reports that evidence suggesting this may be unwise is being suppressed.

In particular they mention a British study that just came out late last year, which you can read here. In terms of combat effectivness -- which one would think ought to be the only consideration -- the British identified 21 factors they thought could plausibly be said to contribute to combat effectiveness. Women studied had negative results in 11 of these 21 areas.

"In three of the 11 negative factors, mitigation would be a significant challenge," the report says. "These are survivability, morbidity and deployability, much of which are predicated by physiology."

Those are some pretty important areas. Will they survive in combat? Will they suffer injuries that will hamper their teams? Can they be deployed at all?

The problems turn out to be related. Women suffer combat stress injuries much quicker than men, which reduces their ability to maneuver -- and also makes them less dangerous to their enemies, not just less likely to survive.
These studies suggest that the relative strength of women, compared to men, when carrying the combat load are likely to result in the early onset of fatigue. This is likely to result in a distinct cohort with lower survivability in combat. Similar research points to a reduced lethality rate; in that combat marksmanship degrades as a result of fatigue when the combat load increases in proportion to body weight and strength. The risks regarding survivability are therefore relative; these are about biology rather than character.
UPDATE: I think this concerns me for two basic reasons.

1. We're doing all these assessments on what amount to closed courses. The whole reason to establish a closed course is to limit the risks: you can drive at speeds that would be ridiculously unsafe in traffic, or practice combat-driving maneuvers in a relatively safe environment before you have to go out and do them for real. The problem is that the armed forces will have to go out and do this for real at some point. If we discover in a three-month survey on a closed course that we're encountering morbidity and survivability problems that also impact the ability to effectively kill the enemy, we need to understand that the effect of this on a unit deployed at war for a year or more is going to be magnified substantially. For want of a nail, the shoe... the horse... the troop... the regiment... the battle.. the war.

2. That Congress and the military are glad-handing their way through this suggests that we're not listening to negative findings if they conflict with the great goal of 'gender equality.' Will negative findings from the battlefield be enough to correct us here? Or will we refuse to see it even then? 'Their command should have trained them harder'; 'their leadership didn't provide adequate support'; 'the environment is toxic for women'; 'who dares question that she got pregnant at deployment time?'

The danger is accepting a permanently higher number of American dead and injured to further our chase for this will-o'-wisp.

Practicing without a license

I'm in favor of it, obviously.  The Washington Post reports in alarm over the high cost of legal services, even approving in its own backhanded way of high hourly rates charged by lawyers in light of the poor things' unfair student debt (that being, obviously, the only excuse for a market rate in a just society).  Here and there, however, people are trying out the legal equivalent of a nurse practitioner.

For years I ran my firm's pro bono legal clinic for homeless kids, 99% of whom had the same recurring problems, typically involving outstanding warrants for unpaid tickets.  My neighbors come to me with the middle-class equivalent, which is wills and divorces, with the occasional business contract.  Only in the case of the business contracts am I likely to add much value to what is available online to anybody with a modicum of instruction and experience.  Cheap over-the-counter legal assistance for routine problems would cut way down on the cost of a lot of ordinary problems.  If at the same time it makes some dull and lazy lawyers feel the cold breath of competition on their necks, well, maybe they'll get better at returning their phone calls timely.

Do I worry that people will get into trouble when a cut-rate semi-professional doesn't diagnose the zebra conditions?  Not very much.  The realistic alternative for most people is no legal advice at all.  There are many, many controversies that can't be solved by a lawyer for less than the amount in dispute.  Like a nurse practitioner, a legal practitioner who finds himself in over his head can refer people to an expert for anything really hairy.  That's what I do when people approach me for consumer jobs outside my expertise:  I try to do the bone-headed part up front--all the time-consuming process of extracting the facts and documents from the client, and roughing out an approach--then refer them to an expert with a situation that should now be cheaper to handle.  Long experience tells me that the expensive part of a lot of legal work stems from using the lawyer as a secretary.  Nearly all the cost of administering an estate, for instance, is monkey work consisting of endless repetitive letters to holders of various sorts of accounts and titles, finding out what documents they need filled out and sent in before they'll transfer title to heirs.  Anyone with a bit of training can do that for himself and save a ton of money.  Cassandra, with her paralegal experience and natural advantages, could do all of it standing on her head.

We sometimes couch licensing restrictions as a public protection, but there's usually a big old hunk of anti-competitive merchant protectionism built right in there.

Melville on battle

From Sheridan at Cedar Creek, by Herman Melville:
Shoe the steed with silver
  That bore him to the fray,
When he heard the guns at dawning
  Miles away;
When he heard them calling, calling--
  Mount! nor stay.

Maybe Because She's Done So Much To Earn It?

Poll: Democrats think the media is harder on Clinton than other politicians.

Never Take A "Data-Driven" Road Trip

My late father-in-law was an aerospace engineer, and his adult children still gripe about the trauma of family road trips he planned. We must hit the next sight-to-be-seen! No time for dinner! No, we can't just stop here and enjoy ourselves!

NPR found someone even less likely to plan a good time.
Randy Olson, a Ph.D. candidate at Michigan State University and a self-proclaimed "data tinkerer," believes he's devised a route that could allow a family to hit a landmark in each of the Lower 48 states, from Grand Canyon in Arizona to the Gateway Arch in St. Louis to the Statue of Liberty in New York, in just nine days of driving.

"About 9.33 days, if you drove non-stop," Olson clarifies.

That means no time sleeping or using the restroom — and no bad traffic.
Allow me to suggest: no.

Sexual Identity

A brave soldier comes out.

(It's a parody of the genre, so expect the usual language.)

UPDATE: RangerUP finds a date for our soldier.

Barriers to entry

Adam Smith warned us that merchants are forever looking for ways to protect themselves from competition.  Thirty-five states have a "certificate of need" process that drives up medical costs.

The Bible and science

From "The Lost World of Adam and Eve":
Isn't the claim that readers cannot properly understand Genesis without knowing Hebrew and the ancient Near Eastern culture just a form of scholarly elitism?
It’s no more scholarly elitism than recognizing someone has to translate the Bible into English. Bringing the ancient text to us is not just a matter of word rendering; it’s a matter of understanding the culture in which it was written. We have to translate not only language but also culture. We all are dependent on the expertise of others. I’m never inclined to think that the exercise of one’s spiritual gifts or talents is elitism. I’m a hand, not an eye. And someone else is an eye and not a hand. That’s how the body of Christ works.