Today’s Phrase for Latin Lovers

Rex in Regno suo superiores habet Deum et Legem.

The King in his Realm hath two superiors: God and the Law. -- Henry Care (1646-1688) on English liberties and the Magna Carta


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Ancient History

|Book Club

Wit vs. Wits

My favorite quote (and guide) regarding wittiness is the oft-quoted Shakespeare-coined adage that “Brevity is the soul of wit.” [from Act II, Scene II of Hamlet]

But when it comes to wits (as in “keep your wits about you”), brevity would be a disadvantage.

I’m partway through the 2013 modern costume and set decoration, Joss Whedon-adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” which is a very interesting approach to this classic late 16th-century comedy. It’s intriguing to see how this play would unfold in present-day surroundings (apparently filmed in the director’s own house), simple luxuries and technologies, and illustrates how human nature is little changed in the intervening 400 years.

By removing all the medieval trappings that typically scare 21st-century people and leaving just the dense, florid Shakespearean language, it makes the play more accessible to modern man, while maintaining the purity of the script. The language of the script, for non-Shakespeare scholars, remains intimidating–especially in the first few minutes where it’s all whizzing by you as you’re also trying to grasp who is who and what’s going on. Eventually the rhythm of the words becomes easier to understand, and yet old turns of phrase and vocabulary can keep jamming on the brakes: “challeng’d Cupid at the flight” (challenged to Cupid to an archery contest), “burbolt” (a flat-headed arrow used for bird hunting), “trencherman” (eater), “squarer” (fighter), “parrot-teacher” (an insult, implying someone who says the same thing so often that they would make a good parrot trainer), “jade’s trick” (a jade is a broken-down, overworked horse, a nag, and according to various internet sites, the trick would be 1. giving up before the race is finished or 2. having a horse trader use dyes and spices to make the jade appear young and healthy for sale).

If I’m watching Shakespeare in public (it’s worth the day-long effort to wait in line for free “Shakespeare in the Park” tickets in Central Park), I just have to turn off that part of my brain that questions every new word and phrase I hear and let the words flow over me. I always walk away feeling like I understood all the main plot lines and themes and most of the details.

But when I’m at home, with dictionaries and computers nearby, I only make it through a scene or two before my brain is screaming to put the DVD on pause and look up all of the archaic words and phrases I don’t immediately get so that I’ll understand every detail. (This is why I don’t watch Shakespeare movies every week…or month.)

So pause I have. To my happiness, I found one bit of dialog that flowed right over me, has even more meaning that I can apply to other things:

Alas! he gets nothing by that. In our last
conflict four of his five wits went halting off, and
now is the whole man governed with one: so that if
he have wit enough to keep himself warm, let him
bear it for a difference between himself and his
horse; for it is all the wealth that he hath left,
to be known a reasonable creature.

I didn’t need to know this to enjoy Lady Beatrice’s snark about Benedick not having all his wits, but apparently in the Middle Ages, there were thought to be five “inward” wits to go along with the five “outward wits” or senses (taste, touch, smell, hearing and sight). The five wits were imagination, memory, estimation (instinct), fantasy (is this really different from imagination? this reference tries to differentiate it) and common wit (which is akin to Aristotle’s concept of what we now call “common sense”). Not sure where the humorous wit fits among these categories, though.

Therefore, it’s fun to know that instead of tossing out random numbers, Beatrice’s imagination specifically intends to insinuate that Benedick’s mind is deprived of all imagination, memory, instinct and fantasy, but she graciously grants him some common sense.

That’s being witty about wits.

UPDATE: No wonder I missed Beatrice’s jab at Benedick’s wit in the movie. In replaying the scene, I find Whedon has edited Shakespeare here and there, removing the quote I so love. Hmph.

|Interdisciplinary Prudence

On Myth, de Vries and Freud: Losing Our Religion

This week’s thought-provoking interdisciplinary topics: mythology and religion.

