Climate Science: Not Quite Settled

Climate alarmists tend to make predictions about what will happen in the very long term–50 or 100 years from now. As a result, those predictions cannot be tested to see if the alarmists are right or wrong. We are told that we just have to take the alarmists at their word because ‘the science is settled.’

But every once in a while, climate alarmists leave themselves vulnerable to accountability by making predictions for the nearer term. In such a case, we have the opportunity to see if the alarmists know what they are talking about by just waiting a little while to see what happens.

Back in 2011, one of the leading newspapers in the UK made an alarming prediction about what would happen by 2015.

Arctic sea ice ‘to melt by 2015’

Prof Peter Wadhams, of Cambridge University, said the ice that forms over the Arctic sea is shrinking so rapidly that it could vanish altogether in as little as four years’ time.

Although it would reappear again every winter, its absence during the peak of summer would rob polar bears of their summer hunting ground and threaten them with extinction.

[…]

Most models, including the latest estimates by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), track the decline in the area covered by ice in recent years to predict the rate at which it will deteriorate.

But citing research compiled by Dr Wieslaw Maslowski, a researcher from the American Naval Postgraduate School, last year Prof Wadhams said such predictions failed to spot how quickly climate change is causing the ice to thin.

[…]

Dr Maslowski’s model, along with his claim that the Arctic sea ice is in a “death spiral”, were controversial but Prof Wadhams, a leading authority on the polar regions, said the calculations had him “pretty much persuaded.”

Prof Wadhams said: “His [model] is the most extreme but he is also the best modeller around.

“It is really showing the fall-off in ice volume is so fast that it is going to bring us to zero very quickly. 2015 is a very serious prediction and I think I am pretty much persuaded that that’s when it will happen.”

Well, here we are in summer 2015 and there’s still plenty of arctic sea ice. Polar bears at the moment are not extinct, and not even officially endangered. As shown in the graph below, arctic sea ice is currently a wee bit higher than it was at the same point in 2011. Sea ice for the last three years has been consistently greater than in 2011 and 2012, and not significantly far off the average of 1979-2000.

sea_iceGiven that these ‘scientists’ have shown no ability to make accurate predictions over just a few years, what reason have we to believe their predictions for 50 or 100 years from now?

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What passes for ‘justice’ on college campuses: kangaroo courts

“The Saxon,” wrote Kipling, “never means anything serious till he talks about justice and right.”

Notice that Kipling, unlike campus leftists, did not qualify ‘justice’ by prefacing it with ‘social.’ That’s because Kipling was referring to a concept of justice commonly understood by people for countless generations. What leftists refer to by ‘social justice’ is a very different concept, in many respects the antithesis of actual justice.

Campus leftists believe they know how to run things, and they’d like to have the power to implement their ideas of social justice. But as they’re bringing about social justice, what happens to Kipling’s justice? To get a glimpse of what leftists would do to justice, take a look at what happens when leftists do get to run things. Consider in particular the college campus, where leftists reign supreme. On campus, the left is currently dealing with accusations of sexual assault by adjudicating them in kangaroo courts that deny the accused party the right to due process.

  • No right to an attorney
  • No cross-examination
  • No right to face your accuser
  • No right to be judged by peers
  • No discovery process
  • No ‘reasonable doubt’ standard of guilt

Establishing and preserving these rights as part of Anglo-American legal tradition required a struggle of a thousand years, in which blood was often spilled. Kipling’s poem is set in the year 1100, and this month we celebrate the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. But today’s leftists are people who apparently think nothing of tossing aside longstanding and fundamental rights, effectively rolling back the clock on the justice system for a thousand years. That is who the left is. That is why they need to be kept away from power.

Admittedly, the campus courts are not adjudicating criminal guilt; they can’t send anyone to prison. But the penalties are nonetheless severe. Men found guilty of assault are expelled from school and can be labeled a sexual offender. The expulsion is noted on the academic transcript, which makes it difficult or impossible for the man to finish his degree by transferring to a different school. A young man’s whole future lies in the balance. With so much at stake, simple justice requires due process.

