Rep Gif

Representative Giffords:

I imagine that we all wish the Honorable Representative Giffords a speedy and complete recovery.

VCDL notes: "There were reports that at least one citizen returned fire and that the murderer was caught and held by citizens. This was first reported by an Arizona paper and the Fox News story below alludes to it as well. The armed citizen(s) stopping the criminal has not been confirmed yet[.}"

A number of statements from elected officials denounce the shootings, stating that it is never legitimate to use violence against elected officials. One is not surprised at their concern.

A Modest Proposal

A Modest Proposal

I recommend The Word Detective for his frequent columns about obscure word usage. If you subscribe, you get periodic emails that apparently include material that hasn't yet been posted on the blog. My December issue has been sitting in my inbox until I could find time to read it. I see that it contains a very useful suggestion how to make golf more interesting. The WD reports:

The late Hunter S. Thompson, in his last column for, announced his invention of a fascinating variant on the game, which he called "shotgun golf." It's a simple (but very loud) game for two players: one player, using a conventional club, lofts the ball toward the hole, while the other, using a twelve-gauge shotgun, attempts to blow the ball out of the air with buckshot.

December's Word Detective blog-post expresses the conventional surprise that Christmas is upon us. It seems like only yesterday, he says, that we took down the lights outside, but it was really back in May. Which reminds me that I have a tree to take down, as the NPH has been mentioning with increasing frequency lately. I'm very tempted to use the ill-gotten gains from my recent Herculean labors in the legal stables to hire a local teenager to pitch in with the wrapping and boxing of a million ornaments. Is that wrong?

Finally, in the spirit of attention-deficit entertainment, since I'm bouncing around this morning like a recently-freed pinball, here's the incomparable Firesign Theater in "Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers," with the Fifty-Voice St. Louis Aquarium Choir. He's been up for a week, but he's coming down! And on the inside, it's delicious.

Arise Ye Dead

Arise Ye Dead

Boy, it's nice to rejoin the living. Lately even my dreams have been full of finicky footnotes to authority. I'm visiting websites I haven't even glanced at in almost a month.

Here's a link to one of those interesting time-lapse graphics about the birth and death of empires, via Assistant Village Idiot. (I see AVI also linked the "human shields" article, which lots of people have noticed at First Things.) The point of the empire map is to put Zionism into perspective, but I was also struck by how few empires in the last several thousand years have made any inroads into the Arabian peninsula.

I see that much of the country is expecting heavy snow again. Here, we'll probably just dip into the mid-30s for two or three days. Tomorrow night we're due for some kind of low-pressure system out of Mexico, which they think will put thunderstorms on top of us for eight hours straight overnight. Around dawn, the wind is forecast to shift from 15 mph out of the southeast to 18 mph out of the northwest, just as if a low-grade hurricane eye had passed over. We could sure use the rain. After a soggy summer we've had a dry fall and winter so far.

Human Shields

Human Shields

It was an "I am Spartacus" moment: Egyptian Muslims who were horrified by the recent attack on Coptic Christians showed up at their Christmas Eve mass services, sending the message that anyone who wanted to attack the Christians at their services would have to come through Muslim Egyptians to do it.

There are few things lower than using someone else as a human shield against his will, but few things more honorable than protecting an innocent victim with your own body. We're meant to make choices, and then to take the consequences of our choices onto ourselves.

H/t Lars Walker at Brandywine Books.

The Fifth

The Fifth:

We saw this performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in a gymnasium in Hangzhou, China. They were very professional, and took no notice of their Chinese hosts not having the same concepts about turning off cell phones during the performance. At one point someone's dinner -- a still very much alive rabbit -- escaped across the stage, without the orchestra missing a beat.

Here is the fourth movement, which is my favorite.

100 Years

One Hundred Years:

Hail and praise the Colt 1911, one hundred years old this year.

I am sure that Doc Russia will be celebrating!

TSA Opt Out

The Great TSA Opt-Out:

Who was the genius who wrote this law?

Thanks to an “opt-out” provision written into the Act, these contracts are a viable alternative to the current federal screening workforce provided by TSA. Eighteen private contracts have already been awarded to various U.S. airports and heliports, working efficiently and safely for over five years.
That's some amazing foresight right there. The article mentions one Rep. John L. Mica (R-FL). If he's the responsible party, the hat's off to him.

More than the specific example, the basic concept looks very solid. Insofar as the Federal government employs or develops new internal police powers, give localities/states/airports the right to opt out of the 'protection.' That's a powerful hedge against these kinds of forces turning toward tyranny.