In my reading today, this passage criticizing a mythology theory by Max Müller, who deemed mythology a “disease of language,”* spoke to me:

Nomina, not numina! [Mere names, not divine powers!] How could one say such a thing about the gods of pagan polytheism, who move us time and again exactly because of their strong personal character? Indeed, were Zeus and Wodan, Indra and Donar [Thor] no more than empty names? They were true gods—-one could almost say of flesh and blood–so human were they in their imagery, so persuasive in their doings. They demanded veneration because of their powerful intervention in life; awe and confidence, fear and love were felt for them in accordance with their power and character. Mythology is not a disease of language; it is a reality immediately apparent to man; it has its being in all that is limitless and enigmatic in nature or in himself.

Max Müller’s theory demonstrates once more the gap that lay between nineteenth-century man and the sundry faiths he knew existed. To the extent that modern man’s soul detached itself from Christianity, to the extent that Christianity was allowed to deteriorate into a mere moral lore as the core was taken out of its dogma and the sense for its mystery got lost, to that extent also man’s understanding for other religions disappeared. It seemed to him that these religions were so naïve that they could not have any connection with deep human experience. Max Müller’s theory makes abundantly clear that he never fathomed belief.”

— Jan de Vries, “Theories Concerning ‘Nature Myths'” from Sacred Narrative: Readings in the Theory of Myth, edited by Alan Dundes

The Dutch folklorist Jan de Vries wrote this back in 1961 in his book The Study of Religion. Moving from his European vantage point, we now advance 50 years to today. American atheist activists have spent the intervening years fighting and shrieking and clawing to remove any inklings of Christianity from the public square so as to not have their rigid, ideological, intolerant sensibilities offended. They’ve been remarkably successful, replacing Christianity with their religion: an utter absence of any sense of spirituality in the public arena.

They’ve been so successful that many children who grow up in areligious homes (ones not necessarily opposed to religion or spirituality, but not practicing any themselves) have little chance to come in contact with religious opportunities or to even know how much of it still survives in private realms.

I may no longer be a believer myself, but I worked at educating myself on the various religions, both as a child and an adult. I’m thankful for the religious training I received as a child, as it gave me a foundation in morals. Most of all, it gave me an ability to respect others’ religious beliefs—even when they seem far from my own. When others mock or belittle someone for their faith, my religious education makes me irritated, if not indignant (almost as if I were being attacked too) at the intolerance.

And so to read de Vries saying that when one has no religion, one loses the ability to understand those with religion, I can’t help but agree. The evidence is all around us. Hostility towards religious persons (or even those that just believe in a religion) is rampant in media, entertainment and academia.

I also can’t help but wonder if de Vries had Sigmund Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontentsin the back of his mind as he wrote this as well, seeing as how Freud began the book marveling over and misunderstanding a friend’s comment that religion is based in a feeling of being eternally connected to the whole universe—an “oceanic” feeling. Freud then proceeds to try to figure out this feeling he says he has never experienced and cannot understand. He ultimately concludes that it’s not him that’s deficient, that well-adjusted psychologically fit people would not have this feeling, and therefore it proves that religious people are just really screwed-up neurotics.

This is an all-too-brief summary of the screwed-up Freud that I should expound on later. I bring it up here because it so fits with de Vries criticism of Müller; Sigmund Freud himself said he could not fathom belief, and we have gotten the same result de Vries explained above.

“Intellectuals” have long used pseudo-science devoid of any proof beyond the hypothesizing of a pompous cokehead to actually deny something to which billions of people can attest (even non-believers such as myself) to then claim those billions are just all intellectually and psychologically inferior and must conform to the “intellectual” view or be forever ridiculed and derided.

Tolerance doesn’t necessarily require respect for someone else’s beliefs. To respect someone’s beliefs requires understanding someone’s beliefs.

From there, it’s courtesy, not tolerance, that tells one it’s impolite to make fun of another’s beliefs. Tolerance merely requires us to not try to force our superior beliefs down someone else’s throat.