But what, then, shall be done about rape on campus?

Rape is a crime. If it happens, don’t call a leftist. Call the police.

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Reminder: The Left Hates Freedom

In case one needed any more evidence that leftists hate freedom, consider the latest proposal put forward by a prominent liberal journalist. Ron Fournier wants to bring back conscription, a form of modern slavery.

I know a better way to fight ISIS. It starts with an idea that should appeal the better angels of both hawks and doves: National service for all 18- to 28-year-olds.

Require virtually every young American—the civic-minded millennial generation—to complete a year of service through programs such as Teach for America, AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps, or the U.S. military, and two things will happen:

1. Virtually every American family will become intimately invested in the nation’s biggest challenges, including poverty, education, income inequality, and America’s place in a world afire.

2. Military recruiting will rise to meet threats posed by ISIS and other terrorist networks, giving more people skin in a very dangerous game.

Hear that millenials? You may have plans for your life–school, work, family, travel, whatever–but you’ll have to give up those plans to work on whatever Ron Fournier and the rest of the Political Class think is important. That’s a year of your life that you’ll never get back.

These proposals to bring back conscription spring up from time to time, and when they do, it always seems to be a liberal Democrat making the proposal. Liberals recently proposing conscription include Rep. Charlie Rangel and television buffoon Jon Stewart. For modern liberals to advocate bringing back the draft might seem surprising until one recalls that–say it with us–Liberals. Hate. Freedom.

Millenials, most of whom attended public schools and vote liberal Democrat, probably aren’t typically aware of the history of the draft. Just for the record, the last war in which draftees served was the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War was started by and expanded by Democrats. As American draftees were fighting and dying in Vietnam, the intellectual case against the draft was put forward by libertarian economist Milton Friedman and by the libertarian and also blind economist Walter Oi. Friedman and Oi traveled around the country speaking out against the draft. Finally, the draft was abolished in 1973 by Republican president Richard Nixon. In 1980, liberal Democrat president Jimmy Carter brought back mandatory draft registration.

Liberals often accompany their calls for a draft with an interesting argument. They maintain that a draft would reduce the likelihood of war. The argument is summarized by Mark “Windypundit” Draughn.

[T]he reason we live in a time of seemingly continuous war is that not enough Americans care enough to oppose it, and they don’t oppose it because they know that it would mostly be fought by other people’s children. Bringing back the draft would mean no one was safe from the consequences of war, which would make us think more carefully as a nation before going to war.

Draughn shows, however, that the numbers contradict the idea that a volunteer military leads to more war.

The gigantic death toll of World War II would skew the numbers in a way that’s hard to think about, so for the sake of argument let’s set aside those 400,000 dead soldiers and consider the period from the end of World War II to the end of conscription in 1973. In that 29-year period, we had the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and a number of small deployments that lead to the combat deaths of almost 95,000 American soldiers, for an average of a little over 3200 deaths per year.

After conscription ended in 1973, no American solders died in war for the next 6 years. Things got only a little more violent over the next two decades, with about 400 more combat deaths in the ’80’s (mostly Beirut) and the ’90’s (mostly the first Gulf War). Even with the explosion of violence from the War on Terror (6700 U.S. soldiers dead and still counting) the average annual combat death rate for the post-conscription era is only about 200 per year, or 1/16th the rate during conscription.

A crucial flaw in the liberal argument is that it would be difficult or impossible to apply the draft equally to the Political Class and to everyone else. The rich and politically connected would find ways to shelter their own children from the draft, while the children of the powerless would have to fight and die.

Finally, we find it hard to imagine that anyone could make an effective fighting force out of flabby, helicopter-parented, millenial Pajama Boys. They’d be on social media bitching about how the drill sergeant said something mean to them.

pajama_boy

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Then They Came for the Nutella

This story should be of particular interest to Tony, since he’s a big fan of Nutella, the chocolate hazelnut spread that originated in Italy. In fact, last time we taught in Rome with Tony, one of the first products he picked up at the local supermercato was a jarnutella-jar of Nutella.