An education shouldn't be useful, argues The Public Discourse.

For the most part, though, books and articles discussing what has gone wrong in the American universities appear to have done little to seriously investigate the ancient and medieval origins of universities themselves....

In Book VII of The Republic, Socrates defended knowledge as sought after “with a view to the beautiful and good,” contrasting someone who deals with numbers for the sake of buying and selling with one who contemplates the mystery of numbers themselves. Aristotle perpetuated this liberal tradition (as opposed to servile tradition), defining ‘liberal’ as “that which tends to enjoyment… where nothing accrues of consequence beyond the using.” Education’s end, for Aristotle, was the pleasure of knowing itself. Cicero agreed, adding that the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake was “a condition of our happiness.” Such truth, he suggested, is the first thing pursued “as soon as we escape from the pressure of necessary cares.” This enterprise, as systematized by Marcus Varro and fortified by Augustine and Boethius, generated Western civilization’s curricular DNA, which we know as the liberal arts. Probably the best modern articulation of this tradition came with John Henry Newman’s The Idea of a University, which—I am sorry to report—seems to have made no appearance at all in our current harping about the humanities. Newman, without requiring religious commitment, articulated the Socratic inheritance exquisitely:

Truth has two attributes—beauty and power; while Useful Knowledge is the possession of truth as powerful, Liberal Knowledge is the apprehension of it as beautiful....

Should this principle—knowledge for its own sake—be understood, the amount of time it takes to obtain a degree in the humanities comes into focus. Menand complains, “You can become a lawyer in three years, an M.D. in four years, and an M.D.-Ph.D. in six years, but the median time to a doctoral degree in the humanities disciplines is nine years.” But it is here that the medieval perspective illuminates, making nearly a decade of study seem not ridiculous, but just about right.
If a decade of intense study produces nothing but enjoyment, then it is rightly priced at the cost of a hobby: people often pour endless hours and cash into hobbies for mere enjoyment.

However, it seems to me that we know the arts are greater than that. They may have no point other than seeking the true and the beautiful, but that is not to say that they are good for nothing. Indeed, the ancient and medieval tradition -- which seeks and believes it can find the True and the Beautiful -- proves to be good for everything.

This is because truth and beauty are "transcendentals," qualities that belong to all categories instead of one only. That is as much as to say that all the categories belong to them. To know something about the true and the beautiful is to know something about everything.

You will rarely find in history a man of great accomplishment who has not taken this road at least a little way.

"Well," you may say, "fine for the medieval mind, or the ancient one; they were fools who believed that we could actually get (at least closer to) the 'True' and the 'Beautiful.' Today, of course, we are smarter and know better!"

That points the way to a useless education. Notice that the difference is really a principle of faith.


Medieval Misconceptions:

Yesterday both Dad29 and xkcd directed our attention to some documents that fight common misconceptions.

Dad29 points to Myths about the Middle Ages and the Renaissance Myth.

xkcd pointed us to Wikipedia's List of common misconceptions, which includes several Medieval items.

Why does this matter, and how much? I would say it matters a great deal, because it alienates many today from one of the richest and most important parts of our Western tradition. A Christianity is much poorer if it is uninformed by St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, Peter Abelard, and so many others. A Western culture that loses the logic of Abelard, or the valor of Robert the Bruce, is likewise impoverished.

It is also less attractive to many, if they believe that Christianity or Medieval Europe had a history of hostility toward science. That is probably the most crucial misconception to fight.

On a slightly-related but more amusing note, my wife tells me that this reconstruction looks like me. Except, I hope, for the stupid expression.

Done it!


I think that's done it!

You will notice a pair of icons, one red and one white, above and below the Chesterton poem on the head of the sidebar. Mouse over the red icon, and you return to the old burgundy scheme. Mouse over the white, and you shall have this scheme.

I have tried it in Chrome and IE, and it seems to work. T99, let me know if it works in Firefox; and if anyone has trouble with it, shout out.

Crunchy & Soft

Hard & Crunchy on the Outside, Soft & Chewy on the Inside

Like the old joke about the igloo. This article makes you wonder how long the tigers had been waiting for one of those morsels to step outside the bus.

Psalm 23:

Today is the day for the 23rd Psalm.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.


Time for a Poll:

Today's question: Is the philosophy of chivalry that I espouse misandrist or misogynist?

