LINK: evangelical outpost has a great link explaining one of my favorite philosophical arguments of all time, Plantinga's attack against naturalistic evolution. There's nothing I love quite so much as an argument that looks like it can't be turned (unless that argument is van Inwagen's argument for incompatibilism, then I hate it with every fiber of my being).
Hmm. That non-sequitir might just be a segue. Joe, if you're reading, you're obviously well schooled in your philosophy, but I don't recall an at-length treatment of compatibilism/libertarianism/determinism, which seems particularly important if you want to, say, preserve moral judgments within a Christian framework. I have some thoughts which might appear sometime soon.
LINK: evangelical outpost has a great link explaining one of my favorite philosophical arguments of all time, Plantinga's attack against naturalistic evolution. There's nothing I love quite so much as an argument that looks like it can't be turned (unless that argument is van Inwagen's argument for incompatibilism, then I hate it with every fiber of my being).
LINK: Walloworld has a nice post up on an attempt in Canada to outlaw certain sections of the Bible. This is why Christians are often skeptical of the idea of a separation of church and state--it's too easy to cross the line from endorsing no particular religion to persecuting particular religions.
LINK: hehe. OGIW should particularly like.
LINK: I actually broke down last night and watched about five minutes of American Idol, and this piece pretty much gets to the heart of why I don't like it (we don't need someone else whose vocal abilities are limited by oversouling):
"Simon's odd belief that he's a wit isn't the only fascinating bit of cognitive dissonance on display on American Idol. Another is that, on a show in which three judges purport to be tastemakers, nobody—neither singers nor judges—has any taste. It's not just that the judges are playing at being profit-conscious record execs, suppressing their own quirky predilections for the sake of the bottom line. Neither Randy nor Paula nor Simon even seems capable of a real aesthetic misgiving. Just once I'd like to hear a judge say, "You know, your singing was pretty good there, but that song, 'I Believe I Can Fly,' I hate that song. Points off for choosing an insipid song." When the biggest hits from the last year were OutKast's "Hey Ya" and Beyoncé's "Crazy in Love," it's bizarre to pretend that pop success has everything to do with competent singing and nothing to do with the quality of the songs. On Idol, the fixation on singing is itself so reductive it verges on, if not mechanics, then athletics. The judges occasionally feign an interest in style, but when it comes down to it, they want belters—contestants adept at loud, clear, identifiably melodic yelling, with vibrato if possible."
QUOTE: In the spirit of this post, I'd like to offer the following highlights of class today:
"...and that's an example that's irrelevant... but let's move onto real-world examples that are equally bad"
-Prof. Page working through examples of complex systems
"If your atheism is based on the principle of contradiction [e.g. can God make a boulder so heavy he can't lift it], you better start praying... if you're at the Pearly Gates and you offer that excuse... burn."
-My epistemology professor
BLOGROLL ADDITIONS: As you'll note on the left, and many long overdue. Particularly of note:
whatevs.org: a delightful froth of pop culture and University of Michigan fandom. Hottness, as the kids say.
Walloworld: I don't just have him on because he dislikes libertarianism with a fierce passion (although that never hurts): he generally writes pithily on politics and religion, and (unfortunately) has one of the highest time read-to-links given ratios, though I'll be trying to remedy that in the future.
My Foreign Correspondent: I notice her blogroll has been getting bigger in the last week... you have to be impressed by the intellectual diversity of anyone who has both ScrappleFace and Matthew Yglesias linked. I know I sure am. And no mention of my dear friends with new-ish blogs would be complete without mentioning Claire's... hopefully the link will make your sitemeter even more interesting.
WELL: I knew there was something I wanted to add to this on Palestinian suicide bombing. Here goes:
There seem to be two main approaches to this problem: the leftist one emphasizes 'root causes' of poverty and oppression, and suggests that the individual and the collective are acting out of a sense of desperation and rage against their oppressors. Their behavior can be changed, then, only by changing the root causes. The rightist view is approximately that certain subsets of this population have accepted an ideology along the lines of 'you love life, we love death.' Consequently, there is no room for dealing with them.
But it seems like there might be a third way. Assume that potential Palestinian terrorists are grouped together for non-trivial reasons*, and that these groups have hierarchical structures where the leaders of said groups have strong incentives to make acceptable deals that pop up**. You'd expect, rationally, that the success of suicide bombings in garnering political concessions would lead to the long-term decrease in suicide bombing as a method (because if the other side is willing to sit down with you at a table and talk about terms, the marginal benefit of another bombing versus another meeting looks less appealing); you'd also expect, maybe more unexpectedly, that the failure of suicide bombing to generate concessions would lead to a decrease in future bombings (because there's no point, after it's been established that the method doesn't work, to continue it, as it has unusually high costs as a method).
The only case in which you'd expect to see bombings continue is when it's not really clear what the response is. If you're getting mixed signals from the other guy, you want to continue to bomb (just in case that's what's producing the moments of concession), but you don't want to bomb too much (in case the bombing is what is making them pull back from offering concessions). This seems to be approximately the case with the Palestinians-Israelis--where they are on 'peace' at any moment is hard to tell unless you closely follow the Jerusalem Post, and even then it's quite easy to become confused. It also strikes me that if this explanation is correct, you'd expect to see it in other situations with terrorist groups which make political claims (northern Ireland leaps to mind as a possible confirming case, but I haven't worked through it yet).
*That is to say, I'm assuming at least the leaders of various Palestinian terrorist groups to be rational and have at least some political aims, however vaguely defined. If these are true, I think it follows that you have to be at least in theory open to treating them as rational actors.
**same general assumption as above
COMPARISON OF THE WEEK: Ann Arbor is Overrated:
"The new Trader Joe's on Stadium prominently features an illustration of Ann "Arbour" Allen near the checkout. But where's the love for fellow city namesake Mary Ann Rumsey, seemingly always destined to play Charlotte Caffey to Allen's Belinda Carlisle?"
QUOTE: The Hitch on Saddam-terrorist connections:
"The Benjamin-Simon book contains a long account of the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 and also a stern defense of Clinton's decision in August 1998 to hit the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Sudan with cruise missiles. What is interesting is the strong Iraqi footprint that is to be found in both episodes. Abdul Rahman Yasin, one of the makers of the bomb that exploded at the World Trade Center, was picked up by the FBI, questioned, and incredibly enough released pending further interrogation as a "cooperative witness." He went straight to Amman and thence to Baghdad, where he remained under Saddam Hussein's protection until last year. As Clarke told the Sept. 11 commission last week: "The Iraqi government didn't cooperate in turning him over and gave him sanctuary, as it did give sanctuary to other terrorists." That's putting it mildly, when you recall that Abu Nidal's organization was a wing of the Baath Party, and that the late Abu Abbas of Klinghoffer fame was traveling on an Iraqi diplomatic passport. But, hold on a moment?doesn't every smart person know that there's no connection between Saddam Hussein and the world of terror?
Ah, we meant to say no connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden. Well, in that case, how do you explain the conviction, shared by Clarke and Benjamin and Simon, that Iraq was behind Bin Laden's deadly operation in Sudan? The Age of Sacred Terror justifies the Clinton strike on Khartoum on the grounds that "Iraqi weapons-scientists" were linked to Bin Laden's factory and that the suggestive chemical EMPTA, detected at the site, was used only by Iraq to make VX nerve gas. At the time, Clarke defended the bombing in almost the same words, telling the press that he was "sure" that "intelligence existed linking bin Laden to Al Shifa's current and past operators, the Iraqi nerve gas experts and the National Islamic Front in Sudan." The U.N. arms inspector upon whom all three relied at the time, for corroborating evidence implicating Saddam, was a man who has since become famous: David Kay."
PHILOSOPHERS ARE WEIRD: from my epistemology reading:
"Given the demon's intentions, no matter what the prior arrangement of the molecules, they will end up in a state that lawfully evolves into a state in which I levitate. We might ask why the demon had this intention, but it is not so hard to find a possible purpose behind it. If I were a Laplacian demon I would probably do things like this for kicks."
LINK: Nice interview with Wonkette:
"I must be doing something wrong because I don't get a lot of angry emails. But the angry emails always come from the most surprising things. I'll think something is going to piss someone off, but it doesn't. Yet I got letters when I made an offhand remark about Princeton. I got like half a dozen emails from people who said, "Are you just jealous of Princeton?" I make fun of Harvard, and no one from Harvard writes."
HIYO! Uncle Grambo:
"Go Blue! and for all you Spartys out there with "Not Invited Tournament" crackbacks, bet you wish you were at The Garden in NYC tonight instead of waiting in line for 40s at the Dairy Mart on Grand Rivs, yo!"
TAKE IT TO THE BANK: In another year or so, half the blogosphere will be part of Crescat Sententia, Crooked Timber, or the Volokh Conspiracy
QUOTE: Brilliant Jewish haiku, via Andrew Sullivan:
Left the door open
for the Prophet Elijah.
Now our cat is gone.
