He keeps using that word....

Words mean things. Oh yes, they most certainly do.

So this article popped up in my twitter feed, and I'm browsing it, basically agreeing with the author's premise, but then I caught this line:

"I wasn’t a Christian for the first part of my life. I knew it, and I didn’t want anyone to be mistaken. Now that I am a Christian, I don’t want anyone to believe that I’m an atheist, or a Mormon, or a Roman Catholic, or a Hindu."

Oh dear. So I stopped reading the article at that point and went immediately to the comments. And they did not disappoint. It wasn't quite a refight of the Reformation, but it's pretty close.

I'm always suspicious of "non-denominational" because what ever your opinions are of a denomination, it's an agreed upon set of beliefs that everybody (well, maybe not everybody) in that denomination agrees to. Or at least says they do. Or something like that. I'm always suspicious that non-denominational types are just making it up as they go, and in the end, it's like that line from the movie: "Yeah, well, that's just, like, your opinion, man."

Were You There

Continuing with the music from my church's Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services.  They've been hitting on all cylinders.

I'm sad today.  My neighbors put their dog down, because she had been aggressive to passing pedestrians and they couldn't figure out how to correct her behavior and save her.  I understand why they felt they had to do it, but I'm horrified.  Nothing speaks to me about our fallen state more deeply than our deranged relations with animals.  This dog thought she was doing the right thing protecting her home.  She trusted her people and couldn't understand what they wanted from her.

Sometimes it causes me to tremble.

Bach & Simon

Takes chutzpah to fiddle with something Bach perfected, but he does a good job.

10 Interesting Things about EVE Online, Whether You Play Or Not

I haven't played in more than a year; other things are consuming my time right now. But I ran across this video at Daddy Warpig's and one of the first things it talks about is that one of the diplomats murdered in Bengazi was a player. The rest are kind of interesting as well.

Stabat mater dolorosa

Go to dark Gethsemane

Go to dark Gethsemane,
You who feel the tempter's pow'r;
Your Redeemer's conflict see;
Watch with Him one bitter hour;
Turn not from His griefs away;
Learn of Jesus Christ to pray.

Follow to the judgment hall;
View the Lord of life arraigned;
O the worm-wood and the gall!
O the pangs His soul sustained!
Shun not suff'ring, shame, or loss;
Learn of Him to bear the cross.

Calv'ry's mournful mountain climb
There' adoring at His feet,
Mark the miracle of time,
God's own sacrifice complete:
"It is finished!" Hear the cry;
Learn of Jesus Christ to die.


We once had a long discussion about the franchise, questioning whether the universal franchise was really a good idea and debating approaches. The debate took place here, at VC, and at Elise's place. Different models were offered: a Starship Troopers model that linked citizenship to military or other public service; a property qualification, for 'skin in the game' reasons; I think we also discussed some education qualification. In the end, none of it proved very persuasive, although it was interesting to see what arguments people had for and against things like the service qualification.

I think the debate was worthwhile, although it offended some readers so badly that they asked to have their blogs removed from the sidebar so they wouldn't be associated with someone who would entertain the question. Well, philosophers entertain a lot of ideas; as someone said, the mark of an educated mind is to be able to entertain an idea without accepting it.

So, I'm prepared to entertain the idea. How about denying the franchise just to white men?

The idea is first justified by consequences: progressives would do way better if white men didn't vote, not just in America but across the Anglosphere. Isn't that unfair, to deny people the vote just because they don't vote the way you'd like? Why yes, the author admits:
Let's be clear, it may be unfair, but a moratorium on the franchise for white males for a period of between 20 and 30 years is a small price to pay for the pain inflicted by white males on others, particularly those with black, female-identifying bodies. In addition, white men should not be stripped of their other rights, and this withholding of the franchise should only be a temporary measure, as the world rights the wrongs of the past.
So, they won't be stripped of their rights, other than voting rights? Well, and property rights: it turns out, the whole point of this is to take their money.
At the same time, a denial of the franchise to white men, could see a redistribution of global assets to their rightful owners. After all, white men have used the imposition of Western legal systems around the world to reinforce modern capitalism. A period of twenty years without white men in the world's parliaments and voting booths will allow legislation to be passed which could see the world's wealth far more equitably shared. The violence of white male wealth and income inequality will be a thing of the past.

