This stuff doesn't need any comment. Well, maybe it does. Here's a good one:
To say that a particularly psychology is abnormal or disordered does not imply it should be an object of hatred or hostility. I believe we need more tolerance for the abnormal and for those outside the mainstream—call it freak lib—and I would note that part of the reason the left has to insist so stridently that Jenner is normal, and demand that everyone agree, is because they are the ones who have no real concept of freedom for those outside the social consensus.

Hope in Detroit

I was wondering the other day how NRA approval sorted out by race.  Today HotAir reports that "54 percent of blacks now see gun ownership as a good thing, something more likely to protect than harm. That’s up from 29 percent just two years ago."


This time I'm serious. See you in a week or so.

Jane Austen...

...as seen by the kind of dude who comes to writing workshops.

Books & Overstatement

I realize I have just said that I will be gone for a week, but I see a comment from Tex that deserves a moment's attention. I had said that the influence of Gutenberg is somewhat overstated. Tex replied:
Grim, before I accept the proposition that "the difficulty of acquiring books before the printing press is overstated" I would need to see some sources. Every history of the period I have ever consulted has emphasized the seismic impact of the sudden availability of a vastly greater body of printed material, along with an explosion of literacy and an accompanying market for books. What do you think is overstated about that picture?
I think it's overstated in both directions. For one thing, the idea that Gutenberg produced a 'sudden availability' of 'a vastly greater body' of material is not borne out. Here's a chart of "the number of separately printed items in Britain and by English abroad," from James Raven's The Business of Books, p. 8.

Now Malory's work is right there at the beginning, but as we see the printing press didn't change the world over night -- or in the first hundred years, or hundred and fifty.  It was the kickoff of the industrial revolution that made the printed book the main game.  Even long after Gutenberg's death around 1465 (if I recall correctly) printed books were not the majority of books being produced.

For the most part right through the Renaissance books were made as they were made throughout the Middle Ages.  And this was a substantial business!
Moreover, the universities were the earliest centres of the book trade as we understand it, and the provisions for the multiplication, sale, and rent of standard works helped these at least to travel by their own momentum. In these respects the university life of the later Middle Ages reached a comparatively close approximation to early modern conditions; the chief difference, to use Shaw's phrase, lay in the iconography.
That's from Charles Homer Haskins, "The Spread of Ideas in the Middle Ages," Speculum 1 no. 1 (January 1926). He goes on to point out that there are records of 'vast stores of books' returning from the Fourth Crusade as a favored item of plunder; in fact, the Crusaders had learned early in Spain that there was almost nothing of greater value than the books of Greek learning, and Arabic commentaries or expansions on the same, that they were able to take from the Saracen lands.

A gentleman named Peter Yu, though a lawyer rather than historian by training, composed a fairly careful brief history of books in response to a comment by Justice Breyer that is called "Of Monks, Medieval Scribes, and Middlemen." Michigan St. Law Review 1 (2006)
By the twelfth century, towns emerged, and communities grew in size and wealth. As a result of the spread of literacy, the demand for books increased dramatically, and a large number of new texts appeared. "Monastic libraries soon found it more and more difficult to keep their collections up to date, and they began employing secular scribes and illuminators to collaborate in book production." Meanwhile, schools became independent from cathedrals, to which they were originally attached, and guilds of lecturers and students gathered to form universities. With the changing lifestyle and the emergence of new educational institutions, it became more and more common for people to want to own books themselves, whether students seeking textbooks or noble women desiring to own beautifully illuminated Psalters. By 1200 there is quite good evidence of secular workshops writing and decorating manuscripts for sale to the laity. By 1250 there were certainly bookshops in the big university and commercial towns, arranging the writing out of new manuscripts and trading in second-hand copies. By 1300 it must have been exceptional for a monastery to make its own manuscripts: usually, monks bought their books from shops like anyone else, although this is not quite true of the Carthusians or of some religious communities in the Netherlands....

Ordinances, therefore, were developed "to regulate the work of the copyists, to lay down the minimum requirements of formal presentation and substantial correctness, and to prescribe the selling price of duly certified copies." A notable example of these regulations was the ordinance of Bologna University of 1259, which provided what commentators have considered to be the earliest regulations of sales, loans, and production of books used by the university. Similar regulations were also enacted by the University of Paris in 1275 and by Alphonso X of Castile in Spain sometime between 1252 and 1285. Although England had similar regulations concerning the stationers, "the English book trade . . . developed not around the universities, as on the Continent, but in London, where the stationers formed a guild as early as 1403." This guild was known famously as the Stationers' Company...