Misandrist or Misogynist?
Misandrist! I mean, come on: "White Knight?"
Misogynist! After all, chivalry is, like, sexist or something.
Can't you be both? I think you hate everyone. free polls

Against the Drug War

Against the Drug War:

This is a pretty good argument:

Now, one thing Darnell could do is get his GED, and meanwhile get a job stocking shelves at Staples. Or working at a shoe store or supermarket. He could get vocational training of some kind, with a small loan it wouldn’t be hard to get. But that’s not what a lot of his friends do. The way they make money is by selling drugs....

There is a quiet community norm: young men who drop out of school and do not take jobs, because they can keep money in their pockets by selling drugs on the street. Hardly all young men do this in the community. Most don’t, in fact. But many do – enough that to Darnell, there is nothing unusual about it.

He sees people going to prison for this: but that’s seen as a badge of manhood....

Of the options open to him for having money in his pocket, the most attractive one is the one that gives him the most flexible schedule, allows him to be with his favorite people, and lends him an air of the soldier besides. The question is not why he would choose to sell drugs, but why he wouldn’t.

Darnell is not on the corners because it’s all society prepared him for: that is a melodramatic, antiempirical, leftist cliche. [His brother the air-conditioner repairman] Eugene's doing fine and the community has as many Eugenes as Darnells. Darnell had choice. His choice makes perfect sense for someone like him, where he lives, having had the only life he knew.
What the article misses is that this is not a moral choice. Selling drugs is harmful, predatory, and there is no account made of that.

Yet one could give an account: Darnell probably uses drugs, as well as selling them. He probably enjoys it. Thus, he doesn't see himself as preying on the weak, but on providing a service to people who have the same desires he has himself.

Lacking this opportunity for easy money, the author thinks Darnell would stay in school. I find that harder to believe. Perhaps it's true, but there are still good reasons to drop out of the kind of schools that mostly exist in these neighborhoods. Those other opportunities -- vocational school, small loans, and so forth -- may still prove adequate to entice young men away from bad schools.

So what, though? Vocational school leads to honest, honorable work. It would be a great improvement if more chose that path.

The author finally hints at the destructive power of the police on black neighborhoods. On this point I am wholly in sympathy. The drug-war type of policing is indeed destructive, not only to the community but to the basic civic structure of the United States. We would all be better off without it.


Colors and Readability:

Grim's Hall has been around since 2003. In those nearly eight years, I suspect my eyes have gotten worse. This web site seemed easy to read when I started doing it; but more and more I have trouble reading it because of the light-text-on-dark-color scheme.

I thought I would try this alternative scheme for a bit to see if it's easier to read. I apologize for the change, as no one likes changes.

Let me know what you think. As always, I'm open to suggestions.



I am looking for reports of Justice Scalia's remarks that cite the never-ratified 'Equal Rights Amendment' (ERA). Here's what Scalia said:

In 1868, when the 39th Congress was debating and ultimately proposing the 14th Amendment, I don't think anybody would have thought that equal protection applied to sex discrimination, or certainly not to sexual orientation. So does that mean that we've gone off in error by applying the 14th Amendment to both?

Yes, yes. Sorry, to tell you that. ... But, you know, if indeed the current society has come to different views, that's fine. You do not need the Constitution to reflect the wishes of the current society. Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn't. Nobody ever thought that that's what it meant. Nobody ever voted for that. If the current society wants to outlaw discrimination by sex, hey we have things called legislatures, and they enact things called laws. You don't need a constitution to keep things up-to-date. All you need is a legislature and a ballot box. You don't like the death penalty anymore, that's fine. You want a right to abortion? There's nothing in the Constitution about that. But that doesn't mean you cannot prohibit it. Persuade your fellow citizens it's a good idea and pass a law. That's what democracy is all about. It's not about nine superannuated judges who have been there too long, imposing these demands on society.
Here's what the ERA said:
Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.
Obviously the 14th Amendment was followed by the 19th. Therefore, in the early 20th century, the 14th's equal protection clause clearly was not taken to have the force to set aside the power of the law to distinguish between men and women.

I have noticed that both the Washington Post and the New York Times have published opinion pieces that cite 'a slew of rulings since 1971' that interpret the 14th as protecting against sex discrimination. That's fine, but the question acknowledged the existence of that tradition: it was asking whether the tradition was mistaken as a point of Constitutional interpretation.

Meanwhile, the ERA was passed by Congress in 1972. The ratification debate progressed through the several states, with 35 states voting for ratification (although some rescinded their ratification: based on the 14th Amendment's own ratification process, though, I think the precedent is that Congress can accept or reject a state's right to change its mind at Congress' own pleasure).

What I take from all this is that:

1) Scalia was right about the original intent of the 14th.