LINK: Joe Carter asks an interesting question ("Dog Bites Man," I know), and it occurs to me that there may be a model in there somewhere. More, potentially, tomorrow.
LINK: Le Sabot Post-Moderne has some interesting thoughts on the place of a vigorous defense of the Western Canon in the context of multiculturalism.
LINK: Jared Bridges hits on one of my favorite themes, the irrationality of people who want Christians to check their values before they enter the polling place.
LINK: Jacob Levy takes on an article purporting to show the differences between conservatives and liberals (you know, liberal = fuzzy bunnies and all that is good and true in the world, conservative = unthinking minions of evil), and includes this note:
"There is an unfortunate selection effect in electoral politics: those who care about nothing else more than winning-- on both sides-- tend to have at least some competitive advantages (though these aren't boundless, because being principled is part of how one gets a highly-motivated base of support). There's a particular premium on victory-above-all consultants; consultants, like lawyers in an adversarial trial process, are hired for their skill in getting their side to win. But deciding whether "liberals" as such are less Schmittian, less prone to view political contests as apocalyptic and existential conflicts, than "conservatives" as such would presumably require comparing consultants to consultants, intellectuals to intellectuals, elected officials to elected officials, and popular demagogues to popular demagogues."
LINK: of possibly narrow parochial interest to me only: Crooked Timber on incentives for journal publishing versus book publishing in academia:
"As I say, I don’t know how far I want to push this argument - at the very, very best, it’s a crude approximation. But it does accord somewhat with my perceptions of the North American and continental European systems (I’ve worked in both for substantial periods of time). To the extent that it’s true, it suggests that the key explanatory variable for different patterns of academic publishing isn’t language differences, or even differences in academic training - it’s incentive structures."
BACK FROM DUKE: and I'm not going to say that it was Duke Chapel that sold me on the place (it was actually the extended discussion with Camber and his wife that sold me on Duke*), but it doesn't hurt to have a gothic-style church right around the corner for whenever you need it.
*then again, so did the faculty in theory, the ridiculously low cost of living, and the fact that everything was green there already
FOR MY FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: A movie we both can enjoy, no?
LINK: Lots of good information on our friends the French.
ON THE BELOW: As someone who spent a little time with liberation theology in his earlier college days, I think there's a lot to be said for the division Brooks outlines in the column. Religion that's just there to carry water for someone's particular political beliefs is worse than nothing--it removes the pull of religious argument, and debases it totally and necessarily. Religion motivating politics goes in entirely the opposite direction--the faith is reaffirmed and the force of the political argument ennobled. There's a big difference, after all, in saying (as a liberation theologian might've) that God always and everywhere sides with oppressed people, and that your suffering gives you a degree of closeness to God which the non-suffering can never match, and saying that, in counting your own particular God-given blessings, you would do well to remember the people around you, all of them, and that they have many physical and spiritual needs which need attending, and you would do well to think about the implications of that on the actions you choose to take.
QUOTE: David Brooks (who, in addition to being the liberal's favorite conservative, is also the Christian's second-favorite Jew*):
"Whether you believe in God or not, the Bible and commentaries on the Bible can be read as instructions about what human beings are like and how they are likely to behave. Moreover, this biblical wisdom is deeper and more accurate than the wisdom offered by the secular social sciences, which often treat human beings as soulless utility-maximizers, or as members of this or that demographic group or class.
Whether the topic is welfare, education, the regulation of biotechnology or even the war on terrorism, biblical wisdom may offer something that secular thinking does not — not pat answers, but a way to think about things.
For example, it's been painful to watch thoroughly secularized Europeans try to grapple with Al Qaeda. The bombers declare, "You want life, and we want death"— a (fanatical) religious statement par excellence. But thoroughly secularized listeners lack the mental equipment to even begin to understand that statement. They struggle desperately to convert Al Qaeda into a political phenomenon: the bombers must be expressing some grievance. This is the path to permanent bewilderment.
The lesson I draw from all this is that prayer should not be permitted in public schools, but maybe theology should be mandatory. Students should be introduced to the prophets, to the Old and New Testaments, to the Koran, to a few of the commentators who argue about these texts."
*Number one being some bloke from Nazareth. I heard they made a movie about him recently.
BREAKING MY PROMISES: So a bit of the insanity of this week has been taken care of (yes, it's true, I got my visit to Duke all solved a whopping two days before their program starts), so I can sneak in a little blogging time (the paper comparing Polus in the Gorgias to Alcibiades in the History can wait a little while longer).
LINK: I take total credit for the subtitle, should it stay.
WELL: Blogging will be light to nonexistent this week, as it turns out Duke has a recruitment weekend after all (and no one mentioned anything about it), and that weekend is this weekend, which means my schoolwork through Friday all must be done no later than Wednesday. I don't know that I'll have any opportunities to so much as check my e-mail, much less blog.
If anything amusing/interesting happens when I'm down there, though, you can bet that it'll end up on here. With names changed to protect the innocent, of course.
OKAY: I lied: the list took longer than I thought. Mine:
Opening credits: "Spanish Key" -Miles Davis (whenever the hook comes up, do a freeze-frame close up of me, like the end of The 400 Blows)
Waking Up: "Three Is A Magic Number" -Blind Melon
Average Day: "Camping Next to Water" -Badly Drawn Boy
First Date: "Take the Long Way Around" –Teenage Fanclub
Falling in Love: "Our Way to Fall" -Yo La Tengo
Love Scene: "Rapture" –Pedro the Lion (or possibly the first song of Air's Moon Safari, depending on what kind of love scene it was)
Fight Scene: "100% Dundee" -The Roots (The Roots Come Alive)
Breaking Up: "What Difference Does It Make?" -The Smiths
Getting Back Together: "Take It Back" -Kristy Hanson
Secret Love: "Willing to Wait" -Sebadoh
Life’s Okay: "French Kiss" -Kostars
Mental Breakdown: "Climbing Up the Walls" -Radiohead
Driving: "City Slang" -Sonic's Rendezvous Band (the king of all Detroit bands)
Learning a Lesson: "Settled Down Like Rain" -Jayhawks
Deep Thought: "Hotel Arizona" -Wilco
Flashback: "Summertime Rolls" -Jane's Addiction
Partying: "Lust for Life" -Iggy Pop
Happy Dance: "A Minha Menina" -Os Mutantes
Regretting: "Always Crashing in the Same Car" -David Bowie
Long Night Alone: "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry" -Bob Dylan
Death Scene: "Meet on the Ledge" -Fairport Convention
Closing Credits: "Waterloo Sunset" -The Kinks
LINK: Norman Geras goes off on the glib usage of tragedy for political advantage:
"'Glib' here is right, but that isn't the worst of it. As someone who has spoken more than once on this blog in favour of mass demonstrations aimed against terrorism and tyranny rather than against, well, the liberation of peoples, I have no quarrel with Madeleine Bunting's expression of admiration and support for the way the citizens of Spain collectively expressed themselves the day after they were attacked. But her attempt to co-opt the meaning of other people's protest - a protest of millions of heads, of uncountable thoughts and emotions - and of their fresh, day-old mourning for one's own contestable point of view I found unseemly and callous."
LINK: New from Hipster Detritus. My list, as always, will be in the comments:
"Soundtrack your life as a movie", sez some hep new LiveJournal/blog meme. Works for me.
Opening credits: Beck, "Goin' Nowhere Fast"
Waking up: Ennio Morricone, "Beat No. 3"
Average day: Nick Ingman, "Throng"
First date: Fuzzy Haskins, "I Can See Myself In You"
Falling in love: Daft Punk, "Nightvision"
Love scene: RJD2, "To All of You"
Fight scene: Clinic, "Cement Mixer"
Breaking up: The Dirtbombs, "I'll Wait"
Getting back together: Quicksilver Messenger Service, "Fresh Air"
Secret love: Fantastic Plastic Machine, "The Girl Next Green Door"
Life's okay: Macondo, "Almendra"
Mental breakdown: ESG, "Chistelle"
Driving: The Wildbunch, "I Am Detroit"
Learning a lesson: Stelvio Cipriani, "La Polizia Ha Le Mani Legate"
Deep thought: Prince Jammy, "Fist of Fury"
Flashback: Stetsasonic, "DBC Let the Music Play"
Partying: Basement Jaxx, "Red Alert"
Happy dance: De La Soul, "A Roller Skating Jam Named Saturdays"
Regreting: Goldfrapp, "Pilots"
Long night alone: Roxy Music, "Sentimental Fool"
Death scene: Les Baxter, "Prelude in E Minor"
Closing credits: Sly and the Family Stone, "You Caught Me Smilin'"
QUOTE: Michele from A Small Victory:
"I cannot for the life of me imagine why any nation (other than Arab nations) would not stand by our side in the fight against our combined enemies. They have to see that there is no difference now. al-Qaeda, Iraq "insurgents," whatever other terrorist groups are out there - they are one force operating under several identities. There is no time to separate the Iraq from bin Laden. There is no time for semantics or arguing. We are at war. Any country that does not give their all to this war is, for all intents and purposes, siding with the enemy. In their defiance of the coalition of those who want to fight, these cowardly countries are, in essence, declaring to the terrorists this statement: We will not fight you. You're ok with us. Go bother those other countries that want to wage war with you. It's similar to a kid joining sides with a bully just so the bully doesn't pick on him. It's cowardly. And it's wrong.
