Archive for March, 2016
So, as I am devoting all my energy and time to finishing the first draft of another book, I have been following – with lashings of sorrow, pity, dread and the merest splash of schadenfreude – developments in Europe. Germany, which seems to be cracking under the weight of a full load of so-called refugees, Sweden, ditto, Brussels, where the concerned citizens appear to be too frightened to continue with a protest march against fear, and the governing authorities appear to be more concerned about the legendary anti-Muslim backlash than the certainty of Islamic terror unleashed in some European or English city. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 30th March 2016 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
California has now decided to impose a a $15 per hour minimum wage on its remaining business economy.
Denial of consequences is an important part of left wing philosophy.
“California’s proposal would be the highest minimum wage we have seen in the United States, and because of California’s sheer size, it would cover the largest number of workers,” said Ken Jacobs, chairman of the UC Berkeley center. “This is a very big deal for low-wage workers in California, for their families and for their children.”
Implicit in all the assumptions is the belief that employers will not adjust by reducing the number of minimum wage employees they have.
The UC Berkeley estimate also includes some who earn slightly more than the lowest wage and stand to benefit from a ripple effect as businesses dole out raises to try to maintain a pay scale based on experience, Jacobs said.
If Brown’s plan passes, 5.6 million low-wage workers would earn $20 billion more in wages by 2023, according to the UC Berkeley analysis. It assumed no net jobs would be lost as businesses look to trim costs.
The experience in other places has not been positive.
Even a former chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, Alan Krueger, has cautioned recently that “a $15-an-hour national minimum wage would put us in uncharted waters, and risk undesirable and unintended consequences.”
Posted by Trent Telenko on 30th March 2016 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
…what could go wrong?
That sounds like the plot line from a Broadway musical comedy, yet it’s happening. See this this text clipped from THE HILL column “Trump angst pours in from overseas” about the details.
Lobbyists in Washington say they are being flooded with questions and concerns from foreign governments about the rise of Donald Trump
Officials around the globe are closely following the U.S. presidential race, to the point where some have asked their American lobbyists to explain, in great detail, what a contested GOP convention would look like.
The questions about Trump are “almost all-consuming,” said Richard Mintz, the managing director of Washington-based firm The Harbour Group, whose client list includes the governments of Georgia and the United Arab Emirates.
After a recent trip to London, Abu Dhabi and Beijing, “it’s fair to say that all anyone wants to talk about is the U.S. presidential election,” Mintz added. “People are confused and perplexed.”
The Hill conducted interviews with more than a half-dozen lobbyists, many of whom said they are grappling with how to explain Trump and his unusual foreign policy views to clients who have a lot riding on their relationship with the United States.
The comic possibilities in those sorts of miscommunications are better than THE PRODUCERS improbably successful money scam play “Springtime for Hitler.”
Non-originalists communicate in two different discourses.
One discourse is the mode of truth: it is the mode they reserve for their sophisticated clients and legal briefs, for their colleagues and students. In this discourse, non-originalists critique originalism as …
1. Wrongheaded or false because the Constitution is not prolix, it is only an outline, and the gaps must be filled in by each generation;
2. Wrongheaded because the Framers’ and Ratifiers’ intent is not discoverable;
3. Wrongheaded because different Framers’ and Ratifiers’ intent, although discoverable, was not unified;
4. Wrongheaded because original public meaning is not (now) discoverable (e.g., the Constitution is too old);
5. Wrongheaded because during the framing era and during ratification there were a multiplicity of original public meanings;
6. Wrongheaded because judicial rulings and precedent are the superior means through which to determine the meaning of the Constitution;
7. Wrongheaded because judges, academic lawyers, and lawyers are not good historians;
8. Wrongheaded because the Framing-era and ratification lacked democratic bona fidés by modern standards;
9. Wrongheaded because we should not be ruled by the moral norms or the dead hand of the past; and,
10. Wrongheaded because originalism gets the wrong (e.g., conservative or libertarian) results.
The problem is that non-originalists have an entirely different discourse, a second discourse, when they communicate with the public. When non-originalists communicate with the public … non-originalists transform themselves and their discourse into naked, unabashed originalism. It is really quite astounding.
