A weaselly decision

But it could have been worse:

Hearing the most important gun rights case in nearly 70 years, the justices on Tuesday spent 98 minutes engrossed in a lively debate about British and American legal traditions relating to the right to bear arms, especially in self-defence. By the end of Tuesday’s session, it appeared clear that a majority of the court would rule that the US constitution protects the right of individual Americans to “keep and bear arms” – but that federal, state and local governments will retain some powers to regulate firearms.

It’s absurd, to be sure, but that’s what I’m expecting them to announce.

R.I.P. Arthur C. Clarke

While I don’t think 2001: A Space Odyssey has held up terribly well – I watched it a few months ago as well as reading the later books in what somehow turned into a series – I considered The Fountains of Paradise to be one of the truly great science fiction classics, and “The Nine Billion Names of God” to be one of the best short stories the genre has ever produced.

The ignorant atheist

While Kelly’s working on finishing her response to my response, I shall content myself with mocking one of the Rational Response Squad’s hangers-on. I note with some amusement that he’s genuinely convinced of my “ignorance”:

I won’t make any more comments on Day’s supposed understanding apart from his suggestion that there was no feudalism in Europe – what more can I say? Hats off to him for being just as ignorant as that theist someone mentioned in the RD fora, who said that there was nothing bad about the Dark Ages, and that at least kids got a decent education…

From the Medieval Sourcebook:

“The usefulness of feudalism as a term is at present under intense discussion among historians of the middle ages, with the majority of experts now rejecting the term.

Feudalism was not a word used in the middle ages. It has had two quite distinct meanings in recent usage. The first meaning – promoted by radicals during the French Revolution and developed by Marxist historians – refers to a social system based on a society in which peasant agriculture is the fundamental productive activity; in which slavery is non-existent or marginal but peasants are tied to the land in some way; and in which a small elite defined by military activity dominates.. This is probably the most important meaning in modern popular usage.

For most of the 20th-century, professional medievalists have given the term a quite different meaning [see F. Ganshof, Feudalism for a classic summary]. For medieval historians the term has come to mean a system of reciprocal personal relations among members of the military elite, which lead ultimately to parliament and then Western democracy.”

It was the nonexistent Jacobin concept of a feudal society that Kelly has in mind, of course, since the other directly contradicts her argument. It’s most amusing that the atheist commenter should bring up the so-called Dark Ages, for as I point out in TIA, it hasn’t been considered a valid concept by professional historians for more than seventy years.

Out of the frying pan, into the fire

Poland is eager to abandon its brief experiment with democracy:

POLAND’S PRIME minister vowed yesterday to do his utmost to avoid a referendum in his country on the European Union’s reform treaty after being grilled by anxious EU leaders at a summit. Powerful anti-EU nationalists in Poland’s opposition Law and Justice party are demanding a referendum, suddenly complicating an expected smooth ratification of the treaty by the bloc’s biggest east European member.

USSR or EUSSR, the only significant difference is the number of nukes. Give the Eurocrats 50 years of centralized rule from Brussels and they’ll set back the European standard of living as badly as their Soviet predecessors ever did.

Darwinian dunces

No, calling them dunces isn’t fair. But it’s pretty easy to see why economics-trained individuals are often able to run rings around the butterfly collectors. They simply tend to be more intelligent in the aggregate. Unsurprisingly, those studying philosophy tend to be towards the very top, along with the usual suspects, the engineers, barring the latter’s inability to write. And as usual, it’s the would-be educators that cluster at the bottom:

This may go some way towards explaining why the world’s most famous biologist is so demonstrably hapless outside of his area of immediate expertise.

Mailvox: what’s the point?

Once more we see the limited utility of a modern university education, even one from a pretty good school:

I’m a graduate of William and Mary, where I majored in English. I also have a lot of French under my belt. However, I did not take German. Your columns would be more effective and less frustrating if you did not assume that we are all Mensa caliber.

Aber es gibt kein Deutsch auf der letzte Abschnitt. Hier koennen wir dass man kann wirklich nicht ein Diplom mit einer Bildung missverstehen sehen. Und ja, ich weiss mein Grammatik ist sehr schade, es tut mir leid.

Look, I threw away my last opportunity at national syndication because I refused to dumb things down, so it should be eminently clear by now that I’m just not going to do it. If that means some of you would prefer to read other columnists, that’s completely fine with me. But since I’ve gotten several questions about this, Ragnarok is the end of the world and death of the gods in Norse mythology, while the Fimbulwinter is the harsh winter that lasts three years and precedes the great battle and the eventual perishing of the world at the hands of the king of Muspelheim, Surtr the Fire Giant.

If you think it’s bad now

Just wait until both health care and the banks are nationalized:

Americans have stopped sneering at Britain for nationalising Northern Rock. After all, the Fed needs White House and Treasury approval for taking $30 billion of Bear Stearns’s liabilities on to its own balance sheet because in the end taxpayers are now on the hook. If it looks like nationalisation, and feels like nationalisation, it is nationalisation. And there is more to come.

Because it worked so very well in the pre-Thatcher, pre-Reagan past. By the way, it looks like Lehman is the prime candidate to go down next, options on its stock were removed from several European markets this morning. If you can still buy them on the Chicago options exchange, you might want to pick up a few.