What can we do to make those countries and their leaders understand that this is a war of ideas, a war of ideologies, and not one about land or oil or even weapons of mass destruction? All the rage pointed at Blair and Bush and Halliburton and the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy is rage misplaced.
Somebody sent me an email that said this was all the fault of the U.S. because "we should have let sleeping dogs lie." Those dogs were never, ever sleeping. Those dogs were in Bali. They were in New York, twice. They are forever in Israel. They were in the Khobar towers, in Scotland, in the waters off Greece, at the Munich Olympics and at the U.S. embassy in Iran. They are a great, big pack of countless mongrels baring their teeth and don't you think for one second that you are safe or that it is George Bush's fault that you are not.
It's hard to wage war against an idea. It's difficult at best to aim a machine gun at someone's ideology. But we must try. There are packs upon packs of militants or insurgents or freedom fighters, as those who love the square quotes call them. They all want one thing; for their way to be rule. For their god to be the only god. For their laws to be the only laws. Freedom is their enemy. How could you not fight against that?"
LINK: I've been moderately amused by Mark Cuban's blog. If you enjoy sports (or big-mouthed owners), you'll definitely be amused, too. Especially:
"It was then I told them that rather than providing any commentary or quotes to them on this matter, or on any upcoming matters, I would be posting whatever I had to say on my blog. They were not happy.
”How are we going to ask you follow up questions?” I explained that he could email me directly or from the site, but that I would most likely post his question and my response. “Is the league sending a message that they didn’t want you talking to reporters?” Ding ding ding. Give him a lollipop.
I went on to explain that this was the best way for all of us. They could get all the quotes and information they needed. “Will this be just you writing it, or will you dictate it to someone else?”
The satisfaction of knowing that each will have to explain to their editors what a blog is — and argue for who knows how long about whether or not BlogMaverick.com is an attributable source — crept over me and that jaunt on the gauntlet flew by."
QUOTE: Bird Dog on the Spanish government rejecting offers of help from the US:
"I know I've been on the forefront of those criticizing Spain and the Spanish Fl**. But a little perspective here. The U.S. has much more in common with its European allies than not. Plus, last week's events should make clear that we have a common enemy that plays by rules that are completely foreign to us. This should be a time of unity, not division. Now is the time--past time--for those on both sides of the pond to realize our common interests, grow up, reach out and forge some form of common understanding in order to snuff out this enemy."
LINK: I was amused by the first line of this Jacob Levy post:
"[Warning: the following will be of interest to almost no one.]"
Isn't that the entire point of blogging?
WELL: Actually got a human being at my PhD program, and, good news for me, they're exceptionally nice.
Also (and I suppose this qualifies as a bleg) I'm going to be purchasing a laptop sometime in the near future, and I'm leaning towards an iBook (my slavish fealty towards Apple working itself out, I suppose; but I'm also comfortable enough with Windows to consider that side of things, too)--if anyone has had an experience (good or bad) and feel moved to tell me what to look for/what to look out for, I'd greatly appreciate it*.
*My dissertation will probably also appreciate it, though it's not even a gleam in the eye at the moment.
WELL: Um, not so much. TNR reports:
"Kudos to Healy for double-checking and correcting his reporting, but the fact that Kerry said "more leaders" instead of "foreign leaders" doesn't change the substance of what he said. The "more leaders" Kerry was referring to were obviously "foreign," according to Healy's transcript...
The unmistakeable context of his remarks is that these mysterious leaders are foreign. And as Glenn Reynolds points out, Kerry has already conceded this, telling reporters on Sunday:
I have heard from people, foreign leaders elsewhere in the world who don't appreciate the Bush administration and would love to see a change in the leadership of the United States.
Given this, why in the world is the Kerry campaign arguing that Healy's correction changes anything? Stephanie Cutter told the L.A. Times, "He was misquoted. Had he not been misquoted, this wouldn't be a story." Of course it would have."
LINK: Jared Bridges has an interesting post on the watering-down of Sunday School classes. We were issued our Bibles (at the Reformed Church of America church I was at back then) at the end of first grade, expected to know the books of the Bible in order by the end of second grade, and the system of education was so complete and comprehensive that I made a name for myself in my Medieval Art History class mostly because I knew all of the Biblical iconography.
Which reminds me of my favorite moment from that class. I'd developed a sort of a reputation on these things. We were looking at the first slide of a set of Apocalyse tapestries. It was a picture of an angel with seven buildings around it.
Prof Sears (facetiously): Does anyone know what this is?
Me (raises hand)
Prof. Sears: Yes Nick?
Me: Those are the seven churches of Asia Minor, right?
Prof. Sears (incredulously): How in the world do you know that?
Me: twelve years of Sunday School?
LINK: Michael Totten on the building revolutions in Syria and Iran. So let's see: direct credit for liberalization in Afghanistan and Iraq, indirect credit for Libya, Syria and Iran. Gee, I'd hate to have that foreign policy record to run on.
LINKS: for all of you contemplating law school: Jeremy Blachman and Dahlia Lithwick discuss pros and cons, especially if you don't want to be a minion in a major law firm. I especially liked:
"Tell yourself that if you take a job you hate in three years to pay off loans that don't exist until now, you'll emerge in 10 years in the same place you are today. Only balding."
LINK: Possibly by mental telepathy, possibly because other people suggested it, norman geras has added links back to all of his normblog profiles, thus solving my weekly dilemma when I go "ooh! I'd like to read that one!" and have to slog through the archives to find it.
QUOTE: this is beautiful:
"overheard in office #3.41 of the corporate finance/m&a/health sciences division:
scene one: two interns at computers furiously researching important information on internet
jens-christian: you know what?
jens-christian: i really like the name glaxosmithkline.
me: me too.
LINK: Tacitus makes a great point:
"It also has the (rather more questionable) virtue of contributing to the electoral smashing of Aznar's party. Kos says that "Spain's rulling party [is] just the latest casualty of Bush's folly." I guess "Bush's folly" includes the war in Afghanistan; certainly al Qaeda thinks so. Remember that as you hear, see and read politically-motivated dull-wittedness along these lines in coming days. I have argued that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, initially connected only on an arguable conceptual level, are now inseparable parts of the same campaign. The inability to recognize this -- and the concurrent inability to grasp that defeat in one arena heartens and directly aids the enemy in the other -- is a surefire sign of one's politics overriding one's sense. The public manifestation of this moral and conceptual failure among the standard-bearers of the European and American left is just another sad chapter in the history of a movement that more readily sees existential threats in conservative Christian political activism than in Muslim massacres of hundreds of innocents in New York and Madrid."
QUOTE: The Hitch is in fine form:
"Many Spaniards were among those killed recently in Morocco, where a jihadist bomb attack on an ancient Moorish synagogue took place in broad daylight. The attack was on Morocco itself, which was neutral in the recent Iraq war. It seems a bit late to demand that the Moroccan government change sides and support Saddam Hussein in that conflict, and I suspect that the Spanish Communist and socialist leadership would feel a little sheepish in making this suggestion. Nor is it obvious to me that the local Moroccan jihadists would stop bombing if this concession were made. Still, such a concession would be consistent with the above syllogism, as presumably would be a demand that Morocco cease to tempt fate by allowing synagogues on its soil in the first place.
The Turkish government, too, should be condemned for allowing its Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to visit the shattered synagogue in Istanbul after the latest mass murder (thus becoming, incidentally, the first Turkish prime minister ever to do so). Erdogan is also the first prime minister ever to be elected on an Islamist ticket. Clearly, he was asking for trouble and has not yet understood al-Qaida's conditions for being allowed to lead a quiet life. Not that he hadn't tried—he prevented the U.S. Army from approaching Baghdad through what is now known as the Sunni Triangle. He just hasn't tried hard enough."
LINK: Yours friends and mine, the French, are joining China in intimidating Taiwan, and trying to cover up their connections to Saddam's regime. I believe "I told you so"s are in order.
LINK: Kevin Yaroch has an interesting post about keeping the 'Liberal' in 'liberal democracy.'
My own research into the subject indicates to me that the shift in liberal thought occurred somewhere around 1968, at which point the rising stars on the left began to be wary of anything that looked too much like democracy promotion. There's a tendency amongst the better parts of the left at the moment (the Dissent crowd would be on my short list here) to leap back a generation or two to get people who have relevant things to say today. My list would include George Kennan, Dean Acheson, Hubert Humphrey, Irving Howe, and some (but by no means all) of the essays of Mary McCarthy. I tend to find what all of them had to say about the foreign policy situation in the 30s-50s to be incredibly relevant to the world today. Liberalism as such would do well to rediscover them.