As the book trade grew in volume, the number of scribes increased dramatically, and a scribal industry began to emerge as a profession.... [t]he book trade continued to flourish in major European cities, and the number of scribes and illuminators increased substantially as a result. "By the late thirteenth century in Paris (a century later in England), ateliers of scribes and illuminators were known by the name of their master artists," and "the names of scribes, illuminators, parchment-makers and binders . . . [can be found] in tax records, though few names can be linked with surviving books."
He goes on to note that the 'challenge' to traditional manuscripts by printed works was generational, as the traditionally produced works did not drop off in popularity, and printed works were actually more expensive than hand-made works in the first generation. The technology to produce them was new and not an industrial technology; there were very few people who knew how to make or use it, and it still required a very substantial amount of labor. The works were certainly popular, which demand increased their price given the limited supply, but they did not replace the Medieval method for generations -- only supplemented it.

I don't think that Tex is at all wrong about the way the general history is presented, however. It's just that here as so often with the Middle Ages, the Modern age has gotten the truth completely backwards.

To The High, Far Mountains

I'm going to Wyoming. Back in a week or so.

Literature and pure motives

An author I quite admire and enjoy, Ursula Le Guin, shares the widespread conviction that the book industry has been corrupted by financial motives.  Publishers--those lousy Philistines--don't care about the inherent value of a book, only about their ability to sell it at a profit.  Well, I suppose there may be publishers out there who only care about the inherent value of a book, but after they spend all their savings putting the books out, they go out of business, leaving only their filthy-lucre competitors behind.

It's only been in the last few centuries, though, that anyone even tried to make money off of publishing. Back when each book was a painstaking labor of handmade love, if the author wasn't pretty determined to write it for its inherent value, well, it just didn't get written.  Not many people ever got to read these supremely disinterested works, but that kept the unwashed masses from driving down the tone.  Then some bright guy figured out a way to automate the printing process, and suddenly books weren't just something that a few scholars shared with each other as fast as some poor scribe could copy them by hand.  The growing literate public started agitating for more and faster copies, and next thing you know people are saying, "Well, OK, I'll devote my professional life to churning out copies for you, but only if you're willing to pay for them.  All this paper and ink isn't free, you know."  Publishers got used to making a living and found that they might have to pay the authors who turned out stuff people were willing to buy.

It's still possible to write for the sheer inherent value of writing, if you don't want a zillion people to read it, and if you don't quit your day job.  But it seems a little odd to demand the right to make a living at writing, while complaining that other people don't value it for its own sake.

Today in Clueless Youth-hood...

...a young progressive decides Jerry Seinfeld needs a lecture on the recent history of comedy. 'Let me tell you about this guy called George Carlin...'

The upshot of the lecture is that it's great if comedy is offensive, as long as it offends only the right people.

Safety first

Always wanted to work in the porn industry?  You probably hesitated, knowing that the industry didn't require suitable protective eyewear.  Now California has your back.

Then Again, Sometimes It's Hard to Judge What's Madness...

Human intuition has some limits. If this piece points to something true about the world, those limits are much greater than we think they are.

We had a luxury yacht once

At least, we had an offshore fishing boat.  It wasn't a luxury boat like Marco Rubio's though; it was used, and I think it was a foot or two shorter than his opulent 24.  We couldn't have dinner parties on it like he can, or shelter our guests in private cabins.  We didn't even have a helicopter landing pad like his.

Another thing that shows he can't identify with ordinary voters like me is his luxury mansion.  I've never lived in a home with 2,700 square feet, except for one period when I shared it with eight other commune-types, like a good member of the proletariat.  I never had an in-ground pool.  At the ancestral Texan99 manor, if we wanted to splash we had to fill up the little plastic pool.  Where does Rubio get off?

Best to stick with the Clinton/Kerry ticket.

'Madman Comes Up With BS Theory' Would Have Been Less Compelling

Headline: "Is Ancient History Completely Made Up By 'The Man'?"

Short answer: No.

Slightly longer answer: Nevertheless, some of the problems he raises are interesting, even though his conclusions are barking mad.