This redistribution of the world's wealth is long overdue[.]
Ok, so, just voting rights and property rights, then. Oddly enough, there's actually a solid philosophical argument against that exact combination. It's fine to have redistribution in an oligarchy, Aristotle says, because the regular redistribution of wealth to the poor makes them willing to accept a lack of political control. But you can't have redistribution in a democracy, as this will produce violent revolt:
In democracies the rich should be spared; not only should their property not be divided, but their incomes also, which in some states are taken from them imperceptibly, should be protected. It is a good thing to prevent the wealthy citizens, even if they are willing from undertaking expensive and useless public services, such as the giving of choruses, torch-races, and the like. In an oligarchy, on the other hand, great care should be taken of the poor, and lucrative offices should go to them; if any of the wealthy classes insult them, the offender should be punished more severely than if he had wronged one of his own class.
So, denying people power for the purpose of taking their wealth is right out. If you give them the power, you can claim that they owe you compensation from their wealth. If you take the power, you have to spare their wealth. Trying to take the power so you can take their wealth reliably produces civil war.

An Act of Theft, or Defacement?

The artist who crafted the charging bull sculpture on Wall Street is irritated that his work has been revised without his permission.
An attorney for [artist] Di Modica, Norman Siegel, said the 4-foot-tall bronze girl was created as part of an advertising campaign for Boston-based investment firm State Street Global Advisors and its placement opposite the bull exploits the earlier sculpture for commercial gain and negates its positive message.

"The placement of the statue of the young girl in opposition to 'Charging Bull' has undermined the integrity and modified the 'Charging Bull'" Siegel said. "The 'Charging Bull' no longer carries a positive, optimistic message. Rather it has been transformed into a negative force and a threat."
Arguably the second sculpture steals something from the first work, as the first work is necessary for the effect of the second work. He seems to be charging that it's a bit more than that, though: that the act is one of defacement, such that his positive and optimistic sculpture is transformed into a big meanie.

I guess the bull (and the bear) are some of those animal spirits that Keynes was talking about. William Safire apparently wrote on the history of the phrase.
The phrase that Keynes made famous in economics has a long history. "Physitions teache that there ben thre kindes of spirites", wrote Bartholomew Traheron in his 1543 translation of a text on surgery, "animal, vital, and natural. The animal spirite hath his seate in the brayne ... called animal, bycause it is the first instrument of the soule, which the Latins call animam." William Wood in 1719 was the first to apply it in economics: "The Increase of our Foreign Trade...whence has arisen all those Animal Spirits, those Springs of Riches which has enabled us to spend so many millions for the preservation of our Liberties." Hear, hear. Novelists seized its upbeat sense with enthusiasm. Daniel Defoe, in "Robinson Crusoe": "That the surprise may not drive the Animal Spirits from the Heart." Jane Austen used it to mean "ebullience" in "Pride and Prejudice": "She had high animal spirits." Benjamin Disraeli, a novelist in 1844, used it in that sense: "He...had great animal spirits, and a keen sense of enjoyment."
I thought it was a reference to Descartes, though, who uses the term in Passions of the Soul as part of an explanation of how passion can interfere with rational decision-making. That seemed to be what Keynes was talking about, but perhaps Safire was right.

Near Certainties

Putin says that the gas attack in Syria was a "false flag," and also that he just knows that we'll be seeing a lot more of them soon.

He has that feeling.

