Counting Cats in Zanzibar Rotating Header Image


I Say It’s Spinach

So this is dedicated to Nick (and the first part of it is meant in the spirit of friendly teasing; no serious criticism intended). It was brought on by his response to the discussion on “Bibi to Obama,” but somehow it got so long and was so far O/T that I thought I really shouldn’t entirely derail that discussion. Hence the new posting. It happened like this….

Nick ended his passionate defense of the Israelis’ contributions to the Global Good by referring to their improvements in computer technology thus:

August 4, 2014 at 8:05 pm

Write a program once and… I have more computing power on my lap in this Lenovo S440 Thinkpad than probably existed in 1960 on the planet. The CPU was designed in Israel.

Never one to keep to the subject, I interjected the question,

Nick, one can actually program that sucker?

meaning the Lenovo Thinkpad, that is.

Nick responded to that:

August 5, 2014 at 8:12 pm

You don’t program a computer, you program a language. I know BASIC (I love BASIC – it’s great for five minute calculations and “sketching ideas”), Pascal, Fortran(!!!) and a few scripting type stuff like Javascript. And of course HTML and CSS but that’s not quite the same thing. I’m quite good in a limited sense – basically mathematics is my thing. I’ve been considering learning to write Android apps. I never could hack Machine Code and whilst I can write basic C, C++ defeated me. I just didn’t get the object-orientated paradigm. Part of the problem with learning C (and it’s descendants such as C++ and C# is the flexibility of syntax which means other folks programs can be unbelievably cryptic).

I adored that response, because I too am a HUGE fan of Fortran. Besides, it offered me an opportunity to issue a correction, a hobby of mine which, surprisingly, some people seem to find tiresome. Ah well, their loss…. :)

So I commenced, and the thing grew, and, well, here we are. Or here I am anyway. You, dear reader, may have gone on to washing your hair, or cleaning the groove in the patio door….

* * *
Nonsense, Mr. Mc[I-forget-the-rest] *g*. You program a computer IN a language. You USE a language to program a computer (in any given particular case). More correctly still, you write a program FOR (or to be RUN ON) a computer IN a language. I trust this clarifies the matter. *haughty sniff*

By the way, one does not write “machine code.” At least, not unless you mean writing in actual hex, or octal, or, to really get right down to it, binary. And it is insulting and fake elitism to talk about “writing code*” or saying something gaggingly sophomoric like “do they ship code on time.” Yes, I’m looking at you, Eric Raymond.

*Toward the end of my “career,” there developed a custom where System Engineers designed the layout of programs, including writing the specs; these were handed off to the “programmers,” who (I guess) drew up flow-charts and indicated where blocks of instructions (i.e. “code,” f’rgod’ssakes) would go, and passed those on to mere “coders,” who wrote out the actual instructions comprising the program. Division of labor, don’tcha see.

The upshot of that was that real programmers, now called “coders,” got a bad name as being the less-than-bright grunts of the data-processing hierarchy. I hope this dreadful faux-efficiency-system dropped dead long ago. Complete modularity in creative endeavors does not work.

But as to the main point. Basic rocks. No it is NOT a “toy”; it comes within hailing distance of Fortran. And Fortran IV-G or IV-H, awesome !!! is the only high-level language worth using professionally. Ahem. At the lower level, Assembler (for the S/360-370) and its cousins in the Assembly Language level, Autocoder for the 1401 and 7070 series, Map for the 7090-7094, so forth are the best of the best.

I LOVED Fortran and Assembly Languages, specifically Fortran IV and Assembler. You could get at the machine! You could tell it step by step exactly what to do, you could make it change its instructions, you could tell it to stop using valuable space for instructions and stick some data in there instead, and vice-versa. You could probably have told it to unplug itself, and then plug itself back in!

You sure couldn’t do that with COBOL. COBOL was for people who couldn’t be trusted to go messing about with the machine’s insides. Such things as “peek” and “poke,” even, could not be allowed to Business Types who probaby needed help tying their shoelaces.

I used to try to write COBOL in Fortran, just because of the whole logorrhea business. Thankfully I subsequently worked for an outfit that actually had programmers. Assembler, YUM.

Nick, do not feel like the Lone Ranger. I have messed about a bit with C and follow-ons, and as far as I can tell, the object of so-called OOP languages is to complify, complify, complify. The syntax would seem to defy any vaguely-human logic. Ostensibly these languages were developed so that any fool could read and understand at once any other fool’s program. Tchah! In any case, I was trying to correct an information deficit, as is my Nature, but not trying to put biscuits on the table, so lacking that incentive, in the end I treated the Book as the Koran was not treated by the boorish wardens at Guantánamo, and never looked back. :>))

. . .

Really, there’s nothing mysterious about the basic idea. In assembly languages and the next level of languages, Fortran, COBOL, whatever else qualifies, you have “routines,” which — and this is all as it was denominated in my day, back before the Silurian Epoch — meant the entirety of a program. Some portions of the program were dedicated to particular tasks and were distinct enough from other portions to be little mini-programs — “subroutines” — in their own right.

