Voluntary-ish euthanasia

Bookworm Room muses on whether "free" medical care makes euthanasia a less dangerous policy.  The idea is that greedy family members might choose euthanasia over costly medical care, but the state would never make that kind of calculation, right?

Land use

Cool graphics.

Matter of Fact That Was The Name of the Place

The story behind the song George Will hated, "Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother." The author of the song explains how he was one of the hippies. The story is pretty amusing.

Faulty Scholarship

But not faulty in a surprising way. Just exactly in the way you'd expect. And for the reason we were discussing earlier this week, as applied to the discipline of sociology instead of social psychology. "Musa al-Gharbi’s research was published in the latest issue of The American Sociologist, a peer-reviewed journal that also recently published an article revealing that only two percent of sociology professors self-identify as conservative."

"NYT Hires Racist for Editorial Board"

From Patterico. "P.S. Kevin Williamson and Roseanne Barr, don’t get too excited. A different standard applies here." (For the record, Williamson is fine with it.)

This isn't a particularly important story. I'm just posting it because one of her trolling posts reads:
I dare you to get on Wikipedia and play "Things white people can definitely take credit for," it's really hard.

— professional twiter name (@sarahjeong) November 25, 2015
It's really not hard.


Other statements she made are not at all racist, but still pretty nasty. Of course, it's all protected free speech. And it's good to know whose side someone is on. We could hardly wish for more transparency.

Catechism Declares Death Penalty Morally Forbidden

I'm pretty sure that I don't agree with this decision, or the chain of logic behind it. As the article spells out, it's a long evolution for the Church (which has in the past practiced the death penalty itself). Previous Popes have all participated in the motion. It wasn't done quickly or without thought.

All the same, it strikes me as philosophically disordered, and unsupportable from revelation as well. It cannot be a violation of the dignity of the living to die in this metaphysical system, as the God who made all of the living built death into the experience as an unavoidable aspect of that life. Nor does it seem reasonable, in a faith whose scripture teaches that 'the wages of sin is death,' to refuse to pay the wage to someone who has shown a certain commitment to the sin. A workman, after all, is worthy of his hire.

Forgiveness of the soul is important, crucial, perhaps the greatest and hardest and key teaching of Jesus. But the body dies, and so necessarily that natural theology cannot reasonably be read as otherwise than suggesting that it is God's will that it should die. It is freedom, not life, that is the dignity that needs to be most carefully preserved. To preserve life instead of freedom, and indeed at the consequence of lifelong imprisonment and unfreedom, strikes me as a fundamental moral error. To give them the wage they chose to seek is to respect their freedom; to refuse them their wage, and instead imprison them for decades in conditions far more restrictive of liberty than even slavery is the true violation of their dignity.

I suppose I am in danger of falling into heresy. What remains to be decided, by me, is if I will to be.

Seizing Property without Consent or Compensation

Over in South Africa, there's a move on by the ANC to change their constitution to allow them to just take what they want. South Africa might be thought to have a particularly difficult history that explains this otherwise radical policy.

On the other hand, in Georgia, one of the two candidates for governor agrees with the general idea. She sponsored a bill to require the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to "seize and destroy" broad classes of privately-owned firearms. The bill did not suggest that any of these arms would be paid for; just taken, and destroyed. Both actions are said to be justified because they are 'in the public interest.'

Georgia might also be said to have a 'particularly difficult history that explains an otherwise radical policy.' The same candidate has called for the destruction of the monument carved into Stone Mountain, although in calmer moments she has also endorsed better, wiser ideas for dealing with the monument and the history of the site. (The idea was popular enough that a comedian's fake Facebook event to 'Witness the Implosion of Stone Mountain' was floating around for a while. Lest people think this is a simple proxy for race, a whole bunch of people I know -- all of them white liberals -- were enthusiastic about this event, which is how it came across my page.)

On the other hand, I've been listening to all the talk about America from the Left that's been going on these last few years. I'm wondering if there's any place in America, or the West, that they don't think of as having a 'particularly difficult history' that justifies radical policies. And it occurs to me that it's easier to effect all the most radical ones after you've effected the seizure and destruction of the people's arms.

Real ID

Georgia started doing this a few years ago, but I had bought an 8 year driver's license and wasn't minded to go back before it was necessary. My next one will be a Real ID, though. I just applied for it last week. It's actually no more painful to get than the standard ID, which required nearly as much documentation. In North Carolina, which offers both a Real ID and a non-Real driver's license option, it's just as onerous to obtain the one as the other. You might as well get the Real one, if you're eligible for it.

