Quotulatiousness

February 19, 2017

Media mis-characterizations of FIRE

Filed under: Liberty, Media, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has been getting a lot of media attention for their efforts to ensure due process rights are observed for students at US universities. In the process, some distortions have been included in that media coverage:

In recent weeks, news outlets across the country have written about Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her family foundation’s donations to FIRE. In doing so, many outlets have mischaracterized FIRE’s work defending students’ due process rights — particularly in the realm of campus sexual assault, where the federal government has taken several significant steps to impede the ability of institutions to provide fair hearings and freedom of expression.

We have written on this topic before, but it is worth reiterating a few points.

Perhaps most importantly, our defense of accused students’ rights is not an attack on complainants’ rights, as some writers have suggested. To the contrary, we aim to ensure all students’ rights are protected. The procedural safeguards for which FIRE advocates — such as the right to cross-examine witnesses, active assistance of an attorney, and impartial fact-finders — help ensure that campus adjudicators reach accurate and reliable findings of fact. This goal serves the entire campus community and is appropriate in all cases, but it is especially paramount where the ramifications of either an erroneous guilty finding or an erroneous not guilty finding are particularly significant, such as with accusations of sexual assault or other violent offenses.

Accordingly, FIRE has opposed legislation that attempts to address the issue of campus sexual assault simply by making it easier to find accused students guilty, rather than by helping fact-finders reach accurate results. We have not opposed provisions that could “prevent campus sexual assault,” as some writers have claimed. FIRE’s concern is focused on how the parties are treated and campus justice is served after an assault is alleged to have occurred.

Because only the criminal justice system can remove perpetrators from the streets and not just from campuses, and because the court system has procedural safeguards in place to help fact-finders reach reliable findings, FIRE supports legislation that would strengthen law enforcement’s role in addressing campus sexual assault. Campus criminals are not immune from the criminal law. Even in advocating for greater involvement by law enforcement, however, we have emphasized that colleges and universities have an important role to play in responding to alleged sexual misconduct.

February 13, 2017

QotD: Guilt as a tool, guilt as a weapon

Filed under: Quotations, Randomness — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Yesterday I was hanging around in the kitchen with my older son, waiting for the coffee to brew, and he made some joking comment about my being oppressed when I was growing up.

I told him I was oppressed enough, or at least women were, in that time and in that place – as they still are in many times and in many places.

Yes, I like to point out and do – often – that it wasn’t a gigantic conspiracy of men against women that kept women down for six thousand years because frankly most men can’t conspire their way out of a paperbag. (I suspect women are naturally better at it. No, don’t hurt me. Just women seem to be naturally more socially adept. But even women couldn’t manage a conspiracy of that magnitude.) And I like to point out – and do – it wasn’t shoulder to shoulder but the pill and changes in technology that liberated women or at least that made attempts at liberation reasonable instead of insane. (Of course, shoulder to shoulder makes for better movies and books, which is why everyone believes it.)

However, as I told the boy, given the conditions biology set up, women were “oppressed” enough in most cultures and in most places. Yes, men were oppressed too at the same time, because this type of shackles is double-sided, but the oppression of women lingered a bit longer than that of men – say a good couple of generations by habit and custom and because humans simply don’t change that fast. Which is why the oppression of women is remembered as such and the men are remembered as being on top.

So I told him in Portugal, until the seventies, women weren’t allowed to vote and, oh, by the way, a married woman couldn’t get a job outside the house unless her husband signed papers saying that they needed it, due to economic hardship. (Which of course, meant the dumb bastard had to sign a paper saying he wasn’t man enough to support his family. Made it really easy on him, it did.) I’m sure there were other legal and economic hobbles that went with that. And I told him of course in many many countries in the world that inequality persists, only much worse.

Which is when I realized he was squirming and looking like he’d done something wrong.

Guilt. My poor kid was feeling guilty of being born male.