Somewhere along the way some bright language-designer or programmer (they once upon a time occupied the same physical body, can you imagine!) figured out that some of those subroutines were used often enough that it would be convenient to plunk them down, pre-fabricated, into his program. So he dreamed up a way to “call” the subroutine from within the main program. This little block of instructions that executed the “subroutine call” was incorporated into the main program with a special name or mock op-code of its own. IIRC, which I might not, in Fortran you just wrote “Call so-and-so” and then wrote a list of parameters the called subroutine would use.

Of course, you could get the exact same result by branching to the subroutine in the normal way, provided you knew where everything was (Assembly languages, Fortran). But the Subroutine Call was more elegant in a way, and when it was properly written at the assembly-language level (or IN Fortran FOR Fortran programs) you could use it pre-fab in any program into which it could be compiled. (Assembler subroutines for Assembler programs, Fortran subroutines for Fortran programs, even COBOL subroutines for COBOL programs, etc., though the subroutine itself might not be in the same language.)

Thus were developed Subroutine Libraries, which when you licensed whatever language and its compiler from whomever (by which I imagine I mean, chiefly, IBM) you could get the subroutine library as well, with all its useful pre-fab routines.

Then, some dingbat had the idea of obfuscating the basic logic of the pre-fabbed subroutines system by calling these subroutines “macros.” So now instead of having a subroutine call in a program, you used a “macro,” which as far as I could tell was just the same old thing under a new name.

Macros were used in Assembly languages, like Map and Assembler. I can’t remember if Autocoder had any macros or not. When we got our first Mac, a Mac Plus, it still had macros. In that case at least (and in Excel) one could write one’s own macros. But they were still just subroutines.

Now we have Object-Oriented Programming languages, OOPs. Indeed! In which, I gathered, the idea was to write programs by assembling blocks or “modules” of “code” (read, putting together various sets of subroutines) to accomplish the program’s results.

The syntax would appear to be a nightmare. Why go through all that when you can just haul out the ol’ Fortran, or the appropriate assembly language for the machine-cum-OS.

I say it’s spinach, and I say the hell with it.

Sam Harris in Defense of Israel

The truth is, we are all living in Israel. It’s just that some of us haven’t realized it yet.

Not a Sam Harris fan, as I dislike and mistrust militant atheists just as much as other militantly religious or anti-religious folk. Particularly when they seem to believe it’s they themselves to whom the phrase “from God’s mouth to your ear” applies.

But this piece by Mr. Harris is an op-ed that by me deserves great praise, particularly as it probably offends most of his natural audience. (Of course, I don’t agree with every word, nor every implication.) And I know why he put in all those parentheticals: It’s to try and cut off at the pass the obvious accusations with which we’re all too familiar.

Audio at source, from which the following are excerpts. The whole is a fair bit longer, and of course better integrated.

July 27, 2014

Why Don’t I Criticize Israel?


AUDIO TRANSCRIPT [Note: This is a verbatim transcript of a spoken podcast. However, I have added notes like this one to clarify controversial points.—SH]

The question I’ve now received in many forms goes something like this: Why is it that you never criticize Israel? Why is it that you never criticize Judaism? Why is it that you always take the side of the Israelis over that of the Palestinians?

I have criticized both Israel and Judaism. … I’ve kept some sense of proportion. There are something like 15 million Jews on earth at this moment; there are a hundred times as many Muslims. I’ve debated rabbis who, when I have assumed that they believe in a God that can hear our prayers, they stop me mid-sentence and say, “Why would you think that I believe in a God who can hear prayers?” So there are rabbis—conservative rabbis—who believe in a God so elastic as to exclude every concrete claim about Him—and therefore, nearly every concrete demand upon human behavior. And there are millions of Jews, literally millions among the few million who exist, for whom Judaism is very important, and yet they are atheists. They don’t believe in God at all. This is actually a position you can hold in Judaism, but it’s a total non sequitur in Islam or Christianity.

I certainly don’t support any Jewish claims to real estate based on the Bible. [Note: Read this paragraph again.]

Though I just said that I don’t think Israel should exist as a Jewish state, the justification for such a state is rather easy to find. We need look no further than the fact that the rest of the world has shown itself eager to murder the Jews at almost every opportunity. So, if there were going to be a state organized around protecting members of a single religion, it certainly should be a Jewish state.

[Note: It is worth observing, however, that Israel isn’t “Jewish” in the sense that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are “Muslim.” As my friend Jerry Coyne points out, Israel is actually less religious than the U.S., and it guarantees freedom of religion to its citizens. Israel is not a theocracy, and one could easily argue that its Jewish identity is more cultural than religious. ....]

More civilians have been killed in Gaza in the last few weeks than militants. That’s not a surprise because Gaza is one of the most densely populated places on Earth. Occupying it, fighting wars in it, is guaranteed to get woman and children and other noncombatants killed. ….

Whatever terrible things the Israelis have done, it is also true to say that they have used more restraint in their fighting against the Palestinians than we—the Americans, or Western Europeans—have used in any of our wars. They have endured more worldwide public scrutiny than any other society has ever had to while defending itself against aggressors. The Israelis simply are held to a different standard. And the condemnation leveled at them by the rest of the world is completely out of proportion to what they have actually done. [Note: I was not saying that because they are more careful than we have been at our most careless, the Israelis are above criticism. War crimes are war crimes.]