* I’ve not yet personally read the writings of Max Müller, a 19th-century philologist who was instrumental in creating the field of comparative religious studies. Therefore, I take at face value de Vries assessment of Müller’s theory and familiarity with faith, primarily because my launching point is not Müller’s thoughts, but de Vries’ take on them.

|Economics With Prudence | Premium Prudence

Economics Taught Here

Following the 2012 election which saw Barack Obama re-elected as President of the United States, after his economic policies increased the national debt to $16 trillion and grew food stamp and Medicaid rolls to the highest they have ever been, it is clear that the American voting public has little understanding of economic issues or concepts.

Therefore, the Prudence Paine Papers introduces a new category: Economics With Prudence.

Here we’ll provide quick takes on economics issues of the day and seek out the best economics learning tools available on the Internet. To maintain a free nation, we have to fully understand that government money doesn’t magically appear out of the air or a politician’s promises. It’s a real thing (even if the government does create mass amounts of it out of paper and ink) and it has real consequences that affect the lives of real citizens of all income-levels.

To set the starting point, let’s mark where we are economically as a country with a tidbit from a National Review Online column by Mark Steyn, titled “The Edge of the Abyss”:

In the course of his first term, Obama increased the federal debt by just shy of $6 trillion and in return grew the economy by $905 billion. So, as Lance Roberts at Street Talk Live pointed out, in order to generate every dollar of economic growth the United States had to borrow about five dollars and 60 cents. There’s no one out there on the planet — whether it’s “the rich” or the Chinese — who can afford to carry on bankrolling that rate of return. According to one CBO analysis, U.S.-government spending is sustainable as long as the rest of the world is prepared to sink 19 percent of its GDP into U.S. Treasury debt. We already know the answer to that: In order to avoid the public humiliation of a failed bond auction, the U.S. Treasury sells 70 percent of the debt it issues to the Federal Reserve — which is to say the left hand of the U.S. government is borrowing money from the right hand of the U.S. government. It’s government as a Nigerian e-mail scam, with Ben Bernanke playing the role of the dictator’s widow with $4 trillion under her bed that she’s willing to wire to Timmy Geithner as soon as he sends her his bank-account details.

If that’s all a bit too technical, here’s the gist: There’s nothing holding the joint up.

The situation is dire.

Before we can solve the problem, we have to understand the problem. We’ll try to provide that information in as simple a manner as possible. No math degrees required.

If you’d like to sign up to receive an email when new Economics With Prudence posts are added, please fill out the contact form below and we’ll put you on the mailing list.

If you have a question about economics that you would like to have answered, you can post it in the comments section, or submit it directly by filling out the contact form.

→ Continue reading “Economics Taught Here


In My Butterfly Net: 2011-04-01

Here’s what the little men in white coats captured from the scattered tweets and thoughts that fluttered forth from the mind of Prudy in the last 24 hours:

  • The Libyan “Kinetic Military Action” is not going well. NBC’s Jim Maceda reported, after apologizing that the media had done such a poor job reporting it: “It’s not Khadaffy’s army that has Libya rebels on run. It’s LOCAL MILITIAS in pickups.”

    What have we gotten into? If ordinary citizens are going out on their own to fight the “rebels,” perhaps we haven’t thought this whole thing through, have we? [*]
  • Donald Trump is running for President, unofficially for now, but… He has made a bold splash in the media by asking why doesn’t Obama just release his long-form birth certificate and end all speculation. MSNBC’s Daily Rundown hungrily booked him, and then @savannahguthrie and @chucktodd openly mocked him, rolled their eyes, smirked and postured, and asked him preposterous questions, in their phone interview. Would they have done the same thing, treated him as disrespectfully, if he had been sitting right across from him? How was that a “news” interview? The name of your show is the Daily Rundown, not the Daily Show, and you really aren’t that funny. In fact, you’re rather humorless. #LeanDisrespectful #PoorManners #Cowards [#]