Lexington Green adds:
You are restrained in your condemnation of this despicable dishonesty.
The public has very little understanding of law, the Constitution, the legal system, lawyers, courts or anything else that people like us think about all day long.
There is nonetheless a vague, inchoate sense that there something called a constitution, and it is in writing, and most people who think they know anything about it mistakenly believe that it says that all men are created equal, and that it protects our rights, whatever those happen to be, and that the government has to do what The Constitution says.
If you were to tell these people, well, actually, we law professors and judges and lawyers have figured out that you don’t actually have to do what the Constitution says, because … it won’t matter what the “because” is. The typical American will respond with something along the lines of “are you fucking kidding me?”
My seat of the pants guess is that between between 1% and 5% of the people in this country have any idea what has been going on with the U.S. Constitution in the courts in the last 50 years.
These guys are being smart not publicizing the reality. If Joe and Jane American voter knew what was going on they would cut the funding for these people.
Read the whole thing.
(See also this post by Lex from 2008.)
After 240 years of relative quiescence, at 4:53 PM local time on Tuesday 12 January 2010 the Enriquillo fault system ruptured near 18°27’ N, 72°32’ W in an M 7.0 earthquake, followed by numerous aftershocks, mostly westward of the mainshock hypocenter. Institutional functionality, or the lack thereof, in Haiti prior to the earthquake was such that there was no local seismometer network in place, so nuances of slip in the 2010 earthquake involving several associated faults have had to be inferred from kinematic models.
The Enriquillo fault itself forms the boundary between the Gonâve Microplate and the Caribbean Plate, but seismic activity along it is driven by collision with, and subduction of, the North American Plate. The entire fault system may have begun a new cycle of large earthquakes similar to those of the 18th century, in which case there will be several more such events with significant effects in Haiti and the Dominican Republic through, very roughly, 2080.
Around half the entire US population donated money for Haitian earthquake relief in 2010. I may not have been among them, but as initially recounted in this forum in April of 2011, I was drawn into restoration work in a computer lab and fixed-wireless network in Petit-Goâve, and have subsequently assisted in similar efforts in Musac (Mizak), La Vallée-de-Jacmel. Paging through the visa section of my passport, I now find an astonishing number of red ENTRÉE and blue SORTIE stamps from the Ministere de l’Interieur et des Collectivites Territoriales / Direction de l’Immigration. My God, I’ve been down there 16 times. What was I thinking?
Something like this …
Posted in Americas, Book Notes, Christianity, Civil Society, Culture, Current Events, Ebola, Elections, History, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Latin America, Personal Narrative, Politics, Predictions, Religion, Society, Systems Analysis, USA | 4 Comments »
Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 26th March 2016 (All posts by Michael Hiteshew)
I believe in the evolution of life, I think there’s lots of fossil evidence for it and none for a single-point-of-time creation of mankind. I also believe in the evolution of the universe for the same reason. 14.5 billion years ago the universe came into existence as a hot plasma, from which galaxies, stars and planets condensed. How simple and straightforward is that?
It could hardly be more complex. Starting with the universe, no one can explain from where the universe came or into what it is expanding. In other words, we can say “The following things have happened and here’s the evidence”. And that’s fine, I accept the evolutionary description. What’s missing is how a universe of material was born from a point in nowhere. No one wants to talk about that and will cry “No fair!” if you try to discuss it. It is unanswerable, apparently. How does one discuss what happened or even what existed in a time before time existed? And no one wants to think about the consequences of that violating every principle of what we call science and physics. It’s too uncomfortable to confront.
Biologists will tell you life is easy to create. It seems to have existed on Earth within a few hundred million years of its formation. Provide a suitable habitat that’s warm and stable, wet with water or suitable liquid, add energy and a few raw materials like carbon and hydrogen, and bingo! you get life. We’ve been trying that for 50 years and can’t get that experiment to work. We get complex chemicals forming similar to the ones we see in life forms, but nothing that’s alive.