Tony, however, might want to start increasing his stash, because leftists are now gunning for Nutella since it contains palm oil.

[Socialist] French Environment Minister Ségolène Royal has urged the public to stop eating the well known chocolate hazelnut spread, saying that it contributes to deforestation and damages the environment.

“We have to replant a lot of trees because there is massive deforestation that also leads to global warming. We should stop eating Nutella, for example, because it’s made with palm oil,” Royal said in an interview late 15 July on the French television Canal+.

“Oil palms have replaced trees, and therefore caused considerable damage to the environment,” reported Agence France Presse (AFP)

So socialists are people who believe that the global climate is substantially altered by Nutella. Spreading Nutella over toast seems innocent enough, but enlightened leftists have obtained a deeper level of insight. They know that the goddess gaia will punish that sweet indulgence by causing the seas to rise, islands to sink, crops to wither, and deserts to expand. Because Nutella.

And these socialists mock Christians for believing nonsense.

Oh, and how much of global production of palm oil goes to producing Nutella? 0.3 percent.

“Ferrero sources approximately 170,000 metric tons of palm oil, out of a worldwide production of 60 million metric tons, meaning that Ferrero’s impact on the palm oil supply chain represents less than 0.3 percent,” the company said.

Doesn’t sound like Ségolène Royal’s boycott of Nutella could possibly accomplish much. But hey, there’s always the power to tax.

Not the first time France tries to curb palm oil use
In 2011, the Senate Committee on Social Affairs tried to push through a 300% tax on palm oil, claiming that it was dangerously fattening and its cultivation was bad for the environment. The measure was defeated, says AFP.

On the very same day this Nutella story was published, the U.S. government announced a new ban on partially-hydrogenated oils.

Artificial trans fat will be removed from the U.S. food supply over the next three years under a ruling by regulators that the products pose health risks that contribute to heart disease.

There’s no longer a scientific consensus that partially hydrogenated oils, the main source of trans fat, are generally recognized as safe, according to a final decision released Tuesday by the Food and Drug Administration. The oils are used for frying and in baked goods as well as in confections.

[…]

The move “demonstrates the agency’s commitment to the heart health of all Americans,” FDA Acting Commissioner Stephen Ostroff said in a statement. “This action is expected to reduce coronary heart disease and prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year.”

So once partially-hydrogenated oils are removed from the food supply, what will replace them? You guessed it:  palm oil.

Better Alternative
While Jacobson said palm oil as an alternative isn’t ideal because it contains saturated fat, it’s still better than trans fat.

“Trans fat raises the bad cholesterol and lowers the good cholesterol a little bit,” he said.“Saturated fat only raises the bad cholesterol.”

About 70 percent of palm oil is produced in Malaysia and some also comes from Indonesia and South America, Tiger Tangavelu, technical director at Global Agri-Trade Corp., said in an e-mail. The U.S. market size for palm oil is 2.6 billion pounds (1.2 billion kilograms) annually, he said. He expects that to increase by half a billion pounds a year once trans fats are eliminated.

By our calculation, that extra half a billion pounds exceeds the entire palm oil content of global Nutella consumption by about one-third. Did the FDA take into account the potential impact of their policy on the climate? Does Ségolène Royal know about this?

But seriously, Royal has zilch scientific evidence that Nutella has anything more than an infinitesimal impact on the earth’s climate.

Likewise, the FDA has no convincing scientific evidence that the ban on hydrogenated oils will “prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year.” In fact, the evidence suggest that, even in the absence of a ban, consumption of such oils had already fallen to safe levels.

Once consumers heard about the risks associated with trans fats, they began avoiding them, and businesses consequently stopped using them as much. Between 1980 and 2009, Americans’ consumption of trans fats dropped around a third (as did our intake of saturated fats.) The FDA claims that “trans fat intake among American consumers has declined from 4.6 grams per day in 2003 to about 1 gram per day in 2012.”
As Baylen Linnekin points out, The American Heart Association has suggested that Americans consume “less than 2 grams of trans fats a day.” So, he argues, “if the FDA and AHA are correct, then current consumption levels—prior to and without any ban—are well within safe levels.”