    FUN SIDE NOTE: Saw someone comment that the Birther label is really a misnomer. It should be applied to all those that believe Obama WAS born in the US, not those that have questions about it.
  • Quote from Thursday’s Stossel show on Fox Business: “Where’s the anti-war movement now? They weren’t anti-war, they were anti-Bush, and they aren’t anti-Obama.” –Cato Institute’s @David_Boaz [*]
  • @The_Alien tweeted: “The next Osama bin Laden is currently a lieutenant in the ranks of Libyan rebels.” I can’t help but think his current lieutenant is probably there right now too. [#]
  • @SamValley tweeted: Socialists agree in limited choice, as long as they get a personal waiver.” But I’ve always suspected that socialists think they’ll be the ones in charge, making the rules, not the peons having to live under them. [#]
  • The Lottery Game: Odds assure the ticket-issuing government will pay out less in prizes than the amount of money the ticket sales take in. Fine. That’s typical of any business. There is an expectation of profit. But the magical government part occurs when the winning customers receive only a portion of their promised winnings, losing nearly 50% of the winnings once all taxes get collected—mostly by the very same government giving them the money.

    That would be like going to any business, say, a barbeque restaurant, and ordering a pound of pulled pork, but receiving only half a pound. And you drive away content to have received whatever they gave you. Heaven help you if you don’t want receive your pulled pork half pound over 20 years. You want it now, for dinner tonight. That means you’ll be receiving only the fraction of that half pound that the restaurant would have to invest today to earn, with compound interest, the full half pound by the end of 20 years. Hope you weren’t very hungry. [#]
  • Chevy Volts are the Pocket Chairs of automobiles. (The Pocket Chair is a flimsy-seeming camping chair that can be compactly folded to fit in a pocket and taken everywhere. The ads appear on middle-of-the-night TV, such as during the 3am show “RedEye.”) [inspiration: SwedenG *]

[*] = clickable link to the original Prudy tweet, which may or may not have been modified here, for elaboration or clarification

|Prudent Bedtime Stories

Prudent Bedtime Story #1: Uncle Wolf

It’s been a long weekend. Time to turn in and get rested up for the big week ahead. So as a Sunday treat, let Aunt Prudy read you one of her favorite fairy tales.

This one comes from the Italian Folktales collected by Italo Calvino. It’s all about greedy people who don’t want to earn their rewards and who break their contracts.

This is the tale of…

Uncle Wolf

Click the arrow to listen to the 5-minute story.

Be good now, boys and girls, and maybe I’ll read you another story next week.


|Gay Issues | Position Papers | Updated

Repealing DADT Is Anti-Woman

Gay lobby groups and their supporters seem to say that simply permitting gay service members to openly express their sexual orientation will somehow make our military more fair, more equal.

Not so. If Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) gets repealed, women will immediately become second-class military citizens, simply because they don’t have a Y chromosome. Without DADT, if the military does not transform into a completely unisex environment, it will instantly segregate women from the general population, transforming their quarters into a separate, unequal female ghetto.

Why are women given separate housing, bathing and toilet facilities in an organization that requires complete unity for its survival and readiness? Because of the birds and the bees. Because men and women are sexually attracted to one another. (Well, most of them are.) Because to commingle housing and intimate function facilities would change the dynamics of the personnel interaction, creating an atmosphere ripe for trouble, uneasiness and embarrassment.

We can all pretend that sexual attraction plays no part in interpersonal relationships. We can try to believe that our professional military doesn’t need to have any downtime where they don’t have to be “professional” in their interactions with their coworkers.

Gays in the military say that they are left out of the camaraderie of the male-bonding experience because they can’t talk about what they did on the weekend like everyone else. This is patently ridiculous.

First, there’s no reason why Jim can’t say that he and John had a fabulous time going antiquing and staying at a bed-and-breakfast. If the gay lobby is to be believed, everyone already knows Jim is gay. He just can’t say that. The only thing Jim is prohibited from telling is the details of the sexual activity he engaged in with John.

Yes, straight guys may like to brag about their sexual exploits, but do gay guys expect that their exploits will find equal treatment when hanging with the guys post-DADT? What happened anyway to all the supposed bans on talk of any sexual nature that went into effect when women entered typically male areas and claimed to be too frail or offended to have to be subjected to such a rude, oppressive male environment? Will gays now submit the same lawsuits, object to female pinups unless they can put up their own?