Something fundamental bothers me about all this. Why? There’s no answer to that question. It’s the question we seem to be asking from the moment we’re born, children ask it endlessly. Why should a universe pop into existence out of nothing? Why should life exist in it? What is the purpose of either? For all of our ability to describe what happened, we cannot answer the why of it. How could something like life come into existence from inanimate matter unless it was designed to do so? Carl Sagan famously quipped, “If you want to make an apple pie, first you must create the universe.” That’s very profound in its way. The simplest things, like a pie, require the inexplicable to have occurred, and on a scale beyond human comprehension.
In the end, it seems, I have no answers, only questions. But I reject the notion that all of this is meaningless. A universe does not exist for no reason. Life does not exist for nothing. It all exists for us to learn, to experience it. It’s where our souls grow up. It’s where our spirit evolves. That’s what I think.
Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 26th March 2016 (All posts by Michael Hiteshew)
From Real Clear Politics:
Assuming the above is reasonably accurate, the country has definitely moved Left in its preference for presidents. It’s interesting that Kasich does best as the Republican nominee and Sanders does best as the Democrat nominee. That may be the indoctrination effects of the MSM and the schools showing itself, especially as more young people indoctrinated their entire lives mature to voting age. It’s also possible it may reflect the poor state of the economy and more people looking to government for assistance.
Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 26th March 2016 (All posts by Michael Hiteshew)
Photography tutorials, understanding your camera and what those dials, buttons and menus actually do, it’s a virtual photography course:
Years ago, when I bought my first inexpensive film SLR, I bought a book on basic photography which helped me immensely. Just learning the basics on framing a photo, controlling and using depth of field and exposure speeds changed the quality of my photos dramatically. Like anything, getting a few fundamentals correct makes all the difference.
Next, your camera came with image editing software. Learn to use it. Ansel Adams did most of his work in the dark room. What took him hours or days you can do in minutes with software. Simple things like cropping your photos for greater effect, white balancing and enhancing brightness or contrast can take a dull photo and create something beautiful.
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 24th March 2016 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
I have previously posted about Venter’s work with synthetic organisms.
While I was digesting this new material, Craig Venter was making the Gene VII book obsolete. He set up a new company to compete with the Human Genome Project The result is well described in The Genome War by James Shreeve who was given access to Venter but less to the government funded project. This year, Venter’s autobiography was published and his plans for the future are described.
The links are at the original article which is from 2007.
Now, his group has progressed to a synthetic bacterium.
Using the first synthetic cell, Mycoplasma mycoides JCVI-syn1.0 (created by this same team in 2010), JCVI-syn3.0 was developed through a design, build, and test process using genes from JCVI-syn1.0. The new minimal synthetic cell contains 531,560 base pairs and just 473 genes, making it the smallest genome of any organism that can be grown in laboratory media. Of these genes 149 are of unknown biological function. By comparison the first synthetic cell, M. mycoides JCVI-syn1.0 has 1.08 million base pairs and 901 genes.
A paper describing this research is being published in the March 25th print version of the journal Science by lead authors Clyde A. Hutchison, III, Ph.D. and Ray-Yuan Chuang, Ph.D., senior author J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., and senior team of Hamilton O. Smith, MD, Daniel G. Gibson, Ph.D., and John I. Glass, Ph.D.
This is huge news and will take years to develop.
The most surprising result of their work—and perhaps the most sobering one for the rest of the field: The team still doesn’t understand what 31 percent of the essential genes do in even the simplest organism, to say nothing of a human genome. It’s a development Venter called “very humbling.”
“We are probably at the 1 percent level in understanding the human genome,” said Clyde Hutchison III, a distinguished professor at the Venter Institute.
That lack of knowledge isn’t standing in the way of entrepreneurs. Biology has been “hot and heavy” since the development of a molecular tool that makes gene editing easy, Hutchison explained. Scientists might be able to remove disease-causing genes or even determine a baby’s eye color. This technology, known as CRISPR/Cas-9, has alarmed many inside and outside the research community, who fear it may be used on the human genome before its effects are understood, with unforeseen results.
If he does another public seminar, I hope my friend Bradley can get me a ticket. I am now reading Lewin’s Genes XI, although he seems to be no longer the editor.