Old Norse's Influence on English

Since everyone is enjoying this game -- both here and at AVI's place -- here's a thesis on how English was changed by another language. This one's not on French or Celtic forms, but on Old Norse forms.
"Studies have revealed that about 400 words in English are incontestably Scandinavian in origin and are still in daily use in standard, literary English (Geipel, 1971, p.69). Although 400 words are a mere fraction of those 20,000-30,000 words it must be acknowledged that most of the ON terms left behind by the Vikings are the very bedrock of English lexicon and the most frequently occurring words in spoken English. Geipel also takes this further and states that if rural dialects are added the number goes quickly from 400 to 2,000 items, enough to allow a person to carry on a simple conversation using entirely ON terms."
One of these words is "they" and its variations, which you probably use many times a day.

(H/t: Medievalists)

The Obvious Answer

Last week, a driver in Stockholm completed the latest in a series of Islamist murders by truck, the most famous being in Nice, France. The local paper has come to the obvious conclusion.
Cars and other vehicles “have turned into deadly weapons”, and should be banished from cities to stop attacks like the one in Stockholm from happening in future, according to Aftonbladet editorialist Eva Franchell.
Yes, we should ban cars and trucks from cities. The vast amounts of food needed to keep the populations of these cities from starving will henceforth be beamed in by Starfleet Command.


Sean Spicer, ladies and gentlemen:
We didn't use chemical weapons in World War II. You know, you had a, you know, someone as despicable as Hitler who didn't even sink to using chemical weapons,” Spicer said. “So you have to if you're Russia, ask yourself: Is this a country that you, and a regime, that you want to align yourself with? You have previously signed onto international agreements, rightfully acknowledging that the use of chemical weapons should be out of bounds by every country.
Reasonable point he probably intended to make: after World War One, the Western powers agreed that chemical weapons were beyond the pale. Even Hitler did not use them against soldiers on the battlefield, not even when defeat was all but certain.

Why not? Well, in addition to the fact that Hitler himself suffered from a gas attack in WWI, the policy was really "no first use," which meant that Germany's deployment of chemical weapons against soldiers would have opened it to retaliation by similar weapons. The Allies had large stockpiles of these things. So, maybe, Germany restrained itself out of a calculation of enlightened self-interest.

Of course, it may be that someone's thumb was on the scale.
According to Frank J. Dinan, a distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York State, a scientist close to Hitler exaggerated the Allies' capability of hitting back with their own chemical weapons, which caused the Fuhrer to rethink his plans.

If Professor Dinan's extraordinary claim is true, it means that a German scientist, up until now regarded as a war criminal, might be one of the greatest unsung heroes of the 20th century....

Ambros told the Fuhrer the Allies would be able to produce vast quantities of mustard gas, but this didn't bother Hitler.

He wanted to know if the British and Americans also had access to much deadlier nerve agents, such as Tabun.

'I understand that the countries with petroleum are in a position to make more mustard gas,' Hitler said, 'but Germany has a special gas, Tabun. In this we have a monopoly in Germany.'

Hitler then enquired whether the Allies could make Tabun and a similar nerve agent, Sarin.

And it was at this point that Ambros made the claim that Professor Dinan believes may well have changed the course of the war.
Sarin is the nerve agent Assad is supposed to have used, as you probably know.

Apparently the German leadership kept pressing Hitler to reverse himself, but he never changed his mind once he was told -- completely falsely -- that the Allies could strike back in this way.

Sanctuary State

When it comes to a flat refusal to participate in enforcing Federal laws against immigration, it's clear that this is a bad practice. On the other hand, what about Montana?
On Saturday, the Montana Senate gave final approval to a bill that would take big steps toward making the state a sanctuary for gun rights by prohibiting state enforcement of most federal acts restricting firearms, magazines or ammunition. If signed into law, it would effectively stop any such federal acts in practice within the state.

Sen. Cary Smith (R-Billings) introduced Senate Bill 99 (SB99) on Jan. 9. The legislation would prohibit any state or local government employee, or law enforcement officers, from enforcing, assisting in the enforcement of, or in any way cooperating with enforcement of a federal ban on firearms, magazines, or ammunition. The proposed law specifically prohibits participating in any federal enforcement action implementing such a ban....