It is clear that Israel is losing the PR war and has been for years now. One of the most galling things for outside observers about the current war in Gaza is the disproportionate loss of life on the Palestinian side. This doesn’t make a lot of moral sense. Israel built bomb shelters to protect its citizens. The Palestinians built tunnels through which they could carry out terror attacks and kidnap Israelis. Should Israel be blamed for successfully protecting its population in a defensive war? I don’t think so.

there is an obvious, undeniable, and hugely consequential moral difference between Israel and her enemies. The Israelis are surrounded by people who have explicitly genocidal intentions towards them. The charter of Hamas is explicitly genocidal. … [Note: Yes, I know that not every Palestinian supports Hamas, but enough do to have brought them to power. Hamas is not a fringe group.]

The discourse in the Muslim world about Jews is utterly shocking. Not only is there Holocaust denial—there’s Holocaust denial that then asserts that we will do it for real if given the chance. The only thing more obnoxious than denying the Holocaust is to say that it should have happened; it didn’t happen, but if we get the chance, we will accomplish it. There are children’s shows that teach five-year-olds about the glories of martyrdom and about the necessity of killing Jews.

And this gets to the heart of the moral difference between Israel and her enemies. And this is something I discussed in The End of Faith. To see this moral difference, you have to ask what each side would do if they had the power to do it.

The truth is that everything you need to know about the moral imbalance between Israel and her enemies can be understood on the topic of human shields. Who uses human shields? Well, Hamas certainly does.

Consider the moral difference between using human shields and being deterred by them. That is the difference we’re talking about. The Israelis and other Western powers are deterred, however imperfectly, by the Muslim use of human shields in these conflicts, as we should be. It is morally abhorrent to kill noncombatants if you can avoid it. It’s certainly abhorrent to shoot through the bodies of children to get at your adversary. But take a moment to reflect on how contemptible this behavior is. And understand how cynical it is. The Muslims are acting on the assumption—the knowledge, in fact—that the infidels with whom they fight, the very people whom their religion does nothing but vilify, will be deterred by their use of Muslim human shields.

There are reports that Israeli soldiers have occasionally put Palestinian civilians in front of them as they’ve advanced into dangerous areas. That’s not the use of human shields we’re talking about. It’s egregious behavior. No doubt it constitutes a war crime. But Imagine the Israelis holding up their own women and children as human shields. Of course, that would be ridiculous. The Palestinians are trying to kill everyone. Killing women and children is part of the plan. Reversing the roles here produces a grotesque Monty Python skit.

If you’re going to talk about the conflict in the Middle East, you have to acknowledge this difference. I don’t think there’s any ethical disparity to be found anywhere that is more shocking or consequential than this.

The truth is, we are all living in Israel. It’s just that some of us haven’t realized it yet.

Debt Bondage and Slavery – 21st Century style


Ariel Schochet, who has served eight stints behind bars in Bergen County [New Jersey], the so-called deadbeat dad roundups trap the men in a system they are never able to climb out of. “We aren’t supposed to have debtor’s prisons in this country anymore, but that’s essentially what this has turned into,” said Schochet, who built up a $278,000 debt to his ex-wife after losing his job on Wall Street.

Inside the world of ‘deadbeat dads’ in Northern New Jersey

Charles Dickens wrote extensively about debtors prisons, having been through this tribulation as a child during his fathers imprisonment for debt in Marshalsea prison in 1824, but even during his lifetime the closure of debtors prisons and the introduction of less punitive bankruptcy and insolvency proceedings appeared to turn the tide back, but it is a tide that has ebbed and flowed both ways over the centuries.

This was nowhere more true than in the United States where bankruptcy laws were enacted in 1800, repealed in 1803, enacted again in 1841, repealed again in 1843, enacted yet again in 1867 and repealed yet again in 1878 – thus the current laws may just be an extraordinarily long hiatus between repeals.



Bill Whittle: Losing the Peace in Iraq

There is one statement in here that I’ll bet will surprise everybody except maybe Mr. Cats, who may have already seen the video. It’s about Nixon, and it surprised me.

For those whose computers are either deaf or mute, the video is accompanied by a transcript at FrontPage Mag.

The Great Deception

Richard North and Christopher Booker’s masterly history of the European Project has been made available as a free PDF by North.

This is huge news. If you haven’t read it, you (probably) don’t know the first thing about what the EU is, where it came from, and why it can’t – or won’t – ever be “reformed”. I always urge everyone to read it if they can get a hold of a copy. Now everyone can.

[EDIT: Updated link. North noticed he'd actually posted the original, pre-Constitutional Convention, edition. The second edition, with two extra chapters covering 2003-2005, is now available. My hardback copy is of the first, so I'm interested to see what they say myself.]

Woodrow Wilson Answers a Letter

Courtesy of Stu Burguiere at “The Blaze”:

On the 6th of June, 1944…

This young man you see before you, cocky as hell, fit as a Butcher’s dog, hard as nails, and with a fag on, jumped out of a plane over Caen in Normandy from about 1000 feet, along with thousands of his brothers in arms. A 60Lb pack on his back, a Sten gun and a rifle, and a life expectancy of around 20 minutes, according  to War Department estimates.

Dad in uniform age 18 001

He was part of 6th Airborne whose  job it was to support the glider troops who were to take Pegasus Bridge and prevent a German counterattack, until British troops from Gold and Sword beaches could reinforce them. Despite being scattered all over the place, his group finally made it to Pegasus Bridge.