Guilt is a useful enough emotion, in small doses and well administered. For instance when I was three I stole some very small coin from money my mom had left on the kitchen table. I don’t remember what – the equivalent of five cents. I stole it to buy a couple of peanuts at the store across the street (they sold them by weight. In the shell.) My mom made it clear to me I’d made it impossible for her to buy her normal bread order when the bakery delivery (no, don’t ask. Delivered. Door to door. Every morning. I missed it terribly my first years in the US, but now they don’t do it in Portugal either, anymore) came by the next morning because she didn’t have the exact change. It wasn’t strictly true. The money amount was so small she just said “I’ll make the rest up tomorrow.” But she told me it was, and how she had to be short a roll. My understanding there were larger consequences for my stupid theft made me feel guilty, and that ensured I never did it again. The same, with varying degrees of justice, managed to instill the semblance of a work ethic in me in relation to school work.

However, the guilt my son was feeling was stupid, counterproductive, all too widespread AND poisonous.

Stupid because he could hardly be held accountable for something that happened thirty years before his birth, even if he has the same outward form as the people who benefitted from an inequity. (And benefitted should be taken with a grain of salt here. Countries in which women are kept down might offer an ego bo for the guys, but they are far less materially prosperous on average. Everyone suffers.) Counterproductive because guilt by definition can never be collective. Well, not beyond a small group like, say the Manson family. You get beyond that and you can’t assign blame with any degree of accuracy. So, going and yelling at my father, say, for “keeping women down” when I was little would be as insane as yelling at my son. Why? Well, because a) he didn’t and wouldn’t (he was raised by a strong woman, practically on her own, while my grandfather was in Brazil, working and grandma ruled the extended family with an iron fist.) b) to the extent he enforced societal rules, it was usually to keep us from getting in trouble with society in general (which, btw, included women. In fact women were the greatest enforcers of “you shall not be seen anywhere with a young man you’re not dating” rule that got me in the most trouble.) c) his standing up and talking given who he was and the amount of social power he had (or in fact didn’t have) would have changed nothing except get him treated like a lunatic.

Sarah Hoyt, “The Sharp Edge of Guilt, a blast from the past March 2010”, According to Hoyt, 2015-06-05.

January 10, 2017

QotD: Gender monomania

Filed under: History, Liberty, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

I am an equal opportunity feminist. I believe that all barriers to women’s advancement in the social and political realm must be removed. However, I don’t feel that gender is sufficient to explain all of human life. This gender myopia has become a disease, a substitute for a religion, this whole cosmic view. It’s impossible that the feminist agenda can ever be the total explanation for human life. Our problem now is that this monomania — the identity politics of the 1970s, so people see everything through the lens of race, gender, or class-this is an absolute madness, and in fact, it’s a distortion of the ’60s. I feel that the ’60s had a vision, a large cosmic perspective that was absolutely lost in this degeneration, in this splintering of the 1970s into these identity politics.

Camille Paglia, “Everything’s Awesome and Camille Paglia Is Unhappy!”, Reason, 2015-05-30.

July 14, 2016

Mary Wollstonecraft’s influence on Jane Austen

Filed under: Books, Britain, Liberty — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Sarah Skwire loves the recent adaptation of Jane Austen’s novella Lady Susan, and believes that Austen was heavily influenced in this particular work by Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women:

Wollstonecraft argues that the women of her time — and Austen’s time — were “weak, artificial beings, raised above the common wants and affections of their race, in a premature unnatural manner, [who] undermine the very foundation of virtue, and spread corruption through the whole mass of society.”

Their corrupting influence, though, is not due to some sort of original sin handed down from Eve after the Garden of Eden. It is the result of the conscious and intentional educating of women out of natural virtue and into habituated weakness, dependence, and immorality.

She continues:

    Women are, in fact, so much degraded by mistaken notions of female excellence, that I do not mean to add a paradox when I assert, that this artificial weakness produces a propensity to tyrannize, and gives birth to cunning, the natural opponent of strength, which leads them to play off those contemptible infantine airs that undermine esteem even whilst they excite desire.

This is Lady Susan in a nutshell. Her tyrannical hold over her daughter’s future, her constant deceptions in matters large and small, and her pretended helplessness and innocence, which her male acquaintances interpret as charm — these are all hallmarks of her character.

Even more a propos is Wollstonecraft’s description of women who have been educated in this fashion and who are then left, as is Lady Susan, widowed and with a family to care for.

