Please welcome Unfogged's newest blogger, Alameida.
(And don't go using her real name here in Google-findable form, ok?)
I mistakenly read this headline as "Navajo Nation votes to make math illegal." For the quarter-second it took me to realize my mistake, I was angry and only 90% as surprised as I should've been.
I blame Michael Behe for my shock fatigue. Or, I blame the NYT op-ed editor for giving Behe almost the entire right-hand above-the-fold, and an enormous graphic. I can hardly even get the Obscure Journal of Esoterica to publish my political-cold-potato papers, and here's the nation's paper of record helping Behe legitimize the discredited scientific argumentaional strategy, "If it looks, walks, and quacks like a duck, it must have been designed!"
(Yes, I know Behe and his op piece are old news. It's been so long since I've blogged -- just be glad I'm not still fascinated with the Michael Jackson trial.)
Most of you probably weren't reading the site when I first linked to this, so, ladies and gents, Vanity Date.
Welcome to VanityDate.com, the world's most judgmental, shallow dating website. At Vanity Date we have a vision of creating the largest database of the world's most good looking, rich and superficial people.
A special prize to the person who picks out Fontana's profile.
Ted's post is so good, we'll link it twice. I just want to take this opportunity to reveal my true identity: I am
The Red Skull!
And I will work tirelessly to destroy America, at least until I am denied tenure.
The Great Unfogged Search For A Blogger With OvariesTM has come to a happy conclusion. Details soon.
Sorry, not much to say today, but I do love this comment over at Crooked Timber.
The United States of America,
In recounting his reservations about the New Yorker, James Wolcott includes
My stubborn refusal to find Malcolm Gladwell anything other than a slick hustler of clever simplifications.
But...what else is Gladwell, and what's wrong with that anyway? He is slick and clever, and that's why people love to read him. Gladwell writes yummy mind candy (you really should read his articles, if you haven't), and does anyone really think that The Tipping Point or Blink gives us something other than a nifty new frame to think about things?
[I was going to include Terry Gross in this post too, but, eh, she's fine, though calling her "America's best interviewer," as some do, seems a bit much, doesn't it? And is there a worse famous interviewer than Charlie "I'm doing the talking here!" Rose?]
Drunken phone calls in mp3 format. I'm so, so happy that this site exists. Via metafilter.
Since I've been swimming, I've been trying to keep a truth from sinking in: people who spend a lot of time in and around pools seem to be particularly dull-witted, even for athletes. Chlorine?
I was resting between sets today, while the lifeguard and one of the regulars in the lane next to me had a conversation. The lifeguard was convinced that one of the women who used to lifeguard there had gone on to a career in porn, because the company she worked for had the word "libido" in its name. "Now, if you look up 'libido' in the dictionary, which I did, you can see that it means, it has something to do with sex, ok?" He really said that.
I swam off and when I came back, they were still talking, but had moved on to the relative commonality of the name "Osama" in Arab countries. "Maybe it's a really common name over there, maybe 'Osama' is like 'Frank'." "Yeah, it pretty much is."
It's just a matter of time before I start thinking these guys are brilliant.
The people of blogdom have to be the sittingest people around, so, we need new office chairs here, and I'd love to hear your recommendations. Of the chairs on this list, I've only sat in the Aeron, which, despite the fact that I'm totally one of those people who can convince himself that the most expensive trendy thing is also the best thing, I found, as they kids used to say, hella uncomfortable. So what's good?
I'm really enjoying watching every news site try to decide whether the top story should be North Korea saying it has nukes or Charles saying he'll marry Camilla.
This is one of those stories that makes me worry that I'm living in an echo chamber. IKEA just opened a new store in London, and many more people than expected showed up for the grand-opening sale, so there was a riot, complete with a stampede and a stabbing. I like the description one customer gives.
"At the beginning it was nice and calm ... lots of staff hovering around," he told GMTV. "Then, at around 10pm, the staff disappeared and, slowly but steadily, madness descended on the crowd.
My reaction to this is, basically: shit happens. The Guardian's Susie Steiner has a rather different reaction. I kept waiting for the punchline, but she's serious.