He lasted much longer than that of course, and from that moment on he was at the sharp end of every battle all the way to Berlin and beyond. He was in Holland checking out the cellar of a house when a Panzer tank took out the house above him, and the rest of his platoon. Leaving him buried alive. It took him 3 days to dig himself out. He had a clause in his Will that stated that in the event of his death, his main artery was to be severed, just to make sure, because there was no way in hell he was going to be buried alive again! He was one of the first troops into Belsen, and couldn’t believe his eyes (even after having friends and comrades literally blown to bits next to him) at the sheer horror and depravity that one evil twisted ideology could inflict on fellow human beings. The most heartbreaking thing, he told me was when they tried to feed the inmates from their rations and watched them go into shock and die. They had no idea that could happen. It felt like they had put a gun to their head there and then.

And yes that cocky crazy incredibly brave young man, was my Father in Law. In whom I have immense pride. But what I wonder now, did he fight for? He was told he was fighting for freedom and democracy and the liberation of Europe; The last Righteous War. And he was. Trouble is our Elites and Politicians didn’t let it turn out that way.

Dad in Para uniform latest 001

The Attlee Labour Government  promised paradise on earth after the privations of war (rationing continued until 1954) and won  a landslide victory. They proceeded to Nationalise everything that wasn’t nailed down, and pretty much everything that was too. Then ran the whole country into bankruptcy. From the NHS (the envy of the world! Funny no other country has ever tried to copy it though eh?) to the Welfare state, which was to be a safety net not a lifestyle. Government after Government thereafter (Tory or Labour it made no difference) conspired to manage the decline of Great Britain, not its resurgence.

We spent much blood and much gold and lost an Empire on a very righteous fight for freedom against unmitigated evil. You’d think that Europe would have been grateful eh? Well some of them probably were, but the movers and shakers  like President De Gaulle of France were moving and shaking towards a new, but very old idea… The United States of Europe.

At first they called it the Coal and Steel pact, between France and Germany. Both made interdependent so that Germany could never go to war against France again (by 1945 Germany was so fucked, disgusted and guilty with itself, they never ever wanted to go to war with anyone again, anyway), but with the arrogant French thinking they were going to be the leaders and the Germans the workers in this new world order. Well it didn’t work out like that.

Now a united Germany is the master of Europe, and calls all the shots. The “Ever closer Union” that condescending nutters like traitorous Ken Clarke, believes are just a form of words not a statement of intent, is getting ever closer to becoming The United States of Europe, and with as much democracy as Hitler himself would have allowed.

The Queen is even now laying wreaths with President Hollande (who would probably like to guillotine   her) in the Champs Elysees, and Chuckles Buggerlugs is doing the same in Arromanches where the Mulberry Harbour and Gold beach was, to all those who made such a noble sacrifice on behalf of Liberty and Freedom.

On such anniversaries such as this, and with  bitter tears in my eyes, I wonder if my Father in Law, dead over 20 years now, would have thought it worth the bother .

Because Property Rights Are Important

Found on the current front page of Cato at Liberty:

April 25, 2014 11:18AM
Because Property Rights Are Important
By Walter Olson

Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing:

Lawrence and Wishart, a radical press founded in 1936 and formerly associated with the Communist Party of Great Britain, has asserted a copyright over “Marx-Engels Collected Works,” a series of $25-50-ish hardcovers, and demanded that they be removed from the Marxist Internet Archive. As Scott McLemee notes, the editions in question were “prepared largely if not entirely with the support of old-fashioned, Soviet-era Moscow gold” and consist, in large part, of arguments about the moral bankruptcy and corrupting influence of claims of private property.

The archive says it intends to comply with the takedown demand on May Day.

For anyone interested in Marxism in history, as well as in theory, the Marxist Internet Archive ( is quite a good resource. Hurry hurry hurry, fill your bookbag before the First of May!

The Pope may also have a tendency towards Catholicism…

…and we all know about ursine silvan defecatary habits…

This staggering gem from the NYT/Daily Mail. I recall when the fun and games started in the ‘stan. There was a twinkly old bar steward “massing” with a fucking hatchet on the Af/Pak border and ranting to the BBC about killing Americans. Above him were the contrails of a B-52. He was (self) impo(r)tently waving his little mashie at the bomber. And he was ponying up from Pakistan’s “restive” tribal areas. Or Hell on Fucking Earth as is better known.

Anyone who sincerely believes the Pakistani government has been our best buds through this farrago which has cost something like 3,000 NATO lives, God knows how many Afghans and you may have noticed how well we’re doing in the Paralympics of late… Well they are demented.

It comes down to this. The USA has had an alliance with Pakistan for many years. In their early wars against India, Pakistan flew largely F-86s, and the Indians got chummy with the Soviets and flew MiGs (they also had some Hawker Hunters and the Pakistanis got some Supermarine Attackers which were truly dreadful but that would detract from the narrative). The Indians still are chummy with the Russians on aerospace which is why the Su-34 has a microwave oven and a proper toilet. It was specced-up and partially designed by HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) primarily for India. A great strike fighter (with a microwave!) but they should have fitted (along with the toilet) variable geometry inlets for the engines to get the speed past Mach 2. Because under successive US Admins there has been a bizarre “Game of Thrones” in the spheres of interference and Pakistan landed in the US one and India in the Soviet one for whatever reason. But genuine friends? Seriously?