    But supposing, no very improbable conjecture, that a being only taught to please must still find her happiness in pleasing; — what an example of folly, not to say vice, will she be to her innocent daughters! The mother will be lost in the coquette, and, instead of making friends of her daughters, view them with eyes askance, for they are rivals — rivals more cruel than any other, for they invite a comparison, and drive her from the throne of beauty, who has never thought of a seat on the bench of reason.

Wollstonecraft adds that it doesn’t take a literary genius to imagine the “domestic miseries and petty vices” occasioned by such a mother.

A world without real education for women, a world without legal equality for women — this is a world that is rife with Lady Susans.

But in Austen’s imagining of Lady Susan, we have precisely that — a literary genius turning her considerable talents (though in early days) to delineating a portrait of a woman who has become precisely what she has been educated to be. In that way, Lady Susan becomes a powerful adjunct to Wollstonecraft’s Vindication. A world without real education for women, a world without legal equality for women — this is a world that is rife with Lady Susans, grappling for power and money in the marriage market and in the gray market of sexual favors, because that is the only sphere open to women with ambition.

Update, 18 July: Arnie Perlstein suggested a recent post at the Sharp Elves Society discussing this topic in rather greater depth.

July 13, 2016

Thirty years of corporate anti-harassment training has made no difference at all

Filed under: Business, Law, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Amy Alkon on the not-very-surprising discovery of a recent US government Equal Employment Opportunity Commission study that after three decades of corporate anti-harassment training, no discernable difference in workplace harassment can be detected:

Anti-Harassment Training Doesn’t Work

But let’s keep it up so we can feel like we’re doing something. (More on that below.)

By the way, as I’ve written before, referencing the work of evolutionarily-driven law professor Kingsley Browne, men give each other shit — in the workplace and as a way of competing with each other.

Sure, there’s a point at which this can become toxic, but if you can’t take a joke or a bit of teasing, maybe you need to strengthen up so you can make it in the work world, as opposed to demanding that the work world conform to nursery school niceness standards.

Then again, you can always stay home and just care for the kiddies while your spouse braves those, “Hey, nice pants, dude!” jokes.

By the way, men’s competitiveness comes out of evolved sex differences — how men are the warriors (and competitors) of the species and are comfortable in competition with each other and with hierarchies in a way women are not.

Sex differences research Joyce Benenson explains that women group in “dyads” — twos — and are covert competitors, engaging in sniping and casting out any women who seem to stand out as better than the rest. (Women seem to have evolved to show vulnerabilities rather than strengths to other women in order to show they are trustworthy — which may be why women tend to be apologizers and put themselves down.)

December 7, 2015

Saudi women can now vote, but are still far from having equal rights with men

Filed under: Liberty, Middle East — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Ian Geldard linked to this article at The Week. It was posted in August, but the situation is still pretty much identical:

Women in Saudi Arabia are registering to vote for the first time in history, more than four years after King Abdullah granted equal voting rights.

They will be allowed to vote in municipal elections due to take place in December and can also stand as candidates.

“[Voting is] a dream for us,” Jamal Al-Saadi, the first woman to register in Medina told the Saudi Gazette. “[It] will enable Saudi women to have a say in the process of decision-making.”

Human rights campaigners have welcomed the move, but warn there is still a long way to go in the fight for gender equality in the conservative Muslim nation.

Saudi Arabia has an abysmal human rights record, particularly with regards to protecting women. Although in recent years the rights of women have been incrementally extended, their actions are still severely restricted.

“This long overdue move is welcome but it’s only a tiny fraction of what needs to be addressed over gender inequality in Saudi Arabia,” Amnesty International’s Karen Middleton told The Independent.

“Let’s not forget that Saudi Arabian women won’t actually be able to drive themselves to the voting booths as they’re still completely banned from driving,” she says.

September 25, 2015

QotD: The danger of vague laws

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Prosecutors, and regulators more generally, like vague standards that are impossible to enforce consistently. It gives them a great deal of discretion in whom they target and how. It is a threat that can be wielded to force pleas to lesser crimes or other “voluntary” actions that obviate the need for a messy trial they might lose.

Megan McArdle, “California Accidentally Legalizes Campus Sex”, Bloomberg View, 2014-09-23.