I hope I can wade through it. Sometimes, as knowledge progresses, it becomes simpler. I hope so.
“These cells would be a very, very useful chassis for many industrial applications, from medicine to biochemicals, biofuels, nutrition, and agriculture,” said Dan Gibson, a top scientist at both Venter’s research institute and his company, Synthetic Genomics Inc. Ultimately, the group wants to understand the tiny genetic framework well enough to use it as a biological foundation for more complex organisms that could address many of the world’s ills. Once each essential gene’s function is identified, scientists can build an effective computer model of it; from there, they can simulate how best to go about “adding pathways for the production of useful products,” they wrote.
I will be following this story closely, if I can only understand it.
“Part II: The Appointments Clause Imposes No Duty on the President To Nominate Supreme Court Justices, Other Article III Judges, and/or Executive Branch Officers. The Appointments Clause Imposes No Duty on the Senate To Confirm Candidates.”
It depends on what the meaning of the word shall is, says Seth Barrett Tillman:
Now the people who have opined that President and/or Senate have a constitutional duty (per the Appointments Clause) to nominate a successor to AS are distinguished commentators, whose opinions deserve fair consideration. However, there are people who have taken the opposite position. These include, for example, Professors Lawson and Seidman, Adam J. White, a well-published D.C. practitioner, and Daniel Koffsky, a senior Department of Justice attorney. See, e.g., Gary Lawson & Guy Seidman, Downsizing the Right to Petition, 93 Nw. U. L. Rev. 739, 762 n.123 (1999) (“[T]he Appointments Clause is best read as a grant of power rather than an affirmative duty.”); Adam J. White, Toward the Framers’ Understanding of “Advice and Consent”: A Historical and Textual Inquiry, 29 Harv. J.L. & Pub. Pol’y 103, 147 n.235 (2005) (“[T]he President is under no duty to nominate someone to fill a vacant office—despite the Constitution’s instruction that he ‘shall’ so nominate . . . .”); cf., e.g., Appointment of a Senate-Confirmed Nominee, Op. Off. Legal Counsel 232, 232 (Oct. 12, 1999) (Koffsky, Acting Deputy Asst. Att’y Gen.) (“The Constitution thus calls for three steps before a presidential appointment is complete: first, the President’s submission of a nomination to the Senate; second, the Senate’s advice and consent; third, the President’s appointment of the officer, evidenced by the signing of the commission. All three of these steps are discretionary.”), http://tinyurl.com/gljnnv8. These people are also distinguished commentators, whose opinions deserve fair consideration.
Here we are faced with what are essentially conflicting intuitions in regard to the original public meaning of an 18th century text. Both sides cannot be correct. What to do? We should look for evidence, and fortunately, some good evidence is at hand.
Read the whole thing.
Posted by Trent Telenko on 24th March 2016 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
Today in Europe, in the aftermath of the Brussels terrorist attacks, a dark truth stands reveled about the nature of the Belgian state. Belgium is a failed state at the heart of Europe…and much of the rest of Europe is following.
Belgium quite literally lacks the military means to enforce the sovereignty of the Belgian state in the Muslim neighborhood of Molenbeek in Brussels, the Belgian Capitol.
The following is via John R. Schindler of The UK Observer:
We should expect more guerrilla-like attacks like Brussels yesterday: moderate in scale, relatively easy to plan and execute against soft targets, and utterly terrifying to the public. At some point, angry Europeans, fed up with their supine politi1cal class, will begin to strike back, and that’s when the really terrifying scenarios come into play. European security services worry deeply about the next Anders Breivik targeting not fellow Europeans, but Muslim migrants. “We’re just one Baruch Goldstein away from all-out war,” explained a senior EU terrorism official, citing the American-born Israeli terrorist, fed up with Palestinian violence, who walked into a Hebron mosque in 1994, guns blazing, and murdered 29 innocent Muslims.
When that violence comes, a practically disarmed Europe will be all but powerless to stop it. To take the case of Belgium, at the Cold War’s end a generation ago, its army had seven brigades with 18 infantry battalions, plus some 30 more battalions in the reserve. Today, Belgium’s army has only two brigades and six infantry battalions, some 3,000 bayonets in all. That tiny force would have trouble exerting control over even one bumptious Brussels neighborhood in the event of serious crisis.