Further Evidence of the Intelligence of Chimpanzees

We've long known about their construction and use of primitive tools. Who knew, though, that they put them to such a divine and civilized purpose?

What Goes Up, Must Come Down

The lesson applies to the bullets, too.

High Stakes Poker

In the old days in Dodge City, they didn't play much harder than this:
The law declares that if the supreme court strikes down the administrative law, the entire state judiciary will lose its funding. Brownback and the legislature are essentially bullying the judiciary: Uphold our law or cease to exist.
Well, court-packing worked for Roosevelt. Even though he didn't get his packed court, he spooked the Justices into giving way on his preferred 'reforms,' such as letting the Executive's bureaucracy write the laws by having Congress delegate them the authority.

"I chose life."

"I chose life.  I defaulted on my student loans."

Oh, if you want a dose of precious snowflake, try this guy's paean to his own highmindedness.

Left-Leaning Academics: "Were We Wrong?"

What happens when postmodern cultural and literary criticisms fall into the wrong hands?
Anyone who has been paying attention to the fault lines of academic debate for the past 20 years already knows that the "science wars" were fought by natural scientists (and their defenders in the philosophy of science) on the one side and literary critics and cultural-studies folks on the other. The latter argued that even in the natural realm, truth is relative, and there is no such thing as objectivity. The skirmishes blew up in the well-known "Sokal affair" in 1996, in which a prominent physicist created a scientifically absurd postmodernist paper and was able to get it published in a leading cultural-studies journal. The ridicule that followed may have seemed to settle the matter once and for all.

But then a funny thing happened: While many natural scientists declared the battle won and headed back to their labs, some left-wing postmodernist criticisms of truth began to be picked up by right-wing ideologues who were looking for respectable cover for their denial of climate change, evolution, and other scientifically accepted conclusions. Alan Sokal said he had hoped to shake up academic progressives, but suddenly one found hard-right conservatives sounding like Continental intellectuals. And that caused discombobulation on the left.

"Was I wrong to participate in the invention of this field known as science studies?," Bruno Latour, one of the founders of the field that contextualizes science, famously asked. "Is it enough to say that we did not really mean what we said? Why does it burn my tongue to say that global warming is a fact whether you like it or not? Why can’t I simply say that the argument is closed for good?"
The reason it burns is that there is a whole lot invested in the idea that we can't simply reason from observations of the facts of nature to objective conclusions that should guide our actions.

It would be a terrible mistake for the right to adopt the 'winning strategy' of refusing to recognize truth based on objective facts, however. Play stupid games, as they say, and you'll win stupid prizes.

Shooting for E-Zero

This Google link will take you to a non-firewalled WSJ article about the supreme post-modern condition now reached by our ethanol fuel policy:  from now on, we're going to subsidize corn production for ethanol, not because we can better achieve our environmental goals that way, but because subsidies are a goal in their own right.  My husband's view:  we'd probably do less damage if we just started sending the checks with no strings attached.

Reading Lists

Went by the local used bookstore tonight, and picked up a few things to read this summer.

Heilbroner's The Worldly Philosophers. This was my introduction to economic theory many years ago, but I haven't re-read it since I was a teenager.

Wippel and Wotler, O.F.M. Medieval Philosophy. I don't expect surprises in this volume, but it'll be interesting to read another perspective of the topic in summary.

Lupack, Alan and Barbara, eds. Arthurian Literature by Women. I bought this one because it was mostly Medieval and 19th century, but there is a substantial section of 20th century contributions.


This guy is an attorney in Las Vegas who has been contacted, he claims, by many of the bikers arrested in the Waco shootout. Easyriders magazine found him credible enough to pass the clip, given what they're hearing from their own connections.

The way he tells the story, most of the bikers inside were there for a meeting of a community of non-outlaw clubs considering bills before the state assembly that deal with motorcycle issues. The Scimitars and Cossacks showed up uninvited to this meeting. A handful of Bandidos showed up later, and the Cossacks/Scimitars decided to press their substantial numerical advantage to force the Bandidos to a loss of face. This escalated, so that one Bandido was shot, and one-two more shots were fired without issue.

Then the police, who had their SWAT team on site, opened fire into the crowd with rifles. He estimates they killed all 9 dead, and injured 26 of the 27. Then they arrested everyone, and got a justice of the peace rather than a proper judge to slap that $1 million dollar bond on everyone.