September 9, 2015

“For some reason she rarely has the scarlet ‘(D)’ printed next to her name underneath the photos of her looking like an indignant troll doll”

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Politics, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Colby Cosh has more on the controversy over Kim Davis and her beliefs:

The U.S. District Court, petitioned by the unhappy couple, duly ordered Davis to cut out the nonsense at once. She continued to refuse, creating another much-photographed scene at her office, and was summoned back to court Sept. 3 to explain. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), that tireless friend to the friendless, actually intervened on Davis’s behalf; it disagrees formally with her view on the law, but it asked that she be fined for contempt of court, rather than imprisoned.

Judge David Bunning was having none of it, and put her in the clink. He says he expects to revisit his decision after Davis has cooled her heels for about a week, after which time the gays and lesbians of Rowan County will have had a fair crack at obtaining permission to marry. Five of Davis’s six underlings told Judge Bunning they are willing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the meantime. The sixth is her son, but the judge indulgently overlooked his impudence and calculated that five pairs of writing hands would be plenty to handle the work.

The tangential presence of the ACLU in the legal battle reminds us that there are some features of the United States that remain admirable — that the country has not yet totally degenerated into a shouting match of contending personal narcissisms. Another one is that there have been at least as many demonstrators on behalf of same-sex marriage rights as friends of Kim Davis at the offices of the Rowan County clerk. It is, with all due respect, a place hitherto best known in American history for a 19th-century blood feud between moonshiners.

When part of your job offends your religious beliefs, you have two choices…

Filed under: Business, Liberty, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

… and those choices are either get a different job or accept that your religious objection does not free you from having to perform all of the normal duties of the job. Some people, however, have the fixed notion that their religious beliefs must be respected and deferred to by everyone:

I’ve said it before but religious people really seem to believe that their religion ought to grant them special, legal privileges which are not provided to the rest of us. For some reason, certain people are so entitled that they believe their spiritual beliefs can be used to justify their own idiotic behavior, and if you dare to criticize them for their idiotic, unfair, or immature decisions that is evidence that you are simply an anti-religious bigot. What’s especially bizarre is that no other ideology is treated in the same way. If I were an investment banker and started refusing to do my job on the grounds that I was a socialist or if I were a cop and started refusing to make drug arrests on the grounds that I was a libertarian, no one would ever even attempt to argue that this was justifiable behavior. However, if I refuse to do my job because I’ve decided certain aspects of that job are against my religion, suddenly millions of people will view me as a martyr and I can expect pro bono legal counsel as members of my religious sect rush dutifully to my aid.

This situation is getting frankly ridiculous. The most famous recent example, obviously, is Kim Davis — a woman who was elected to a position that required her to issue marriage licenses and began refusing to do her job after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. If she didn’t want to do her job, there was one relatively simple option which was available to her since the very beginning and is still available to her should she choose to exercise that option — she could just quit. That would, in fact, be the adult thing to do if she feels that her religious beliefs do not allow her to meet her current job requirements, but instead she has decided to turn herself into some sort of ridiculous martyr to the religious right … and of course her $80,000 a year government salary, courtesy of the tax payers of Rowan County, Kentucky, probably had something to do with this decision. She deeply and truly loves her God, you see, but doesn’t love him quite enough to forego that sweet-ass government pension plan on his behalf.

Everyone knows the Kim Davis story, but what many people do not know is that at this very instant there is a virtually identical story involving a Muslim employee’s dispute with a Midwestern regional airline called ExpressJet. The woman’s name is Charee Stanley. Three years ago she became a stewardess for ExpressJet and then two years ago, presumably after sustaining some sort of catastrophic brain injury, she decided to convert to Islam. After her conversion, she found that her new faith frowned upon the serving of alcoholic beverages, so she began refusing to serve alcohol to passengers. More recently, she was suspended from her position pending a review because other flight attendants complained that they were being required to do her work in addition to their own. I personally don’t feel this is a particularly unreasonable complaint, and if it had been up to me, Ms. Stanley wouldn’t have simply been suspended, she would have been fired immediately for failure to meet her job requirements.