LINK; Bill Wallo has a good response to my earlier post on the flaws of libertarianism. I should point out why it is that I thought the sudden inability of people to be good when they become public officials is an 'odd loophole': if you're positing, as a libertarian does, that people are by nature good (or at least benign), and you'd further posit something like the notion that no one makes a trade-off that's bad for them (definitionally*), it seems odd that anyone would ever consent to have any government in the first place (which everyone seems to do, though they may wish to retract that later in life) and that a person's nature changes the moment that their hat changes from 'private citizen' to 'government official'**. If you believe, as Bill believes (and I do too) "that people are naturally selfish, rather than well-meaning: I tend to believe that we must learn to love and respect others," then you can explain the reason for having government in the first place (to prevent against the egregious excesses men would subject each other to otherwise) and explain how it is only conditionally the case that power corrupts (that is, that if one is a governmental official and does not make any effort to combat their nature, then they will be corrupt***). Anyway, Bill's discussion is interesting... I encourage everyone to check it out.
*Except, of course, that they cannot possibly hold this belief, because it would force them to say that, among other things, it is perfectly fine for someone to sell themselves into slavery. The libertarian would try and patch things up by appealing to some kind of rule utilitarianism, but as with many other such instances, the whole thing is simpler if you're a deontolgist.
**If someone can be horribly evil and coercive, and the government does not hand out a little book to every new employee called Oppressing Citizens for Fun and Profit, it would seem to have to be the case that the capacity for evil resides (at least as a potentiality) in everyone. How can it also then be the case that people are ultimately good by nature?
***Interestingly, there's nothing in this conditional that wouldn't apply to any old person--anyone who fails to look after their moral growth properly opens themselves to the possibility of corruption... only the entailment differs.
"In a word, however a man treated his body while he was alive, all the marks of that treatment, or most of them, are evident for some time even after he is dead. And I think that the same thing, therefore, holds true for the soul, Callicles. All that's in the soul is evident after it has been stripped naked of the body, both things that are natural to it and things that have happened to it, things that the person came to have in their soul as a result of his pursuit of each objective."
QUOTE: I was greatly amused by this, possibly because I wouldn't actually leave:
"The news that the Selective Service is taking steps toward a military draft that would target people with special skills in computers and foreign languages reminded me of a recurring dream I have. In the dream, Donald Rumsfeld goes to the podium and declares that a national draft will begin in exactly one week. No deferments, no excuses, and open to every eligible male that is capable of standing upright long enough to take the oath of enlistment. Seven days reprieve and then the lottery begins.
On the seventh day, with extra guards stationed along the border of Canada, Rumsfeld steps back up to the podium and with a sly grin says, “Just kidding.”
Then he closes the border and refuses to allow any would-be draft dodgers to return back to the States. That’s my favorite dream. And the chances of it actually happening are only slightly less than the military reinstating the draft. "
WELL: One small quibble with Jacob Levy:
"Was it 'appeasement' for us to leave? No. It wasn't appeasement even though al-Qaeda wanting us out was relevant to the calculation of our interests. Neither is it appeasement for Spain to decide to withdraw peacekeeping troops from Iraq simply because al-Qaeda wanted all western troops out of Iraq as well. It's a legitimate choice for Spain to make about where to concentrate its efforts. And if it was a legitimate non-appeasing choice before last Thursday, it remains one after."
If it's the case that the troops, money etc committed to Iraq get put into some other terrorism-related category. If not, it may not be appeasement as such, but it looks rather harder to say that the ultimate result isn't favorable for the bind Ladenites.
QUOTE: Jeff Jarvis has an interesting point which I direct Dara's way (not that you'd endorse the argument Jarvis is refuting, but it seems to fall nicely in your UN things-to-think-about area):
"Fourth, by this same logic, no one should ever support us and we should support no one. The U.N. is pretty much useless now but you might as well shut it down completely and turn it into condos, because any nation that supports another when it is attacked is a damned fool. So no one should have supported us after 9/11 and we should have not supported Kuwait or the people of the former Yugoslavia. That's clearly unacceptable."
AN ARGUMENT AND A COUNTERARGUMENT (AND MAYBE ANOTHER ARGUMENT AGAIN):
a view like this has been making the blogosphere rounds lately: "you can't have your "Iraq is not connected to terrorism" cake and eat it too"
My temptation is to believe the underlying claim here: obviously Iraq and terrorism are connected in a relevant way, and we know that's true because OBL thinks they're connected in a relevant way.
The counterargument would be that this is false because rather than Iraq and terrorism having the same genesis is false. Spain had nothing to worry about before Iraq (or at least no more to worry about than any other country). Al Qaeda, who would be happy to take any old justification to attack another country, decided Spain would be an easy target, and constructed a story in which the justification was their involvement in Iraq--we need take this claim no more seriously than the claim that 9/11 happened because of the presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia--they wanted to do it, so they did it, and later picked something that could plausibly be a reason.
But it seems like no matter how the person wishing to play down the Iraq-Spain connection tries to move, they get themselves into a corner: unless you're prepared to believe that the attack was totally random (in terms of time, targets, and size of operation), then the fact that Spain was involved in Iraq did constitute a big portion of the decision to hit them.
It looks like there's a dangerous entailment to the above paragraph, which is the view that because there is that relevant connection, and the connection only happened due to an action which Spain voluntarily undertook, then they, in some sense, brought the attack on themselves. Then again, by this logic, Britain would've had a right to attack mainland Europe when their beef was banned due to fears of BSE: the mere fact of someone deciding freely to do something does not entail the right to respond in whatever manner one sees fit.
LINK: Diotima has an interesting post on conservatives as undergrads. I'm not strictly speaking a conservative (just have a lot of sympathy to many conservative arguments, and especially disproportionately in political theory), and by and large I'd say that even in political science, politics tends not to be an issue*, though the level of sniping asides against the Bush administration seems to have been running higher than normal recently.
"More conservative whining about liberal academia is not productive; more conservatives going to grad school, that's productive."
There seems to be another level of complexity in it, at least for me, because I'm going into grad school in political science, and I have discovered lately that I'm going to further lengths to keep from discussing my political beliefs in class-related contexts. I don't know that this is directly related to GPA--my own suspicion is that I'd like my ideas to rise and fall on their own merits, and keeping my professors guessing about my affiliations is the best way I have to do that. It seems to me like most people of a conservative persuasion would be liable to say something similar, but this does seem to imply just the tacit denial of one's political beliefs that Sara presumably wants done away with (or, rather, it seems that she wants the perceived need to conceal one's beliefs to go away, though it's unclear how that happens if everyone conceals their beliefs).
*in part because a lot of professors believe that politics and political science are two separate things, and in part because their professional commitment to be objective supervenes on their individual interests. I can tell you, for example, that all of the PS professors I've had are Democrats, but it seems like more than a few of them (50% or so) are New Deal-ers, and clearly uncomfortable with Democratic Party politics since 1968 or so.
QUOTE: From Best of the Web Today:
"The Associated Press reports on a town meeting John Kerry held yesterday in Bethlehem, Pa.:
The town meeting was contentious at times, with 52-year-old Cedric Brown repeatedly pressing the candidate to name the foreign leaders whom Kerry has said are backing his campaign.
"I'm not going to betray a private conversation with anybody," Kerry said. As the crowd of several hundred people began to mutter and boo, Kerry said, "That's none of your business."
We guess "That's none of your business" is more polite than "You sit down!" But it's breathtakingly arrogant for Kerry to assert that his putative promises to foreign leaders to change America's policies are none of the voters' business*."
*though I recognize that foreign leaders telling Kerry they support him does not entail in being true that Kerry's offered to change his positions to garner their support, it does seem to leave open the possibility that the mere fact of foreign leaders getting involved entailing that said leaders (ahem, Spain) will change their actions specifically to frustrate Bush's foreign policy, whatever the merits.
More reason to believe that we should be conducting our foreign and domestic policy independent of what anyone else says we should do.
WORD OF THE DAY: An interesting bit of etymology mentioned by my theory of knowledge professor:
"hocus-pocus, sb. (a., adv.) Also 7 hocas pocas, hokos pokos, hokus pokus. [Appears early in 17th c., as the appellation of a juggler (and, apparently, as the assumed name of a particular conjuror) derived from the sham Latin formula employed by him: see below, and cf. Grimm, Hokuspokus. The notion that hocus pocus was a parody of the Latin words used in the Eucharist, rests merely on a conjecture thrown out by Tillotson: see below.
1655 Ady Candle in Dark 29, I will speak of one man..that went about in King James his time..who called himself, The Kings Majesties most excellent Hocus Pocus, and so was called, because that at the playing of every Trick, he used to say, Hocus pocus, tontus talontus, vade celeriter jubeo, a dark composure of words, to blinde the eyes of the beholders, to make his Trick pass the more currantly without discovery. A. 1694 Tillotson Serm. xxvi. (1742) II. 237 In all probability those common juggling words of hocus pocus are nothing else but a corruption of hoc est corpus, by way of ridiculous imitation of the priests of the Church of Rome in their trick of Transubstantiation. ]"
QUOTE OF THE DAY: A chipper Monday morning thought for you, courtesy of TMFTML:
"We have of late, though wherefore we know not, been struck by the rather obvious revelation that life is mainly a series of meaningless and deeply depressing rituals performed in service of desperately mundane basic human needs which, even despite the occasional odd moment of elation one occasionally encounters, nonetheless lead inexorably toward the tomb..."
