Friday, June 30, 2006

DB gets it, almost.
The BBC is seen as above the fray only because there is one. It's the Public Broadcasting Sevice of an interesting political culture.


Cycle of Violence.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Max Speaks You Listen.

Hamdan v. Rumsfeld
and here
Why I Get my Politics from Comedians (more summer repeats)
Puritans and Drunks Part 78 1/2.

One argues that the only politics is the politics of idealism, the other that the only morality is the denial of politics altogether.

What makes the new American culture -of which Stewart is a good representative- interesting is that it's on neither pole. It's neither idealist nor cynical. It mocks the ideals of science as applied to life, but not logic as such (it mocks progress but not decency) Self-identified progressives may enjoy The Daily Show but they don't get the point.

This is funny.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


good one.

Monday, June 26, 2006

I haven't been posting much: outside discussions of the world cup there haven't been many fights I've wanted to join.
More soon. Maybe Ingres, or Leonard Cohen and his fans.

File under Summer Repeats:

1 My father always said the end of student deferment ended the Vietnam War. Now the flight of 'moderate' republicans will defeat the Bush agenda. The democrats are too compromised by politics and their faith in democracy [their fear of the will of the people] to actually fight for anything resembling a belief, even when the numbers are on their side.

2 And again they miss the point. The problem with the Brights is that they oppose faith in god with faith in themselves. Animals are machines that are capable of self-deception. A computer can not fool itself. Brights begin with a false analogy.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The advantages of literature over philosophy.
Gravity's Rainbow describes two acts of collective suicide by two groups of Herero tribesmen almost half a century apart: the first as a refusal to accept death at the hands of Germany and as a last humanist act of choice against the inhuman; the second by the remnants of the Schwarzkommando, the elite Herero stormtroopers, as last act of nihilism after their war is lost.

You need to try each case on the merits. There's no one definition.
link []

David Velleman
The commander of the detention camp at Guantánamo has condemned the recent suicides of three detainees on moral grounds. Rear Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr. is quoted in today's New York Times as saying: "They have no regard for life, neither ours nor their own." 

Now, the morality of suicide is a topic on which I have published a couple of papers, taking what might be called a pro-life position, somewhat to the consternation of fellow liberals, who tend to believe in a right to choose between life and death.  I try to explain and defend Kant's argument against suicide, which I interpret as based on "the sanctity of human life".

Yet even a Kantian such as myself cannot agree with Admiral Harris about the Guantánamo suicides.  What makes suicide immoral, according to Kant, is that it uses one's own personhood merely as a means, by destroying it for the sake of some desired end. And what makes it immoral to use one's personhood merely as means is that its essence is rational autonomy, which is the capacity to commit oneself to ends and adopt means of pursuing them.  Kant's argument is complex and controversial, but the basic idea of it is that our very capacity for adopting means to ends must have a value that trumps the value of any means we might adopt. To treat that capacity merely as a means is therefore to desecrate its true value.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

No mention of this anywhere

"For generations, immigrant groups have grappled with the American concept of housing for the elderly, tailoring it to meet their ethnic, cultural and religious needs. But for many Muslims, the idea of placing parents in facilities is still unthinkable, seen as a violation of a Koranic obligation to care for one's elderly relatives."

Liberals and conservatives agree: in this country, if you have the money, you pay someone to raise the kids and someone else to bury your parents.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

David Velleman reminds me of Joe Lieberman: a defender of conservative ideals who is put off by the vulgarity of those suffering the effects of conservative policies.
Moral cowardice hiding behind a facade of moral seriousness.

[June 12]
"This protest was perhaps the only autonomous action that was left to them, the only end that they still had effective means to pursue."

He's much better here.

business before pleasure

good enough

Friday, June 09, 2006,,1794432,00.html,,-5876537,00.html

posted without comment.
Leiter on Religion:
A mixture of the obvious and the odd. His radicalism is so bourgeois in it's assumptions; and to be radical is never to assume, yes?

[still a bit rough]
I've always had a visceral sort of distaste for the moral philosophy of contracts and self-interest. Rawlsian logic reminds me of the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Somewhere in Hull: Apropos the neighboring family of 20 odd children -filthy and unkillable infants of the Catholic poor- an Anglican old dry stick turns to his wife and asks why "they can't they just use birth control like we do when we have sex." To which the wife [Terry Jones?] sheepishly replies: "But darling, we don't have sex."

I don't eat pussy because I want my cock sucked, I eat pussy because there's nothing else I'd rather do. And given a choice between a woman who sucks cock because she feels obliged as payment for a social debt and one who swallows for the love of it, which would you choose? Mix the genders any way you like, the question is the same.

Rather than false neutrality, why not accept the inevitability of bias? Rather than gross generalizations and the intellectual vulgarity of Rawls and John Cleese, why not choose to look down on self-interest itself: why not treat it with the disrespect it deserves?
That's not to say one should ignore it -one cannot disdain what does not understand- but accepting the existence of a lowest common denominator is not the same as celebrating it as such.
Science may teach us that greed is common. It does not preclude the judgement that it is also banal. Nor in fact does it preclude the argument that it's glorious, but such an argument at least is a discussion of value.

I'd have more respect for DeLong and more interest in Leiter's ideas (Leiter has a sense of humor) if they both understood the degree to which they each conform to a type. Their logics are built on sensibilities and values. As I've said before, the argument is not between religion and science but between the values of craft -of skill and artifice- and science. The rule of law is the rule of oratory and interpretation, and the goal is an imperfect justice. Science is the search for facts, described hyperbolically as a search for truth.