And just to prove you don’t need to actually be religious to hold this kind of belief, there’s also mention of Canada’s own Christian atheist, Reverend Gretta Vosper of West Hill United Church.

August 15, 2015

Still suffering from the injustices of a caste system? Just apply capitalism

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Economics, India — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar explains how the introduction of free market practices is rapidly undermining the ancient caste system in India:

Karl Marx was wrong about many things but right about one thing: the revolutionary way capitalism attacks and destroys feudalism. As I explain in a new study, in India, the rise of capitalism since the economic reforms of 1991 has also attacked and eroded casteism, a social hierarchy that placed four castes on top with a fifth caste — dalits — like dirt beneath the feet of others. Dalits, once called untouchables, were traditionally denied any livelihood save virtual serfdom to landowners and the filthiest, most disease-ridden tasks, such as cleaning toilets and handling dead humans and animals. Remarkably, the opening up of the Indian economy has enabled dalits to break out of their traditional low occupations and start businesses. The Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI) now boasts over 3,000 millionaire members. This revolution is still in its early stages, but is now unstoppable.

Milind Kamble, head of DICCI, says capitalism has been the key to breaking down the old caste system. During the socialist days of India’s command economy, the lucky few with industrial licenses ran virtual monopolies and placed orders for supplies and logistics entirely with members of their own caste. But after the 1991 reforms opened the floodgates of competition, businesses soon discovered that to survive, they had to find the most competitive inputs. What mattered was the price of your supplier, not his caste.

July 30, 2015

QotD: Not your mother’s feminist movement

Filed under: Media, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Feminism won, they succeeded, they got what they were after. They destroyed the glass ceiling, they smashed sexism in the culture, they’ve wiped out all kinds of barriers. A strong feminist would say there’s plenty of work to do but if they are honest, they’ll admit there really isn’t much left.

Compared to 1966 when NOW was founded, today is amazingly triumphant for the cause.

And when you succeed, people strangely feel no need to keep supporting the cause. Once the airplane was designed and functional, people stopped trying to make airplanes. Once Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball[, …] there wasn’t any need to keep pushing to get blacks in baseball.

The truth is, feminists got what they were after. Even in bad economic times, women are doing well. Women lost far fewer jobs and lost less earning power during the recession than men. Women are accepted in pretty much every position and job they try for. There are women on submarines these days in the Navy.

Feminism, at least as defined by the NOW crowd, is pretty much rejected by young women today. They don’t want any part of the “never shave, men are rapists, we are oppressed” outlook of the modern feminist. They liked the “stop treating me like an idiot child and let me have that job” sort of feminist, but that’s not what NOW offers.

Like most activist groups, NOW and other feminist organizations are casualties of their own success. They did what they set out to do. They succeeded. They won. And having won, now they have no purpose and are losing influence, power, and money.

But they also suffer what most organizations — especially activist ones — face. Each successive generation of leadership tends to get more radical rather than less. Unless the organization consciously and continuously strives to remain neutral or conservative, it becomes increasingly leftist over time. This is an artifact of the very nature of activists. People who are so driven and passionate about any one cause tend to be more emotionally driven and more radical by nature. Over time that increases each step and eventually you end up with loons in charge.

The Sierra Club was founded to enjoy and protect beautiful areas, they were naturalists. These days they’re radical environmentalists. Most large religious denominations face this as well, as more conservative and doctrinally-concerned leadership gives way to more “modern” and culturally-driven leadership and they lose their way.

So the organizations of feminism are facing success not with joy and triumph, but with greater wails of despair as they see (or invent) greater areas of horror and crisis. And as they grow ever more radical, they get ever less influential and meaningful in the culture.

Most women today would call themselves feminist but they usually will qualify that with “but not like those feminists.” The only ones who cling to the “those feminist” sort are college sorts and the kind of radical men-haters that folks like Rush Limbaugh like to ridicule.

Christopher Taylor, “WOMYNISTS”, Word Around the Net, 2014-06-04.