LINK: Terry Teachout and I have the same favorite joke about religion, though the punchline when I was told it went: "they go door to door for no particular reason."
And let's not forget in the midst of warblogging and arguing about politics that we're only in a position to do this because other people put their asses on the line for democracy and all that other good stuff. I'm not the first and I probably won't be the last to say it, but Iraq will be damn lucky to have you, as will your fellow Marines.
from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli, as they say...
LINK: And then look at what Andrew Sullivan has to say about the Spanish elections. I hate to go all Cassandra on y'all, but I wonder if anyone else sees the potential upshot of the Madrid bombing: trying to throw an election to a soft-on-terror party by staging a major terrorist attack just before said election works, provided you can make the terror bad enough, and that other party has, say, expressed a desire to undo all or part of the tough-on-terror approach of those currently in power. Hint hint. If I were in DHS, I'd be panicking right about now.
This would, of course, be an "I told you so" I'd like to never have to say.
QUOTE: Patrick Belton, who has some interesting analysis of Spain's elections:
"Which is to say, of course, that the terrorists got what they wanted - assuming that Al Qa'eda was indeed behind the attack - to deter a European country from further participation in Iraq, after punishing it for its involvement to this point."
More on the same at The Moderate Voice
LINK: I don't really believe in making bad-faith claims about the motivations of other people, even when I suspect those claims are true. I'm very okay with pointing you to other people who make those arguments, though:
"I stand next to these people and I can sense the negativity. They sweat hatred. You can smell it. It smells like sulfur that hangs in the air when a match is been struck. You can feel it, too, like you can feel your hair stand up on the back of your neck when lightning is just about to strike.
On a day when 200 people lay dead, stuffed into black body bags, waiting to be identified by relatives, a group of people stood outside an event where the president was and demanded we pull out of Iraq. They demanded that we understand Islam better. They demanded that we abolish Homeland Security and stop funding the war on terror.
They have no causes. They just have an agenda of subtraction. And every single thing they go on chanting about is based in selfishness. That and their hatred for Bush. Such a deep, vile hatred that they will do anything - even crusade for a man they don't find dignified in any way - just to rid the White House of their perceived enemy."
WELL: If Hipster Detritus does it, it must be acceptably cool. The first 20 songs to come up when I hit 'random' on iTunes:
1. "Where Fugees At?" -Wyclef Jean
2. "Rosa Parks" -OutKast
3. "I Just Want to Make Love to You" -Rolling Stones
4. "Stella by Starlight" -Chet Baker
5. "Tired of Waiting for You" -The Kinks
6. "Matchbox" -Ike Turner
7. "Everybody Here Wants You" -Jeff Buckley
8. "Talk About the Passion" -R.E.M.
9. "Reba-->Cars Trucks Buses" -Phish (Day 1 of the Clifford Ball)
10. "The Fly" -U2
11. "Unforgiven" -The Go-Gos
12. "Walk This Way" -Aerosmith
13. "Almost Cut My Hair" -Crosby Stills Nash and Young
14. "Your Love Is the Place Where I Come From" -Teenage Fanclub
15. ("Play With Fire" -Rolling Stones) "Elizabeth My Dear" -Stone Roses
16. "Hard Knock Life" -Jay-Z
17. "Evil Ways" -Santana
18. ("Pilgrimage" -R.E.M.) "The Girl I Love She Got Long Black Wavy Hair" -Led Zeppelin
19. "Hand in Glove" -The Smiths
20. "Ashes of American Flags" -Wilco
LINK: Apparently, Matt Yglesias has somehow teleported back in time to get a 1921-era Leon Trotsky to do a post for him. Interesting.
WELL: My Foreign Correspondent, in the comments below:
"Reason being: I think we can do better than this. I think that the procedures and methods are important. We, as a nation, must set a good prescedent for international actions and enact our policies fairly, efficiently and effectively. Disregarding the process seems (to me) absurd!"
This isn't really objectionable at all, and certainly we all can agree the process could've been handled much better than it was. If you agree with, say, the end result of the war (more or less), and you think that there are reasons that justified fighting the war (whether they were expressed or not) and your objections to what happened center largely on process is that you're still open to the following counterfactual:
what if the countries that opposed the war were wrong to oppose it?
You might not think it applies in this case, but you could probably imagine a situation wherein France, Germany and Russia deliberate on whether to do anything and just get the decision wrong on the merits (in the same way the US could deliberate on an action and be wrong on the merits, like not intervening sooner in Bosnia). If France decides that they just don't like the US and announce that they're going to veto any resolution the US submits and rallies other countries against the US (who may have their own axes to grind), you've got a situation where efforts at diplomacy are likely to fail independent of whether or not the case is a good one*.
*I mean, one assumption that (so far as I've done reading) is far from proven is the idea that there was any basis on which France could be convinced to act with the US in Iraq.
WELL: Andrew Sullivan:
"Somehow this evil puts everything else in perspective, doesn't it?"
Very much so. Makes same-sex marriage, budget deficit, economic worries, what-have-you seem awfully small, doesn't it?
So a brief expansion on the idea of deontologist ethics and the teleological suspension of the ethical I was mentioning before. There's not any justification that's available to people who undertake terrorism (you can read Trotsky (and even Lenin) at great length about how destructive terrorism is towards any serious political cause), nor, I think, do we even need to be that concerned with what their motivations are. I also don't think anyone has the option of pretending as if this doesn't affect them, because the sort of people who have no respect whatsoever for democracy and liberty have been mighty indiscriminate in choosing their targets--if you're not them, ipso facto, it's acceptable to go after you.
I have, as I've said before, about zero faith in John Kerry's/generic Democrat's ability to take foreign policy reality seriously, so I'll be interested to see if his reaction to this is up to snuff.
Bush/Cheney '04 anyone?
SOME OTHER NOTABLE REACTIONS:
From The Guardian: "We Are All Spanish." Damn straight:
"I get a text early in the morning from Madrid from a young socialist woman who worked for me as a parliamentary assistant. It recounts the early news of horror. She signs off with "many kisses of democracy", and I know the great heart of the Spanish people, with the help of all their friends in Britain and Europe, will not be cowed by this assault. Democracy will win and the new totalitarianism of terrorism will not pass."
"Despite their extreme animus toward Bush—an odd position since he favors free trade and Kerry, increasingly, does not—they seem inexorably to be moving towards the President’s position. Western Europe, after all, is far more vulnerable to terrorism than we are—and not just from the Basques, obviously. Anecdotal information I have received in email, plus superficial attempts like new laws against religious adornments in school, support the view that Europe is beginning to take its collective head out of the sand and face the situation. If an event similar to today’s takes place outside Spain, everything may alter. Sadly, however, Europe has a history of far more draconian solutions to such problems than the USA where our biggest blemish is Manzanar. Let us hope for the best."
"They want a crusade, let's give 'em a crusade."
WELL: Obviously the terrorist attack on Spain is a big freakin' deal.
The Telegraph on the story:
"The terrorists' methods, including carefully synchronised explosions and a determination to kill the maximum number of civilians, suggested Islamist involvement.
A London-based Arabic newspaper, al-Quds al-Arabi, said it had received a letter purporting to come from al-Qa'eda claiming responsibility for the attacks on the "crusaders" and warning that another strike against America was imminent.
Angel Acebes, the interior minister, said the discovery of the van opened "all kinds of lines of investigation". He added: "I have just given instructions to the security forces not to rule out any line of investigation."
The authorities said the death count would rise and almost certainly exceed the 202 killed in the Bali bombing of October 2002. That would make it the worst terrorist incident since September 11.
"This is mass murder," Jose Maria Aznar, the prime minister, told Spaniards in a televised address following an emergency cabinet meeting. "No negotiation is possible or desirable with these assassins, who so many times have sown death across Spain.""
LINK: Gotta love a blog post that begins with a reference to Plutarch
|What Irrational Number Are You?|
You are √2
You are in good company, many other square roots are also irrational numbers. Just by being a square root you have been branded a radical. You are considered very attractive, especially by Europeans (at least on paper.)
You fear that a relationship with another √2 may somehow end up complex and ultimately imaginary. In reality, only another √2 will make you whole.
Your lucky number is approximately 1.41421356
link via Letters of Marque
UM: Didn't Matthew Yglesias get upset a couple weeks ago about a discussion that was going on using the word "slut?" I guess it's okay when he does it...
LINK: I normally find best-of lists a little suspicious, but this still good list seems to have its head screwed on straight.