Thanks to Belgium’s sovereignty collapse, Europe is now in the throws of an emerging decade plus Muslim insurgency spreading from Brussels…
…while E.U. Security Forces supporting the Belgians are more concerned with repressing local predominantly white citizens from striking back at terrorist inclined Muslim migrants than dealing with the Muslim problem to begin with.
And it gets worse, with hundreds if not thousands of trained terrorists arriving with the multi-million person Muslim Migrant wave that German Prime Minister Frau Merkel kicked off in 2015. The EU faces a situation where it will see a ‘major’ (Charles Hebdo, Paris, Brussels class) EU terrorist incident every 60 to 180 days for the foreseeable future. This leaves aside the worse than American urban ghetto crime and sexual assault rates these illegal Muslim migrants are now inflicting on EU citizens.
NB: The EU is now no longer tourist friendly, with all the economic fall out that means.
The political corruption — and ethnic tensions between the Dutch speaking Flems and French speaking Walloons — that dominates the Belgian state make it impossible to remedy the Muslim insurgency there.
Nothing short of Belgian territorial partition between France and Germany can bring effective enough military governance to end the Muslim Insurgency in Brussels.
Given that awful reality, Donald Trump’s idea of reducing America’s role in NATO (Or perhaps even getting out of NATO all together?) is the best thing the USA can do.
Both Vietnam’s and Shia Iraq’s lessons for America’s citizens are that it is a futile waste of American lives and treasure to try and protect people who don’t have either the will nor the means to protect themselves.
Having long been intrigued by lighter-than-air craft (see earlier post on this topic), I picked up a copy of Dr. Eckener’s Dream Machine…Dr Hugo Eckener being the head of the Zeppelin company for many years, and a man who contributed much to the transient success of this transportation mode. Also, I thought the book would be a pleasant vacation from politics. However, that was not to be…
Sycophants, satellites, holobionts, camp followers, groupies, collaborators, stalkers, uncommitted delegates, and newsletter subscribers are invited to check your privilege and join me and a few others in a series of environments where you can be without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome or challenged on account of biological sex, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, cultural background, age, or physical or mental ability. Well, OK, maybe not all of those, but age, certainly, and physical/mental ability after stuffing yourself with pizza and ingesting ethanol, will have protected status. Join for any or all of the following itinerary. For IFF purposes, I’ll wear something distinctive (ie, not maroon-and-white), which will be announced in this forum by late Friday the 8th.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Grurray on 23rd March 2016 (All posts by Grurray)
From some recent readings on the Vietnam War
A bitter little story made the rounds during the closing days of the Vietnam war:
When the Nixon Administration took over in 1969 all the data on North Vietnam and on the United States was fed into a Pentagon computer – population, gross national product, manufacturing capability, number of tanks, ships, and aircraft, size of the armed forces, and the like.
The computer was then asked When will we win?
It took only a moment to give the answer: ‘You won in 1964!’
Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 22nd March 2016 (All posts by Michael Hiteshew)
I generally like storms. They’re interesting and exciting. That said, I’ve been in a few that were downright scary and I’ve been very close to a few lightning strikes. This is impressive to me, along with the sheer beauty of it.
I remember merging off of I-84 West onto I-81 South about ten years ago in a thunderstorm. It was late in the day and as the sun slipped below the level of the storm clouds sunlight fell on a hillside of grass. The rain was still falling and the entire hillside burst into a display of light as the droplets on the blades of grass glittered and shimmered in the light wind with a billion sparkles of light from every color of the spectrum. I had to keep forcing my eyes back on the road it was such a spectacular display of light.
Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 22nd March 2016 (All posts by Michael Hiteshew)
Video Published on Jul 18, 2014
I just picked up a link to this today and thought it was impressive. A muslim girl showed up at a Heritage Foundation discussion on the Benghazi attack to put on a ‘Poor me! What about us moderate muslims?’ act. Not to condemn what jihadis had done, not to pledge her support to fight against them, not to say how she is organizing peaceful muslims to combat terrorism in the United States. No, of course not. She owes the West and the United States nothing, least of all defense. She showed up to play the victim card, or was possibly sent there as part of a strategy to use political correctness as a weapon to encourage Western weakness in the face of violent islam. Either way, Brigitte Gabriel was having none of it. She gave her a piece of her mind and made some excellent points along the way. If more people were this clear headed we’d have a lot fewer problems in the world.