All the rhetoric about saving lives and the planet is just posturing and political theatre intended to obscure a more cynical agenda of power and follow-the-money crony capitalism. (Monsanto corporation reportedly stands ready to cash in by selling a substitute oil made from soybeans.)

The company that produces Nutella claims that each jar contains 50 hazelnuts. But even nuttier than a jar of Nutella is anybody who takes seriously the assertions of politicians and bureaucrats.

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How Taxes Changed Boxing

Came across this older piece for the Atlantic that both presents Joe Louis’s sad battle with the IRS and suggests a possibly interesting research topic:

It is April 15, Tax Day, and so a sports fan’s fancy turns to thoughts of…boxing?

It’s now on the periphery of sporting awareness or interest, but there was once a time—and a very long time it was—when there was no bigger event in sports than a heavyweight title fight. And no bigger pay day. That’s where taxes come in.

For a very long time, boxing was the only really big-money sport for athletes. Not for nothing did Marlon Brando’s Terry Malloy regret taking the dive that cost him “the title shot outdoors in the ballpark” in On the Waterfront. At a time when Babe Ruth was being razzed for his $80,000 salary (more than the President of the United States, it was pointed out, to which Babe supposedly replied in 1930, “Well, I had a better year than he [President Hoover] did”), heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey made about nine times as much—over $700,000, for his unsuccessful title defense against Gene Tunney in 1926. And Tunney made $990,000 when he defended the title (and survived the infamous “long count”) against Dempsey the next year. Between the two of them, they earned more than the entire 1929 payroll of baseball’s American League in their two championship fights.

[—]

The 1950s was the era of the 90 percent top marginal tax rate, and by the end of that decade live gate receipts for top championship fights were supplemented by the proceeds from closed circuit telecasts to movie theaters. A second fight in one tax year would yield very little additional income, hardly worth the risk of losing the title. And so, the three fights between Floyd Patterson and Ingemar Johansson stretched over three years (1959-1961); the two between Patterson and Sonny Liston over two years (1962-1963), as was also true for the two bouts between Liston and Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) (1964-1965). Then, the Tax Reform Act of 1964 cut the top marginal tax rate to 70 percent effective in 1965. The result: two heavyweight title fights in 1965, and five in 1966. You can look it up.

So, do the number of heavyweight boxing matches per year move inversely with the top marginal tax rate? I found some data here that students needing an econometrics, forecasting, or applied statistics paper topic may find useful.

Civil Forfeiture at Airports Too

We’ve heard about civil forfeiture at the roadside and on trains, but of course the Feds have not forgotten planes as well. Basically, it is now illegal in America to travel at all with large amounts of cash. That’s in addition to the apparent crime of making multiple cash withdrawls of less than $10,000 from a bank account.

The following story hits hits home for us because it involves an airport that we frequent.

Carrying large amounts of cash is not a crime, yet thousands of Americans who do so are being treated like criminals. Law enforcement officials are using civil forfeiture to seize the cash of domestic travelers at airports, like 24-year-old Charles Clarke. Charles had $11,000 seized at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky airport in 2014.

In February 2014, law enforcement officials took Charles’ entire life savings right before he was scheduled to board a flight, and they have kept his money for over a year.

[…]

Charles saved his money for the past five years from financial aid, various jobs, educational benefits based on his mother’s status as a disabled veteran and gifts from family. Charles was visiting relatives in Cincinnati while he and his mother were moving to a new apartment back in Florida. He did not want to lose the $11,000, so he took it with him. On his way home, law enforcement officials at the airport seized Charles’ money because they claimed his checked bag smelled like marijuana. Although Charles was a recreational smoker at the time, the officers did not find any drugs or anything illegal on his person or in his carry-on or checked bag. The government should have to prove that Charles committed a crime if it wants to keep his money.

