Our next-door neighbor is very vocal about her often somewhat paranoid opinions -- and since it's hard when you're (literally) new on the block to be able to distinguish between paranoia and sensible caution, I've just hauled home what ought to be this year's entire supply of snow-melting rock salt. In case you slept through high-school chemistry, salt is amazing stuff. It turns snow into water, and it turns solid ice into a crunchy, shoe-gripping, lawsuit-preventing frictionfest. Fifty pounds costs seven dollars. That's less than a shovel, and much less than what you have to fork over to Patricia Vanlester if she finds her way to slip on your section of sidewalk.
A woman who nursed her infant while driving 65 mph on the Ohio Turnpike was sentenced Thursday to three months of house arrest for violating child-restraint laws.And falling.
Donkers said her husband ordered her by cell phone to breast-feed their 7-month-old daughter to save time while she drove on the turnpike May 8 ... Donkers testified she did nothing wrong because the couple's religious beliefs require her to follow her husband's directives.Care to join?
Even as Christ cast the money changers out of the temple, we Christians, must use His Sword to throw the money changers (the International Banking Cartels and the Federal Reserve System) out of our government and return it to its rightful masters: We the People. We must throw off our shackles symbolized by the Social Security Number (the Mark of the Beast) and bind down the corrupt politicians and judges with the chains of our God given Constitution.At least the guy has the courage of his convictions.
She could have had the original police charges, driving without a license, obstructing official business and violating the child safety-seat law, reduced to a single guilty plea to driving under suspension, according to court records. She then could have closed her case by posting a $100 fine.
But her husband, Brad L. Barnhill, 46, said religious beliefs put him in charge of his wife's actions.
"I'm responsible for what she does, and no one can punish her except me," he said. "If they refuse to allow me the free exercise of my religion, then we're going to appeal this all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States and they're not going to be able to try her before then."
Barnhill said his faith is rooted in The First Christian Fellowship for Eternal Sovereignty, an organization founded in the late 1990s. Barnhill said he is a minister in the fellowship with 650 followers.I did a little research, and I'm happy to declare that I might be a minister too.
Barnhill considers himself a minister to about 650 followers who correspond with him by e-mail and letters.Glenn Reynolds might be Pope. And I'm about to start working on the preferred mode of Fellowship rhetoric: understatement.
"You can understand we're a little different,'' Barnhill said, according to the Beacon Jounal.
Conservative Republicans want Reagan's portrait to replace FDR's on the dime. I say let 'em do it. In fact, put everyone's portrait on a dime. The technology must exist: just combine this with this, and you have the currency of a true democracy.
Glenn Reynolds and Mickey Kaus have long wondered why John Kerry is so damn unlikable. I suppose I should clear up the mystery, since I've figured it out. Kaus was actually pretty close with his answer.
I think it starts with the phony furrowed brow. Perpetually furrowed and perpetually phony. It's been furrowed for so long I doubt he could unfurrow it now even if his advisers convinced him that would be a good tack to take!
Almost, but it's not that his brow is furrowed. (Kaus really wants the unlikable thing about Kerry to be Kerry's fault, so Kaus can hate him even more, but that--taking the thing's effects and using them to reinterpret the thing itself--is just shoddy hermeneutics. I don't blame Mickey for that, since there can't be five decent hermeneuts in all of Los Angeles county, let alone Santa Monica, which recently made its public benches more uncomfortable, driving out the last few good ones.) It's that Kerry's eyes are hooded and his eyebrows never move. Just look at this video clip of Kerry on This Week (Windows Media or Real Player) and I challenge you to see his eyebrows move or his eyes show expression. It's very distressing. It makes Kerry seem like a programmed drone, even when he's not speaking or acting like one.
UPDATE: Mickey says one of his readers has accused me of shoddy metrosexuality for not considering that Botox might be the reason for Kerry's frozen face, which would shift blame back to Kerry. It's a good point. Who's going to pay me to watch more Kerry video to see if his face ever moves?