We know, or ought to know, who our real friends are. The first British DFC awarded to a female pilot came from her (and her crew) flying through an unbelievable shit-storm of fire into a fort (yes a fort!) to rescue a critically wounded Dane, twice – shot down first time around. Now my people stood (with fuck-off axes) against them Scandy sorts but the Battle of Stamford Bridge* was like nigh on a thousand years ago. Since then we’ve made-up and bought Lego and are genuine mates – real allies. This is not blood – though I am Nordic/Celtic ancestry. I have long blonde-ish hair right now and look like I’m about to lead the Éored down the right flank. Good. I like it as does my wife. I am not being racist. Indeed I’m suggesting I am of immigrant blood and blood matters nothing. What matters is culture and if not it’s exact convergence but the mutual understandability. That makes for genuine friendship and not the sub “Game of Thrones” we have with Pakistan and the Afghans. I mean Dear God we liberated Afghanistan so they could impose a law legalising marital rape! When we stormed the beaches of Normandy did we expect to set-up such societies? I have been to France and Germany and they ain’t like that. I haven’t been to Japan or The Republic of Korea (though I have put enough moollah their way) but I have been to the Korean War memorial in DC. That is a memorial to 50-odd thousand soldiers who died to ensure half the peninsula didn’t get over-run by the vilest regime on the planet.

And it isn’t blood, or culture or even religion (I found Turkey very friendly). Well, maybe it is culture. The culture of not being an arsehole. I am sure many Afghans manage it but not the Khazi of Kabul. Though a man not without sin there can be a need for an Atatürk (as we had a need for a Cromwell). Sometimes you need a hard bastard to pull you out of the soup.

Or maybe not. It’s not very libertarian is it? But Turkey would be a complete shit-hole without Mustafa Kemal (insert obvious joke). Mind, the current Turkish PM seems hell-bent on a return to the fucking dark ages.

Or maybe not. The great social changes I have seen in my lifetime have been of the slowly, slowly monkey catching variety. Sometimes you need society to simply change and the biggest change I have seen is probably gay rights. There has been a phenomenal change in that since I was at secondary school.

But fundamentally you don’t choose your friends – your genuine allies – they choose you or you just get on. There is a reason every year the Norwegians ship us a ginormous Christmas Tree for Trafalgar Square. There is a reason Hamid Khazai ships us fuck all (apart from heroin on the sly) – an Eid prezzie would be nice. It isn’t blood or treasure or religion. We simply get on with Norway and we don’t with ‘stan (because they are cunts, largely). That in a sense is what this war is about. Or isn’t. It is an attempt at “nation building”, in shit-holes. I saw on the telly a couple of years back a US Army Cpt taking tea with tribal elders. He was an engineer and wanted to build a bridge employing local labour so they could go to town and get jobs but all the lads had gone off Talibaning. The US officer was very obviously pissed-off. I don’t blame him. He couldn’t say anything, alas. But there was a definite look about him that said, “Well, if that’s their attitude then fuck ‘em”. Of course he offered to build a bridge and not offer the chance to “marry” pre-pubescent girls so he was buggered from the start.

These are not allies in the sense of friends. The French might be founder members of the “Awkward Squad” but I reckon we can vaguely trust ‘em. We can certainly trust some other Europeans and the USA and some of the Commonwealth. We have friends, genuine friends and that is very different from having “alliances”.

I know people I would stand with (if it came to it) to the last gasp and I know they would stand with me but realpolitricks never works in the long term.

I know this post has rambled and I hope it is taken in the right sense. This is not a rant contra Islam and it is not a paean to Nordicology. I am just saying that if you want a genuine friendship which is the utter prerequisite for a real alliance you have to get on rather than manufacture it. And a country that harbours public enemy #1 within a brisk walk of its premier military academy for years is not a friend and should not therefore be regarded as an ally. It is both a strategic and some level a moral failure.

*Some enormous Viking held the bridge with a giant axe until a sneaky Saxon went underneath and skewered the IKEA merchant with a spear up the fundament.

Richard Epstein & Federalist Society Panel on Direct Democracy

Government of the People, by the People, and for the People?

The second Showcase Panel at the the Federalist Society’s 2010 National Lawyers Convention. November 19, 2010.

Prof. Epstein, as usual, has some thoughts on practicalities. (He’s wrong about the V-N War, though. What can I say, he’s a nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn. And among other things he did time at Berkeley.)

Very interesting discussion, and the gentlemen all are. :>)

From the description:

Direct democracy is feasible today to an extent that it was not feasible in 1787. Does that change the calculus in choosing between direct democracy and representation? What lessons, positive or negative, can be learned from the state experience with initiatives and referenda? Should Congress set up a system of national initiatives and referenda? Can Congress delegate its legislative power to the American people without violating the nondelegation doctrine? Should national initiatives and referenda be binding or merely advisory? Would it be acceptable for a national referendum to alter a law so as to effectively reverse a Supreme Court decision? Should the health care law be subject to such a referendum? Should increases in the national debt or in taxes be subject to voter approval?