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 21st March 2016 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
News from the front today. First, Glenn Reynolds explains where Trump came from.
The thing is, we had that movement. It was the Tea Party movement. Unlike Brooks, I actually ventured out to “intermingle” with Tea Partiers at various events that I covered for PJTV.com, contributing commentary to the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Examiner. As I reported from one event in Nashville, “Pundits claim the tea partiers are angry — and they are — but the most striking thing about the atmosphere in Nashville was how cheerful everyone seemed to be. I spoke with dozens of people, and the responses were surprisingly similar. Hardly any had ever been involved in politics before. Having gotten started, they were finding it to be not just worthwhile, but actually fun. Laughter rang out frequently, and when new-media mogul Andrew Breitbart held forth on a TV interview, a crowd gathered and broke into spontaneous applause. A year ago (2009), many told me, they were depressed about the future of America. Watching television pundits talk about President Obama’s transformative plans for big government, they felt alone, isolated and helpless.
Now, we have Act Two. Will Hillary’s “Thin Blue Line of rust belt states hold ?
Lt William Vereker, on a routine patrol from the British camp at Isandlwana looked down into the Ngwebeni valley to find it boiling with the hitherto unseen main Zulu Army of 20,000 men.
As in 1879 the political scouts are rushing back to inform the camp of the unanticipated development. Shocked but still undaunted, the pundits remain confident that the threat can be stopped by the Democrat “Blue Wall” in the industrial and upper Midwest. There, media artillery and the technologically superior liberal ground game are expected to hold the line against the angry white voter.
Read the rest, as Glenn says.
Now, we have the horrified GOPe. To Peter Wehner, Trump is the scary black face in the forest.
It is stunning to contemplate, particularly for those of us who are lifelong Republicans, but we now live in a time when the organizing principle that runs through the campaign of the Republican Party’s likely nominee isn’t adherence to a political philosophy — Mr. Trump has no discernible political philosophy — but an encouragement to political violence.
Mr. Trump’s supporters will dismiss this as hyperbole, but it is the only reasonable conclusion that his vivid, undisguised words allow for. As the examples pile up, we should not become inured to them. “I’d like to punch him in the face,” Mr. Trump said about a protester in Nevada. (“In the old days,” Mr. Trump fondly recalled, protesters would be “carried out in a stretcher.”)
OMG! What happened to “hit back twice as hard!” or “Bring a gun to a knife fight?” Rudeness will not be tolerated in the GOPe.
Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 20th March 2016 (All posts by Michael Hiteshew)
“There’s a difference between the West and the Non-West”
Mr Hanson demonstrates not just what we owe to the Greeks, but how many of the issues they struggled with we still struggle with today: how to look at and understand the world, immigration and assimilation, voting rights, poverty and income equality, social justice, socialism and egalitarianism, and the role and rights of women in society.
Just from the opening:
“Places like India and China are becoming much more like us, if I can use that controversial term, than we are like them. And in our period here at home the irony of all this change, as it expands from the center, I think at the same time there’s never been a period in the West when people who are Western have so little confidence in what they have to offer the world. At the very time that India and China and South Korea and Latin America are embracing Western civilization, we in the West are questioning it. So much so that we created this alternative protocol called Multiculturalism. It sounds great, study all cultures. Two things to remember about it. The Greeks started Multiculturalism with people like Xenophon and Herodotus that were inquisitive and empirical, inductive in their interest in Persian and Egypt. And second, it doesn’t mean study all cultures, it means to advance them as equal to Western culture. I have no problem with that except it’s intellectually dishonest.