MORE: I don't think it's Botox. Here's a recent picture of Kerry. Note the fairly unwrinkled forehead. But this brow is furrowed! A Botox impossibility. And here's the clincher: that eyebrow is flying!
I'm not even sure I disagree, but I do find it a bit odd that Mark Kleiman, in the middle of making an ethical argument against isolationist critiques of foreign aid, suggests that secret bribes to Iraqi clerics are a good idea.
Is it bleeding obvious or hopelessly naive to say that corrupting a country's leaders may not be the wisest way to lay the ground for democracy?
Celebrity politics, yadda yadda, I'm wondering when Janeane Garofalo (who I've never managed to have a crush on) went blonde.
Mark Schmitt relates an interesting experience.
I gave a talk today to a group of college students, mostly about campaign finance reform. Over the past few years, I've done that three or four times a year, and I love doing it ... Talking about campaign finance reform is not my favorite thing, however. In my experience, most college students and even law students don't seem to have enough background to put the issue in context, and they view it as a set of technicalities that most politicians will evade anyway.
But today's talk was the complete opposite. These 12 or so students were totally knowledgeable about the issues. They'd read two long essays that I'd written on the subject -- thoroughly, quoting passages back to me and challenging my assumptions -- along with all kinds of other materials, like a George Will column attacking campaign finance reform, and proposals to change the New York City public financing system. Every single student asked at least one question, most of which were profound and difficult to answer. One student, for example, asked me whether my apparent belief that the United States should be an inclusive society that encouraged broad participation and a sense of mutual obligation stemmed from my own religious beliefs, and, if not, then from what source did I derive that moral certainty? Another, in the course of asking a question about free broadcast time for political candidates made as good a case for requiring broadcasters to meet a set of public obligations as I've ever heard.
This class was at the Eastern Correctional Facility in upstate New York.
Yeah. Read the whole thing.
Can a good Jew eat a cheeseburger? Recent scholarship says maybe.
Of course, 3000 years hence, the basis of the practice doesn't matter nearly as much as its shared perdurance. Unless someone turns up a line in the Dead Sea Scrolls that says something like, "pepperoni pizza for everyone!" good Jews will never know the joys of chili cheese fries.
Britney Spears is planning a movie of A Mother's Gift, the book she co-wrote with her mom. Page six quotes an ABC Family Cable exec describing the search for someone to play the young Britney: "We're looking for someone who can sing, dance and act, which is harder than it sounds." Somehow I missed reading the book -- it's fictional?
I try not to do too much straight outrage-mongering here. I like to outsource.
I'll leave it to someone with relevant expertise to check the numbers, but this post by Tyler Cowen about the "crisis" of the uninsured is quite provocative.
Webby and Webster (in the Nov. 28 Science, which requires a subscription) warn that the next influenza pandemic is just around the corner. Why? Because while it used to be that novel human influenza subtypes emerged only once every ten or so years, significantly new flu strains have emerged four times since 1997.
Webby and Webster urge governments to start stockpiling antivirals, to augment their capacities for manufacturing drugs and vaccines, and to start working out ways to generate and bring to market flu vaccines developed from analysis of actual strains, rather than from forecasts.
There's not enough detail in this story to judge its veracity, but I sure hope it's not true.
A seventh-grade social studies teacher in Presque Isle who said he was barred from teaching about non-Christian civilizations has sued his school district, claiming it violated his First Amendment right of free expression.
Cole alleged that complaints by "a small group of fundamentalist Christian individuals" led to the creation of a curriculum "which never mentions religions other than Christianity and never teaches the history of civilizations other than Christian civilizations."
"He can't even teach the history of anti-Semitism (or the) history of ancient Greece," said Cole's lawyer, A.J. Greif of Bangor.
Forgive me while I channel Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Reynolds: it just doesn't make sense, so I have trouble believing the charge...
What's more, university officials said they would issue a written policy requiring student films and videos to follow the ratings guidelines of the Motion Picture Association of America, with nothing racier than R-rated fare allowed....At a film school? At NYU? How does one justify this policy, Mr. Spokesman?