July 26, 2015

The problems when you try to resolve complicated discrimination problems with laws

Filed under: Business, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Warren Meyer explains why he — who organized and lead an effort to legalize gay marriage in Arizona — is not reflexively in favour of using the blunt force of the law to “solve” problems of discrimination:

There are multiple problems with non-discrimination law as currently implemented and enforced in the US. Larger companies, for example, struggle with disparate impact lawsuits from the EEOC, where statistical metrics that may have nothing to do with past discrimination are never-the-less used to justify discrimination penalties.

Smaller companies like mine tend to have a different problem. It is an unfortunate fact of life that the employees who do the worst job and/or break the rules the most frequently tend to be the same ones with the least self-awareness. As a result, no one wants to believe their termination is “fair”, no matter how well documented or justified (I wrote yesterday that I have personally struggled with the same thing in my past employment).

Most folks grumble and walk away. But what if one is in a “protected group” under discrimination law? Now, not only is this person personally convinced that their firing was unfair, but there is a whole body of law geared to the assumption that their group may be treated unfairly. There are also many lawyers and activists who will tell them that they were almost certainly treated unfairly.

So a fair percentage of people in protected groups whom we fire for cause will file complaints with the government or outright sue us for discrimination. I will begin by saying that we have never lost a single one of these cases. In one or two we paid someone a nominal amount just to save legal costs of pursuing the case to the bitter end, but none of these cases were even close.

[…]

To make all this worse, many employees have discovered a legal dodge to enhance their post-employment lawsuits (I know that several advocacy groups in California recommend this tactic). If the employee suspects he or she is about to be fired, they will, before getting fired, claim all sorts of past discrimination. Now, when terminated, they can claim they where a whistle blower that that their termination was not for cause but really was retaliation against them for being a whistle-blower.

I remember one employee in California taking just this tactic, claiming discrimination just ahead of his termination, though he never presented any evidence beyond the vague claim. We wasted weeks with an outside investigator checking into his claims, all while customer complaints about the employee continued to come in. Eventually, we found nothing and fired him. And got sued. The case was so weak it was eventually dropped but it cost us — you guessed it — about $20,000 to defend. Given that this was more than the entire amount this operation had made over five years, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back and led to us walking about from that particular operation and over half of our other California business.

July 2, 2015

“These women should be able to milk their boobs for whatever purpose they want”

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Shikha Dalmia on the schizophrenic demands of the “Free the Nipple” movement:

The Free the Nipple movement (which has already become the subject of a 90-minute, yawn-inducing documentary) tries to cure such attitudes, but in such a ham-handed and shock-jocky way that few real women outside of college campuses can relate to it, other than publicity-hungry celebrities. Thanks to the movement, 100 students—men and women—at UC San Diego took off their shirts last month to fight for the equal right of both sexes to go topless. Likewise, Scout Willis, the daughter of Demi Moore and Bruce Willis, earned her two minutes of fame some years ago when she went strolling topless in Manhattan to protest Instagram’s nudity policies barring pictures of topless women. Not to be outdone, Miley Cyrus, who has never encountered a publicity stunt involving her body parts that is too over-the-top, tweeted a picture of her bare breasts with red stars on the nipples to express her solidarity.

These women should be able to milk their boobs for whatever purpose they want, free from state censorship and violence, to be sure. But does that mean that freeing the nipple is the “civil rights issue” of our time — as some feminists claim — that requires busting all social taboos against female toplessness?

Not really.

For starters, it’s not like this kind of thing hasn’t been tried before. The “burn the bra” movement was all the rage among feminists in the 1960s. But it didn’t go beyond a few symbolic bonfires because going braless is simply too physically uncomfortable for most women with modern lifestyles.

Free the Nipple activists accuse society of a double standard for allowing men to show their breasts but not women. “Why are we more offended and outraged by female nipples than male nipples?” one demands to know.

But the fact is that their movement itself is based on a double standard. Indeed, if they were interested in genuine sexual equality, they wouldn’t just fight for the right to go topless, but all laws against indecent exposure. So why don’t they? Maybe because they realize that allowing strange men to swing their schlongs in streets would be neither comfortable nor safe for women.