QUOTE: On the Weekly Standard's letters this week, I found the following:
"As an ex-teacher and parent I would add to David Skinner that some kids have too much homework and many need better homework. Does an assignment really improve subject mastery? Or is it a thoughtless exercise in applying a simple formula for essay writing?"
If the experiences I've had in college are any indication, a lot of people needed many more runs through the essay writing formula (including my favorite, the guy who wrote a seven-page paper broken up into five paragraphs. He'd obviously paid a little attention, but...).
It's totally going to be Heidi
UPDATE: Can we get something together for an anti-Troy club? It's beyond me why anybody likes him...
QUOTE: After I sent an e-mail to the program secretary at Duke:
Me: let's hope I don't come off as dumb and they recind their offer
Dara: they can't
Dara: and it doesn't come off as dumb at all
Me: yeah, except I have this irrational fear that, until I'm there, they can decide it was all a big mistake
Dara: I know you do, but remember that it's irrational, dear.
Me: ah, using meta-level rationality to combat irrationality
Me: how postmodern
Dara: it works a bit
Dara: it makes me able to fly.
Dara: yeah, I remind myself of my irrationality in being afraid.
Me: oh, in a plane
NON-LIBERTARIAN BOLSHEVISM: One of the interesting side-effects I've noticed in discussing this quiz with my friends (who so far, have scored under 15 in all cases) is the tendency to get really quite picky about the things one is and is not a libertarian about even though our impulses are against it and more or less equally strongly. I actually pointed out to OGIW (who got an 11) that her score meant she was almost twice as libertarian as I was, and how it seems to be the case that I fight a lot more over politics with her (or Dara) even though we agree. This really seems to me to be the Menshevik/Bolshevik distinction playing out again--because we have so much in common, we spend so much more time sniping at one another.
LINK: Bill Wallo suggests he may have more libertarian leanings than the aforementioned quiz supposed he did.
For my part, I was shocked there was only one question on free trade, because that's my big libertarian thing (I'd even take free trade without environmental or worker regulations).
He discusses libertarianism more here. I've always been inherently suspicious of it myself because I don't really buy into the two main assumptions you need to be a libertarian: that people are rational, basically well-meaning individuals* (so there's no reason to worry about what they do on their own), and that we don't really need to be concerned about how other people are doing**.
*this rational, well-meaningness naturally drops off once they assume the role of a government official, though, which seems like an odd loophole to me.
**a gross oversimplification, it will be objected, but my rough approximation of the upshot of believing in decreased regulation and the unimportance of legislation as a tool to collectively alter behavior.
LINK: Go read Letters of Marque, written by a very amusing 1L at Michigan Law. Good for legal things, chicken-related anecdotes, and amusingness. Ann Arbor bloggers unite, or somesuch...
LINK: this would almost be enough to get me to vote Democratic, except he should be on the top of the ticket, not the bottom.
LINK: Ah, the perifidous Jews, center of the conspiracy of everything, at least in the world according to Tim Robbins:
"The third, and most interesting series of scenes, belongs to the cabal itself--the cynical architects of the Embedded posterwar, who, from behind their Greek masks, plot the invasion of Gomorrah on their calendars. "Woof" (Paul Wolfowitz, presumably), "Pearly White" (Richard Perle, definitely), and the other cabalists reason that a war will distract the public from the crumbling economy. More important, it will prove once and for all the hypotheses of the late University of Chicago professor Leo Strauss, the cabal's hero and the production's villain, whose hapless visage is projected in the background.
What exactly are those theories? The cabal, despite its repeated shouts of "hail Leo Strauss!" (this, to a Jewish refugee from Nazism), doesn't give us much insight. Fortunately, the program for Embedded, which contains an essay by someone named Kitty Clark, does. (For the New York production at least, someone in Robbins's orbit had the good sense to expunge from the original essay, which I found on the Internet, several pointed references to the Jewishness of Strauss and his supposed adherents.) In the program's telling, Strauss believed that democracy "was best defended by an ignorant public pumped up on nationalism and religion. Only a militantly nationalist state could deter human aggression." As for Robbins himself, in an NPR interview earlier this week he explained that he could only figure out why the neoconservatives supported war in Iraq by looking to their association with "a philosopher named Leo Strauss that a lot of them studied with, who actually conceptually believes in a noble lie for a greater good, coming from Plato." Bull Durham, meet the New School for Social Research."
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY:
"Nobody has ever used so much intelligence in trying to make us stupid."
-Voltaire in a letter to Rousseau (on the Discourse on the Origin of Inequality)
LINK: Apropos the recent rehashing of the Iraq debate here (and I do enjoy sparring with my intellectual interlocutors, especially the currently foreign-residing ones), norman geras has a good post explaining why process objections in foreign policy ultimately don't work out too well:
"Don't you need to have grounds which are independent of the war's not enjoying the support of the international community and its flouting international law in order to act in opposition to that war in the long run-up to it? Because if you don't have independent grounds for opposing it than these - call them for short procedural grounds - then you could be marching, agitating, writing letters and so on, to try to ensure that the war does get the support of the international community and is therefore authorized through the UN so that it does not flout international law. Hold this thought...
Especially if this is how you think, why wasn't the better course - than marching and speaking out against the war, doing so to the tune of hundreds of thousands of people all across the planet - to have used that global voice to try to sway the international community to bring an end to a butchering regime, giving the move the unambiguous, rather than as now disputed, imprimatur of international law; and in the process - because this is partly how international law evolves - shifting international law forward towards something more compatible with 'a humanitarian vision of world order'?"
LINK: Evangelical Outpost on judicial attempts to tear down the wall between church and state.
This, just in case you're wondering, Dara, is part of the reason why the state has to care at least a little about what it is religious people believe.
LINK: Most of the time, I find ScrappleFace to be a little crude in its political humor. This is not one of those times.
LINK: if your top 10 albums of all time list includes five albums by the Beatles, you haven't listened to enough music yet.
LINK: I'm interested to see if I'll remain the low score.
QUOTE: As Diotima appears to be on (spring break-related?) hiatus, I thought I'd post the following response of Caitlin Flanagan's to a letter to The Atlantic Monthly:
"Nancy Melucci has a hard time feeling sympathy for children of divorce. I don't. To sit a child down and tell him that Daddy is moving out is to destroy the thing that matters most in the world to him: his home. When parents divorce, they inflict deep pain on their children. It's legal to do it; it's sometimes necessary to do it; but let's not lie about it: it breaks children's hearts.
Since writing my review of Laura Schlessinger's new book, I have had countless people tell me that they can't stand her because she's "mean." But Laura says that you'll hurt a child if you divorce; don't do it. Nancy says she can't work up much compassion for a nine-year-old from a broken home. So who's mean?"
WELL: from the comments below:
"And maybe I´m thinking of this incorrectly, but it seems like he did lie: saying that WMD did concretely exist and using that as a basis (or one of the major bases) for attack, while apparently not having such evidence. And, as previously mentioned, when it has become clear that at the time, WMD did not exist..."
Well, the problem here is contrasting cases. When Libya (or South America about a decade ago) wanted to establish that they had no WMD, or that they were destroying the ones they did have, they: 1. made a full and complete admission of everything they had done as far as their WMD programs went, including turning over all their records and making anyone available that was requested and 2. invited in (rather than having imposed in from outside) outside observers to confirm that they were taking all the necessary steps to disarm.
Iraq, obviously, did no such thing. Leaving aside the thorny philosophical issue of someone proving that they had none of something, it's pretty clear that even if you believed Hussein's claims not to have WMD, he certainly behaved in a way consistent with someone who did in fact have them. And again, the principle of philosophical conservatism and the relevant bit of track record (Iraq claimed to have no WMD in 1991, 1995, 1997--you pick it--and they were established to be lying in all of those cases) and it seems like, even if the facts eventually prove otherwise, that it was not unreasonable to assume Iraq had WMD in absence of meaningful (in the sense above) proof that they had none.
WELL: In response to my Foreign Correspondent's question about whether Bush's Christianity means he can't have motives that are bad for the country.
I suppose I'd make a bit of a distinction. I believe that deep down, Bush wants what is really best for America (and I think the same holds for pretty much anyone who seeks public office), and he's going to act more or less consistently with what he thinks is right. Now it may be the case that his actions have bad results--it's perfectly legitimate to call him out on that, when applicable. The thing I wince at is the step back in logic and assuming because the results were bad, the motivations may have been bad--e.g. the whole "Bush lied" thing. It may be the case that there were no WMD, and maybe he convinced a lot of people to support going into Iraq because of WMD, and if those are true, then it's true that the things he said were false. But to say he lied is to say that he knew everything about WMD was false, and said it anyway with the aim of acheiving some other, less altruistic goal.
I'm not even expressly denying that the above may be the case, but I feel like the principle of (philosophical) conservatism and the reality of his Christianity mean that I shouldn't begin with the idea that his motives were as bad as they could've been.
QUOTE: David Brooks
"In this heaven, God and his glory are not the center of attention. It's all about you.