Secondly, this isn’t about being able to openly discuss the details of homosexual activity.  Ultimately, as with gay marriage, it’s getting a leg in the door for the money grab for numerous benefits to be extended to gay partners, cloaked as a civil rights issue. The gay lobby means to gain a significant, substantial legal foothold. If the repeal of DADT causes the military to eventually recognize gay marriages, award benefits to gay partners and even permit transgenders in the armed forces, then this will be put forth as federal sanctioning of gay marriage and will lead to the legal insistence that it should be done in all 50 states.

Perhaps instead of DADT, they should just have a “don’t talk about sex at all” rule. Rather prudish, but at least it doesn’t rip the fabric of society and military cohesion.

If there truly is no reason why gays in the military should not openly express their sexuality, then there is no basis to require some form of separate housing, bathing and toilet facilities for anyone likely to experience sexual desire for one another (and certainly no need for uninterested ones either).

In the heterosexual world, there has always been segregation by sexual preference: men here, women there. But if you add homosexuals into the mix, you will inevitably have men rooming with men to whom they are attracted (and some women in the same situation).

If gay men can live intimately with straight men and have no sexual issues, then women should be able to do the same thing, too. A woman is going to feel no less uncomfortable showering naked with a straight man (or group of straight men) than a straight man will feel in the same situation with a gay man or men.

Therefore, if DADT is repealed, it will be essential to make all housing, bathing and toilet facilities unisex. Otherwise, women once again become excluded, second-class citizens—women locked out simply because they are genetically women.

Women should not be denied the right to participate in the camaraderie and team-building that comes through bunking with the entire group, seeing their fellow soldier in varying states of undress, knowing their bathroom habits and all the other intimate aspects of their lives that are typically shielded from those who don’t share the less dignified aspects of the locker room.

A legal precedent will indeed be set if DADT is repealed. The US government and military will be saying that sexual orientation should never be used as a measure for separate quarters, bathing and toilet facilities.

It appears that a tiny herd of RINOs (Senators Murkowski, Collins and Brown) will permit DADT to get through cloture, meaning the repeal would be a done deal. If that occurs,…

Let the unisex consequences sweep across the land.

Update: The Senate just defeated the defense appropriations bill that included the DADT repeal, but Hot Air reports that Lieberman is going to present it as a stand-alone bill and that repeal still has a chance in the lame duck session.

Update II (12/10/10, 12:45): The Hill reports that newly installed Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the lone Democrat to vote against cloture on the defense bill that included DADT repeal, issued an apology for his vote, and said Obama should just revoke it himself in the name of national security so the Congress doesn’t have to vote on it.

TheOtherMcCain notes that by forcing a vote prior to the completion of tax and budget legislation that the GOP requires before agreeing to other votes, Reid gave “certain liberal Republicans a (non-homophobic) reason to vote ‘no.'”

Update III (12/15/10, 9:30 pm) The House voted today on a stand-alone DADT bill, which passed 250-175. This bill will make it easier for some Senate Republicans to vote for repeal as well. Just this afternoon, Sen. Olympia Snowe announced her support for the bill.


Two-Tweet Twinterview #2: @JakeTapper on Tweets

When Andrew Breitbart’s Big Journalism website announced that he would be appearing on ABC as a pundit during their election coverage, the left wing roared a mighty roar of disapproval. Unfortunately for Jake Tapper, ABC News’s senior White House correspondent, much of the roaring was misdirected into the convenient pipeline direct to his ear: his Twitter account.

Tapper has made himself highly accessible to ABC News viewers. He deftly handles compliments, criticism and unmedicated looniness alike. His Twitter feed is an eclectic mix of news, weird news, jokes, lyrics, debates, puns, chitchat with colleagues and friends, links, replies to strangers, hashtag games and general randomness. Follow him and you’ll come away with the impression that he’s a smart, funny, friendly guy with a cute little boy. You have to like him, and respect him, darn it, even though he works for that awful liberal mainstream media.