“Carrying cash is not a crime,” explained IJ Attorney Darpana Sheth. “No one should lose their life savings when no drugs or evidence of any crime are found on them or their belongings.”

Since the late 1990s, the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky airport police took part in a couple dozen seizures per year—but by 2013 that figure skyrocketed to almost 100 seizures, totaling more than $2 million.

Almost 100 seizures at just one airport, and an airport that is not even particularly large. That’s an average of two seizures a week. Amazing. We’ll never view Cincinnati airport the same way again.

end-forfeiture-logo-dk-bkgd

A Cyber Pearl Harbor?

In an apparent monumental case of government incompetence, a data breach at the Office of Personnel Management has allowed Chinese spies to walk away with a boatload of sensitive information.

[T]he Chinese stole millions of personnel files and mountains of background-check information from the U.S. government…

The damage is hard to exaggerate. Former NSA counterintelligence officer John Schindler calls it a “disaster” in a column headlined “China’s hack just wrecked American espionage.” Joel Brenner, America’s top counterintelligence official from 2006 to 2009, says the stolen data amounts to the “crown jewels” of American intelligence. “This tells the Chinese the identities of almost everybody who has got a United States security clearance,” he told the Associated Press.

Evidence is mounting that the Chinese didn’t need to do anything extraordinary to gain access, as government ineptitude left vast amounts of data vulnerable for years.

Signs are mounting that OPM officials were aware their security clearance data was vulnerable. In November, the OPM inspector general issued a report concluding that the data was at risk, a “Chinese hacker’s dream,” according to a New York Times report.

Elizabeth Newman, an attorney and security clearance expert, said the hack was a clear OPM failure.

“It means that OPM was pretty incompetent,” she said. “They knew that their systems were vulnerable and were warned but did nothing to secure them.”

Although the government’s systems were seemingly not protected by encryption, Congress was told this week that encryption in this case would not have helped, because the spies were able to obtain credentials that gave them access. The Chinese breakthrough doesn’t seem to have required the skill comparable to the naval cryptology effort that broke the Japanese naval code prior to the Battle of Midway. No, it was more like a phishing scam, which makes the government look even more incompetent.

Here’s more from arstechnica.com.

Some of the contractors that have helped OPM with managing internal data have had security issues of their own—including potentially giving foreign governments direct access to data long before the recent reported breaches. A consultant who did some work with a company contracted by OPM to manage personnel records for a number of agencies told Ars that he found the Unix systems administrator for the project “was in Argentina and his co-worker was physically located in the [People’s Republic of China]. Both had direct access to every row of data in every database: they were root. Another team that worked with these databases had at its head two team members with PRC passports. I know that because I challenged them personally and revoked their privileges. From my perspective, OPM compromised this information more than three years ago and my take on the current breach is ‘so what’s new?'”

Check out the impressive qualifications of the person in charge of OPM; basically, a schoolteacher with a few additional years of partisan hackery. What could go wrong?

Director Archuleta began her career in public service as a teacher in the Denver public school system. She left teaching to work as an aide to Denver Mayor Federico Peña. When Mayor Peña became Secretary of Transportation during the Clinton Administration, Archuleta continued her public service as his Chief of Staff. Later, Peña was appointed to head the Department of Energy and Archuleta served as a Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of the Secretary.

After the Clinton Administration, she went back to local government and became a Senior Policy Advisor to Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.

Archuleta spent the first two years of the Obama Administration serving as the Chief of Staff at the Department of Labor to Secretary Hilda Solis.

As the Director of OPM, Archuleta is committed to building an innovative and inclusive workforce that reflects the diversity of America.

We notice she did not mention competent.

As a long-time public servant, she is a champion of Federal employees.

She championed them by exposing millions of them to blackmail and identity theft.

Look, data breaches happen. Prior to the Battle of Antietam, two Union soldiers by chance found a mislaid copy of General Lee’s battle plan, wrapped around three cigars. But the current breach for its combination of breathtaking incompetence along with the vast quantity of information involved, seems unprecedented, and utterly FUBAR.

Exit question: Is government getting even more incompetent? Are we approaching Peak Incompetence?