[Spokesman Pierce] compared [videotaping real sex before a class of students] to a filmmaker committing arson for a movie about firefighters.I am Nookie, destroyer of worlds. I can understand the reluctance to allow the scene to be filmed, I really can, but the R rating business is stupid, both as a matter of policy and PR. Especially given this,
Conversations with several Tisch students sympathetic to Ms. Carmicino's efforts made it clear that explicit content in classroom work was not unusual.
Vera Itkin, 20, a sophomore, said that one film in a class contained graphic secondhand footage from a pornographic movie and that two scripts called for hard-core sex scenes, one with dead people.
Lisa Estrin, 19, a sophomore, said she made a film showing simulated sex between two stuffed toys, Minnie Mouse and Lamb Chop.That's obscene. In any case, Ms. Carmicino made another film.
It consisted of two characters having a conversation in which every word was bleeped out.
There's a new group blog that promises to be excellent. Check out Cliopatria.
via crooked timber
My OPML file has grown quite a bit since I last publicized it, so if you're using an RSS reader and you would like to check out the sites I track, feel free to grab it. I've added a button that links to my OPML file to the upper left of the page. And, if you are using a reader, I'd love to know which sites you're tracking, so post them on your blog, or send me an email. I know Brad DeLong, for one, is hiding a treasure trove of cool sites in his RSS reader!
For those of you to whom this post is still gibberish, you might want to check out Scott Rosenberg's latest piece in Salon on the joys of RSS. Remember, if you didn't like my recommendations for RSS readers, Bloglines works the same way, and through the browser you already use.
There's probably no way to say this without seeming snarky, but this really is a very helpful guide to reading Mickey Kaus.
Alright, a promise is a promise. Mozilla Firebird finally has a spell-checker plugin that checks form fields (like comments boxes on blogs, he says to no one in particular). So it's now my default browser. I'll let you know if I stop using it.
AHEM: So of course the link to the comment where I made the promise doesn't work. That's a Movable Type problem. Anyway, it's comment 9.
Sham gains in education in Texas. Matt Yglesias saves me a post.
A teacher who heard the remark scolded Marcus, telling him "gay" was a "bad word" and sending him to the principal's office. The following week, Marcus had to come to school early and repeatedly write: "I will never use the word `gay' in school again."That's bad enough, but to understand the petty cruelty involved, you have to see the "Behavior Contract" (PDF) the boy was forced to write up. via Eugene Volokh UPDATE:The school district has issued a very unconvincing denial.
Yes, I watched The Simple Life last night. Am I alone in finding the young guests to be far more sympathetic characters than any of the Leding women?
Before I started blogging, I didn't realize just how much of what one reads is simple hackery. Dwight Meredith has one good example.
via Brett Marston
I didn't know that John McCain has a site detailing the pork in bills moving through the Congress. I'm not sure I'm happy that I do know.
Unrequested earmark of $358,000 for alternative uses for tobacco (MD)
Unrequested earmark of $213,000 for improved fruit practices (PA)
Unrequested earmark of $596,000 for Tri-State joint peanut research (AL)
Some of these are just funny names, and I'm sure that many necessary small programs would die if not for pork, but if you just read down the lists, you can't help but be dismayed at how much money is spent on programs that would never survive scrutiny. I'll console myself with a new mantra: there goes another $.00018 of my money.
Mark Kleiman understands why Wesley Clark is under constant attack.
Just remember, Mr. Bush's friends aren't doing this to Dean, because Dean is the one they want to run against.
Mark has more.
This is a pretty nifty reverse dictionary. I'm not sure it works mind you, but I'm glad it exists.
But let's be clear: the credibility of U.S. democracy may be at stake.In a post today about political categories, Roger Simon says something that folks on the left might consider shrill.