Here, sins are not washed away. Instead, hurt is washed away. The language of good and evil is replaced by the language of trauma and recovery. There is no vice and virtue, no moral framework to locate the individual within the cosmic infinity of the universe. Instead there are just the right emotions — Do you feel good about yourself? — buttressed by an endless string of vague bromides about how special each person is, and how much we are all mystically connected in the flowing river of life...
Reading "The Five People You Meet in Heaven" is a sad experience because it conjures up a mass of people who, like its hero, feel lonely and unimportant. But instead of offering them the rich moral framework of organized religion or rigorous philosophy, instead of reminding them of the tough-minded exemplars of the Bible and history, books like Albom's throw the seekers remorselessly back upon themselves.
The flap over Gibson's movie reminds us that religion can be a dangerous thing. It can be coarsened into gore and bloodshed and used to foment hatred. But we're not living in Afghanistan under the Taliban. Our general problem is not that we're too dogmatic. Our more common problems come from the other end of the continuum. Americans in the 21st century are more likely to be divorced from any sense of a creedal order, ignorant of the moral traditions that have come down to us through the ages and detached from the sense that we all owe obligations to a higher authority.
Sure, let's get angry at Mel Gibson if he deserves it. But let's not forget that the really corrosive cultural forces come in the form of the easygoing narcissism that surrounds us every day."
YEAH: I wholeheartedly agree. Pink? Really?
WELL: A couple of issues with this Kevin Yaroch post on the Ansar al-Islam issue:
1. I remember being told prior to the Iraq war, whenever I mentioned Ansar al-Islam to my (much more liberal and very anti-war) friends, I was told that there were no terrorists operating inside Iraq, if there were, they certainly weren't causing any problems, and above all, they certainly were not in any way affiliated with al Qaeda. I'm not accusing Kevin of holding this position, but if you look at the policy dispositions of people on this issue, it was mostly the pro-war ones who were taking it seriously.
2. I wonder if the fact A aI was operating in Kurdish territory might have complicated the process of going in and doing something (don't want to mess with the sovereignty of a relatively democratic government unless you get the go-ahead).
3. The following seems like it has a big 'if' attached to it, and the force of the argument might not work if you're not prepared to make this concession: "The Bush Administration never allowed that attack to take place. This may have been done for political reasons."
4. Even if you accept a version of 3. which is less intentional in nature, I'm not sure you can make the leap straight to Bush not having a solid record against terrorism.
5. Am I to believe that President Gore (or a future President Kerry) would've gone into Iraq to eliminate the obviously very bad al Qaeda-influenced group, even if they had to do so over the objections of France, Germany and Russia?
ON KERRY: I don't perceive him as actually being any different on this one, for reasons something like the ones I mentioned on my post below on national sovereignty: Kerry's rhetoric would expect me to believe that there's no situation in which he wouldn't bring (or try to bring) allies (read: France and Germany) on board.
But let's suppose the following hypothetical: people are being mercilessly slaughtered in some nation somewhere, in appallingly high numbers, and with full state sanction--let's say millions of people. Now, for their own particular reasons, let's say France and Germany express disapproval of international involvement (let's say that the nation won a bloody war of independence from France, so they're inclined to let them go to hell, and there's a really contentious German election that prevents either side from taking a dramatic stand). Am I to believe Kerry would not attempt to intervene in that situation, even if he had to do it unilaterally?
this raises two possibilities:
1. He would intervene, which makes his current anti-unilateralism only so much cant (and I'm not going to vote for someone who chucks his moral intuitions for electoral advantage)
2. He wouldn't intervene, which would make me wonder about his humanity.
WELL CON'D (from below):
"Even more interesting (and upsetting) is that Bush has allowed the US to become SO arrogant in its actions that he is unable to enlist help/cooperation from many nations."
Well, two exceptions:
1. Bush had no trouble getting help from people who had close-up experience with totalitarians (eastern europe, the Vaclav Havels of the world) and those who have had actual experience with al Qaeda-related terrorism (e.g. Australia)
2. You don't have to be terribly cynical to believe that other nations might've had reasons of their own to oppose going into Iraq: China, famously, doesn't care about anything that doesn't have to do with China. France, Germany and Russia were variously violating arms-shipping restrictions (one ought to add international arms-shipping restrictions), and some had big, fat oil contracts with Saddam Hussein. You don't have to be cynical to not take Schroder and Chirac at their word on this one.
WELL: My Foreign Correspondent has some pointed thoughts on my trusting Bush's foreign policy more than Kerry's. I think this probably deserves a fuller explanation:
"How can someone be trustworthy regarding foreign policy when they have lead an adminstration that, among other things, lied to the world about vital details regarding certain countries in the Middle East (whether the war was justified or not is irrelevant) and then once the truth was discovered, didn´t purge the admistration of the liars (no resignations, no attempts to improve)."
First of all, last point taken. People should've been fired.
As to the lying to the world, well, I'm punting on that one. It may be the case that he said things (say about WMD) that weren't true, but it seems pretty clear that everyone, for and against, was working on the not-unreasonable assumption that they were true.
Mostly, though, I disagree with the idea that whether or not the war being justified is irrelevant. I'm of the type of deontologist who believes fiat justitia et pereat mundus (let justice be done, though the earth perish). And one of those things I feel that way about is liberal democracy--every step forward is a good one, and practically any means of getting there are acceptable. If you're of the type of moral thinker that I am, it doesn't matter if Bush intentionally lied to everyone in the entire world and invaded Iraq just to make money for Halliburton, it doesn't matter to me so long as 1. the U.S. government doesn't fall apart and 2. Iraq ends up with a good government.
Of course, I don't actually believe in any of the arguments for Bush's cynical motivations. He seems to me to be pretty sincere in both his Christianity, and his loyalty to the American form of government, so I'm not going to impugn his motives at all (no more than I would want mine impugned, same as with any other Christian). But one of the things I noticed the most about the speeches Bush gave prior to the invasion of Iraq was his almost visceral dislike of Saddam Hussein--he avoided referring to him by name, and never referred to him, as other world leaders would do, as the "president" of Iraq. Insomuch as I can judge his instincts on this issue, they're in sync with mine.
LINK: norman geras has an interesting set of arguments on national sovereignty with respect to the Iraq war. This has been something of an interesting topic for me, as it abuts nicely a talk I went to last month by Jennifer Pitts (soon to be at Princeton, if the rumors are true) on national sovereignty and humanitarian intervention. norm says:
"I do not take lightly the principle of national sovereignty, and I would urge anyone reading this not to do that either if they are so inclined."
But it strikes me that we should go the opposite way, and be inclined to take national sovereingty less seriously, or at least acknowledge that we do in fact take it much less seriously than we claim to.
"Yet every - or maybe it's nearly every - value has its limits, has sometimes to be made an exception to, and the principle of sovereignty comes under this general rule. There is an established lineage of moral thinking about international affairs, including thinking specifically within the tradition of international law, that respect for national sovereignty, as important as it is, does have its limits. These limits are set high. They do not permit one state to invade another merely because the former disapproves of the latter's internal policies, or because 'we' don't share some of 'their' values or customs or practices, or because some of those strike us as, or indeed are, bad. However, beyond a certain threshold of what I will call, for short, basic humanity, where a state has begun to violate on a large scale some of the most basic rights and/or needs and/or requirements that go with any kind of tolerable existence, then that state is no longer to be seen as enjoying the protection of the principle of national sovereignty."
this is certainly how we usually talk about national sovereignty, but I think it's wrong. Try finding an example of a situation in which the violations norm talks about occurred in which you would not feel that it's the case that intervention was required. This seems to me to be an utterly self-defeating task--in any instance where you can't do it, I contend there's a pretty strong counterargument that you're wrong about your assumption that your chosen example meets the conditions described in the quote.
QUOTE: Yeah, a conspiracy I may well be in on myself:
"GAME OVER: Come on, Josh. It's time to admit it. You and me and Patrick are all just lackeys of the extreme center. We are on the payroll of an independent voters' PAC that rejects all principles on principle. Our only purpose in life is to prevent the emergence of coherent ideologies."
WELL: I think I finally figured out what's wrong with Ann Arbor is Overrated*: you're in Ann Arbor and you're choosing between Bill Knapp's and Bob frickin' Evans?
or, as it went earlier today at work:
customer: Something smells great out there. Is there a restaurant nearby?
me: well, there's the Indian place. And the Italian place. And the Greek place. And, come to think of it, the Mexican place. What was it that you smelled?
*And no, it's not the fact that they gripe that ann arbor doesn't have the cultural amenities of cities 5-100 times it's size (Detroit, Pittsburg, New York)...
QUESTION OF THE DAY: My professor for Greek Political Thought asked the people who hadn't done the reading to leave class today (this was at the beginning: she asked a (pretty obvious) question, and no one really volunteered an answer. She then proceeded to ask if anyone had done the reading*. I'd done about 70% of it, and so was one of about 8 people who raised their hands. She asked how many people hadn't done the reading. The other ~20 people raised their hands. At this point she asked them to leave). This prompts three questions which I hope everyone will comment on, as I don't really have set views on any of these and want to see what the general moral intuitions people have are:
1. Was it okay for her to ask the people who hadn't done the reading to leave?
2. If you hadn't done the reading (or hadn't done all of it), were you obligated to leave because the professor told you to?