Confirmed: Twitter Social Psychologists Solidly Anti-Trump

Per our discussion of the other day, it was always very likely that this would occur simply because less than four percent of social psychologists are socially conservative. But they picked some outspoken ones, just to be sure.

Good to Know

BB Headline: "Ginsburg: ‘I Am Mentally Fit Enough To Serve Through The End Of President Eisenhower’s Term.'"

The Wisdom/Madness of Crowds

Another Maggie's Farm link this morning:  An interview with Peter Thiel, whom I don't think I'd heard of before.  Very interesting fellow, a gay tech venture capitalist from the Silicon Valley who supports President Trump.  He talks about a number of pendulum-swings, such as the initial benefits of centralized networking followed by the drawbacks of congestion, and the need to avoid both closets and ghettos in identity politics.

Seems only fair

If a society chooses simultaneously to refuse to look at individuals as individuals, and to adopt absurd notions about whether traditional groupings of individuals are based in reality or empty convention, what's a guy to do when he finds his insurance company wants to charge him more for auto coverage than it would charge a woman?

The story reminds me of the old Jeff Foxworthy routine about answering the door to a sheriff's deputy who wants to arrest him if he can't pay some outstanding tickets.  He protests he's broke.  The deputy asks if he can write a  check.  "No, I can't write a--wait, hold on.  A check?  Well, heck, yeah, I can write you a check.  I thought you wanted money."


We're watching President Trump address cheering crowds in Florida.  After describing triumph after triumph, including unheard-of employment rates among blacks, latinos, etc., he just remarked that people are always frowning and telling him he's not acting presidential.  He says he tells them, "It's a lot easier to act presidential than to do what I'm doing."

Finland Closes the Book on UBI

An experiment with giving everyone a basic income produces unsurprising results.
Before the experiment was approved by the government in 2016, KELA officials talked of paying 800 euros ($974) a month in unconditional income to a test group of working-age citizens. But by the time the program began early last year, the amount was whittled down to 560 euros: If extended to the whole country, the cost of the earlier proposal would have exceeded the Finnish government’s entire revenue....

It’s all but impossible to live on 560 euros in Finland.
So the proposed solution, of course, is a huge tax increase to cover an even more expensive program.
In a report on the future of work released earlier this month, the World Bank recommended the much more ambitious goal of considering UBI as a means of ensuring a “societal minimum” of welfare in a world of increasingly precarious employment and growing automation. If a society is to accept much higher taxes to pay for a basic income plan, it has to be for a revolutionary outcome, not a mere bump in employment numbers and a dent in the cost of social security administration.
'All the trials failed, so let's really commit to this approach' is not as inspiring as the authors seem to imagine.

A Call for Open Borders in USA Today

The Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 was apparently not expected to have a big effect on actual outcomes in terms of who immigrated to America, but instead it proved to be a sea change that has rapidly altered the population since. For that reason, I'm doubtful of this author's claim that open borders would not lead to much change in our culture or values. I'm even more doubtful given this argument:
Even if values and culture change, so what? That happens in free societies. Who says America’s current values — some of them deeply evil — are the right ones?
"So what?" is bad enough, for those of us who think that there's something about the American way that is worth preserving. Indifference to such a heritage ought to be morally shocking, as much as a wastrel inheritor of a mere physical fortune who wastes the product of his ancestors' long labors without concern. Yes, such indifference should be shocking.

But then comes the naked assertion that our values are "deeply evil." That reveals the true motive, which is not in fact indifferent at all.

The War for Medieval Studies

Medieval Studies is the critical study of Europe’s self-identity. No understanding of the West is possible without it. Left-wing academics want to introduce the field to gender studies and race theory. When one Chicago professor publicly celebrated the Christian identity of the Middle Ages, she was branded a ‘violent fascist’ and ‘white supremacist’ — by other medievalists. Now Medieval Studies scholars are tearing their own discipline apart with witch-hunts, name-calling, boycotts and intimidation.
You may have concerns about the author of this piece, but his subject is another matter.
WHY I study the Middle Ages: JOY

Because I believe, with J.R.R. Tolkien, that, as creatures made in the image and likeness of a Maker, we are called by our Creator to participate as subcreators in the continuing work of creation and to be moved thereby to praise and thanks for the creation of which we are a part.