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Source of Male Feminism Found?

According to a disturbing article in the National Catholic Register, use of birth control pills has polluted drinking water with synthetic hormones that could cause health problems.

A recent report from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) found that birth-control hormones excreted by women, flushed into waterways and eventually into drinking water can also impact fish fertility up to three generations after exposure — raising questions about their effects on humans, who are consuming the drugs without even knowing it in each glass of water they drink.

The survey, published in March in the journal Scientific Reports, looked at the impact of the synthetic hormone 17α-ethinylestradiol (EE2), an ingredient of most contraceptive pills, in the water of Japanese medaka fish during the first week of their development.

While the exposed fish and their immediate offspring appeared unaffected, the second generation of fish struggled to fertilize eggs — with a 30% reduction in fertilization rates —  and their embryos were less likely to survive. Even the third generation of fish had 20% impaired fertility and survival rates, though they were never directly exposed to the hormone.

[…]

[S]cientists are particularly concerned about the contraceptive chemical EE2 because of its ability to “feminize” male fishes and its association with plummeting fish fertility. A landmark 2007 study, for example, described a seven-year whole-lake experiment in northern Ontario, Canada, in which tiny amounts of EE2 induced “intersex” male minnows whose testicles contained eggs, as well as altered egg production in female fishes; this ultimately resulted in the “near extinction” of the species from the lake, as well as a threat to larger fish populations.

Numerous subsequent studies across the globe have linked birth-control hormones to impaired fertility, “transgender fish” and reduced fish populations. Minnesota pollution researchers looking for the endocrine disruptors found them even in remote lakes thought to be pristine; and when they lowered cages of male lab minnows into the lakes, most of them were feminized within three weeks.

The following might explain the cravenness of the GOP Congressional leadership.

[In 2010] scientists were reporting that 80% of the fish in the Potomac River — whose water is pumped into the homes of 4 million people — showed “intersex” features.

And effects have been observed not just in fish but also in mammals.

The impact of EE2 has been demonstrated experimentally in mammals as well. In one 2009 study, for example, newborn rats exposed to the hormone in the first days of life developed small and abnormal penises and lowered sperm counts, and they struggled to reproduce.

Time to increase our purchases of distilled water.

Magna Carta: 800 Years

On June 15, 1215 King John of England was compelled to approve the Magna Carta, a lengthy legal document that limited the king’s powers. The document codified, for the first time in the history of the world, a uniquely important principle–that rulers are restrained by something higher than themselves; that there exists a system of human law that operates above the ruler. This idea laid the foundation for modern constitutional government, on which today all of our freedoms and civil rights depend.

In the Wall Street Journal, Daniel Hannan offers an excellent essay on the significance of Magna Carta.

The very success of Magna Carta makes it hard for us, 800 years on, to see how utterly revolutionary it must have appeared at the time. Magna Carta did not create democracy: Ancient Greeks had been casting differently colored pebbles into voting urns while the remote fathers of the English were grubbing about alongside pigs in the cold soil of northern Germany. Nor was it the first expression of the law: There were Sumerian and Egyptian law codes even before Moses descended from Sinai.

What Magna Carta initiated, rather, was constitutional government—or, as the terse inscription on the American Bar Association’s stone puts it, “freedom under law.”

It takes a real act of imagination to see how transformative this concept must have been. The law was no longer just an expression of the will of the biggest guy in the tribe. Above the king brooded something more powerful yet—something you couldn’t see or hear or touch or taste but that bound the sovereign as surely as it bound the poorest wretch in the kingdom. That something was what Magna Carta called “the law of the land.”

This phrase is commonplace in our language. But think of what it represents. The law is not determined by the people in government, nor yet by clergymen presuming to interpret a holy book. Rather, it is immanent in the land itself, the common inheritance of the people living there.

The idea of the law coming up from the people, rather than down from the government, is a peculiar feature of the Anglosphere. Common law is an anomaly, a beautiful, miraculous anomaly. In the rest of the world, laws are written down from first principles and then applied to specific disputes, but the common law grows like a coral, case by case, each judgment serving as the starting point for the next dispute. In consequence, it is an ally of freedom rather than an instrument of state control. It implicitly assumes residual rights.

