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Saturday Fun Link

Posted by Alameida
on 11.05.05

You know what your guys' problem is? You don't listen to enough Polish mashups, that's what. This Lemon Jelly/Elvis one is really mellow, yet upbeat (right click on the image to download).


 

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Jones owns some uranium

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 11.04.05

Yglesias makes the right call-- Kristof's account of an administration line, viz.,

even if the Niger connection was fraudulent, there were possible linkages to other African countries like Congo that could have made Bush's 16 words technically correct.

comes really close to a Gettier case-- where you have true belief, and you have justification, but the J and the T aren't linked in the right way so you don't have knowledge. Wouldn't it be awesome if the Administration's claim were true because Iraq had, unbeknownst to anyone, sought uranium from, say, Cote d'Ivoire?

You have a justified belief that someone in your office owns a Ford. And as it happens it's true that someone in your office owns a Ford. However, your evidence for your belief all concerns Nogot, who as it turns out owns no Ford. Your belief that someone in the office owns a Ford is true because someone else in the office owns a Ford. Call this guy Haveit. Since all your evidence concerns Nogot and not Haveit, it seems, intuitively, that you don't know that someone in your office owns a Ford. So you don't know, even though you have a justified belief that someone owns a Ford, and, as it turns out, this belief happens to be true.

Ah, those delicate words take me back so many years. Owning Fords, having ten coins in my pocket, knowing the temperature, getting weird intuitions about the location of the President...here's to you, weird counterexamples in analytic epistemology, and thanks for the memories.

I have nothing to add to Y's post. I just want to avoid grading.


 

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Hagiography goes awry

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 11.04.05

Powerline urges us to read this account of Wm F Buckley at Harvard:

What happened on the appointed night in an auditorium at Lamont Library gave a preliminary indication of at least one of the many qualities that would render Buckley famous and National Review successful: Buckley's bravura. The auditorium was jammed, his entrance buzzily awaited. Then down the aisle he proceeded with his wife Pat, she very tall, wearing an enormous leopard hat and large bag, also leopard. Buzz from the audience. At the podium, after thanking the host for his introduction, Buckley observed, with an elfin grin (soon a signature feature), that he was very pleased to see Professor Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., there in the audience. Then he added, "His many books would be dangerous if they weren't so boring." In his bow tie, Arthur looked Arthurish. Laughter. Not hostile. And the Harvard students loved it. Buckley's entire performance was Byronic, rakish, and marvelous. His intonations were unique, though today familiar. They seemed something gorgeous, maybe out of the English fin de siècle, Beerbohm, Beardsley.
Whatever sober points Wechsler might have made, he was obliterated by the stylistic contrast and, ink-stained wretch that he obviously was, slunk back to the then-liberal New York Post. Right there, I saw the conservative movement being born, and liberalism made otiose. Right there was the esprit that caught the attention of early National Review readers—especially the young.
This was no stuffed-shirt or classroom policy wonk. This had nothing to do with the dismal science and its green eye-shades. This was great theater.

I'm no great detector of [nonsense], but when I read that Wechsler slunk away for reasons having nothing to do with the content of his remarks, I begin to suspect that Buckley on this occasion was much like Buckley on later occasions: an entertaining personage with nothing to say. You want policy, and I give you leopard-skin hats. And this from people who worship at the shrine.


 

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You have my blessings

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 11.04.05

All those responsible for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, I thank you. Junior faculty everywhere thank you. We have cried out in the darkness: "why did I agree to teach this [material]? For I know nothing about it, and it is sorely cryptic." And lo, you heard our cries, and you said: "no worries, my beloved son-- here is a helpful survey essay, from which an hour's lecture may surely be drawn." And we pilfered this material, and it was, well, sometimes good, sometimes just ok, but in any event it saved our asses.


 

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Damn It

Posted by Ogged
on 11.04.05

Why is my site turning into Eschaton? Talking out of one's ass in rhyme=funny, talking out of one's ass simpliciter=not so funny.

The Scooter bear/child story is part of a legend that's recounted by one of the book's characters. It's supposed to be weird in the way that, for example, creation myths are weird. (And, you know, it never did come back to haunt him. He wasn't indicted for his novel.)

And a few days ago there was much beating up on Alito. I don't want him on the court either, but the notion that he's evil because he didn't think Pennsylvania's spousal notification provision constituted an undue burden on pregnant women is silly. Have you looked at provision 3209? There are exceptions for when the woman can't find her husband, or if she fears that he'll harm her. And there's nothing in the statute that says the notification even has to be in person; as far as I can tell, she could send him an email or a letter. You might still think 3209 constitutes an undue burden, but no one is evil for disagreeing.

And it ought to be mentioned that part of O'Connor's counter-argument is stupid.

If a husband's interest in the potential life of the child outweighs a wife's liberty, the State could require a married woman to notify her husband before she uses a post-fertilization contraceptive. Perhaps next in line would be a statute requiring pregnant married women to notify their husbands before engaging in conduct causing risks to the fetus. After all, if the husband's interest in the fetus' safety is a sufficient predicate for state regulation, the State could reasonably conclude that pregnant wives should notify their husbands before drinking alcohol or smoking. Perhaps married women should notify their husbands before using contraceptives or before undergoing any type of surgery that may have complications affecting the husband's interest in his wife's reproductive organs. And if a husband's interest justifies notice in any of these cases, one might reasonably argue that it justifies exactly what the Danforth Court held it did not justify -- a requirement of the husband's consent as well.