In order of appearance:

Steven G. Calabresi — Moderator (Introduction, 6:32)

Panelists, speaking roughly 15 min. each:

William N. Eskridge, Jr. — Yale
Richard A. Epstein (at ~19:40) — NYU, U. of Chicago
Robert D. Cooter — Berkeley
Thomas W. Merrill — Columbia

Then the moderator puts a few questions, and finally there’s Q&A from the audience.

Prof. David Bernstein discusses the 1905 Supreme Court case “Lochner vs. New York”

Prof. David Bernstein of George Mason Univ. published in 2011 his book Rehabilitating Lochner. So vass ist ziss case Lochner, anyvay?

The Foot of All Knowledge explains:

Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 45 (1905), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case that held that “liberty of contract” was implicit in the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The case involved a New York law that limited the number of hours that a baker could work each day to ten, and limited the number of hours that a baker could work each week to 60. By a 5–4 vote, the Supreme Court rejected the argument that the law was necessary to protect the health of bakers, deciding it was a labor law attempting to regulate the terms of employment, and calling it an “unreasonable, unnecessary and arbitrary interference with the right and liberty of the individual to contract.”

Lochner is one of the most controversial decisions in the Supreme Court’s history….[SNIP]

…and has until recently enjoyed a lousy reputation among the right-thinking (that is, the librul-Progressive, which is to say, not at all right-thinking) legal professoriate.

Professor Bernstein, along with Profs. Randy Barnett and Richard Epstein (as we inferred from his remarks in his last appearance on CCiZ) disagree on that, stout fellows that they are. They talk about legal esoterica such as Freedom of Contract and other stuff that is not for the tender and innocent ears of the Elite (or of various Union leaders or members and their legbreakers and enforcers).

David Bernstein is one of the contributors to Prof. Eugene Volokh’s law weblog The Volokh Conspiracy. (The Volokh Archives going back to 2002 are now found here.) Interviewer Josh Blackman is also an attorney and an Assistant Law Professor at the U. of South Texas. You can read his short summary of the interview at his website. You can also download the interview as a podcast there, watch the video there, click on over to Vimeo and watch it or download it as an mp4 there, or stay here and listen to the audio.

Epstein Thrashes Rubenfeld on Natural Law; Panel on Redistribution of Wealth

I would swear that I saw, for the first time ever, outright anger in Prof. Epstein’s face the first time I watched this clip. Never mind, you can hear it in his voice as he gives Yale Law School’s Prof. Jed Rubenfeld a concise and pithy jolly what-for for a**-hattery.

This is the final 5:48 of a panel discussion described as below. The whole thing is quite interesting. Steve Forbes also seems to have some understanding of what’s what. Andy Stern of the infamous SEIU brings along his flag and his violin. And the odious Prof Rubenfeld is…well, odious. Although his question in Part 11 is one we all get asked a lot, and I’m glad to have Prof. E.’s response.

Best part first. The series begins with Part 1, below Part 11 here. I think you can just click through the segments from there.


Uploaded on Nov 17, 2009

The Federalist Society presented this panel discussion on Redistribution of Wealth at the 2009 National Lawyers Convention on Thursday, November 12, 2009. Panelists included Prof. Richard A. Epstein of New York University Law School; Mr. Steve Forbes, Chairman and CEO of Forbes Inc. and Editor of Forbes Magazine; Prof. Jed Rubenfeld of Yale Law School; Mr. Andrew L. Stern, President of the Service Employees International Union; and Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit as the moderator. Part 11 of 11

The whole thing is very much worth seeing, highly recommended, and be sure you have your kidney basin at the ready for Prof. Rubenfeld’s first appearance:

Libertarianism and Conservativism – foes or friends?

F.A. Hayek at the end of his “Constitution of Liberty” (1960) wrote “Why I am not a Conservative” – which is odd as Hayek had (perhaps without knowing it) a good grasp of what actually is a positive conception of conservatism, and a poor grasp of libertarianism.

Hayek rejected the word “libertarian” as “artificial” which is just as well as he was not a libertarian – philosophically or politically.

Philosophically Hayek was a determinist (like so many 19th century and early 20th century thinkers, he assumed that “science” mandated determinism). Hayek took David Hume literally (whether Hume should really be taken literally is a hotly contested issue), the “I” (the human person) is an illusion, as is human choice – a thought does NOT mean a thinker (a reasoning “I”) and as there is no agent (no human being – no reasoning “I”) there is no agency (no free will), actions are predetermined by a series of causes and effects that go back to the start of the universe – and humans (who are not beings) can do no other than we do (we could not have done otherwise – as choice is an illusion).

Politically Hayek claimed to an “Old Whig”, but is hard to see how his philosophical views are compatible with the Whig point of view – which was based on the MORAL value of human free will (it is not an accident that David Hume was not a Whig) . The determinist (such as the Thomas Hobbes) holds that “freedom” is just an absence of external restraint – for example when a dam fails the water is “free” to rush out and destroy towns and so on. “Freedom” (in the determinist view) is not a matter of moral choice (remember choice is an “illusion”) so “freedom” is like taking one’s hand off a clockwork mouse and letting this clockwork mouse go around on the floor. It is hard to see how this “freedom” can be of any moral importance at all – if any view of politics can be based upon it would be a politics of tyranny (exactly the politics that Hobbes did base upon it), after all walls of water from broken dams (and so on) does not sound very nice.