Craftsmen are more flexible than bureaucrats. Poets, priests, con-men, and lawyers are craftsmen, and academics are bureaucrats of the imagination, or that's what they become when they start referring to scientific processes as 'values.'

I prefer con-men to bureaucrats (on principle).

On a related, and more recent, note Jason Stanley asks what he thinks is a rhetorical question, Why Hire a Philosophy Major?:
"Perhaps because those trained in philosophy are likely to possess a better combination of verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing skills than those trained in any other major?"
At the bottom of the PDF he links to, the lowest numbers, alongside Business-Accounting[!] are for Social Work and Early Education.
It seems logical the next test should be for empathy.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Art Basel 2006
record keeping. posted elsewhere
The failures of the scientization of discourse are the same as those of the scientization of newspaper writing as objective journalism and of politics as polling. The point is not to have or cultivate opinions or beliefs but simply to respond to reports of the beliefs of others. This pseudo-autistic intellectualism -the idealism of the observer who pretends he does not exist- is just moral passivity in the guise of moral superiority.

The formal structural of law is predicated on the existence of bias. More than that it is predicated on active and engaged bias. Science seems to be practiced more and more by those who take it on faith that their own objectivity is unquestionable and their sensibilities irrelevent. Such people refuse to engage both the vulgarity and the obligations of democracy.

As a group they are also among the most arrogant -most purblind and intellectually empty- people I have ever met.
What no one seems to want to admit is that a Jewish homeland is not the same thing as a Jewish State.

South Africa was an Afrikaans State. It is now a homeland for Afrikaners and everyone else who was excluded in the past.

The vast majority of Israeli academics defend the notion of a state maintained by and for a subset of the country's population.
I do not talk to people who would agree with such a policy.
Israel is a modern invention formed from a pre-modern, even anti-modern, logic.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Mark Graber on Law and Political Science

Thursday, June 01, 2006

"The Bush administration, heavily influence by the Christian right, is blocking key proposals for a new United Nations package to combat Aids worldwide over the next five years because of its opposition to the distribution of condoms and needle exchanges and references to prostitutes, drug addicts and homosexuals.
The United States is being supported by many Muslim countries, including Egypt, and various conservative African and Latin American nations. "There are a lot of unholy alliances all over the place," said a European official attending UN talks in New York last night.

Fraught negotiations were continuing to try to salvage as much of the package as possible. More than 140 nations are attending the UN summit in New York which began on Wednesday. The meeting is intended to update a 2001 declaration that provided the momentum for a worldwide campaign against Aids. A new declaration is due to be agreed today.
Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general, told the summit: "The world has been unconscionably slow in meeting one of the most vital aspects of the struggle: measures to fight the spread of Aids among women and girls. These shortcomings are deadly."

A report published on Tuesday by the agency UNAIDS says new figures suggest the infection rate is slowing down globally, but new infections are continuing to increase in certain regions and countries.

The report adds that an estimated 38.6 million people are living with the Aids virus, HIV; 4.1 million were newly infected last year; 2.8 million died of Aids last year; and treatment with medicines is available to less than half of those infected withthe virus.

Of those infected worldwide, almost half - about 17 million - are women, and three-quarters of those are in Africa.

The British government, which has sided with Washington so often over the past decade, is in the progressive bloc at the summit, along with Canada and other European countries, and is diametrically opposed to Washington over its approach to Aids.

Although the US is the world's highest spender in combating the virus, much of the money goes towards sex abstinence campaigns rather than the distribution of condoms or needle-exchange programmes.

Hilary Benn, the international development secretary, who flew to New York last night and will address the UN general assembly today, distanced himself from the US approach.

He said: "We have to take action on the evidence of what works, on what saves people's lives, and not on ideology. That means making condoms available and reducing harm to people at risk: injecting drug-users, sex workers and men having sex with men."

He said he hoped a declaration would be agreed today. "At the moment, one could say negotiations are deadlocked," he said. "I am concerned about that, but I do hope that we'll be able to find a way forward."

Sisonke Msimang, a spokeswoman for the Johannesburg-based Open Society Initiative for South Africa, one of hundreds of civil groups attending the summit, said: "It is not going forward." She added that America was among the key antagonists, saying: "America has been clear that it will oppose global targets. America says any mention of condoms has to be matched by abstinence and faithfulness."

The US is also opposed to increased funding targets. UNAIDS wants spending to be increased from £4.4bn a year on fighting Aids to £12bn by 2010. But Washington has opposed this, preferring individual countries to set targets rather than the UN.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that the US government feared that if the target was set and there were shortfalls, it would be blamed.

The summit overrode the US funding objections yesterday, but negotiations were continuing last night over who will fund the £12bn target. The US wants conditions to be attached to funding, but is being opposed by the Europeans.

The Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which represents Muslim countries, vehemently opposes references in the declaration to homosexuals, prostitutes and drug addicts, saying these should not appear in a public document. The US is supporting the OIC.

The summit, held to mark the 25th anniversary of the first documented Aids cases, is supposed to flesh out promises made at the G8 summit in Gleneagles last year to combat the virus. Diplomats involved in the negotiations were working late into the night in order to secure agreement for today's meeting, which is due to be attended by a number of heads of government and which is due to be opened by the US first lady, Laura Bush."