There has been much talk about consumer greed in the wake of the Ikea riot, about the depravity of people crushing one another for a £45 sofa. But there is less talk about Ikea's greed, and in particular about the way in which this giant of a corporation manipulates its customer's emotions, sending them into ever more hysterical cycles of rage and frustration.
When you're inside an Ikea store, you must come to terms with a near permanent state of bewilderment: shelves stacked with flat brown boxes labelled with random codes and names; a yellow road which takes you inexplicably through bedrooms when all you wanted was some kitchen handles. And then, then, when your emotional temperature is rising and you can feel a panicky hotness around your ears, you will be faced with Ikea's version of customer care - an underpaid teenager, trained in psychic disengagement who'll tell you they're out of stock.
I know it sounds like she's joking, but read it--she's not. Now, I recognize Steiner's as the good lefty position: corporations evil, poor little citizens, profit-motive crushing the life out of us (literally, I tell you!) etc. But I don't personally know anyone who is sympathetic to this position. The lefties I know would look at the crowd and think, "Idiots."
Just wanted to say many thanks to those of you who tried to educate me about the economy in the comments here. It finally dawned on me: if we're paying interest on the debt, that's money that doesn't go to other necessary things. Ok, so I'm not exactly Einstein (or even, let's admit it, Heisenberg), but that's one small step forward.
I do wish he'd spelled the names correctly, but this definitely has its moments.
Whereas T.S. Eliot took the entire Wasteland to bring together the devotional language of the High Christian Church and the epic language of the Vedas, John Bon Jovi merges Catholicism and Eastern mysticism in a single couplet, and nearly made it rhyme. Think on.
via ben hammersley
An interesting bit of research is here.
It's the greatest show
With the best effects
Since Disco Tex
I said the question of whether people who support a war are obliged to enlist would be for another day, but what the heck, let's do it now.
In the comments at Crooked Timber, Ted makes a clear case that support does not obligate you to enlist.
I disagree with Goldberg about almost everything, and I mostly agree with Cole. But the idea that you can't reasonably support a war unless you actively seek to fight in it is quite wrong. It's fine to say that can't reasonably support a war if you're not willing to fight in it. (I mean, you can't be supporting while refusing to serve.) But there's no reason to treat actively signing up as the only sign of willingness.
And it doesn't help at all to restrict the principle to younger people. Why should only younger people have this restriction on what opinions they can hold? The restriction supposedly derives from a conception of what it takes to be a serious participant in debate about war, and it's arbitrary to say that once you reach a certain age you're off the hook.
In fact, each one of us had to take a position on the Iraq War. I know this wan't true of anyone who reads this blog, but imagine you considered the case on its merits (of course reading lots of books!) and came to the conclusion that war was justified. (Some reasonably well-informed people did reach this conclusion, after all.) But now imagine you realize that you're not disposed to change your life and join the military. What do you do? Well, maybe you should try harder to convince yourself to join. But say that doesn't work: you're just not going to do it.
Do your dispositions really give you an intellectual obligation to change your opinion of the war?
Two different things are being conflated in Cole's move. Yes, someone who supported the war does thereby have a reason to actively fight it. And such a person can be criticized for not acting on this reason. But someone who is not willing to act on the reason does not have an obligation to withdraw support for the war.
As philosophers put it, Cole's move — the ‘chicken hawk' move — conflates practical and epistemic reasons. Yes, supporting the war gives you a practical reason to fight it. But the fact that you're not fighting the war does not give you an epistemic reason to withdraw your support for it.
The only good point in the neighborhood is this: being unwilling to fight (fleeing to Canada, etc.) would reveal that your support for the war was premised on making an exception of yourself. And that's bad. But simply not fighting (not enlisting, etc.) is not the same as making an exception of yourself, since doing so is perfectly compatible with viewing yourself as under the same moral and legal norms that apply to everyone.
Ted treats as separate the deliberation about the justifiability of a war, and the decision about whether to enlist to fight that war: first you decide whether the war is justified, then consider whether you're willing to change your life to fight in it. But that separation might be question begging. The heart of the chickenhawk charge, it seems to me, is that, for each of us, the question of whether we're willing to fight in a war should be a consideration when we try to decide whether to support it. Our lack of willingness, on that view, isn't something we happen upon after we've already weighed the evidence; it's part of the evidence: it tells us something about what we really think of the war.