And indeed, Magna Carta conceives rights in negative terms, as guarantees against state coercion. No one can put you in prison or seize your property or mistreat you other than by due process. This essentially negative conception of freedom is worth clinging to in an age that likes to redefine rights as entitlements—the right to affordable health care, the right to be forgotten and so on.

Hannan notes that much of the document does not involve lofty statements of high-minded principle, but rather consists of seemingly mundane assertions of specific property rights. But of course, we now know that property rights are primary and necessary for securing all the other civil rights–speech, religion, association, etc.

It is worth stressing, too, that Magna Carta conceived freedom and property as two expressions of the same principle. The whole document can be read as a lengthy promise that the goods of a free citizen will not be arbitrarily confiscated by someone higher up the social scale. Even the clauses that seem most remote from modern experience generally turn out, in reality, to be about security of ownership.

There are, for example, detailed passages about wardship. King John had been in the habit of marrying heiresses to royal favorites as a way to get his hands on their estates. The abstruse-sounding articles about inheritance rights are, in reality, simply one more expression of the general principle that the state may not expropriate without due process.

Those who stand awe-struck before the Great Charter expecting to find high-flown phrases about liberty are often surprised to see that a chunk of it is taken up with the placing of fish-traps on the Thames. Yet these passages, too, are about property, specifically the freedom of merchants to navigate inland waterways without having arbitrary tolls imposed on them by fish farmers.

The American revolutionaries who founded the United States were directly inspired by Magna Carta. They revolted against England because they believed that King George III had violated their rights as Englishmen under Magna Carta. This point is made clearly by Brendan O’Neill.

In the eighteenth century, American revolutionaries built their entire new nation on the promises of Magna Carta. In 1761, the Massachusetts-based American revolutionary James Otis gave a fiery speech against Britain’s use of ‘writs of assistance’ in America, which allowed it to access citizens’ homes and their personal records. Such arbitrary interference in people’s lives and effects went against the ideals of Magna Carta, he said. At the sealing of that document in 1215, said Otis, ‘American independence was then and there born’. The Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution, which articulates ‘The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects’, granted to all Magna Carta’s suggestion that people (barons) should not be ‘stripped of [their] rights or possessions’ without good reason.

Indeed, the official state Massachusetts_state_seal_1775_1780_MassachusettsArchivesseal adopted by Massachusetts in 1775 depicts a patriot with a sword in one hand and a copy of Magna Carta in the other.

Over the years, many artists have attempted to depict the famous event of John at Runnymede approving the Magna Carta. Many of these depictions, however, share a distinct historical inaccuracy. Can you spot the historical inaccuracy in all six pictures below?

6e72978f-e9a0-4815-a769-32f7be328b1c-1020x612Pictures_of_English_History_Plate_XXIV_-_King_John_and_Magna_Carta.jpgJohn,_Magna_Cartahistoryofenglandmagnacarta101_NH08CAR_2__1128212kking-john-signing-magna-carta All six pictures show King John, pen in hand, signing the Magna Carta. But John did not sign the Magna Carta, he approved it by affixing the royal seal, in wax.

Finally, according to the Julian calendar in use in 1215, we would still have a couple weeks to go before reaching the June 15 anniversary. So strictly speaking, Magna Carta is still a couple weeks less than 800 years old. But in any event, we don’t have a problem with celebrating the anniversary today. Happy birthday to Magna Carta!

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Canadian: We don’t need no stinkin’ freedom of speech

A Canadian commenter provides some insight into the mindset of contemporary opponents of free speech. They claim to actually support free speech, but they define it as freedom to engage only in speech they approve of.

canadian

The United States has a lot of problems. But at least (for now) we have a First Amendment. And the rest of the Bill of Rights.

Instead of lecturing Americans about rights, maybe Canadians should stick with what they know. Like ice hockey. Or salmon fishing.

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