Now of course this is in no way official, and is just the word of people arrested at the time. The police have all the forensics and video, mostly unreleased to the public so far. Perhaps a FOIA request from a Texas media outlet will generate more information. Perhaps the police will choose to release more. Presumably there are some official procedures of inquiry in process as well.

We'll just have to see how the facts shake out in time.

Five Medieval Tales

Via Medievalists, a set of charming (or not) stories from the Middle Ages.

The first story may strike a contemporary reader as grotesque, not merely for the cannibalism but for the prospect of having your actual heart cut out and sent to someone you love. Yet this practice was regarded not as grotesque but rather intensely romantic, in the old sense of the word, in the High Middle Ages. Robert the Bruce had his heart removed after his death and sent on Crusade, as his heart had always longed to go, but his duty to Scotland kept him from it. His greatest friend carried the heart, and died crusading against the Moors in Spain.

Story number four may or may not be practical, but it is a common story. The Icelandic Heimskringla has Harald Hardrada, the Thunderbolt of the North, carrying out a similar plan to destroy a city in Sicily while campaigning in the mercenary service of the lords of Byzantium. In that case they supposedly gathered up flying birds and set them ablaze, causing them to fly home in a panic to their nests within the walls of the city.

As for the third tale, just last night I finished the chapter of Barnaby Rogerson's The Last Crusaders that deals with the Portuguese kings. This sort of deep love attachment and flamboyance sounds very much in character for the family. That, by the way, is proving to be an entertaining history. I recommend it.

Another from D29

The May jobs report was strong... from a certain point of view.
...in May's far stronger than expected report, the two for the first time were almost identical: the Establishment Survey reported an increase of 280K jobs, while according to the Household survey 272K jobs were added. ...the biggest surprise came from Table 7, where the BLS reveals the number of "foreign born workers" used in the Household survey. In May, this number increased [by a] monthly jump of 279K...
So, the number of new jobs and the number of new immigrant workers is just about identical? Normally you'd only expect to see that if we had reached structural unemployment levels, so that the only way you could grow the workforce was by bringing new people in from outside the country. Instead, we have a U-6 unemployment rate of 10.8%.

Economist Tyler Cowen suggests that maybe it just isn't going to get better. I think we can all think of ways that would make it better -- a vast deregulation, starting with repealing Obamacare, would be my first suggestion -- so I don't accept the idea that we would be powerless were we able to form a unified political will as a polity and act upon it. Still, I do agree that there are some problems that won't just smooth out and get better, because they were allowed to fester for so long.

Speaking of which, how's that national debt problem?

Get Some, Rabbi

The Case of the 11 AM Beer

The Drudge Report picked up a Daily Telegraph story asking, "Why is Barack Obama drinking beer at 11 AM?"

I was prepared to defend the President on this one. It's a local custom for Sunday mornings.
Eleven in the morning might be considered a little early for a beer in some parts of the world, but in Bavaria breakfast is not complete without a weissbier, as the local wheat beer is called. It’s not quite as hard-drinking as it sounds: Bavarians don’t down a quick pint before heading to the office every morning. It originates in Frühschoppen - a local tradition of meeting for a drink late in the morning on Sundays and holidays.

According to Bavarian custom, the sausages cannot be eaten after 12 noon, because no preservatives are used and they are made fresh every day. Therefore those who wish to wash their sausages down with a beer must get supping before that time. The local saying is that the sausages must not be allowed to hear the church bells chime noon.
Besides, if he just flew in from D.C., it's not 11 AM in any meaningful sense for him anyway. So I was going to say that he should be given full pardon for this alleged offense.

Until the last line of the article, I was convinced of this position. But:
A local farmer told reporters Mr Obama had in fact drunk non-alcoholic beer at the breakfast.
Non-alcoholic beer in Germany? There's simply no excuse for that.

The Case of the Casbah and the Offensive American Dancer

A group in Morocco is suing American dancer Jennifer Lopez for "tarnishing women's honor and respect" with her racy performance in country. I have little doubt that the charges are fully justified by the local community standards, but the group is probably out of luck. Morocco has no extradition treaty with the United States, so the potential jail time will certainly never be served.
Last week I related The Tale of Scott Rothstein and His Golden Toilets, and mentioned among other things that Rothstein had "fled to Morocco" along with 16 million of his closest friends when it looked like the proverbial jig was up for him and his Ponzi scheme....