3. If you take a class where you know discussion will be much more prevalent than lecture, are you then obligated to in some way participate in a regular manner in the discussion**?
*The reading was first assigned about three weeks ago.
**leaving aside the occasional exception of a day where you don't have much to say, or you feel underprepared, but only so long as those are the vast minority of days
SIGH: I guess the fact that Kerry is the nominee means that I'm going to vote for Bush. Or possibly no one, an option which looks more attractive with every passing day. I don't especially like Bush on taxes (though I like him on pretty much everything else), and I don't really trust Kerry on foreign policy.
So here's the tentative plan: there's a strong possibility I'm in North Carolina in November, and if not there, then in New Jersey or Illinois (if either of those schools ever get back to me). Fortunately, they should all be blow-out states for their respective candidates, so I can probably safely vote downballot for Ds and avoid the top spot. Unless anyone has a particularly good argument for voting even if I don't like either...
LINK: Language Log is kind enough to post the full OED definition of 'slut' for those without access otherwise.
LINK: I'm entirely at a loss at how to even begin responding to this Gregg Easterbrook post. Good point about the relative willingness to let violence in movies pass, but...
"A few years ago I mentioned in a New Republic article that Vivid, though its product are extremely X-rated, has an absolute ban on violence or menace. A company official dropped me a note explaining why: To depict sex and violence together would be irresponsible, he said. Note that this is how mainstream pornographers feel, while the big corporate studios churn out screaming and torture, and treat women as objects to be slashed.
Perhaps Ashcroft and others in his camp have no problem with Sony or Time-Warner exalting slaughter, but a big problem with movies that show sex, because the porn world is one of the few in which women command the big salaries and make the decisions, while the men are afterthoughts. As Susan Faludi detailed in her book Stiffed, porn starlets not only make serious money while their male counterparts are ill-paid; porn's female stars have considerable input into the flavor of the movies, which is why mainstream pornography generally depicts women as confident and assertive, while men are presented as compliant dim-wits whose sole virtues are cute butts and a useful appendage. It's a weird twist, but mainstream porn has become, as Faludi wrote, quasi-feminist--in these movies the women are in control and the women have all the fun. The John Ashcrofts of the world may find that more objectionable than depictions of women being slashed to death."
LINK: When Yglesias criticizes someone liberal, you better pay attention.
LINK: Over at tacitus there's an interesting discussion of turnout in Democratic primaries:
"Conclusions: There has been, up to now, a judicious amount of increased turnout for Democrats, but it does not seem to be happening universally (the smaller states seem largely immune) and it's an open question about whether this is due to increased participation by the Democratic base or simply changes in the primary schedule. We'll know more when the final primary totals are gathered... although I'd prefer to see them compared to 1992."
THERE'S STUPID AND THEN THERE'S JOHN KERRY:
""President Clinton was often known as the first black president. I wouldn't be upset if I could earn the right to be the second"
Joe Carter points out the, um, small problems with that assertion.
QUOTE: Whatever your views on same-sex marriage, I think we all can agree that this Walter Cronkite quote is nigh-unto-weird:
"The San Francisco Chronicle reveals Walter Cronkite's secret to a happy marriage: "I do think one of the factors was we were of different sexes. . . That doesn't mean I wouldn't have been happy to be married to several friends I had of the same sex. It just never came up.""
WELL: I got my midterm in modern political thought back, and received a couple of comments which said "too telegraphic" without any further explanation*. As I did not write my exam in morse code, I'm wondering if any casual peruser of this blog has any idea of what this term is supposed to mean.
*The grader managed to sufficiently frighten me today to the point that I won't ask, for fear she'll knock my grade down retroactively, and I'm quite happy with the grade I got.
UPDATE: Potential answer provided by my resident linguistic anthropologist:
Dara: sometimes that means you describe what you're about to say too much?
Dara: sometimes people use 'telegraphic' to mean that?
Dara: (I think it's dumb-ass, but what do I know?)
Me: oh, like telegraphing your punches?
WELL: Matthew Yglesias inveighs against my use of the term 'slut,' in a previous post.
"Whether or not engaging in promiscuous sexual conduct will make (all? most? many? some? a few?) women happy, I think it definitely would be liberating to live in some future period where people don't grow up familiarizing themselves with the proper application of "slut" and various cognate terms."
Whether or not I agree depends on what he's saying here: if he's saying that the term is pejorative, and it's best to avoid them whenever possible (as Will Baude argues in part), then I don't particularly object to that. If what he's criticizing (and I suspect it is what he's criticizing) is the underlying moral judgment that underlies the use of the term 'slut,' well, I don't think I can get on board with that. You might object to the moral formulation that says that a woman (or man) who engages in lots of promiscuous sex deserves to receive some sort of moral censure, but as there are people who do think that way, it seems odd to suggest that they shouldn't have a word to use.
WELL: Joe Carter drops some thoughts on this post, and it took me a bit of time to figure out what I found objectionable. Here goes:
"In my opinion, God has not given any institution (nor individual) the authority to end a human life without just cause."
The state doesn't actually perform abortions, though (or you could design a scheme where that's the case, and they merely furnish the legal right). You could then suggest that the state does in fact have rather wide right to make decisions regarding people's lives--capital punishment, the draft, ordering soldiers to go fight--and 'just cause' is really a sort of arbitrary standard used to say why some cases of the state deciding it's okay if people die are acceptable and some are unacceptable. I'm not sure, I should say, that I entirely buy into this argument, but it seems to me a plausible view you could hold.
LINK: this is hilarious: I probably qualify as more a Bloom-er than anything else, but can I get on board with that "reversing the Enlightenment" project?
LINK: Whatever I think on any particular moment about TAP's political coverage, I think their arts coverage is always really good. Case in point: this piece on the underground Jay-Z/Beatles remix album, which I went and checked out. It's as good as advertised, with more than a few jaw-dropping moments:
"The grandest rave-up and greatest hook comes in "99 Problems," which slashes the rap star's paranoid rant with the riffs and screams of "Helter Skelter.""
Oh, my, does it ever.
QUOTE: Andrew Sullivan on GWB:
"So far, with Kerry's limitations and Bush's pandering to the far right..." [italics mine]
And here I thought the problem was that Bush was spending too much time pandering to the center with his spending policy. Can you imagine his temerity, advocating some policies that appeal to his base, and some that appeal to moderate voters? It's as if he thinks there's an election this year.
WELL: It's not that I'm not flattered to be interposed between arguments by Sara Butler, it's just that, um, I didn't really mean to be endorsing the view it sounds like I'm endorsing. I was sort of occupying the devil's advocate decision, saying what I thought a supporter of the "message" of Sex and the City would say. I rather thought the key portion of my post was "Obviously, the second one is far too facile to be useful--whether or not you're promiscuous is going to have a lot to do with what sort of person you are," which seems to me to say that even if you accept the force of the argument, you can (and I do) still believe it's at least somewhat misguided.
I should probably preface all my comments below by noting that I only speak for myself.
"But why, why do conservatives so often insist upon erasing the distinction between failing to sanction an action, and encouraging that action, as Sara does in her response to Nick's argument?"
You might believe it to be the case that for reasons of politics, or for more complicated ethical and metaphysical reasons, that the following two facts are true: 1. people will engage in some actions regardless of whether or not anyone in particular praises or sanctions them and 2. that people engage in certain actions does not make them right. You could then accept that it's a fact that people will be promiscuous, and design your sanction scheme in such a way as to encourage or discourage potential behavior with this fact in mind. But it could still be the case that you think the behavior discussed is wrong: I see no compelling logic as to why you can't hold both positions (this is a very Kierkegaardian 'embrace the paradox' way out, I know).
"She says, "The fact that, in the Sex and the City universe, your sex life has nothing to do with what you're like liberates you to be a slut, and if you can, wouldn't you?" If Sara really thinks that the only benefit of sexual virtue is that it prevents people from thinking worse of you, why indeed shouldn't we all be happy, shameless sluts?"
Again, I don't mean to speak for Sara, but that's not at all what I took away from this particular quote. If you take it as a true psychological fact that people will tend to satisfy their desires (whether good or bad), and assume that sex drive is one of those desires, it seems clear that people will satisfy that desire insomuch as they can. But suppose you also believe it's true that one of the claims of the Sex and the City universe is wrong, namely, that your sex life actually does have something to do with the sort of person you are, then you might believe that people thinking good about you is, at best, an incidental benefit to sexual virtue (which does not, it should be repeated, necessarily equate to sexual purity, though it may).
All that being said, though, I can get on board with this:
"Nevertheless, I do want to clarify that my ire is directed at the extent to which society still insists upon seeing women through the prism of the virgin/whore dichotomy..."