Because I believe in chivalry, science, romantic love, education in the liberal arts, the separation between Church and state, representative government, craftsmanship, markets, cities, written contracts, self-examination, self-improvement, self-defense, private property, the value of the individual, the dignity of merchants and laborers, and in caring for widows and orphans, the poor, the weak, the sick, for animals, and the natural world.
That's an impressive statement, and one that speaks of clarity of perception and thought. Clarity, also, of purpose. It is most admirable.


I'm always interested in self-defeating arguments:
Steyer, Democratic aides concede, appears to be the furthest along among the group [testing the early waters for a presidential run in 2020], with an email list that aides say now is more than 5.4 million strong, a digital-heavy focus to his operations, a layer of staff to help coordina[t]e his two main operational arms (the Need to Impeach campaign and the climate organization NextGen), and plans to use the August recess to continue barnstorming the country with town hall appearances. His message of impeachment has also placed him at the vanguard of the party’s anti-Trump fervor. But even associates are not sold on that as the best messaging construct.
“The ability to build a grassroots network around that issue is not insignificant,” said Joel Benenson, a chief strategist for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns. “The question is can you build a durable presidential campaign on impeaching the incumbent. Keep in mind if that’s part of your campaign it is an implicit acknowledgement that the incumbent is going to win.”

Welsh Knight Geraint Wins Tour de France

Geraint Thomas, MBE, has won the Tour de France.

Tolkien as Translator

The Medieval Roots of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms

If you have been a longtime reader of Grim's Hall, there is probably little here that you haven't heard before, excepting one or two historical sources I don't think I've cited. Well, that, and the ending call for a 'more viable strategy for gun control,' which is not among the desiderata of this author.

Some of us still see an armed society as a positive good. Some us still agree that arms are "the only true badges of liberty." In this as in many things, though not everything, our ancestors were right.

RBG is Probably Correct

There's been a lot of laughter about Justice Ginsburg's claim that she thinks she has 'at least five more years' to spend as she chooses. People should stop laughing. The actuaries are on her side. Her probability of dying this year is only seven percent, and her life expectancy is nearly seven years.

Once you make it to 85, the odds of reaching 90 aren't bad. They're better if you're female.

Hate Speech and Academics

I wonder if there's any possibility that this approach to 'hate speech' won't end up painting right-wing speech as more or less essentially hateful, while left-wing speech has to go as far as actually calling for people's murder to qualify? In theory the academics tapped to do this could come up with principles that apply evenly across the board. In practice, social psychology is well-known (thanks especially to the work of Jonathan Haidt) for having a bias against Republicans and conservatives that is by far the most prominent on social issues.
In the first survey, they repeated a more detailed version of Haidt’s query: How did the participants self-identify politically? The question, however, was asked separately regarding social, economic, and foreign-policy issues. Haidt, they found, was both wrong and right. Yes, the vast majority of respondents reported themselves to be liberal in all three areas. But the percentages varied. Regarding economic affairs, approximately nineteen per cent called themselves moderates, and eighteen per cent, conservative. On foreign policy, just over twenty-one per cent were moderate, and ten per cent, conservative. It was only on the social-issues scale that the numbers reflected Haidt’s fears: more than ninety per cent reported themselves to be liberal, and just under four per cent, conservative....

Over all, close to nineteen per cent reported that they would have a bias against a conservative-leaning paper; twenty-four per cent, against a conservative-leaning grant application; fourteen per cent, against inviting a conservative to a symposium; and thirty-seven and a half per cent, against choosing a conservative as a future colleague. They persisted in saying that no discrimination existed, yet their theoretical behaviors belied that idealized reality.
I suppose Twitter could recruit heavily from the less-than-four-percent of conservative social psychologists. Could, rather than is likely to do so. The skeptic in me suspects this is largely an attempt to give an academic whitewash to what is really a wholehearted attempt to suppress conservative speech and ideas in political discourse.

Decisions Great and Terrible

On "white people."

Ranking Psychopaths

If claims to expertise in economics and politics are dubious, as the last post discusses, the field of psychology has a witch-doctor quality all its own. In this case, it's even worse than usual: this is an economist writing on psychology! That said, the headline finding is plausible: "Washington, DC: The Psychopath Capital of America."
Ryan Murphy, an economist at Southern Methodist University, recently published a working paper in which he ranked each of the states by the predominance of—there’s no nice way to put it—psychopaths. The winner? Washington in a walk. In fact, the capital scored higher on Murphy’s scale than the next two runners-up combined.