Not coincidentally, Morocco is one of the countries that has no extradition treaty with the United States, something that Rothstein knew because -- and this is possibly my favorite detail of the whole story, short of the golden toilets -- he made somebody in his firm research that issue for him. The project was supposedly on behalf of a "client," but he was in fact having someone research the question of where he should flee to avoid prosecution.

I was sort of hoping he called in an associate and just made that person do it, but it turns out he sent an email, apparently to everyone in the firm, saying he had a rush project for an important client. "We have a client that was a United States citizen until about 6 months ago," Rothstein wrote in the email, probably able to resist making air quotes around "client" only because he was busy typing the word. "He became a citizen of Israel and renounced his United States citizenship. He is likely to be charged with a multitude of crimes in the United States including fraud, money laundering and embezzlement." (I'm trying to imagine what people at the firm were thinking upon reading this.) Rothstein wanted them to research whether the client could be extradited from Israel, or could be prosecuted for the crimes in Israel. "This client is related to a very powerful client of ours," Rothstein continued, "and so time is of the essence. Lets [sic] rock and roll....there is a very large fee attached to this case. Thanks Love ya Scott," he concluded.
That works both ways. They get our Ponzi scheme artists, but they don't get our... er, "artists."

Who Talked?

"Dozens" of people, apparently.
Almost everything about SEAL Team 6, a classified Special Operations unit, is shrouded in secrecy — the Pentagon does not even publicly acknowledge that name — though some of its exploits have emerged in largely admiring accounts in recent years. But an examination of Team 6’s evolution, drawn from dozens of interviews with current and former team members, other military officials and reviews of government documents, reveals a far more complex, provocative tale.
Loose lips, boys.

Catholic Social Teaching, For Catholics

H/t D29:

The Church has long taught that defrauding a worker of his wages is one of the four sins that cry out to heaven for vengeance (CCC 1867). In his landmark encyclical Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo XIII echoed the words of St. James:

Doubtless, before deciding whether wages are fair, many things have to be considered; but wealthy owners and all masters of labor should be mindful of this – that to exercise pressure upon the indigent and the destitute for the sake of gain, and to gather one’s profit out of the need of another, is condemned by all laws, human and divine. To defraud any one of wages that are his due is a great crime which cries to the avenging anger of Heaven. “Behold, the hire of the laborers… which by fraud has been kept back by you, crieth; and the cry of them hath entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.” Lastly, the rich must religiously refrain from cutting down the workmen’s earnings, whether by force, by fraud, or by usurious dealing; and with all the greater reason because the laboring man is, as a rule, weak and unprotected, and because his slender means should in proportion to their scantiness be accounted sacred. Were these precepts carefully obeyed and followed out, would they not be sufficient of themselves to keep under all strife and all its causes?

Again, Pope Pius XI took up the cause in Quadragesimo Anno. He made an important distinction, however, when it came to those businesses which themselves were deprived of enough revenue to pay their workers justly:

[I]f the business in question is not making enough money to pay the workers an equitable wage because it is being crushed by unjust burdens or forced to sell its product at less than a just price, those who are thus the cause of the injury are guilty of grave wrong, for they deprive workers of their just wage and force them under the pinch of necessity to accept a wage less than fair.
OK, so that's a lot of backstory. We know the Church believes this. So what?
First, there is the problem of working for the Church herself. There is no surer path to financial insolvency than for a hard worker to direct their energies towards some form of full-time Catholic apostolate, or to slave away for long hours as a Director of Religious Education, or to teach at a Catholic school.... This becomes a particular problem if they embody the Catholic ethos of “oppenness to life” and have a large family.

I suspect few individuals have ever had aspirations of becoming wealthy while working for the Church, but by the Church’s own teaching, the worker in a Catholic apostolate or school should expect to “be paid a wage sufficient to support him and his family.” (QA 71) It is inexcusably hypocritical that the same clergy who wield the Church’s social teaching as a weapon against the titans of industry — often claiming that this is a non-negotiable moral imperative — often fail so completely when it comes to applying this standard to those under their own employ.
Emphasis added. This is a good point. Some religious orders require a vow of poverty, but a large part of the work is done by people who do not labor under such vows. How much stronger the moral argument would be if it were joined to practical example.