June 30, 2015

The Supreme Court and the rule of law

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

At Ace of Spades H.Q., Weirddave explains why — even if you are in favour of Obamacare continuing in its current form — you should be worried that the United States Supreme Court made a huge mistake with the ruling that kept Obamacare alive:

… If it had gone the other way, God knows Congress would have fallen all over itself to to reinstate the subsidy. No, what was so gobsmackingly amazing about the decision was that it was justified on the basis of “intent”. 6 out of 9 justices ignored the black letter written word of law in favor of “intent”

So why is this important? Well, let’s start by asking a simple question: Why has the USA been so prosperous? Expand the scope of the question: Historically, why has the Anglosphere been so successful? If one views all of the countries in the Anglosphere as branches growing off of a British trunk, underneath all of them, providing sustenance and support is one common root:

Rule of Law

Rule of Law is a concept that goes back to Greco-Roman times and earlier. The Bible introduces some Deuteronomic provisions to constrain the king that are perhaps the earliest iterations of the concept. Plato advocated a benevolent monarchy, placing his hopes on the willingness of the king to obey the law, Aristotle firmly rebuked him for such a Utopian concept. Things really got rolling in 1215 with the Magna Carta which limited the power of King John to act unilaterally. Samuel Rutherford turned traditional wisdom on its head with Lex, Rex (“The law is king” as opposed to the traditional Rex, Lex, “The king is law”) Locke discussed the concept in great detail, and the Founding Fathers of the US kept the concept as their guiding star as they wrote the Constitution. In every case, as the concept evolved, society became more prosperous, more just and more stable.

And then along came John Roberts.

So what is Rule of Law? Simply put, Rule of Law means that the laws apply to everyone equally. A law is written. It says what it says, and everyone must obey it. No exceptions. The law applies to everyone, regardless of social status, political position, wealth, situation. The law says that one may not drive drunk. If someone is pulled over and they blow 1.5, it doesn’t matter if they were really sad because their grandfather just died, or if their mother ruled Bartertown. They broke the law, they are arrested and tried. (I do realize that real life isn’t quite as straightforward and often times position, power or wealth DO determine how laws are applied in individual cases, but we’re talking theory here). Rule of Law creates a level playing field for everyone.

Real life example: You want to set up a toilet paper factory. You can set it up in America, where a codified set of laws protects your property rights and sets legal limits on what the government can do to you, or you can set up shop in Venezuela where what you build belongs to a corrupt government and can be taken from you at anytime. Where do you build your factory?

Exactly, and that’s why Wal-Mart carries dozens of different types of toilet paper and they are wiping their asses with pine cones in Caracas.

June 1, 2015

The place of “The Marys” in feminist and literary history

Filed under: Books, Britain, History, Liberty — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

In the June issue of Reason, Amy Sturgis reviews a new book by Charlotte Gordon, Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley:

Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter, Mary Shelley, shared life on earth for a mere 11 days. But though fate kept them apart, the two women together managed to change the Western world’s conception of women’s rights, human reason, education theory, and romantic love. Not to mention invent modern science fiction. In Romantic Outlaws, biographer Charlotte Gordon makes a compelling case that each woman’s intellectual legacy has been underappreciated. She also argues persuasively that the two were linked by more than just blood: Wollstonecraft’s life and principles had a profound impact on her daughter, an influence critics largely have ignored.

Both Marys led lives that captured the public imagination at least as much as their path-breaking writings did. Their dramatic personal stories, coupled with well-meaning family members’ attempts to manage their reputations after their deaths, help explain how their ideas got lost in the sensationalist shuffle. But Gordon sees the Marys’ private lives not as obstacles to be overcome but as extensions of their philosophies. Mother and daughter, she argues, tried to craft independent and meaningful lives of the mind in times when a self-supporting, freethinking woman wasn’t just an oddity but a scandal.

“Without knowing the history of the era, the difficulties Wollstonecraft and Shelley faced are largely invisible, their bravery incomprehensible,” Gordon writes. “Even those who revere mother and daughter do not fully realize how profoundly they challenged the moral code of the day. Yet both women were what Wollstonecraft termed ‘outlaws.’ Not only did they write world-changing books, they broke from the strictures that governed women’s conduct, not once but time and again. Their refusal to bow down, to be quiet and subservient, to apologize and hide, makes their lives as memorable as the words they left behind.” Gordon’s admiration for the two is clear and contagious.

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