So what divides our society now is not the old dichotomy between "liberal" and "conservative," it is between those who oppose fascism and those who want to let it be. On this blog, I am going to start calling those sides what they really are -- pro-fascist and anti-fascist.Could it be that Krugman and Simon, for all their differences, also have one key trait in common: they're armageddonists. One genuinely believes that our structures of government are in danger from within, the other that they're in danger from without. Is this true? Have the edges broken off from their sides of the mainstream? Or are we all armageddonists now, two sides of armageddonists, aligning for the decisive battle?
I know most blog-readers are already up on the current Dear Abby columns, but here this is anyway:
DEAR ABBY: Many couples who live together without marriage say, "We don't need a piece of paper to make our commitment to each other binding. A piece of paper doesn't mean a thing!"
WRONG! May I point out that when a person buys an automobile he had better have that "piece of paper" or he could be in a lot of trouble.
Exactly. Married persons own each other, and it's important for spouses to be able to demonstrate legally their property rights. Right?
Also, a driver's license may be "just a piece of paper," but you'd better not be caught driving without it.
Oh, or married people are certified by the government to have the training necessary to form loving unions and to raise children to be healthy and patriotic.
And when a person graduates from high school, college or trade school, that "piece of paper" can make the difference between getting a job or not getting one.
Okay. Marriage is an marker of social or intellectual capital, and it gets you employed.
Abby sums it up:
A marriage certificate is written proof that a couple is officially one unit, with legal protections and benefits for spouses that single people do not enjoy. These include rights of inheritance, the ability to hold title to community property, health insurance benefits, and later in life, Social Security benefits.
Well, that actually is all true: marriage confers legal benefits on those who choose to and are allowed to marry. That these benefits aren't available to all loving couples, despite their easy availability to people who shouldn't be allowed within fifty feet of each other, is no reason not to seek out a spouse and a minister. It's the system, and the system never changes.
John Holbo has very graciously noted my concern that his much-linked and much-praised post on bad writing unfairly maligns John McCumber. Holbo has written a more fair and measured response, but, philosophically, it too misses the mark.
What [McCumber] is saying is really quite simple and could be stated fully and adequately in a sentence or so: sometimes it is necessary to write difficult, unclear stuff because it's still in process, or because you are dealing with a bunch of blockheads who won't find a clear explanation to be clear; so the process of driving a point through their thick heads requires a certain amount of compromise and contortion. That's his point.
But that's not his point. According to Holbo's paraphrases, McCumber is merely explaining why writing might fall short of clarity; clarity itself, as a norm, is unchallenged. No wonder Holbo finds McCumber's argument banal. But McCumber is doing something else: justifying writing that is necessarily or deliberately "unclear."
At this point, people unsympathetic to McCumber's argument may be tempted to snort and scoff, vindicated in the belief that crazy theorists are writing impenetrably for the sheer perverse obscurantist joy of it. But stay with me here.
Holbo makes much of the fact that McCumber doesn't recognize the "relationality" of clarity.
[McCumber] misses the first, most obvious thing: that a text X can be clear to Y and not to Z. (Well, he sort of gets this point, but it only comes out late, in the guise of a sudden discovery.)
I'll note and let slide that "in the guise," with its insinuation of trickery. The relationality of clarity is central to McCumber's argument, and is explicated after the necessary preparations have been made. He argues that our inherited conceptual frameworks don't account all our possible experiences.
…the last half century…has seen large numbers of beings formerly relegated to the status of mere matter—people who had been thought to be mere bodies, mindless or almost so—stand up and start to talk: gay men, lesbians, people of color, women, groups formerly colonized in a variety of ways.
When these groups speak, they speak in new and strange ways. (my emphasis)
In such a case the new conceptual framework may be intelligible only to those who have shared the inarticulate joy and anguish from which it came. Like musical notation or quantum physics—indeed, like any conceptual framework at all—it will not make sense to those who engage it without the requisite prior experience.Yet for all that, it will be clear, at least in that it enables those who have had those experiences to think and work together.