Still does Hayek say anything else about his politics? Yes he does – again in the “Constitution of Liberty” we are told that he supports the “limited state” not the “minimal state”, because (according to Hayek) the minimal state can not be defined and the limited state can be defined.

Hayek is just wrong – the minimal state is easy to define (although very hard to achieve or maintain – an anarchist would argue impossible to maintain or achieve). The definition of a minimal state is one that just uses force only against the violation of the non aggression principle (attacks on the bodies or goods of people or groups of people). It is actually the “limited state” that is hard to define. Limited to what?

Hayek does make some vague efforts to define the “limited state” – for example he says that such a state applies “general rules” that apply to everyone.

O.K. then – everyone is to have their head cut off. Is that a good example of a “limited state”?

Hayek also says that a limited state does not seek to have a monopoly of any service.

O.K. then – everyone but the children of Mr Smith of 25 Silver Street to go to a state school?

Unfair example? O.K. – how about the state hands education and healthcare “free” (at the expense of the taxpayers), but you are free to pay twice (i.e. pay again on top of taxation) to go private? Is this the limited state?

How about you can go to any doctor you like and send your children to any school you like, but the state pays the bill (no matter how big it is), is that the limited state?

Such a state (one that seeks to provide or pay for education, healthcare, old age provision and on and on) will end up spending half the entire economy (and still fail). That does not sound very limited or sustainable – and Hayek (in his attack on the Welfare State) shows he understands this. However, his “limited state” is not defined in a way that prevents it.

Oh dear this post seems to have turned into “why Hayek is crap” which is unfair as anyone (even the best of us) looks terrible if one just concentrates on errors and weaknesses. I will leave the above out if I ever give a talk on this subject (because it sounds terribly negative) – but it needed to be put on record.

So why is Hayek (perhaps without knowing it) insightful about Conservatism?

Hayek’s own definition of Conservatism (given in “Why I am Not a Conservative”) is not good. He just defines it as being opposed to change – so (for example) a North Korean conservative now would be a socialist (or that is the system they have) and a British conservative I (say) 1870 would be a free market person – as this was the system of the time.

Whatever Hayek may have believed that is not a serious definition of Conservatism. But Hayek (again perhaps without knowing it) does give a description of Conservatism – in “Constitution of Liberty”, “Law. Legislation and Liberty” (and other works).

Cosmos not Taxis – spontaneous order (evolved over time) not top down planning. What Hayek called the results of “human action not human design” (it would be have been better to say the results of voluntary action not forced action – but Hayek had philosophical problems with even voluntary design).

Or (in the language of the conservative writer M.J. Oakeshott) a Civil Association not Enterprise Association, a Societas not a Universitas.

Institutions and customs that evolve over time often without people knowing the reasons they are useful – till they are broken.

As Tolkien’s (Tolkien being a Catholic Conservative) character “Gandalf” puts it in the “Lord of the Rings” – “he who breaks a thing to find out what it is, has left the path of wisdom”.

This is what Conservatism is about – a preference for evolved custom and ways of doing things (ways of living) over imposed “rational” planning by the state.

The state (in the Conservative view) is like the Thrain of the Shire (Tolkien’s) and the Mayor.

The Thrain does nothing in peacetime (in war it is different) – he just farms his estate. And the Mayor is the leading figure at formal dinners (like those of the old Closed Corporations that were the only “urban local government” before the Act of 1835 in England and Wales), he does not order folk about. Families govern their own affairs and do not attack each other (police forces were not compulsory on the counties of England and Wales till 1856). There is plenty of (moral – traditional) authority, but little naked “power”.

I think it is obvious show this view of Conservatism is close to libertarianism (hence “Tory Anarchist”) – a friend not a foe. But is it tied to Hayek and his philosophical opinions?

No it is not – which is why I mentioned Oakeshott and Tolkien (two Conservatives with very different philosophical opinions to Hayek). Both Oakeshott and Tolkien believed in free will (agency – moral responsibility, the ability to choose to do otherwise).

Even in the 18th century Conservatives did not follow the philosophical opinions of David Hume (again IF they were his opinions – I repeat this is hotly contested). Neither the Tory Conservative Dr Johnson or the Old Whig Conservative Edmund Burke (a real Old Whig – unlike Hayek) accepted determinism and the denial of human personhood (moral choice – the ability to choose to do otherwise). Edmund Burke and Dr Johnson (the Whig and the Tory) both believed in free will (agency – moral responsibility, the ability to choose to do otherwise) and were moral universalists (not just Dr Johnson – but Edmund Burke also, for the T. Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson view of his is totally wrong, to Burke it did not matter if something happened in the Middle Ages or right now, in India or America – right was right and wrong was wrong).

Is this the only view of Conservatism?

Of course not – there are other views of Conservatism. For example the statism of Disraeli (with his life long commitment to “social reform” – yuk).

However, that is hardly “doing nothing” (against those who do not themselves aggress against others). The Tauist Old King Log sitting in the shade – rather than Young King Stork “helping” his subjects by eating them.

Obama and Putin: Playing the Same Game

The War of the Community Organizers. Mr. Greenfield explains that both of them need their enemies, in order to ensure their power.

Obama and Putin: Two Totalitarians, One Game
March 27, 2014 by Daniel Greenfield

[ ... ]

Every time a battle is won and an election ends, a new source of social conflict is dug up and deployed for war.