The legislation would also prohibit expending or allocating public funds or resources for the enforcement of such federal acts on firearms, magazines or ammunition.
The position in favor of Montana but against Maryland would be that the Federal government does indeed have lawful authority to regulate immigration, but that the 2nd Amendment's "shall not be infringed" clause strips that authority with regards to firearms. Now, that is clearly not the Federal government's opinion of the matter -- not even under Heller. Still, it is a plausible textual reading of the Constitution.


DB: Lake County Sheriff's Department

Here's the original.

And here's the DB remix.

All 'A's for these Journalism Students

They're just high school kids, but they understand the real spirit of the thing.
Amy Robertson... was hired as the high school’s head principal on March 6. The student journalists had begun researching Robertson, and quickly found some discrepancies in her education credentials. For one, when they researched Corllins University, the private university where Robertson said she got her master’s and doctorate degrees years ago, the website didn’t work. They found no evidence that it was an accredited university....

The students began digging into a weeks-long investigation that would result in an article published Friday questioning the legitimacy of the principal’s degrees and of her work as an education consultant.

On Tuesday night, Robertson resigned.
The free press is best when it maintains an adversarial relationship with those in power. Too often, it ends up being hand-fed by them instead.

High Stakes Poker

In a game with a lot of cash on the table, the winner rakes it in -- and the loser loses big.
[The recent confirmation of Justice Gorsuch was a] huge loss for the of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who ignored increasing calls for her retirement during the Obama administration to avoid the prospect of the flipping of her seat from a liberal to a conservative member. That gamble — whatever calculation — could now cost a sweeping number of key cases hanging by a 5-4 margin, including much of the precedent built around Roe v. Wade, if not an outright overturning of that decision....

Now Ginsburg’s gamble on Hillary Clinton being elected could have sweeping impact on precedent that she played a major role in creating. With the elimination of the filibuster, the next nominee is hardly likely to be nuanced. Without the filibuster, Republicans have no excuse to compromise on a moderate. There is nothing standing in the way to appointing someone who is openly opposed to cases like Roe v. Wade.
It's hard to overstate how big a gamble the 2016 election was for the whole country. Indeed, it's not as if the election ended the gambling that's going on.

All Right, Fair Enough

Bethany Mandel, writing at the Federalist, points out a fairly nasty bit of Antisemitism at Politico. Now, such things happen a lot, and I only occasionally remark on them; the world is full of injustice and insult, and a healthy mind can only spend so much time on those things.

But then she adds this:
We’ve spent the better part of the last year being warned about the dangers of the rise of the alt-right. Even I doubted the power the alt-right apparently wields, which apparently includes the ability to convince a mainstream American publication to publish 4,000 words of anti-Semitic garbage on the eve of a major Jewish holiday. Can they silence the rest of the mainstream media, which reports breathlessly on every headline related to Jews at Breitbart?

With most American Jews signing offline for the next few days in celebration of our freedom from bondage in Egypt, it’s up to the non-Jews working in media to pick up the slack on renouncing this article for what it is.
It is true that, at sundown, many will go offline for two days in order to solemnize the Passover. So, I suppose it really would be proper to say something about it since they won't be able to defend themselves for a couple of days.

By the way, if I have any Jewish readers, I looked up whether or not it was appropriate to say "Happy Passover" before writing this post given the details of the underlying story. I was told the right thing to say was Chag Sameach.

So: Chag Sameach. Have a good festival, secure in the knowledge that friends will stand up for you while you're offline.

River Basins of America

A pretty nifty color-coded map shows all the river basins in the lower 48, in a way that makes it very easy to see where they drain. If you look at Georgia, you'll notice a green set of rivers that drains to the Gulf of Mexico, and just east a blue set that drains out by Savannah into the Atlantic Ocean. I'm originally from the top of the green country, but very close to the divide between the basins. The rivers that mark that green area are, especially, the Etowah and the Amicalola.