These new ways of speaking/writing (X) may be clear to those who have shared the experiences from which they arise (Y), but not at all clear to those who have not (Z). This is "necessary" unclarity: unclear not because it's a failure, but because it comes from outside available frameworks. This isn't as abstract as it sounds: what, do you imagine, is the proper Islamic way to describe the pleasures of gay sex?
McCumber then describes a second, "deliberate" (my term) type of unclarity. (And here I sympathize with Holbo, because McCumber has written a book-length explanation of "poetic interaction" which is condensed to a few paragraphs here. I've read the book, I'm sure Holbo hasn't. Another note: normally I'd call John Holbo "John" because 1) that's how bloggers write and 2) I like him and consider him an online friend. But since that's also McCumber's first name, I'm sticking with surnames.) According to McCumber, some utterances are
…so genuinely strange as to mean not more than one thing but fewer than one: utterances whose component elements, for example, cannot be put together in the accustomed ways.
But why would anyone want to make an utterance like that?
…such a statement may well provoke a proliferation of meanings, when the hearer responds to the unclear statement by extrapolating a new meaning for it—a meaning of her own. In that case we have (at least) two meanings: the speaker's original one and the one the hearer comes up with (which may, of course, overlap with the other to some degree).
In each case the sentence transits into a new conceptual environment, where…it does new work, and provokes new thoughts in the minds of its hearers….
When things like this happen, we—the speech community—are provided with new meanings and categories … Our dependence on the previously available repertoire of meanings and categories is lessened, and our verbal capacities are increased. This process, then, deserves to be called emancipatory. And it is an emancipation we often wish for and sometimes seek; for who does not hope that her words will be taken up by hearers and used in productive ways of which she has not dreamed?
If to engage in such discourse is to abjure clarity, it is also to commend oneself to a complementary set of values—playfulness, improvisation, and freedom itself.
In short, there are valuable ways to speak and write that don't aspire to clarity. While there are surely many (very many, in my opinion) "theorists" who do hide banality behind obscurity, the mere fact that a text appears "unclear" according to our usual rules isn't sufficient evidence of that.
Now that—if I may presume—the point has been rescued from Holbo's reading of it as banal, we can ask why it matters, and consider the related question of the legacy of logical positivism. To be fair, the point that I say McCumber is making is not the point that Holbo thought McCumber was making. So I can't use Holbo's complaint that "The trouble with this is that [McCumber] writes as though anyone would deny it," against him. So what follows isn't contra Holbo, exactly, so much as an attempt to justify the importance of McCumber's project. I'll get to that in a second.
First, regarding McCumber's claims about logical positivism, two points: again, not having read McCumber's books, Holbo wouldn't know this, but McCumber is one of the few solidly "continental" philosophers who is well-read in the analytic tradition and engages analytic philosophy seriously. That's not dispositive, but you'll have to take my word for it (or read his books yourself) that McCumber is not the stereotypical "theorist" who operates according to some caricature of the analytic philosopher. In other words, some presumptive charity, please. And speaking of charity, I think Daniel Davies is exactly right when he responds to Holbo's claim that "[McCumber]makes out that logical positivism involves defining the notion of 'clarity' in manifestly horrible, hopeless fashion: in truth-functional terms" by saying,
I must say I think you're being a leetle bit precious about this. Something is clear if it isn't ambiguous, and one way for a statement to be ambiguous is to have multiple truth-conditions. Furthermore, one way for a statement to be unclear is for it to be meaningless, and the positivists certainly did designate large classes of statements as meaningless due to problems with their truth-conditions. So if you take the general content of that sentence as "analytical philosophers are all hung up on truth conditions, and it's got something to do with the legacy of logical positivism", then it seems about right.
And looking at the passage as a whole, it's perfectly clear to anyone prepared to extend even a modicum of interpretational charity that what he's talking about here is the supposed superior status of scientific statements over those of humanities scholarship which is, nine times out of ten in the minds of the supposers, based on some kind of warmed-over Popperism.