So when the Breitbart news went viral and the left’s #boycottABCNews began, Tapper’s generally busy incoming Twitter stream turned into a deluge of protest. He only half successfully redirected some of them to a more suitable outlet for their emotion with a public service tweet:

As I’m not a member of ABC News Management, maybe you could share your thoughts with @ABCNewsNews. thanks! have a good weekend

But many still felt it wouldn’t be nearly as fun and cathartic to lodge a serious, thoughtful grievance with some anonymous person in the public relations department as it would be to rail at Tapper. In addition to other informational tweets such as this, this, this, this, this, this, this and this, he picked representative incoming tweets (or friendly joshing ones) and responded for all:

@TLW3 so you WERE serious? dude, this wasn’t MY decision. my only decision on election night is what will i say when they come to me.

@TLW3 didnt defend anything. my point was it’s silly to get mad at me for decisions i had zero to do with.

@marcslove the thing is, as u know, I do listen to ppl here. And they are loudest when they’re civil.

@tomtomorrow yes, you’re right, this past year is rampant with evidence that ABC News management is in the palm of my hand.

Even a journalism professional watching from afar, last week’s Twinterview subject NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen, got things mixed up when Rosen tweeted what he thought was the essence of Tapper’s comments:

People should NOT protest on Twitter about ABC News welcoming Breitbart to its coverage, @jaketapper says. Instead:

Tapper had to get the record corrected, tweeting Rosen back:

@jayrosen_nyu not at all what I said. I gave them abc news twitter handle and contact info. I said don’t get mad at me about decision.

That’s true, as evidence by the links above.

The Twitter community is a unique creature. Through retweets, messages get passed down the grapevine, alerting subsets that one of their own is under attack and rallying the group to action. With the Breitbart controversy, the whole situation soon led to a Twitter hashtag game, #blamejake, in which tweeters took the opportunity to come up with faux pas and tragedies that had to have been Jake Tapper’s fault, an amateur-hour tweet roast, with one-liners such as:

new coke? #blamejake


What about greenlighting THREE Bob Saget shows? #blamejake

Outside of Twitterland, ABC eventually withdrew their offer to Breitbart and lost conservative viewers such as myself who were looking forward to seeing the analysis he could have brought to the table. The left declared victory and the world moved on.

Through it all, Tapper proved that he could do what most news reporters can’t do (at least as smoothly as he): helpfully engage with an enraged mob, mollify the mob and then get the mob to create jokes in your honor.

I knew Twitter master and wordsmith Tapper would be up to the challenge of a two-tweet interview on his tweet life, but would he consent to one? Yes, he would. Here we go.

Twinterview #2: Questions for Jake Tapper

His replies:

If you are interested in watching Tapper’s pun wars, you’ll need to also follow his awfully worthy adversaries: Oliver Knox (@OKnox), correspondent for Agence France-Press (AFP); Adam Rogers (@jetjocko), senior editor at Wired; and @delrayser, an intellectual properties lawyer (at least according to his Twitter bio).

Thanks to Jake Tapper for participating in this Q and A. If there are any errors in it, #blamejake.


Two-Tweet Twinterview #1: @jayrosen_nyu on Jon Stewart Rally

This week, the Prudence Paine Papers kicks off a new series: the Twinterview. We’ll be talking with news makers and news reporters. The four-question interviews will be short and sweet—complete in just two tweets.

Our first (accidental) interview was with Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at NYU and director of its Studio 20 program. His personal website is

On October 23, Rosen tweeted about Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity and a request that had been made of him:

Weirdly, a powerful op-ed editor asked me to do a piece begging Jon Stewart to call off his rally as a mistake. I said no.

That peaked my interest. I tweeted him back:


He replied:

Why, @PruPaine? Do you mean: Why would such an editor ask me to write a piece asksing Stewart to call it off? Or why did I say no? Or…

Exactly! Yes. And thus the “4 questions in 140 characters/4 answers in 140 characters” Twitter interview (Twinterview) was born.

Here we go:

Twinterview #1 Questions: @JayRosen_NYU

Four Questions for @JayRosen_NYU

Twinterview #1 Answers: @JayRosen_NYU

Four Answers from @JayRosen_NYU

We will find out today whether it was contrarianism or wise advice.

Thanks to Professor Rosen for participating in this Q & A.