“I had previously written on politicians and psychopathy, but I had no expectation D.C. would stand out as much as it does,” Murphy wrote in an email.
The whole piece is a festival of confirmation bias for me, so I'm disinclined to credit it as a piece of true knowledge. (What an odd thing to say: "I'm disinclined to believe it because I already believe it." But there we are.)

Wrong Question

Walter E. Williams asks "Can we trust experts?" That question is not the right question to ask in the current circumstances. It's premature, because two other questions need to be answered first.

1) Is expertise in this area possible?

2) If it is, how would we know who the experts are?

Both of these are old problems. The first one is Socrates' problem. The second one is the one that concerned Plato in his later political writings, starting with The Republic but also The Laws.

There are fields in which expertise is demonstrably possible. In ancient Greece, this kind of expertise was called techne -- the root of our word for 'technology.' It is a kind of craft knowledge, an ability to attain particular purposes. What Socrates wanted to know is whether those who claimed knowledge of things like the virtues could demonstrate their knowledge in the same way as shoemakers or shipwrights. It turns out that there isn't a clean break:
Still, by including commanding knowledge, the Visitor has left a middle ground between the purely theoretical and the practical. Certainly architecture is not practical since it does not directly produce anything, in the way carpentry does. However, it does give commands, whose effects are practical; thus, it is not for knowledge only, in the way in which calculation is for knowledge only. Insofar as architecture is an analogue for the political craft, the Visitor seems to be exploiting this middle ground[.]
Economics and politics would both like to think of themselves as possessing a kind of 'commanding knowledge,' akin to architecture. It is not clear that they do have this capacity, however, and we should insist that economists and politicians demonstrate a capacity for such knowledge before ceding to them any powers. We should certainly be ready to snatch away power from any of these so-called experts who prove to be incapable.

Even if that can be done, it still leaves the second problem. Let's say that economic expertise is possible, and that some small number of people really have it. How would I know who they are, if I don't have it myself? I can't judge directly because I lack the knowledge that I would need in order to recognize that they possessed it. I could trust the opinions of others who had the knowledge, but I have the same problem with identifying them. You are likely to end up exactly where we are, i.e., with a large class of mutually-reinforcing "experts" who affirm each other's claims to knowledge, but who really just agree with each other. If they're wrong, they are likely all wrong. Anyone they point to as another of their class is likely to be wrong too.

You might be able to judge from pragmatic experience, but that would require putting people in charge without being sure of their expertise (and, indeed, in spite of being told by all the experts that they were mad, fools, and the like). If they managed to produce good outcomes reliably over time, you could judge that they knew what they were doing.

I think we may be in the middle of such an experiment right now. It's a dangerous thing to do, but it may be the only way to discover expertise in the face of an established class of mutually-reinforcing pretenders to knowledge.

“On Convincing Sane People to eat Norse Food”

A friend who does SCA stuff sent me this article, which is somewhat amusing and has recipes. It also has links to many other useful resources on Viking-era food.

Making it a Priority

A new task force is established to ensure the Federal government gets right with religious liberty.
In contrast to the previous administration, which did not value religious liberty either at home or abroad, the Trump administration’s action should encourage all people of faith and belief systems. This particular emphasis and open commitment shows that religious freedom is a priority to the president. Everyone should appreciate that Trump and key Cabinet leaders are taking action to protect religious freedom.

As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at the religious freedom ministerial last week, “The United States advances religious freedom in our foreign policy because it is not exclusively an American right. It is a God-given universal right bestowed on all of mankind.”


Mike Rowe on education and employment:
We've become slowly and inexorably and profoundly disconnected from a lot of very basic things that, when I grew up, I was really connected to – like where my food comes from, where my energy comes from, basic history, basic curiosity, you know?...
If we're not blown away by the miracle that occurs when we flick the switch and the lights come on; if we're not gobsmacked by flushing the toilet and seeing all of it go away; when we start losing our appreciation for those things, the gap deepens. And I think the gap right now is extraordinary.
There [are] 6.3 million jobs that are available as we speak. We have 75% of those jobs that don't require a four-year degree and yet we're still pushing the four-year degree as the best path for the most people, and it just happens to be the most expensive path. And a lot of people ... have enough common sense to realize that $1.5 trillion in outstanding student loans is a version of lending money we don't have to kids who can't pay it back to train for jobs that don't exist anymore, and that's crazy.