As a domestic radical, divisiveness is his natural weapon. Obama plays on fragmented identities, assembling coalitions to wage war against some phantom white heteronormative patriarchy consisting of a middle class barely able to pay its bills.

[ ... ]

[Obama's coalition] needs an enemy to give it meaning. Without a common enemy it will tear itself apart and die.

The same is true of the anti-American coalition that Putin has cobbled together out of Marxist dictators in Latin America, Shiite fanatics in Iran, a North Korean prep school grad who starves his people to build nukes and radical American leftists convinced that every war is a CIA conspiracy. Like allying the NAACP, AFL-CIO and GLAAD; it’s an odd conclave, but as long as everyone focuses on a common foe, they can all be herded in the right direction.

Obama is an adequate national community organizer, but Putin is a global community organizer.

It’s not just that Obama is weak and inept, but he’s using a rulebook that Moscow is entirely familiar with because its men helped write it. The KGB vets running the show understand Obama intimately because they understood his mentors. The tactics that Obama and his people imagine are clever and innovative are minor examples of the tactics that the USSR was using abroad before he was even born.

Obama isn’t isolating Putin. Putin is isolating Obama. He’s doing it in the same way that Obama did it to Republicans.

Anti-Americanism has nothing to with America. Anti-Americanism creates a phantom enemy.

[ ... ]

Obama needs a Republican enemy to keep his people in line. Putin needs an American enemy to keep his people in line. If Obama understood this, he would also understand that Putin is as likely to work with him to defuse the conflict, as Obama would with John Boehner.

Putin and Obama are both deeply corrupt men whose former popularity has waned and are badly in need of distractions.

[ ... ]

Obama thinks globally and acts locally. Putin thinks locally and acts globally.

Putin is determined to score points from the post-American transition. Reducing American power and influence worldwide was a move that the foreign policy left believed would defuse tensions. Instead it has turned into a gold rush for every petty tyrant and terrorist eager to count coup by humiliating the United States.

Obama wanted a peaceful post-American transition. Instead he’s getting worldwide chaos and war.

Putin seeks out a conflict with the United States for the same reason that Obama seeks one out with Republicans….


It must be true because I read about it in the Daily Mail…

[Editorial note - this story is from a while back but I've been sick as a mangy hound with nastiness so never finished it. I'm back now.]

… except it isn’t. Since childhood I have been an aviation fanatic. I’m astigmatic, somewhat short sighted and RG colour blind. So when I started my degree I spoke to the recruiting officer for the East Midlands Universities Air Squadron and when I explained my ishoos I was told to politely eff off. Having said that would you really trust someone who had to be told what colour Corsodyl toothpaste is with hands on the throttle and stick of a something that costs more than David and Victoria Beckham’s house and can drop JDAMs?

Thought not.

Shame but fair enough I guess. Having said that the highest scoring fighter ace in British history, Major Edward “Mick” Mannock, Victoria Cross, Distinguished Service Order and Two Bars, Military Cross and Bar (61 confirmed kills, maybe 73) and that Irishman was blind in one eye (allegedly). He (allegedly) bribed someone in the medical section to get the sight-test chart and memorised it. I think they are a bit more careful these days. Never trust the Irish or the Daily Mail.


Prince Harry has created a scholarship to get wounded veterans behind the wheel of an iconic Spitfire.

A fine and noble goal except a Spitfire (do we need to be told it is “iconic”? Do we ever need to be told something that actually is iconic is “iconic”?) doesn’t have a wheel. No, seriously. This is a snarky piece but it is aimed against the Mail and not Harry. I knew a lass at Nottingham University who helped out with riding for the disabled. Imagine how freeing it is for a paraplegic to be astride a horse and to gain that speed, height and mobility. A Spit has rather more horses in the front so…

The scheme, inspired by Second World War pilot Douglas Bader, will see the strongest candidates move up from a Tiger Mother biplane, to a Harvard, to the bespoke craft.

A Tiger Mother? God help us! The Harvard though was the RAF’s LIFT at the time so OK there but what’s that with “bespoke”?

Oh, and we had many disabled pilots in WWII. One bloke had nose art on his Spitfire showing the arm he’d had blown off flicking the V-sign.

Harry, an Apache helicopter pilot, launched the scholarship by climbing into the cockpit of a Spitfire and starting it.

Er… He’s an Apache WSO. Whatever.

But this is astonishing…

Not Spitfires

The Mail caption is this, “Britain built about 20,000 Spitfires, but they became obsolete after the invention of the jet engine. Here, a fleet is pictured with wing commander Robert Stanford-Tuck for the 1968 film.”

I’m not even going to point out they are Hurricanes.

I can fact-check stuff in the press. But I have limits. I know about certain areas such as aviation, bits of physics, a few other odds and ends but that is my lot. Worrying isn’t it? How much can the media smuggle past you as “truth” if you don’t know the subject?

I’m just wear my Mr Sceptic hat. I’m not exactly accusing them of making things-up or even of cherry-picking things to reflect their views but of in a fundamental way not really caring about hard truth. I mean that in the sense that the Mail sees the truth of telling a heart-warming story of the dashing young prince driving fast cars for a good cause (which it is) is more important than the awkward little facts. They all do it. What we have to do is behave like small Danish boys and sometimes shout, “But I can see his willy!!!”.

%d bloggers like this: