Saturday, August 31, 2019

“I shall be under a necessity of taking such steps as will be found disagreeable but which I shall certainly put in execution for the public good.”

From The Road to Guilford Courthouse by John Buchanan. Page 102.

The final resolution of back country Tory resistance at the opening of the American Revolution in the South.
This was the high point of Tory resistance in the Back Country in 1775. The treaty was not worth the paper it was written on, because the Rebels refused to recognize it. On 30 November Colonel Richardson held a council of war at which it was decided that the army was not bound by the treaty Major Williamson had signed. On 8 December Richardson issued a proclamation stating that Patrick Cunningham and others had violated the Drayton and Fletchall Treaty of Ninety Six, and demanded they surrender the captured arms and powder and the arms and ammunition of their followers. Richardson gave them five days to comply. Otherwise, “I shall be under a necessity of taking such steps as will be found disagreeable but which I shall certainly put in execution for the public good.” Patrick Cunningham spurned the proclamation. Richardson, true to his word, marched on the insurgents.

It was a walkover. Richardson had built up an army of between 4,000 and 5,000 militiamen and state troops from the Low Country, the Back Country, and North Carolina. This was a very large force for the time and place, and it had the intended effect, both military and psychological. Meeting little resistance, Richardson’s army swept through Tory strongholds. He reported to the Council of Safety that the army “proved to them what government can do in putting down opposition. That . . . they are much terrified and come in with fear and trembling—giving up their arms, with contrition for their late conduct.” The “great and mighty nabob,” Thomas Fletchall, was found hiding inside a hollow sycamore tree, all 280 pounds of him, and sent under arrest to Charleston. Only Patrick Cunningham and some two hundred diehards held out. They fled westward, just inside Cherokee country, and camped “at a place called the Great Cane Break on Reedy River.” Colonel Richardson had no intention of allowing what William Henry Drayton called “this nest of sedition and of turbulent spirits” to go free. On the afternoon of 21 December he detached from the army 1,300 cavalry and infantry under the command of Colonel William Thompson. Readers will remember “Old Danger” from the Battle of Sullivan’s Island. After a twenty-three-mile march, in the wee hours of the following day they could see Cunningham’s campfires about two miles away. Just before daybreak they moved out and attempted to surround the camp. They had almost succeeded when they were discovered. Some Tories fled through the gap in Rebel lines. Of the 200 about seventy got away, including Patrick Cunningham, who had not even time to saddle a horse but galloped off bareback. According to Rebel sources, he called out for every man “to shift for himself.” The rest were taken prisoner, along with all the baggage, arms, and ammunition. The Tories lost five or six killed; the Rebels had one wounded.

A Song by Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea

A Song
by Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea

Love, thou art best of Human Joys,
Our chiefest Happiness below;
All other Pleasures are but Toys,
Musick without Thee is but Noise,
And Beauty but an empty show.

Heav'n, who knew best what Man wou'd move,
And raise his Thoughts above the Brute;
Said, Let him Be, and Let him Love;
That must alone his Soul improve,
Howe'er Philosophers dispute.

On the Way to Stockholm by Oscar Torna (1842-1894)

On the Way to Stockholm by Oscar Torna (1842-1894)

Click to enlarge.

In many ways, Stockholm was the most beautiful city in which I have lived.

Best of the Bee

Not just the pie, but the slices of the pie.

I record this not because I have digested it, but in order to remember that it exists. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine produced a report, The Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration and found that
The long-term impact of immigration on the wages and employment of native-born workers overall is very small, and that any negative impacts are most likely to be found for prior immigrants or native-born high school dropouts. First-generation immigrants are more costly to governments than are the native-born, but the second generation are among the strongest fiscal and economic contributors in the U.S. This report concludes that immigration has an overall positive impact on long-run economic growth in the U.S.
The Center for Immigration Studies took a look at the report and, while agreeing with the macro impact, came to somewhat different micro conclusions. CIS is a noted opponent of immigration policies as they currently exist but, in like manner, NAS was as likely subject to more positive support of existing policies.

The point CIS is making is that while there is a half trillion dollar increase to the national economy owing to immigration, there is a nearly half trillion dollar loss of income from unskilled and low skilled workers. Netting the two impacts yields a $50 billion contribution to the national economy but primarily because of suppressed wages and income for those at the bottom of the economic pyramid (unskilled and low-skilled workers) and the benefit accruing to businesses.

Does their analysis hold water? Don't have time to delve into the details, but they are correct that any analysis has to look at not only the macro net benefits but also at the ebbs and flows of costs and benefits to different groups within the US. A real but relatively small net benefit to the already prosperous 10% may not warrant the reduction in income of the native born low skilled demographic.

The sudden burst of genius, which to a foreigner must seem have sprung up in this country by a sort of enchantment, soon after the Rebellion of 1745

From How the Scots Invented the Modern World by Arthur Herman. Page 13.

Is it not strange that at a time when we have lost our Princes, our Parliaments, our independent government, even the Presence of our chief Nobility, are unhappy in our accent and pronunciation, speak a very corrupt Dialect of the Tongue which we make use of, is it not strange, I say, that in these Circumstances, we shou’d really be the People most distinguished for Literature in Europe?

David Hume, 1757

The constant influx of information and of liberality from abroad, which was thus kept up in Scotland in consequence of the ancient habits and manners of the people, may help to account for the sudden burst of genius, which to a foreigner must seem have sprung up in this country by a sort of enchantment, soon after the Rebellion of 1745.

Dugald Stewart

All Bob's money, I'll give to you.

Very clever. Remy's parody of All My Loving.

Double click to enlarge.

Friday, August 30, 2019

He could not “quiet their minds.”

From The Road to Guilford Courthouse by John Buchanan. Page 95.
“The Scotch Irish and English settlers presented the real danger. The former, traditionally considered as totally for rebellion, had among them a sizeable minority who favored the crown, especially those who had immigrated recently through the port of Charleston. At King’s Creek on the Enoree River in the upper reaches of the Dutch Fork, that large area between the Broad and Saluda Rivers, William Henry Drayton met in debate the two ablest supporters of the King, Robert Cunningham and Thomas Brown. Cunningham was a Scotch Irishman who had migrated south from Pennsylvania to the Saluda River valley. He was a man widely respected and of great influence among many of the Back Country settlers. He may have come down on the side of the Tories out of personal resentment. Cunningham, Moses Kirkland, and James Mayson were candidates for colonel of a Back Country regiment authorized by the Council of Safety. Mayson got the command, and years later the prominent Rebel militia commander, Andrew Pickens, who spoke seldom but never arrived at a judgment idly, said that this “so exasperated the others that they immediately took the other Side of the Question.” Pickens felt that Cunningham would have been the best choice, and if he “had been appointed Colonel at that time, we would not have had so violent an opposition to our cause in this Country.

Thomas Brown was a man of some means who had immigrated to Georgia from Yorkshire in 1774. On the same day that Drayton left Charleston for the Back Country, Brown had faced alone about 100 Sons of Liberty at a friend’s house near Augusta, about forty-five miles southeast of Ninety Six. He described what happened in a letter to his father of 10 November 1775. When he refused to declare for the cause the mob rushed him. Brown shot “their Ringleader,” Chesley Bostick, through the foot, and when they took his pistols he drew his sword and “kept them at bay for some time,” but a “cowardly miscreant” hit him in the back of the head with a rifle butt and fractured his skull The blow would leave Thomas Brown with headaches for life, and exposed him to immediate indignities that aroused the passions of Tories and gave him the nickname of was "Burntfoot” Brown to Rebels, who recalled it for many years after the Revolution. The Rebels ransacked his house. They tarred his legs and held his feet over burning wood. They used knives to cut off his hair and then scalped him. He lost two toes, and it was many months before he could walk normally. The Georgia Council of Safety thought the affair highly amusing: “The said Thomas Brown is now a little remarkable, wears his hair very short and a handkerchief around his head in order that his intellect . . . may not be affected.”

Thomas Brown, however, was made of stern stuff. His travail occurred on 2 August, yet on 15 August he was in South Carolina debating William Henry Drayton, who referred to him as Robert Cunningham’s “worthy companion of tar and feather memory.” Thomas Brown would lose all in the end and start life anew in the Bahamas, but before the war was over many a Rebel would pay dearly for Brown’s pain and humiliation. He and Robert Cunningham were intelligent leaders, and Brown was tough to boot. They had many followers, and also working for them was the desire of many others to be left alone by both parties, and the feeling that would live for a century or more after the Revolution that Charleston and the “gentlemen below” could not be trusted. At the debate at King’s Creek, Brown read to the crowd Sir John Dalrymple’s Address of the People of Great Britain to the Inhabitants of America. Dalrymple, a lawyer in Lord North’s cabinet, pointed out the great dangers of revolt: the power of the British military, the possibility of a slave revolt, the economic consequences. He argued that the differences between England and the colonies could be settled without difficulty. He also included a sentence that would have instant meaning to the settlers. “It is hard that the charge of our intending to enslave you should come oftenest from the mouths of those lawyers who in your southern provinces at least, have long made you slaves to themselves.” At meeting after meeting Drayton harangued the people, but he could not “quiet their minds.”

The Brandywine Tradition by Jenness Cortez

The Brandywine Tradition by Jenness Cortez

Very impressive series.

Best of the Bee

How the Scots Invented the Modern World

I am finally beginning to read How the Scots Invented the Modern World by Arthur Herman. It came out in 2001 when I was overseas. I picked up a copy within two or three years. An intriguing thesis but it came on the back of similar books such How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill.

Large claims with some merit but seemingly overstating their case.

So How the Scots Invented the Modern World has sat on my shelf for some years; not because I disagree but more because of a latent concern that it might just be a publishing house phenomenon. Indeed, I am quite fascinated by the Scots, as I am with the seventeenth century Dutch, the fifteenth century Portuguese, the fifth century BC Athens - people who arose from unpropitious circumstances to have an intellectual and civilizational luster all out of proportion to their originating circumstances.

Now that I am reading How the Scots, I am finding a much more cogent argument than I anticipated and am enjoying it. As with the best of books, Herman is connecting knowledge and ideas you already know, but in a new fashion and from a new perspective, allowing you to make different and more powerful conclusions.

The KKK bogeyman

Linda Sarsour, is an anti-semitic bigot who, oddly, rose to fame on the back of the short-lived #MeToo movement. I saw some chatter a couple of days ago that she was claiming that the KKK marched and waved confederate flags during a speech she gave. Someone linked to a tweet from her, conveying that message.

OK. The Mandarin Class are eager to convey a rising white supremacist movement which does not actually exist and Sarsour seems to have jumped on that bandwagon. Just more cognitive pollution. Not worth focusing on.

Lots of citizen reporters then pointed out that there were no KKK members or confederate flags in the local news reports and TV video of the event. SHE'S LYING! was the explicit claim.

None of this is especially interesting. Second rate lying activists or confused opponents making counter claims. While it is unpleasant grit in the national conversation, none of this is particularly interesting.

Then a couple of days later, there is this post from Sansour.

Well, that's interesting. No confederate flags or Klansmen in her photos.

This becomes marginally more interesting. Was the KKK there or not?

Did she really post these tweets? I go back to her account and find them.

But in doing so, I discover that the pictures of the KKK and confederate flags at the protest actually originated from Graig Meyer, Democratic Representative of District 50, NC General Assembly. He is the origin of the pictures, Sarsour is merely endorsing his message by retweeting.

Based on the second Sarsour tweet, in which she is offering evidence that there were indeed racists, the fact that there are no confederate flags or KKK members suggests that there were none there. Perhaps she believed there were, relying on Meyer's tweet, and in fact there were none.

Then there is that cryptic comment "They may change costumes, but their message is consistent." Is she suggesting that there were KKK members there and then they changed before anyone other than Meyer could get a picture? An interesting rhetorical device, if that is her intent.

Or perhaps she is saying that pro-Israel supporters, Trump supporters, Christians, and Libertarians are all the same as the KKK. That in her mind, her original endorsement of Meyer's tweet still stands because while they may not have literally been KKK members protesting her speech, anyone who does so is basically a racist/white supremacist.

I am interested in the epistemic aspect of this. In a digital world where everyone is curating their own feeds and where people are properly free to post false or misleading information (i.e. I have no issue with people's freedom of speech), how do you sort the true wheat from the fake or misleading chaff? It is a little like a detective story.

My hypothesis is that Meyer originated the KKK photos as a misguided attempt to push the white supremacy narrative. Perhaps a staffer found these photos from some other source, claiming there were KKK protesters. Either deliberately lying, or mistakenly trusting the research capabilities of a staffer, Meyer tweets out factually wrong pictures. Perhaps evidence of these chimerical protesters will yet arise, but it has been 48 hours and no one is coming forth with such evidence.

I suspect Sarsour saw the pro-Israeli flags and assumed that where there are pro-Israeli flags, it is probable that there are KKK members with confederate flags, based solely on what she saw in Meyer's tweet. In other words, she relied on Meyer and did not see the KKK herself.

Not wishing to contradict an ally like Meyer, Sarsour then sends her second tweet with photos of pro-Israeli flag wavers, Trump Supporters, America Supporters, and Christians, in an attempt to equate them to the KKK.

And there it ends except for the shouting or if further evidence emerges.

The working version of the truth then is that there were some twenty people supporting various popular causes (Israel, patriotism, Trump, Christianity) outside an academic hall where Sarsour was doing her spiel. Sarsour saw some of them. She expanded her claim mote-and-bailey style by forwarding Meyer's tweet.

Sarsour is retreating to her motte - that everyone who disagrees with her is obviously a racist white supremacist - while giving up the bailey that there were actual KKK members protesting with pro-Israel advocates against Sarsour. Probably a pretty sensible decision to give up that particular bailey given the historical KKK anti-semitism. Not dissimilar, in some respects, to Sarsour's own profound anti-semitism.

Still an inconsequential event; much ado about nothing. But kind of an interesting case study of what has become a de facto challenge. You can't trust politicians to tell the truth (Meyer), you can't trust advocates to tell the truth (Sarsour), and you cannot trust the media to accurately report. Given all that, assembling some semblance of an accurate picture of reality becomes more challenging.

A Broken Appointment by Thomas Hardy

A Broken Appointment
by Thomas Hardy

You did not come,
And marching Time drew on, and wore me numb, -
Yet less for loss of your dear presence there
Than that I thus found lacking in your make
That high compassion which can overbear
Reluctance for pure lovingkindness' sake
Grieved I, when, as the hope-hour stroked its sum,
You did not come.

You love not me,
And love alone can lend you loyalty;
-I know and knew it. But, unto the store
Of human deeds divine in all but name,
Was it not worth a little hour or more
To add yet this: Once you, a woman, came
To soothe a time-torn man; even though it be
You love not me?

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Their deepest desire was for both sides to leave them alone so they could cultivate their farms

From The Road to Guilford Courthouse by John Buchanan. Page 95.

Carrying the message of liberty and freedom to back country of the South was no easy task.
Drayton and Tennent left Charleston on 2 August 1775. They found neither the journey nor the mission easy going. Travel then was an endurance contest. The Reverend Charles Woodmason once described a journey to baptize several children as “A Shocking Passage. Obliged to cut the Way thro’ the Swamp for 4 miles, thro’ Canes, and impenetrable Woods—had my Cloaths torn to Pieces.” The country Woodmason described lay on their path. To add to their discomfort, the arrogance of the Rice Kings left many settlers ill disposed to even listen to the message. William Tennent recorded in his diary that the people believed “that no man from Charleston can speak the truth, and that all the papers are full of lies.” To the Council of Safety in Charleston he described the “unchangeable malignity of their minds and . . . bitterness against the gentlemen as they are called.” A large, important ethnic group, the Germans, were afraid of losing their land, which had been given to them by the King. They wanted no part of rebellion. After a week spent in the German settlements near modern Columbia, during which Tennent recorded, “Mr. Drayton harangued them and was followed by myself,” Drayton had to report that “the Dutch are not with us.” But the Germans were not dangerous to the cause, because their deepest desire was for both sides to leave them alone so they could cultivate their farms.

La femme de l’artiste dressant la table by Carl Holsøe (1863 - 1935)

La femme de l’artiste dressant la table by Carl Holsøe (1863 - 1935)

Click to enlarge.

Best of the Bee

Mock her naiveté or respect her honest pursuit of a story.

Something odd going on here in this article, I tried to buy a gun at Walmart twice, and roadblocks left me empty-handed both times by Hayley Peterson. Second Amendment and conservative bloggers are mocking the reporter as a know nothing Ben Rhodes reporter; someone who is so inside the liberal bubble of cities that she is reporting the equivalent of "water is wet" as if it were a major discovery.

And I see how it can be read that way. Gun control advocates rarely are well-versed in the function and use of guns, rarely know many people who are gun owners, have little exposure to the role of personal guns in history or society, etc. Critics of Peterson are making fun of her discovering that the existing gun control regulations are indeed strong and effective.

In gun control circles, there is a common claim that i t is easier to buy a gun than it is to purchase cold medicine. Given the high correlation between Second Amendment Enthusiasts, Cultural Conservatives, and Libertarians, this is not as compelling an argument as the gun-control advocates think. Most people would just as soon loosen regulations on cold medicine.

Walmart has been a particular target for gun-control advocates. They really want Walmart to not serve their customer base by eliminating gun sales.

Peterson tests both these suppositions. Is it easier to buy cold medicine than a gun? Is Walmart irresponsible or non-compliant with its legal obligations in selling guns? No and No.

I suspect that Peterson is owed kudos rather than mockery. Her article is filled with data. It is a detailed step-by-step description of what goes into purchasing a gun. And indeed, it is a burden and it is effective within its limits. Madmen still commit crimes with weapons because we have no reliable red flags for mental illness or terrorism beyond the most obvious.

I suspect the mockery is perhaps in part owing to the seeming breathlessness of the writing. It is as if the reporter had never been into a Walmart before. But again, I wonder, perhaps the apparent breathlessness is just a function of writing to the level of detail necessary to communicate to her readers. Perhaps she has been in a Walmart but her readers haven't.

Kudos to Ms. Peterson who, instead of accepting the ungrounded narrative, went and checked it out to find whether it was true or not.

You have dishonored by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice

Speeches of the ages which never lose their pertinence. Oliver Cromwell dissolution the Long Parliament in a speech given to the House of Commons, 20 April 1653.
It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonored by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice; ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government; ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.

Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess? Ye have no more religion than my horse; gold is your God; which of you have not barter’d your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth?

Ye sordid prostitutes have you not defil’d this sacred place, and turn’d the Lord’s temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices? Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation; you were deputed here by the people to get grievances redress’d, are yourselves gone! So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors.

In the name of God, go!”
The House of Representatives's abandonment of their constitutional role as legislators and budgeters seems a parallel to the antics of the Long Parliament.

Equitable inheritances level the playing field by rewarding talent, not status

Very interesting. From Do Inheritance Customs Affect Political and Social Inequality? by Anselm Hager and Hanno Hilbig. From the Abstract:
Why are some societies more unequal than others? The French revolutionaries believed unequal inheritances among siblings to be responsible for the strict hierarchies of the ancien régime. To achieve equality, the revolutionaries therefore enforced equal inheritance rights. Their goal was to empower women and to disenfranchise the noble class. But do equal inheritances succeed in leveling the societal playing field? We study Germany—a country with pronounced local‐level variation in inheritance customs—and find that municipalities that historically equally apportioned wealth, to this day, elect more women into political councils and have fewer aristocrats in the social elite. Using historic data, we point to two mechanisms: wealth equality and pro‐egalitarian preferences. In a final step, we also show that, counterintuitively, equitable inheritance customs positively predict income inequality. We interpret this finding to mean that equitable inheritances level the playing field by rewarding talent, not status.
Part of what makes this so interesting is that they see a paradox which isn't necessarily real and it arises because of the distinction between wealth and income.

Equal inheritance laws and traditions address the devision of a static wealth pie at a given point in time, i.e. when someone dies. It is clever to use local-level variance as a means of studying effect, though it would be interesting to know whether religion was controlled for. Religion being, potentially, a significant confounder.

Electing more women into political councils is nice but could simply be a product of modern norms. I find it interesting that, as one would expect, getting rid of primogeniture decreases the number of aristocrats. It seems that so long as families are able to concentrate accumulated wealth based on heritage, that can serve as a powerful retardant to social change. On the other hand, it creates a genetic crapshoot. If the eldest heir happens to be the most competent, it is negative force on societal progress. I.e. the wealth is protected and expanded and social privileges expand. If, on the other hand, the eldest is randomly likely to inherit bad capabilities and/or behaviors, primogeniture works only so long as the die roll right. At some point the wealth goes to a dullard and risks dissipation.

On the other hand, when the wealth is equally distributed each generation, that serves as a form of covering a larger number of bets over longer periods of time. The wealth is likely to be eroded but it will go to a larger pool of ready talent and have a greater probability of being regenerated.

In other words, if the most talented and productive child in the family is number three, under primogeniture, that talent will not get fully developed owing to inability to access capital. The talent is unexploited and that fortune is eroded (it is in the hands of a less capable child).

If the same fortune is distributed across three children, it is quite probable that talented child number three will better generate excess income from the smaller inheritance.

By abolishing primogeniture, you do get rid of static class divisions based on protected wealth. However, the financial well-being of that wealth is at greater risk from the genetic luck of the draw.

On the other hand, if the capital is equally divided among the children, there is a greater probability that the smaller amount of wealth will more likely be matched with the better talented child.

You lose wealth concentration but you increase income earning inequality owing to differences in talent. And income which is earned (as opposed to inherited) generates increased productivity. It is notable that the nations with the greatest acceptance of capitalism also have the highest recorded income growth but also the highest level of income inequality.

Absent wars, famine, disease, and societal collapse, income equality is always getting worse in free and productive societies. And no one wants to obtain income equality through wars, famine, disease, and societal collapse.

The Mandarin Class is always trying to protects its generational privileges through concentrated wealth and yet everyone is most benefited by free talent accessing capital to drive higher income.

Tell all the truth but tell it slant by Emily Dickinson

Tell all the truth but tell it slant
by Emily Dickinson

Tell all the truth but tell it slant -
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Many of whom were still Presbyterian but in 1775 rarely Princetonians

From The Road to Guilford Courthouse by John Buchanan. Page 94.

Describing the efforts of the patriots to excite support in the back country of North Carolina, the area of sttlement which would become Tennessee, and the South Carolina piedmont. An area populated by heterogeneous communities by ethnicity, religion, and culture.
“The Reverend William Tennent was a native of Northern Ireland, a noted Presbyterian preacher whose father was one of the founders of the College of New Jersey, later Princeton, from which William graduated. It was thought by the Council of Safety that he was best equipped to address the concerns of the Scotch Irish, many of whom were still Presbyterian but in 1775 rarely Princetonians. Tennant had helped draft the Association. Because the Baptists had made dramatic inroads in the Back Country’s religious mosaic, South Carolina’s leading Baptist preacher, the Reverend Oliver Hart, accompanied Drayton and Tennent. The need to include Hart is a clue to what was going on beyond the genteel Anglican spirituality of the Low Country. In the Back Country were Germans Lutheran and Reformed, Scotch Irish Presbyterians, French Huguenots, Independents, Baptists, Seventh-Day Baptists, New Light Baptists, and “an hundred other sects,” wrote the Reverend Charles Woodmason. In a splendid sentence Lieutenant Governor William Bull described the denominations to Lord Hillsborough in 1770 as “subdivided ad infinitum in the back parts, as illiterate enthusiasm or wild imagination can misinterpret the scripture,” while “every circle of Christian knowledge grows fainter as more removed from the center."

“Drayton and the preachers were joined by Colonel Richard Richardson, who had migrated from Virginia and established himself in the Back Country of the upper Santee as a successful planter, militia officer, and man of affairs; and Joseph Kershaw, an important merchant from Camden who along with Richardson had been elected to the First Provincial Congress. But the fiery William Henry Drayton was the key member of the mission.

Motivo di Capri, 1920 by Bernardo Hay (1864-1931)

Motivo di Capri, 1920 by Bernardo Hay (1864-1931)

Click to enlarge.

Oscar Wilde and the Vatican Murders

Just finished Oscar Wilde and the Vatican Murders by Gyles Brandreth.

From the blurb.
Oscar Wilde makes a triumphant return to sleuthing in the fifth novel in the critically acclaimed historical murder mystery series based on real events, featuring Wilde as the detective aided by his friend Arthur Conan Doyle, and written by a premier British biographer.

Oscar Wilde and the Vatican Murders opens in 1892, as an exhausted Arthur Conan Doyle retires to a spa in Germany with a suitcase full of fan mail. But his rest cure does not go as planned. The first person he encounters is Oscar Wilde, and the two friends make a series of macabre discoveries among the letters—a finger; a lock of hair; and, finally, an entire severed hand.

The trail leads the intrepid duo to Rome, and to a case that involves miracles as well as murder. Pope Pius IX has just died—these are uncertain times in the Eternal City. To uncover the mystery and discover why the creator of Sherlock Holmes has been summoned in this way, Wilde and Conan Doyle must penetrate the innermost circle of the Catholic Church and expose the deadly secrets of the six men closest to the pope.

In Gyles Brandreth’s captivating and richly atmospheric novel, Wilde’s skills as a detective are put to the test in his most compelling case yet.
It is easy to lose track of who was a contemporary of whom. In this instance, not only did A.C. Doyle and Oscar Wilde live in the same period, they knew one another as well. Sufficient to create a series of murder mysteries.

If the rest are as good as this, very entertaining.

Page 6.
Do not misunderstand me. In the hurly-burly of the metropolis, in the crush bar at the opera house, or a drawing room in Mayfair, there could be no better companion than Oscar Wilde. He set every room he ever entered on a roar. I never knew a wittier man, and he was wise as well as witty. And his wit sparkled and soared: it was never mean or cruel, never exercised at a lesser man's expense. But Oscar Wilde was not a quiet person. He was Irish and he would not - could not - stop talking. He was a talent to amuse, excite, delight, and stimulate, not to soothe. He had a genius and charm, and in the years that I first knew him, before his terrible downfall, he was, at all times, a perfect gentleman. But he was not restful company.

Best of the Bee

Better to have solid research rather than just personal research

One of my frustrations after each mass shooting is that there is a barrage of gun control recommendations and associated rhetoric to the effect that if you don't support gun control you must be evil or stupid. Set aside the issue that this is a Second Amendment right. Set aside the role of an armed civilian populace in the checks-and-balances equation of the Constitution. Set aside the fact that mass shootings are incredibly rare and a negligible percentage of homicides.

The frustration arises is as a rationalist. It is extremely rare, after a shooting, that any of the standard gun control recommendations would have made a difference. I have a pretty strong view of the Second Amendment as an unacknowledged and powerful check-and-balance but you cannot ignore the tragedies which arise from common gun ownership, even if such tragedies are rare or concentrated out of sight.

So intellectually I am open to the idea that perhaps there might be some recommendations which could reduce gun deaths and also preserve the checks-and-balance of the Second Amendment. However, over the years, as I have paid attention to the particulars of each mass shooting, I have never found a single one which would have been prevented through the implementation of the most popular gun control suggestions. Why talk about policies which are not pertinent to the actual realities of these tragedies.

It comes across as profoundly unserious at best and cynically motivated at worst.

But I have always had a hesitancy. That is what I am seeing and reading across time and varied circumstances. I might be right, but that is no rigorous analysis.

I just came across this research from Rand which comes close to addressing my concern. They aren't looking at whether particular policies are relevant to particular mass shootings. They are asking the bigger question of whether there is reliable affirmative evidence which supports the efficacy of the proposed regulations at all.

Their finding is that no, there is no such evidence. Half the policy recommendations have no research at all to support them and the other half have research but the results are mixed and inconclusive.

Background Checks
Bans on the Sale of Assault Weapons and High-Capacity Magazines
Child-Access Prevention Laws
Concealed-Carry Laws
Licensing and Permitting Requirements
Minimum Age Requirements
Waiting Periods


Firearm Sales Reporting Requirements
Gun-Free Zones
Lost or Stolen Firearm Reporting Requirements
Prohibitions Associated with Mental Illness
Stand-Your-Ground Laws
Surrender of Firearms by Prohibited Possessors
Nice to have the imprimatur of Rand Corporation rather than just "I haven't found any evidence to support the efficacy of such policies.

Schrödinger's country

Click to enlarge.

On Education by Elizabeth Bentley

On Education
by Elizabeth Bentley
December 1789

When infant Reason first exerts her sway,
And new-formed thoughts their earliest charms display;
Then let the growing race employ your care
Then guard their opening minds from Folly's snare;
Correct the rising passions of their youth,
Teach them each serious, each important truth;
Plant heavenly virtue in the tender breast,
Destroy each vice that might its growth molest;
Point out betimes the course they should pursue;
Then with redoubled pleasure shall you view
Their reason strengthen as their years increase,
Their virtue ripen and their follies cease;
Like corn sown early in the fertile soil,
The rich harvest shall repay your toil.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

They were hard men and women, accustomed to privation, travail their normal lot, mercy to an enemy never uppermost in their thoughts.

From The Road to Guilford Courthouse by John Buchanan. Page 87.
In the early seventeenth century, in a continuation of an effort England had begun five centuries before to subdue Ireland, James I of England, who was also James VI of Scotland, confiscated the Ulster lands of the Irish aristocracy and created the Plantation of Ulster. On it were settled Scottish Lowlanders and English farmers and Londoners, Protestants all. Earlier settlements under private initiative were also composed of Scottish and English Protestants. James also hoped that flooding the land with Lowland Scots and English would prevent joint actions by Irish Celts and Scottish Highland Celts. Thus were the seeds planted for the terrible “troubles” we have witnessed on our television sets for the past decades.

Many of the Lowland Scots who went to Ulster in large numbers to escape poverty had exchanged one border for another. In Scotland they had fought with their fellow borderers the English in a barbarous manner for 400 years. Raid and counter-raid and butchery had succeeded each other in dreary procession. Yet, ironically, if the Lowlanders bore a cultural resemblance to any people, it was to their enemies the English of the border counties, and in America they would mix easily with them, fight shoulder to shoulder, even follow and lead them into battle. In the borderlands of Ulster incessant and savage war was waged with the “wild Irish,” as the Celtic Irish were then commonly called. The Lowlanders who became Ulster Scots mingled and intermarried with the English and with French Huguenots, but so rarely with the Celtic Irish Catholics that the two distinctive communities remained bitter enemies. At the same time the settlers prospered as farmers, weavers, and in the woolen and linen trades. Their prosperity, however, caused English protests, and late-seventeenth-century laws restricting their trade brought them economic distress. Anti-Presbyterian laws, taxation to support the Church of England, rapacious and absentee English landlords, and throughout the eighteenth century a series of severe economic depressions led to massive discontent. Poverty, often desperate, once more became their lot. Beginning about 1715 and ending in 1775 when the Revolution temporarily blocked immigration, about a quarter of a million Scotch Irish fled Ulster for America. The Celtic Irish Catholics were not part of this movement. There were few of them in colonial America.

They were “strangers to our laws and customs,” complained the Philadelphia Quaker James Dickinson of the Scotch Irish, and this has a ring of familiarity to twentieth-century ears. But the strangers’ descendants became lawmakers themselves in their new land, and for good and ill their customs and characteristics would become deeply woven into the American fabric. Once here, they never looked back. They had arrived in the promised land. They never cared to see Ulster again. Among them were a sprinkling of yeoman farmers and a thin upper stratum of provincial gentry known as the Ascendancy. The latter included such families as Polk, Calhoun, and Jackson: to the young Republic they would supply national leaders.

As a group, however, the Scotch Irish were overwhelmingly poor. Some early arrivals went to Massachusetts, but they and the Puritans were incompatible, and they pushed on to western Massachusetts and north to Maine and New Hampshire. Although there were more Scotch Irish in the colonies north of Pennsylvania than generally supposed, they made their greatest colonial impact in central and western Pennsylvania and the southern Back Country. They poured in largely through the ports of Philadelphia and New Castle, Delaware, and from there struck out for the Back Country. From Lancaster County west, Pennsylvania became their American homeland, and they treated it as they did every place they went, as theirs to take and keep. They introduced to America the tradition of squatting on unused property and daring anyone to put them off. They handled Indians roughly and were little less gentle with white authorities. Once when officials including a sheriff and surveyor tried to intimidate some Scotch Irish, “A body of some seventy joined circlewise around Mr. Parsons’ instrument, and began narrowing in upon it, the front ones on foot, the rear ones on horseback.” The official party left. Their attitude toward land as reported by the Provincial Secretary of Pennsylvania was simple: they “alleged that it was against the laws of God and nature, that so much land should be idle, while so many Christians wanted it to labor on, and to raise their bread.”

Their numbers increased dramatically by immigration and a lively fertility. From Pennsylvania the Scotch Irish spread southward by means of the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road, across the Potomac and through Maryland to the Great Valley of Virginia, the beautiful Shenandoah. German settlers dominated the Valley’s northern reaches, but many Scotch Irish stopped in the central and southern parts, some for good, others until the urge to seek something better prodded them onward. The irrepressible Charles Lee lived in the Shenandoah before the war, and is reported to have said that Virginia was neither a democracy nor an aristocracy but a macocracy. Those who went into the far southwestern mountains of Virginia we will meet again during one of the most dramatic episodes of the war. Nor are we finished with the people who chose to continue south to Wachovia in North Carolina, from whence they followed the Catawba Trading Path to Waxhaw Creek, where the first handful of white “settlers arrived in May 1751. They and their progeny and kindred folk spread out over the fertile, well-watered, rolling uplands in that large swath of land between Charlotte and Camden called the Waxhaws and claimed it as their own.
These were the people who buried Buford’s dead soldiers where they died, nursed the wounded at the Waxhaws Presbyterian Church, and plotted dark deeds of revenge.

These were the people who in the blackest time for the cause would bend but never break. They were hard men and women, accustomed to privation, travail their normal lot, mercy to an enemy never uppermost in their thoughts.

An Out of Town Trolley, 1916 by Francis Luis Mora (1874 - 1940)

An Out of Town Trolley, 1916 by Francis Luis Mora (1874 - 1940)

Click to enlarge.

Ebbs and tides of people always and everywhere

A book review: The Unsettling of Europe by Peter Gatrell review by David Aaronovitch. Data rich.
The Unsettling of Europe is a definitive book in which Peter Gatrell, a historian of population movement at the University of Manchester, proves that “what we used to have” is a chimerical idea. As is the often repeated notion that today’s migration levels — immigration and emigration (although the second is rarely mentioned) — are “unprecedented”.

He begins in the wake of the last war, when vast numbers of people were on the move in Europe. About 2.7 million Germans were expelled from Czechoslovakia, another six million from Poland. By 1950, 17 per cent of the population of West Germany were refugees or expellees, a figure rising to 27 per cent in Lower Saxony.

Meanwhile, 430,000 Karelians went from the Soviet Union to Finland, 300,000 Italians from Yugoslavia to Italy, 250,000 Turks from Bulgaria to Turkey, 150,000 Ukrainians from Poland to Ukraine, Hungarians from Czechoslovakia, Germans from Romania, and so on. There was scarcely a border from the Pyrenees to the Urals that was not crossed by multitudes. A few were the 87,000 displaced Jews taken in by Britain in an act of generosity that was later used to justify British reluctance to share other refugee crises.

These were people who had never lived in the country in which they found themselves. Yet somehow provision was made: between 1945 and 1960 one tenth of all taxes in West Germany went to help ethnic German expellees. Not that everyone was delighted. There were local resentments, a pogrom or two, much prejudice, and after the Iron Curtain fell even instances of West Germans betraying to the Stasi the defection plans of Easterners, on the basis that they would “otherwise take jobs that rightfully belonged to West Germans”.

Decolonisation and politics led to other mass migrations. In 1956 210,000 Hungarians left their country after the Soviet invasion, almost all of them going to Austria. Britain took 25,000. In 1972 the 60,000 Asians living in Uganda were expelled by the regime of Idi Amin. Britain, despite being the former colonial power, agreed to take in only half. For a while some Ugandan Asians ended up in Kensington Barracks, which was run in such a way that one refugee later described it as his “first experience of what it would be like to live in a totalitarian society”.

Next came the Vietnamese boat people. Again Britain took very few, and then only after civil servants, urged on by Margaret Thatcher, had looked at resettling them on the Solomon Islands or the Falklands. That would have given the Argies a shock.
My childhood was spent in South America, Africa, and Europe. I lived as a third-culture child among these movements of people. I knew Dutch who returned from Indonesia, French from Vietnam and Algeria, Germans from Poland, as well as all those inbound into England from the Caribbean and East Africa and elsewhere.

I had a pretty good read on the population movements from World War I but Gatrell's numbers show that World War II was comparable.

He answers a longstanding question I have had about immigration permanence. As an example, in the heyday of Italian migration America in the 1880s-1920s, perhaps 35% or more ended up removing back to Italy. Sometimes we get too focused on the inbound numbers, we ignore the outbound.

In this particular instance, all through my youth, I have been aware of the concerns and issues arising from Turkish Gastarbeiters. The numbers were large compared to the host nation. And yet, in travels in Germany, the Turkish presence has never seemed proportionate to the numbers. And no wonder.
Between 1955 and 1973, 14 million guest workers arrived in Germany, with 11 million eventually returning home.
That makes sense. 3 million on a country of circa 80 million is much less noticeable versus 11 million on 80 million.

Seems like an interesting book. Once I have cleared some stacks in my library, I will look for this one.

Best of the Bee

A triple ending

Last week at the beach, I finished Before the Frost by Henning Mankell. Mankell was a mystery writer but also the author other fiction, children's books, films, and plays. His primary mystery series was Inspector Kurt Wallander of Ystad, Sweden. There is an echo in Kurt Wallander of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö's Martin Beck whom I read as a child when living in Sweden in the seventies.

Wallander is both a quietly troubled person with the normal range of sufferings and setbacks, yet is also very relatable in a Lutheran way.

His daughter, Linda Wallander, with whom he has a tense relationship, has decided to also become a policeman and this is the first in a planned trilogy or Linda and Kurt Wallander mysteries. From the blurb.
In this latest atmospheric thriller, Kurt Wallander and his daughter Linda join forces to search for a religious fanatic on a murder spree. Just graduated from the police academy, Linda Wallander returns to Skane to join the police force, and she already shows all the hallmarks of her father--the maverick approach, the flaring temper. Before she even starts work she becomes embroiled in the case of her childhood friend Anna, who has inexplicably disappeared. As the case her father is working on dovetails with her own, something far more dangerous than either could have imagined begins to emerge. They soon find themselves forced to confront a group of extremists bent on punishing the world's sinners.
Well written, firmly paced, very enjoyable.

Having finished it, I check out Mankell's wikipedia to make sure I have some of my facts right and discover that this is in fact a triple ending.

I finished the book.

But it was to have been the first in a series.
However, following the suicide of Johanna Sällström, the actress playing the character at the time in the Swedish TV series, Mankell was so distraught that he decided to abandon the series after only the first novel.
I am sorry to discover that.

Even sorrier to discover that Mankell himself passed away in 2015.

Fortunately there are some of his books I have not yet read but it is always a reassurance to know there are writers out there producing good new works and a sadness to discover when they have passed.

Social Factors in Call Duration

There's a research paper to be done in there.

Ypres by Laurence Binyon

by Laurence Binyon

She was a city of patience; of proud name,
Dimmed by neglecting Time; of beauty and loss;
Of acquiescence in the creeping moss.
But on a sudden fierce destruction came
Tigerishly pouncing: thunderbolt and flame
Showered on her streets, to shatter them and toss
Her ancient towers to ashes. Riven across,
She rose, dead, into never-dying fame.
White against heavens of storm, a ghost, she is known
To the world's ends. The myriads of the brave
Sleep round her. Desolately glorified,
She, moon-like, draws her own far-moving tide
Of sorrow and memory; toward her, each alone,
Glide the dark dreams that seek an English grave.

Monday, August 26, 2019

A Snow-Capped Fjord by Adelsteen Normann (1848 - 1918)

A Snow-Capped Fjord by Adelsteen Normann (1848 - 1918)

Click to enlarge.

Things are complex, our knowledge incomplete, our experience limited.

From Stuff I Was Wrong About! by Razib Khan. Some reversals we share, some others, not. Interesting none-the-less.

An example:
I used to think group selection was totally incoherent, but now think that is very useful in understanding cultural evolution, and perhaps in some other contexts. I probably fundamentally changed my mind between 2010 and 2015 when I looked more deeply at the cultural evolution literature.
He ends with:
If there is an overall theme, I think I was more optimistic about the future in 2002 than how the future has actually turned out. And I’m more pessimistic about the future in 2019 than I was in 2002 by a longshot.
Two points. I am the reverse. I think I am more optimistic now than then.

More importantly, what I see across the 27 revisions in his understanding is an increasing uncertainty rather than necessarily having been wrong.

I suspect that this is a common trend. There are many things we believe with great confidence which we then discover to be much more complex than we thought. It is not that that we were necessarily wrong but perhaps the belief is not as universal, is more restricted to particular circumstances, or is less consequential. Our thinking has changed rather than necessarily a reversal of the right wrong dichotomy.

Things are complex, our knowledge incomplete, our experience limited. Of course our thinking should change.

Or, as Hippocrates observed,
Ὁ βίος βραχύς,
ἡ δὲ τέχνη μακρή,
or in Latin
Ars longa,
vita brevis
and in English
Art is long,
life is short.

Finally, in this most frustrating war, Britain had a hero. And America a villain.

From The Road to Guilford Courthouse by John Buchanan. Page 83. Battle of Monck's Corner, an American lost battle but also a prod to victory. The loss was of the nature of the Alamo, Pearl Harbor, and the like.
Tarleton dashed off a brief report to Cornwallis that very day, and on the following morning a more complete recounting. Cornwallis forwarded both to Clinton on 2 June with his own letter of praise for Tarleton, and on 5 June Clinton sent them to Lord Germain in London. Exactly one month later all the letters were printed in a London Gazette Extraordinary, and then reprinted in newspapers throughout England. Finally, in this most frustrating war, Britain had a hero. And America a villain.

For the fighting that took only minutes was followed by a massacre that lasted longer. The British Legion, Americans all, began butchering their vanquished countrymen. Some writers consider the American charges typical wartime propaganda. One points out that cavalry charges followed up by infantry bayonet attacks are messy, and there is no doubt that in hand-to-hand fighting the line between massacre and a wild instinct for survival is shadowy. The most complete statement charging a massacre did not appear until 1821, in a letter from Dr. Robert Brownfield to William Dobein James. Brownfield was a surgeon with Buford. Very early in the fight, apparently almost as soon as his line was broken, Buford decided to surrender and sent forth Ensign Cruit with a white flag. Brownfield charged that Cruit was instantly cut down” by the British, and that “the demand for quarters, seldom refused a vanquished foe, was at once found to be in vain; not a man was spared, and it was the concurrent testimony of all the survivors that for fifteen minutes after every man was prostrate they went over the ground plunging their bayonets into every one that exhibited any signs of life, and in some instances, where several had fallen over the other, these monsters were seen to throw off on the point of the bayonet the uppermost, to come at those beneath.”

Dr. Brownfield also described the terrible ordeal of Captain John Stokes, who “received twenty-three wounds, and as he never for a moment lost his recollection, he often repeated to me the manner and order in which they were inflicted.” Stokes was engaged in swordplay with a dragoon when another dragoon with a single blow “cut off his right hand through the metacarpal bones.” Both dragoons continued their attack on Stokes, cutting off his left forefinger and hacking his left arm in “eight or ten places from the wrist to the shoulder. His head was then laid open almost the whole length of the crown to the eye brows. After he fell he received several cuts on the face and shoulders. A soldier, passing on in the work of death, asked if he expected quarters. Stokes answered, ‘I have not, nor do I mean to ask quarters. Finish me as soon as possible.’ He then transfixed him twice with his bayonet. Another asked the same question and received the same answer, and he also thrust his bayonet twice through his body.” A British sergeant offered him protection, and Stokes asked to be laid down beside a British officer who was having his wounds attended, “that I may die in his presence.” The sergeant carried out his wish, but while engaged had to “lay him down and stand over him to defend him against the fury of his comrades.” Doctor Stapleton, Tarleton’s surgeon, was dressing the wounds of the British officer, and Stokes, “who lay bleeding in every pore, asked him to do something for his wounds, which he scornfully and inhumanely refused until peremptorily ordered by the more humane officer, and even then only filled the wounds with rough tow, the particles of which could not be separated from the brain for several days.” (Tow is rough cloth—flax, hemp, or jute—broken up for spinning.) Captain John Stokes had an iron constitution and a strong will to live. He survived the war, became a federal judge in North Carolina, married and had children, and died in his eighties. Stokes County, due north of Winston-Salem, is his memorial.

If we had only Brownfield’s account, the charge of wartime propaganda would ring truer than it does. The brutalities of the British Legion at Monck’s Corner were never denied; and Cornwallis’s strong letter of 25 April to Tarleton (quoted in Chapter 6) on preventing his troops from “committing irregularities” tells us that both Cornwallis and Clinton were aware of the Legion’s behavior after that earlier fight. There is further evidence, also from British sources. Charles Stedman, the Philadelphia Tory who became Cornwallis’s commissary general, had seen the British Legion in action at Monck’s Corner and described the travail and fate of Chevalier Vernier. He was also with Cornwallis’s main force marching to Camden, but he most certainly spoke to British troops who had been present at the Buford fight. In his history of the war he wrote that “the king’s troops were entitled to great commendation for their activity and ardour on this occasion, but the virtue of humanity was totally forgotten.” The other British source was Tarleton himself, and his words leave no doubt that terrible things happened after the Americans tried to surrender. Keep in mind that he went down “when his horse was killed during the charge. “The loss of officers and men was great on the part of the Americans, owing to the dragoons effectually breaking the infantry, and to a report amongst the cavalry that they had lost their commanding officer, which stimulated the soldiers to a vindictive asperity not easily restrained.”

Tarleton’s reputation in America never recovered. He became immediately Bloody Tarleton and Bloody Ban. The American cry of “Tarleton’s Quarter” and “Buford’s Quarter” would be heard again and again on southern battlefields. It would be an exaggeration to state that the fight in the Waxhaws began the savagery that marked the war in the South, for it had started as early as 1775, Rebels savaging Tories, Tories savaging Rebels. But Tarleton and his Legion stoked embers that became a fire nearly raging out of control, for it roused a people whose heritage was border fighting in all of its barbaric excesses.

Best of the Bee

The new Janet Cooke at the Washington Post

Feeling better about cancelling my Washington Post subscription. From The Washington Post Lies About a Conservative Journalist by John Hinderaker.

I identify at least the following journalistic sins.

One-sided bias.

Quoting out of context.

Conjoining different quotes from different contexts.

Making things up from whole cloth.
More specifically:
So the bottom line is that the Washington Post reached out to Katherine Kersten for a comment on its article. They got a comment, but didn’t print a word of it. Instead, the Post took a whopping two words from a column Kathy wrote a year and a half ago, on a topic that was not the subject of the Post’s article. To add insult to injury, it added a quote from a far-left activist who called Kathy a “flat-out racist.”
This does seem to go beyond actual error into simple ideological rhetoric.

Hockey stick hypothesis takes one to the inflection point

A story from the past. It is not uncommon that some issue arises and you have to wait for evidence or court rulings to emerge or be rendered in order to know whether your assumptions are likely to be correct.

Michael Mann is an example. An early and avid proponent of the AGW hypothesis. He is was everywhere in the late 1990s with his climate research, culminating with his hockey stick graph implying that increasing CO2 would have a tipping point leading to climatic collapse. A position which conveniently supported the corresponding hypothesis that western modes of governance and capitalism needed to be dispensed with.

Critics pointed out numerous issues with regard to his claims. He refused to release his data but took his critics to court. From Michael Mann Refuses to Produce Data, Loses Case by John Hinderaker. This case has been going on for nine years. Mann refused to provide his data to support his hockey stick analysis and the court therefore booted his case.
Some years ago, Dr. Tim Ball wrote that climate scientist Michael Mann “belongs in the state pen, not Penn State.” At issue was Mann’s famous “hockey stick” graph that purported to show a sudden and unprecedented 20th century warming trend. The hockey stick featured prominently in the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report (2001), but has since been shown to be wrong. The question, in my view, is whether it was an innocent mistake or deliberate fraud on Mann’s part. (Mann, I believe, continues to assert the accuracy of his debunked graph.) Mann sued Ball for libel in 2011. Principia Scientific now reports that the court in British Columbia has dismissed Mann’s lawsuit with prejudice, and assessed costs against him.

What happened was that Dr. Ball asserted a truth defense. He argued that the hockey stick was a deliberate fraud, something that could be proved if one had access to the data and calculations, in particular the R2 regression analysis, underlying it. Mann refused to produce these documents. He was ordered to produce them by the court and given a deadline. He still refused to produce them, so the court dismissed his case.

The rules of discovery provide that a litigant must make available to opposing parties documents that reasonably bear on the issues in the case. Here, it is absurd for Mann to sue Ball for libel, and then refuse to produce the documents that would have helped to show whether Ball’s statement about him–he belongs in the state pen–was true or false. The logical inference is that the R2 regression analysis and other materials, if produced, would have supported Ball’s claim that the hockey stick was a deliberate fraud on Mann’s part.

Fragment 1: Sea-ward, white gleaming thro' the busy scud by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Fragment 1: Sea-ward, white gleaming thro' the busy scud
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Sea-ward, white gleaming thro' the busy scud
With arching Wings, the sea-mew o'er my head
Posts on, as bent on speed, now passaging
Edges the stiffer Breeze, now, yielding, drifts,
Now floats upon the air, and sends from far
A wildly-wailing Note.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Train leaving Newcastle railway station, 1937, photograph by Bill Brandt

Train leaving Newcastle railway station, 1937, photograph by Bill Brandt

Click to enlarge.

Liberty is liberty, and is meaningless by parts.

Dierdre McCloskey at her best. Ready wit topping a mountain of knowledge and insight. From An Interview with Deirdre McCloskey, Distinguished Professor Emerita of Economics and of History, UIC by Eric Wallach.

I am slowly making my way through her Bourgeois trilogy. Slowly because nearly every paragraph requires thought and digestion. There is no surfing on froth in her work.

The Yale Politic: According to Bourgeois Equality, the average U.S. resident’s real income per head increased from $3/day in 1800 to $132/day in 2010– an increase of 44x. You attribute this ‘betterment’ to the ideas of dignity and liberty. What do you mean more concretely?

Deirdre McCloskey: It’s not exactly “according to [that excellent volume of 2016] Bourgeois Equality.” It’s rather “according to the solid scientific consensus of economic historians.” Concretely I mean that the bizarre 18th-century idea of liberalism—which is the theory of a society composed entirely of free people, liberi, and no slaves—gave ordinary people the notion that they could have a go. And go they did. In the earliest if hesitatingly liberal societies such as Britain and France, and among the liberi in societies still fully dominated by traditional hierarchies such as Russia and much of Italy, or the slave states of the United States, the turn of the 19th century saw a sharp rise of innovation. “Innovation” means new ideas in technology and organization and location, ranging from the electric motor to shipping containers to opening a new hairdressing salon in town, or to moving to Chicago away from Jim Crow and sharecropping. Since 1800, with no believable signs of letting up, it has improved the material lives of the poorest among us by startling percentages—4,300 percent in some places (that factor of 44), or 10,000 percent including improvements in quality, or at worst 1,000 percent worldwide by conventional measures including stagnant places, in a world in which rises of 100 percent had been rare and on Malthusian grounds temporary.

I recently read that the term ‘liberalism’ only acquired political significance in 1769 (when Scottish historian William Robertson published The History of the Reign of the Emperor Charles V). What exactly do you take to be the essential features of ‘liberalism?’

The idea is earlier than 1769, if not the very word. Yet as you say in the 1770s it springs to political life. The ur-liberals were Locke and Voltaire and Turgot, and behind them earlier, executed radicals such as Spartacus in 71 BCE or the Lollard Priest John Ball in 1381 (“When Adam delved and Eve span / Who then was the gentleman?”) or the Leveller Richard Rumbold in 1685 (“I am sure there was no man born marked of God above another, for none comes into the world with a saddle on his back, neither any booted and spurred to ride him”). No slaves, whether private or public.

Besides possible misjudgment as to liberalism’s prudence–as a political philosophy/guide to public policy–do you think there are any common misconceptions about what liberalism actually is and what its followers believe?

The central misconception is to think that one can claim the honorable title of “liberal” if one approves of one form of liberty, such as mutual consent in sexual partners or the ability to drill for oil where you wish, but excludes the other form. Liberty is liberty, and is meaningless by parts. You are still a slave if only on odd days of the month.
A reminder to the New York Times and all such pits of ignorance that slavery was a worldwide condition and the classical liberalism reflected in the American Revolution was the beginning of freedom, not an original sin.
The British Liberal Party passed the Liberal welfare reforms in 1906, greatly expanding the welfare state and representing a departure from classical liberalism in favor of modern liberalism. If my history is correct, what do you view as the fundamental differences between these two philosophies? Do you still consider the latter philosophy ‘liberal?’

Yes, the so-called New Liberalism was slow socialism, as was an American Progressivism recommending the sterilization of defectives to improve the Aryan race and a minimum wage to drive non-Aryan immigrants out of the labor force, not to speak of carrying a big stick and joining a war to end all wars. The slow socialism took longer to implement than the fast versions in Bolshevism and Nazism. It was pushed along by the taking of powers by governments in the 20th-century wars, hot and cold. Calling it “modern liberalism” has always been an abuse of language. And it was an abuse of people to implement it.

It still is. Statism, being the partial enslavement of people to others by way of the government, may or may not be a good idea. But it is anyway not liberal, whether exercised by kings or by Congress. As Tom Paine wrote in the liberal birth year of 1776, “government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.” Better keep the power to coerce modest. By 1849, at the first maturation of liberalism 1.0, Henry David Thoreau declared, “I heartily accept the motto, ‘That government is best which governs least’; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically.” In the same year in far Torino the liberal Italian economist Francesco Ferrara wrote that “taxation is the great source of everything a corrupt government can devise to the detriment of the people. Taxation supports the spy, encourages the faction, dictates the content of newspapers.” (In 1792 even in a quasi-liberal Britain the government owned secretly over half the newspapers.)
Entertaining and informative throughout.

Yet in all fairness to them, they were matched in overall ineptness by the cabinet and their monarch

From The Road to Guilford Courthouse by John Buchanan. Page 78.
Cornwallis returned to America that June as Clinton’s second in command. He almost immediately tried to resign, but the King refused his request. Primadonnish characteristics are not unknown among generals of any nation, but was a country ever cursed as Britain in the late eighteenth century with such a collection of temperamental, argumentative soldiers? And not one of them was a truly first-rate general. Yet in all fairness to them, they were matched in overall ineptness by the cabinet and their monarch.

Best of the Bee

Prosperity gives people better choices. It cannot give them happiness. That depends on the people themselves.

From Feminism Is In Trouble by Naomi Schaefer Riley. Riley is a good writer and I am usually pretty comfortable with most her arguments. In this instance she is reading a mountain of materials which I would never touch. I am grateful to her for foraging amongst the dross to find some insights.
So feminism’s fourth wave now comes at a time when the two centuries of effort to ensure equal treatment under the law and equal rights under the law for women have been fulfilled. Women in America in 2019 have the right to vote, own property, get an equal education (with equal access to sports teams), the same jobs as men, and at the same rate of pay (when controlling for time on the job). Male violence against women is no longer tolerated, whether by strangers, boyfriends, husbands, or fathers. Men have undergone profound psychic changes to help reorganize society to accommodate the needs of women.


Though the chatter of radical feminists seems to be growing—because the Internet makes all things radical seem larger than they are—this wave does not seem to have the same hold on the imaginations of ordinary women that previous waves did. The day-to-day lives of women and men do seem more equal than ever. Get married, stay single, live with a partner or partners. Have kids young or wait till you’re 45 or don’t have them at all. Work longer hours or stay home. Go back to school. Take time off. Travel the world. Whatever.


Feminists today lament all the “hidden” work that women have to do to make a family run. Even if they have full-time jobs, American wives are still more likely to be the ones responsible for making dentist appointments and getting end-of-year gifts for teachers and making playdates and finding the right schools and making friends with the mommies. (Unmentioned, of course, is that men tend to have their own hidden responsibilities related to other kinds of household management.)


The oppressive “hidden work” narrative is everywhere. It starts even before the kids are born, as demonstrated in a recent article in Fast Company titled “I thought we had an equal partnership—until I planned our wedding.”

“For many brides, the wedding process feels like yet another way women are saddled with the lion’s share of unpaid labor,” the article explains. As one woman tells the reporter: Her husband does laundry and chores around the house, but when it comes to taking calls from wedding vendors at the office, well, he is falling down on the job. Another complains, “There were so many decisions to be made. Just help me make some of them—care a little about the flowers!”

If “care a little about the flowers” is the rallying cry of fourth-wave feminism, the movement is in more trouble than Fleishman. The idea that men don’t have to think about the things women think about—but should!—is at the heart of feminism’s complaints today. It is at once a silly and impossible demand. It requires that we not only reorient society to accommodate all of women’s desires but that we rewire men’s brains to share all of women’s concerns.


The accusations by women against the other half of the population simply broaden and become harder to quantify. Women have to do more “emotional labor” than men, these advocates complain. Articles like “Why Women Are Still Doing More Emotional Labor in Relationships Than Men” and “Why Women Are Tired: The Price of Unpaid Emotional Labor” abound. But how are we to measure emotional labor? Would everything fall apart if women didn’t do it? And how are we sure men aren’t doing it?

Today’s feminists are also professional mind-readers, to judge by their recent pronouncements. Men, Tamblyn writes, “don’t think about the ramifications of things they have said or done because they’ve never had to.” Women, by contrast, “are raised to doubt first and decide last.” How Tamblyn knows what goes on in the minds of most women or most men, she doesn’t say.


Fourth-wave feminists are living through a period in which feminist dreams have become reality. And they are finding that reality unpleasant. They were sold a false bill of goods. It was a fantasy that if they did what they were supposed to do—get good grades, become successful in journalism or business, like Libby and Rachel—everything else would fall into place. But real life doesn’t work that way for anybody. You have an important powerful job that pays a lot of money? You’re not going to be able to spend a lot of time with your kids. You have crazy ambition? You’re going to feel like an impostor and be filled with anxiety about performance. And, evidently, if you’re a woman, you’re going to fantasize that men don’t have exactly these same problems, even when they do.

As Fleishman Is in Trouble reveals, both honestly and inadvertently, elite women in 2019 exhibit a kind of paranoia—they are convinced that even when women seem to have gotten exactly what they want, men still have it better.

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. Feminism may have delivered greater freedom for women, but it has never delivered greater happiness. In fact, longitudinal surveys suggest that women are less satisfied with their lives today than they were a few decades ago.
I would far rather spend ten minutes reading Riley than the hours it would take to read all those books so bloated with a miasma of misery.

Most sweet it is by William Wordsworth

Most sweet it is
by William Wordsworth

Most sweet it is with unuplifted eyes
To pace the ground, if path there be or none,
While a fair region round the traveler lies
Which he forbears again to look upon;
Pleased rather with some soft ideal scene,
The work of Fancy, or some happy tone
Of meditation, slipping in between
The beauty coming and the beauty gone.
If Thought and Love desert us, from that day
Let us break off all commerce with the Muse:
With Thought and Love companions of our way,
Whate'er the senses take or may refuse,
The Mind's internal heaven shall shed her dews
Of inspiration on the humblest lay.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

April Midnight by Arthur Symons

April Midnight
by Arthur Symons

Side by side through the streets at midnight,
Roaming together,
Through the tumultuous night of London,
In the miraculous April weather.

Roaming together under the gaslight,
Day's work over,
How the Spring calls to us, here in the city,
Calls to the heart from the heart of a lover!

Cool to the wind blows, fresh in our faces,
Cleansing, entrancing,
After the heat and the fumes and the footlights,
Where you dance and I watch your dancing.

Good it is to be here together,
Good to be roaming,
Even in London, even at midnight,
Lover-like in a lover's gloaming.

You the dancer and I the dreamer,
Children together,
Wandering lost in the night of London,
In the miraculous April weather.

Forgotten Memories by Alessandro Tofanelli

Forgotten Memories by Alessandro Tofanelli

Click to enlarge.

Intriguing but not yet compelling.

It is a year old but the first time I am seeing it. An effort to measure of a media organ's bias, but a measure of its desire to shape an opinion. From The Fiat News Index by Rusty Guinn.
The basic idea behind this framework is that writers, when using Causal Expressions, are communicating how you should perceive the relationships between facts and other facts, or between facts and certain conclusions and analysis. This conflation is a common way to present a judgment or opinion as objective fact. It is a writer coaching you on the logical path they wish you to follow. Sometimes that is innocuous, because sometimes the relationship between two ideas, two facts or two statements really is incontrovertible. Often it is not. When using Common Knowledge Expressions, the writer is encouraging you to think less critically about an assertion or argument. It is, after all, obvious to everyone else. Value Expressions are more straightforward and easily understood. They also look a bit more like an analysis of bias, although these words may just as easily be used to tell you how to think about what is good and what is bad without any element of structural favoring of one point of view.

I suspect you could come up with many more such expressions. The danger to adding too many is that you end up with Type 1 errors, where we catch more innocent uses. News articles include quotes from subjects that include these terms, for example. And it’s not as if every use of these words in a news article can or ought to be avoided. In addition, the preferred style of different venues will be more or less likely to lean on these expressions. For this reason, the absolute levels are much less instructive than the relative levels. For me, I understand this index to mean, “If I open the pages of this publication, how much more likely is it than in another publication that I will read a story that is telling me how to think?”
Here are the measured results.

Click to enlarge.

Best of the Bee

There is a null correlation between income and math anxiety, and have no explanation for the finding.

Interesting and somewhat inexplicable. From The Nature of Math Anxiety in Adults: Prevalence and Correlates by Sara Ann Hart and Colleen Marie Ganley. From the Abstract:
It is important to understand the nature of math anxiety in the general adult population, as the importance of math skills does not end when one leaves school. To this end, we present a well-powered, preregistered study of English-speaking U.S. adults describing the nature of math anxiety in this population. 1000 participants were recruited online. Math anxiety was approximately normally distributed, with the mean between “some” and “moderate”. Math anxiety was significantly negatively correlated with probability knowledge and math fluency, and significantly positively correlated with general anxiety and test anxiety. Women reported higher math anxiety than did men. Participants who had completed graduate school or had a STEM career had significantly lower levels of math anxiety than did those with less education, or non-STEM careers. Thus, we see evidence for math anxiety in U.S. adults and that it correlates with factors also reported in previous studies using younger and student populations.
From the rest of the paper, these are some of the notable findings.
A normal distribution of math anxiety in the population.

Those who are good at maths are less math anxious.

Those who are generally anxious are especially math anxious.

Women report higher math anxiety than do men, with an effect size of approximately half a standard deviation.

There is a null correlation between income and math anxiety, and have no explanation for the finding.

The gender difference in math anxiety was larger than those for math performance.

There are no race or ethnic group differences in math anxiety.
If the findings are replicated, it has some interesting implications, particularly for policy discussions around STEM gender gaps.

It is notable that for a generation, there have been significant public policy and educational initiatives to get more young women into STEM fields. Much of the focus has been around building young women's confidence as well as tackling perceived but not well substantiated biases.

This research suggests that perhaps those are misguided efforts and that the focus should be targeted on addressing anxiety, particularly given the notably large 0.5 standard deviation in anxiety between men and women.

Nothing proven, no firm conclusions, but interesting and suggestive.

In the end, his flaws outweighed his intelligence and ability and helped to render hollow his great victory at Charleston

From The Road to Guilford Courthouse by John Buchanan. Page 71.
We indicated previously that Sir Henry, not a great general but quite competent and the most able of the four British commanders in chief during the American Revolution, had a seriously flawed personality. In the end, his flaws outweighed his intelligence and ability and helped to render hollow his great victory at Charleston. “He was driven by an urge to quarrel,” his biographer William Willcox wrote, and this judgment cannot be faulted. The British generals who served in America were as a lot quarrelsome, but Clinton was in a class by himself. He could not get along with his peers or his superiors. He had one of the most irritating traits in the collection of human failings: a total lack of tact. “I have accustomed myself, wherever I go, to hear all [and] see all I can, and form my own sometimes mistaken opinions in consequence.” All very well had he kept those opinions, mistaken or otherwise, to himself, or had he been able, in the manner of a skilled courtier, to pass them on to his superiors without angering them. A “shy bitch,” as he called himself, he never exhibited that part of his personality when laying out to his superiors their failings as commanders. Yet as commander in chief he could not bring himself to be equally blunt in face-to-face confrontations with subordinates who challenged his authority. As subordinate himself he failed to take into account the feelings and pride of superiors; in command he failed to exert his authority over subordinates who challenged his authority. As subordinate himself he failed to take into account the feelings and pride of superiors; in command he failed to exert his authority over subordinates. He planned so very well, but with the exception of the Charleston campaign lacked the strength of character to carry out those plans. He was indeed a most neurotic man, and the reasons for his condition elude us.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Wawenock Hotel,1944 by John W. McCoy (1910–1989)

Wawenock Hotel,1944 by John W. McCoy (1910–1989)

Click to enlarge.

Oft, evil will shall evil mar.

I am driving between meetings today and hear on NPR of David Koch's passing. Over the next couple or three hours I keep hearing him described as a conservative and as a sponsor of far-right think tanks. He was, of course, famously, a libertarian rather than a conservative.

And think-tanks were not his only philanthropy by any means.

He gave tens of millions to PBS and sat on the board of one of the flagship broadcasters, WGBH out of Boston. Most his money went towards science documentaries as far as I can tell.

In a couple of hours of broadcasting across the day, I repeatedly heard of his funding for right-wing think-tanks and have heard not a word about his funding of public television.

This unwillingness to tell the truth about a man is caught in this tweet.

Agree with him or not on any given policy stance, at least tell the truth even if it is inconvenient.

You follow the responses and you see all sorts of ignorant, childish foot stamping. The bitterness and hatefulness combined with the ignorance and untruthfulness of so many twitter commenters is repellant. Oft, evil will shall evil mar.