2) In spite of the competing judicial tradition starting in 1971, even feminist activists believed in 1972 that the Constitution needed to be amended on just this point.

3) Thus, it is right for an originalist to say that the Constitution does not currently prohibit discrimination based on sex.

That is entirely different from the question of whether the Constitution should prohibit discrimination based on sex. I think it should, with a Constitutional exception for the military -- we've discussed why I think the military is a special case re: civil rights often enough that I won't rehearse it again at this time.

The remedy here is not to pretend that the ERA had actually been ratified; nor is it to pretend that it was never needed. It's to put the thing back up again. I think the left is correct to argue that society's thoughts and feelings have changed on this subject quite a bit over the last forty years. Probably there would be no problem about passing and ratifying the amendment (or a variation of it) today.

That's the right approach to this problem. A Supreme Court that is judged competent to create rights with a wave of its hand can wave those same rights away. That isn't what the Court is for, as Scalia correctly asserts.

The Ur-Road Trip

The Ur-Road Trip

I'm coming up for air briefly while the people for whom I've been madly writing a brief finally look at it before we get it ready to file next Monday. Between this unaccustomed spurt of paying work and the rigors of the holidays, I've scarcely had time to draw a breath for many weeks.

In the meantime, my husband sent me this story, linked by Instapundit or someone, about the first private cross-country jaunt in a self-propelled vehicle. In 1888, Bertha Benz of Mannheim, Germany, sneaked out of the house with her two teenaged boys to pay a visit to her sister and new niece 65 miles away in the Black Forest. Why sneaked? Her husband assumed she would be taking the usual train, but she'd decided to test-drive his new-fangled Patent Motorwagen (yes, that Benz): a 200-lb. steel vehicle that produced 2/3 of a horsepower at 250 rpm from a one-cylinder engine. (For some reason, it delights me to read that the German for "Imperial," as in "Imperial Patent Office," is "Kaiserlich" -- meaning "super-kingly.")

This model had a fuel tank, a dashboard, and brakes. It didn't have what you'd call off-road tires, having been driven only on city streets to that point. Ms. Benz prudently stuck to the hard old Roman Roads when she could, especially the Via Montana or "Mountain Road" once she left her home in the Neckar River Valley. She refueled at drugstores. Late-nineteenth-century Germany had a oil industry, which produced mostly kerosene, but also threw off by-products including a substance called "ligroin," traditionally used as a stain cleaner. The drugstore where she stopped now boasts of being the world's first self-serve filling station.

The travelers had some trouble on steep grades and had to ask a farmer to push them over one pass. When she got home, Ms. Benz asked her husband to install a second set of reduction gears so the engine could keep running at an efficient speed while the car slowed down. So was born the stick-shift.


Why Literature?

The point is raised regarding the new... ah... "translation" of Mark Twain. What is the point of literature?

For example, does the point include conveying a vision to your audience? If it does, is there some obligation on future scholars not to obscure that vision? Mark Twain -- who has come in for criticism here on other grounds -- did extraordinary work in exposing the ugliness of racial hatred. How bold should we be in walking away from what he gave us, to soothe our sensibilities? It was offending racial sensibilities that he intended all along: and we should not forget how powerful, and how good, was the effect.


Glorious Abduction:


And if we're doing this sort of thing tonight, I don't think I've ever referenced the greatest of all of these:



I suspect this is the sort of thing we'll look back on with regret.

Phil dead

Philosophy is Dead. Long Live Philosophy!

Dr. John Haldane notes with amusement the statement by Dr. Stephen Hawking and company that 'philosophy is dead.' It accompanies their own departure from empirically-verifiable facts, and into metaphysics. In other words, they're doing philosophy: and not very well.

My favorite part of this assertion is that it follows the form: 'The "argument for God from the magnificent design of the universe" is dead, because there is no need for design. This is because the universe is the kind of thing that can create itself and bring forth life spontaneously.'

That's quite a design!

Psalm 7

Psalm 7:

So, since some of you were interested in this, here's the first thing that really catches my attention in the book. Psalm 7 says: reddidi retribuentibus mihi malum et dimisi hostes meos vacuos
persequatur inimicus animam meam et adprehendat et conculcet in terra vitam meam et gloriam meam in pulverem conlocet semper.

...if I have requited my friend with evil or plundered my enemy without cause, let the enemy pursue me and take me, and let him trample my life to the dust. (RSV)
So here's the question this engenders in my mind: are we meant to believe that it's OK to plunder one's enemy as long as there is due cause? That's a license I did not expect.