You could still make Ted's argument, but I think you'd need some sort of defense or vindication of an all-volunteer military first. The problem with that defense is that none of us really believes that good faith and empathy can substitute for being forced to decide whether you or your child will serve.
Second, we can grant Ted's argument, but make an additional distinction. I might come to support the war, and decide that I'm not willing to fight in it. But support has many flavors, and I think there's a pretty good case to be made that it's at least unseemly for someone who isn't willing to fight to be a public advocate for war, and definitely unseemly to be a particularly vocal public advocate. (Also keep in mind that fighting/not fighting isn't the only possible sacrifice--Goldberg, and many of the rest of us, are insulated from the vicissitudes of the economy, but lots of poor folks aren't. So Goldberg, and people like him, are public advocates for a war they're not willing to fight and by which they'll be unaffected in any tangible way.) This is another variation on the willingness-to-enlist-as-gauge-of-seriousness argument, but this time, regarding what happens after the decision is made, rather than before.
Well shit, I meant to agree with Ted, but now I'm not sure. And I'm not even sure whether I think it is ok to support a war you're not willing to fight. I guess we'll hash this one out in the comments.
While talking with audience participants, the president met Mary Mornin, a woman in her late fifties who told the president she was a divorced mother of three, including a 'mentally challenged' son.
The President comforted Mornin on the security of social security stating that 'the promises made will be kept by the government.'
But without prompting Mornin began to elaborate on her life circumstances.
MS. MORNIN: That's good, because I work three jobs and I feel like I contribute.
THE PRESIDENT: You work three jobs?
MS. MORNIN: Three jobs, yes.
THE PRESIDENT: Uniquely American, isn't it? I mean, that is fantastic that you're doing that. (Applause.) Get any sleep? (Laughter.)
This Churchill parody is pretty funny. Ward Churchill: creating bipartisanship out of ridicule since 2005.
Brian Leiter posts the recommendation letter written for H.L.A. Hart by Isaiah Berlin. Astounding.
(And from what I've read of the two, I agree with Leiter's assessment of their scholarly work. Hart is one of the clearest and most precise thinkers I've ever read.)
The Poor Man is, as you already know, a genius.
I don't, in fact, believe that people of fighting age who support a war are obligated to fight it, but that's an issue for another day. And I don't much care about who gets the better of the smackdown, but one point Cole makes really deserves more consideration.
Cranky rich people hire sharp-tongued and relatively uninformed young people all the time and put them on the mass media ....
I've elided the rest of Cole's sentence because it's needlessly partisan: punditry on both sides is often conducted by very young people who are very smart, and have very little background knowledge. A lot of the time, that's fine: they're smart enough to quickly get a handle on the matter du jour and present it with enough clarity and partisan framing to save the rest of us from having to learn all about it ourselves.
But then there are issues that are either relatively complex--like Social Security--or where the stakes are very high--like war--where the generalists are out of their depth. (One of the things that makes Matt Yglesias extraordinarly good--don't let it go to your head, Matt, and quit smoking already--is that he takes the time to learn about what he writes about. He knows shit, and it shows.)
But pundits don't just sit out when they're out of their depth; they keep on punditing, and pretty soon, they (and we), are just moving words around, without any deeper understanding of, or connection to, what's really happening in the world.
People often say that blogs are making pundits obsolete, and I hope that's true, but not because I want more independent pundits, or pundits who are more likely to agree with me, but because punditry itself becomes obsolete when people who have expertise also have a way to share what they know. When people like DeLong, and Volokh, and Schmitt and Cole are sharing their knowledge, you don't need to waste time getting a second-hand digest.
James Wolcott says all that needs to be said about cultural conservatives.
If the cultural-values conservatives ever succeed in cleaning up culture, they won't know what to do with themselves since it was never culture they were interested in anyway. The cultural conservatives of decades past actually read T. S. Eliot, Irving Babbitt, F. R. Leavis, and other custodians of tradition. Today's cult-cons scrutinize cartoons for butt-cracks and tabulate penis references in sitcoms, and then wonder why no one wants to sit next to them in the sauna.