Because privately, we in the United States, and indeed in Europe as well, we live two lives. We profess a multicultural utopia, that all the world and the cultures and all the history are all of relatively equal merit, even though we see that China and India and all these countries are adopting business practices, language practices, transparencies like our own. But then we don’t live this multicultural dogma. If I can be very blunt and controversial, if we all want to travel and you have a choice between flying Nigerian Airlines and United, you’ll take United…If you want to say, you happen to be an atheist – God forbid – in this audience, but if you said ‘God is dead!’ you better do it in Salt Lake City – Mormon as it is! – than try to do it in Saudi Arabia where you’ll be executed.
Is it because of race? No. Is it because of genes? No. It’s because of a particular culture, a particular way of looking at the world. What is that way of looking at the world? Primarily it’s empirical. That a person starts his existence without preconceptions. We inherited that from the Socratic tradition. We are not deductive, we don’t start with a premise and make the premise fit the examples. We look at the examples…and then we come up with conclusions about it. The scientific method.
What else is this Western idea? It’s the idea that a person, an individual, has inalienable rights. We see that best epitomized in our own Constitution. But it goes back to Greece.”
And I’ll conclude with a spoiler from his finish because I think it’s so profound. Describing the fall of Rome to a band of thugs after a much smaller Roman Republic had defeated much larger and more dangerous threats:
“Fast forward to the 5th century AD, is this the Roman Republic, 1/4 of Italy? No. It now encompasses 70 million people, from Mesopotamia in the East to the Atlantic ocean in the West, to above Hadrian’s Wall in the North to the Sahara Desert in the South, one million square miles. And they’re attacked, not by a formidable power, the inheritor of classical military science like Hannibal, but a thug like Atilla with some Huns and Visigoths and Vandals. By any measure, the threat was nothing compared to the threat that Romans faced when it was much, much smaller. But why in the world could they not defend themselves….?
The answer is…in 216 BC a Roman knew what it was to be a Roman. And they were under no illusions that they had to be perfect to be good. All they believed was they had an illustrious tradition that was better than alternative and could be better even more…In 450 AD I don’t think the average person who lived under the Roman Empire…knew what it was to be a Roman citizen, he did not believe that it was any better than the alternative. And when that happens in history, history is cruel, it gives nobody a pass. If you cease to believe that your country’s exceptional and has a noble tradition, and it is good without without being perfect, and it’s better than the alternative – If you cease to believe that! – there’s no reason for you to continue, and history says you won’t. And you don’t.”
Can we learn and change course? Or are we doomed to travel that road once more?
Or is it?
Republican Senators could block any US Supreme Court appointment not to their liking, not only from lame duck President Obama but from a possible President Hillary. That’s the kind of thing the Democrats, knowing the Republicans would deal eventually, have done.
What if the Republican-controlled Senate held out indefinitely? Five-to-four decisions favoring the Democrats would become impossible. But so would five-to-four decisions favoring the Republicans. Unless something changed there might be deadlock on partisan issues, which probably wouldn’t be a bad thing. But eventually things would change. President Hillary could appoint someone more moderate. The Republicans could lose control of the Senate. Additional justices could die or retire.
OTOH, a demonstration of firmness, even irrational firmness, by Congressional Republicans might pay dividends in the long run. Reagan gained considerable, perhaps decisive, advantage in foreign affairs by firing the striking air controllers.
OTOH, Reagan was an individual and the Republican Senatorial delegation is a coalition. It’s relatively easy to weaken a coalition by bribing or pressuring marginal members to drop out. The prevailing incentives do not favor Republican institutional backbone.
Interesting times ahead.
There’s a lot of activity along the Chicago River. If you haven’t been to Chicago in a while I highly recommend that you take the river walk along the south side of the Chicago River which extends through Streeterville / River North. They have bars and restaurants and you can rent canoes and do some people-watching at river level. Here’s the official web site.
The construction is fun to watch as you walk down Wacker Drive. They have barges where they bring in equipment and install a metal barrier and then fill it in with gravel to extend out into the river. The river is still green from St. Patrick’s day in this photo above. If you have kids or grandchildren who like to watch construction and cranes and such this is highly recommended, as well.
We keep building new high rises in Chicago. This photo is looking west along the river and you can see the two large buildings that are nearly completed. It is a whole new Chicago!
Cross posted at LITGM