Consider (to take an example near and dear to me) that outside the world of Anglophone philosophy, Martin Heidegger (along with Wittgenstein) is considered the foremost philosopher of the twentieth century. Just having read that sentence, if you were trained in analytic philosophy, you made a noise or rolled your eyes or said "god help us." Admit it, you did. (And, let me add that by "outside the world of Anglophone philosophy" I don't mean just France and Germany. Heidegger's importance to modern Far-Eastern philosophers is well-known and I was amazed to go to Iran and find that even my engineer relatives had heard of Heidegger and that he is the premier Western philosopher in Iran.)
Despite Heidegger's prominence elsewhere, and while Anglophone philosophers are now sometimes engaging with his work, he's still considered, in the main, to be a spinner of "unclear" "opaque" "difficult" "obscurantist" "mystical" and, of course, "meaningless" metaphysics. I checked the course offerings at the top ten or so institutions as ranked here and there are, in the upcoming Spring 2004 term, precisely zero courses offered on Heidegger. There are four survey courses in which he is one of the figures studied.
That's McCumber's concern: not whether Homi Bhabha is getting his due, but whether major thinkers and their powerful ways of approaching the world are lost to us. Given that Heidegger is so little studied, most graduate students in philosophy don't even have the opportunity to encounter him and decide for themselves whether the neglect of his work is justified (and those that do encounter his work often receive cursory and unsympathetic instruction). Given the lack of meaningful engagement, the reasons for neglect aren't re-affirmed by each generation, they're simply passed down; you don't have to believe in logical positivism to inherit its legacy.
My god, I want an apology.
Not to dwell on the referrer logs, and not to sound paranoid...but...why is someone at an Israeli IP address, showing a referral from the International Atomic Energy Agency, visiting every page of the site's archives? I think it's safe to assume the answer to this mystery won't be found on Page Six.
MORE: I wasn't kidding.
Is it possible to hear a rumor through one's referrers? If so, something is going on with former NY Times Styles section writer Alex Kuczynski. There's been a flood of searches for her this morning, but no mention of anything in Google News.
UPDATE: Mystery solved! In the comments, Buzz Shattan points us to today's Page Six.
Never date a writer.
The reason I wanted to stop liking her was because of how much younger than me she is. This is what I would think about then. I would lie in bed and calculate how old she was when I was certain ages and then I'd picture the two of us at those times, standing together. It wasn't much fun. Here's the worst of it: On the day I first had sex, she was two years old. Do kids still wear diapers at two years old? For me to pursue someone this young, someone who may not have been potty trained on the day I first had sex, seemed gross and clichéd. As a result I tried to stop liking her so much, but that, as you can imagine, didn't work. You can't stop yourself from liking someone. The best you can do is not write to that person and not talk to that person, but you can't make yourself feel different things about a person just by wanting to. So then I hatched the plan of asking her out so that she would turn me down...
Unless you're fascinated by watchfulness, and enjoy being material.
The principal author of the Patriot Act thinks the administration has abused it.
Viet Dinh, who until May headed the Justice Department's Office of Legal Policy, said in a series of recent speeches and in an interview with The Times that he thought the government's detention of Padilla was flawed and unlikely to survive court review.
In the interview, Dinh said he believed the president had the unquestioned authority to detain persons during wartime, even those captured on "untraditional battlefields," including on American soil. He also said the president should be given flexibility in selecting the forum and circumstances — such as a military tribunal or an administrative hearing — in which the person designated an enemy combatant can confront the charges against him.
The trouble with the Padilla case, Dinh said, is that the government hasn't established any framework for permitting Padilla to respond, and that it seems to think it has no legal duty to do so.
That's still a more deferential attitude than you'll find among lefty legal scholars, but it does confirm the utter illegitimacy of the Padilla detention.
Also, perhaps I'm insufficiently ethnicity-blind, but it pleases me that the principal author of the Patriot Act is named Viet Dinh.
Well, I'm back, but it's amazing how lost just two days away can make me feel. I have some catching up to do, then I'll get back to blogging.