I don't read the Rittenhouse Review often enough; when I do, I'm usually well rewarded. This afternoon brought me another reminder that, while careful debunking takes time, deflating needs but an instant:
[Post-publication addendum (February 4): Reader S.K. writes: "I love the way you hate Ayn Rand. I had one of those hipster governmentt teachers in high school in the early 70s. A sneaky guy tried to get us to think -- during the year I discovered Rand. I read her because her work was supposed to be 'deep,' which I definitely was not. Anyway, the teacher asked me one day what I'd been up to. Trying to sound intellectual I replied, 'I've been reading some Ayn Rand.' 'Ah, the adventures of Super Honky,' he responded. 'How's that working for you?'"]
With all the recent talk about the budget and program cuts, it's time to confess my vast ignorance of all things economic and ask a question that the people of blogdom can answer.
I understand the difference between the deficit and the national debt, but, given that things seem to keep chugging along whether we're running deficits or a surplus, or whether the debt is x or y trillion dollars, why does either one matter? Why should I care?
Eric Umansky notes something I didn't know: not only is an Israeli Osirak-style strike on Iranian nuclear facilities not an attractive option, but informed people think that even the original strike, for all the hoopla, was a failure that might have accelerated Iraq's nuclear program. Go read it.
Maybe you all know this already, but it took me quite a bit of googling back in the day to find out that in the R.L. Burnside song, It's Bad, You Know--the one that was (is?) played on the Sopranos--in the chorus that sounds like "The yin-yang in the thistle..." he's actually saying "The engineer blows the whistle, the fireman he rings the bell."
I'm not positive about the verb tenses.
There goes our Belle, just like a girl: hysterical, but not funny.
Seriously, you never thought you'd see the day. Via Glennda the Good Witch, we find this story of a UNLV prof in trouble because he cited homosexuals as a group that plans less for the future:
The subject of the lecture was economic planning for the future. Hoppe said he gave several examples to the class of about 30 upper-level undergraduate students on groups who tend to plan for the future and groups who do not.
Very young and very old people, for example, tend not to plan for the future, he said. Couples with children tend to plan more than couples without.
Another example he gave the class was that homosexuals tend to plan less for the future than heterosexuals.
And we're talking about real money here:
More hearings ensued, he said. In the end, the university gave him until Friday to accept its latest offer of punishment: It would issue him a letter of reprimand and he would give up his next pay increase.
Jaysus. All standard disclaimers: there might be more to the story, don't know all the facts, &c. But this is just crazy. I don't know if there's been any recent research on this-- I wouldn't be surprised to learn that this is a claim that was once true but is now false, for example-- but it's really not the sort of thing worth denying a raise over. (I was about to say, I myself have said much more offensive things in class-- but maybe that's not the best form of argument...) Anyway. Common ground in unexpected places.
Q: how annoying are the New England Patriots?
It brings to mind a very different time, one year ago, and a different New England patriot. Can it be that it was all so simple then? Or has time rewritten every line?
Another NYT thang: a depressing-as-hell bit about a father, his son, and the son's meth addiction. So sad. One dark bit of humor: after two rehabs, our addict goes back to school, this time at...Hampshire College. Good God.
We probably would have seen this on most campuses, but we were not reassured when we noticed a number of students wearing T-shirts decorated with marijuana leaves, portraits of Bob Marley smoking a spliff and logos for the Church of LSD.
Sorry, kid. Question: just judging by popular reputation, is there a worse choice for a recovering addict? Reed, maybe?
And you thought high school was hard on smart people: Daryl Atkins might be executed because his IQ is rising.
The Axis of Irony includes this gem: Atkins' case before the Supreme Court led to the ruling against excuting the retarded-- yet his own participation in his trial nudged his IQ above the threshold of retardation.
"Oddly enough, because of his constant contact with the many lawyers that worked on his case," the psychologist, Dr. Evan S. Nelson, wrote in a report in November, "Mr. Atkins received more intellectual stimulation in prison than he did during his late adolescence and early adulthood. That included practicing his reading and writing skills, learning about abstract legal concepts and communicating with professionals."
I don't think this is what Wittgenstein meant by "kicking the ladder away."