That's just a very lazy slippery slope argument. One could reasonably argue all sorts of things, but you could rewrite that paragraph and substitute some form of "make a distinction" where she has "reasonably conclude" and it would be just as convincing.

Ok, back to happy hiatus-land.


 

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Scooter Libby, erotic novelist

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 11.04.05

I'm late to this party, as always, but I was really stunned to read the NYer's account of Scooter Libby's career in erotica.

Other sex scenes are less conventional. Where his Republican predecessors can seem embarrassingly awkward—the written equivalent of trying to cop a feel while pinning on a corsage—Libby is unabashed:
At age ten the madam put the child in a cage with a bear trained to couple with young girls so the girls would be frigid and not fall in love with their patrons. They fed her through the bars and aroused the bear with a stick when it seemed to lose interest.
And, finally:
He asked if they should fuck the deer.
The answer, reader, is yes.

Why would any serious and moderately smart person publish something like this? It has "come back to haunt me" written between every line-- and yet there it is. Weird that the same question can be asked of Safire, Cheney, etc.

Excerpt from my future job interview: "So, about that cheese grater..."


 

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Unity

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 11.03.05

Is there any good reason to think that the unity of virtues thesis is true?


 

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Judgifying they don't like, pt. 2

Posted by Unf
on 11.03.05

This entry over at redstate is absolutely hilarious.

Seems some parents were angry about a survey regarding sex given to their children at school. So they sued, claiming a violation of their fundamental rights as parents. The 9th Circuit (which is in Calfornia, of course) turned down their claim. Here is redstate's reaction:

As a legal matter, the case was most likely rightly decided based on the law. But, we should all be outraged at the lack of respect the Ninth Circuit showed to parents -- who should be the the only party introducing seven year olds to issues of sex. As Neodanite said, if the town pervert had grilled the seven year olds on masturbation, it would have been a crime. In the same way, I can hardly imagine the Ninth Circuit upholding a law that would give parents the exclusive right to education their children about sex. And that is just not right.

Read through the comments, they're great. About 4/5ths of the comments are expressions of outrage at the rank judicial activism shown by the court. The other 1/5 are explanations by redstate commentators with fully functioning brains that what conversatives' want the judiciary to do is in fact exactly what it did in this case - namely, not invent "fundamental rights" which have no textual basis in the Constitution.

Debates about "judicial activism" are everywhere and always just debates about interpretation of the Constitution, nothing more, nothing less. Anyone who decries "judicial activism" without also defending a theory of Constitutional interpretation is a knave and a fool.

Title inspired by Crooked Timber.


 

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Them little computers sure is nifty

Posted by Unf
on 11.03.05

From the New York Times:

For a little Canadian company that most laymen have never heard of, Research in Motion has had quite an impact. More than 3.5 million people, primarily in white-collar jobs on the East and West Coasts, clutch its BlackBerry cellphone/e-mail devices on planes, trains and automobiles.

For you see, there are no lawyers in Dallas, no investment bankers in Chicago, no consultants in Denver. Indeed, once you get more than ninety miles inland from either coast, you'll find that people do nothing but shovel manure all day. Email? We've never heard of it. But I think they're going to put one of them fancy telegraph machines in at the general store any day now.


 

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Flushing our system

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 11.03.05

I feel an obligation to move the fecal post further down the page, but time is short. (If you're wondering why there aren't more and better posts, it's more or less crunch time between now and Christmas, so blogging is falling by the wayside.)

This reminds me of another lesson for graduate students. Keep in mind that your first few years of teaching are more stressful and more demanding than your graduate career in many ways. For example, if you're teaching now, you're probably teaching a single low-level class for which there are standard texts and notes. The transition from this sort of work to teaching several different preps, some of them on topics you know little or nothing about, can be pretty severe. Hence the awfulness of the first year(s) of the job. If, somewhere along the way, you can sit in on a seminar that will help you teach a standard course somewhere down the road, your future time-slices will thank you.


 

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[speculation]

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 11.02.05

This comment raises questions that deserve their own thread. You'll recall, with unwanted vividness, that Behrouz Nahidmobarekeh was convicted of sprinkling small bits of fecal matter onto the baked goods at his local Fiesta. Apparently the [feces] were sun-dried, then broken up with a cheesegrater. Problem:

Customers had complained that the fresh-baked items smelled and tasted like manure.

This suggests that the particles weren't fine enough. Should Nahidmobarekeh have used a different implement, such as a mortar and pestle? Or just a finer-grained grater? Perhaps the problem was in his application technique, rather than the powdering process? I suspect that if he'd left only trace elements of fecal powder on the baked goods, he'd never have been caught-- plus he'd see more of his leavings ingested.

I think this sort of speculation might have been what Kant had in mind at the very beginning of the Groundwork when he says that talents of the mind

...can also become extremely bad and harmful if the will, which is to make use of these gifts of nature and which in its special constitution is called character, is not good. (G 393)

 

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Black sites

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 11.02.05

I admire this post of Ogged's:

If America ceases to be a free country, you won't necessarily notice.

Sadly, I had reason to think of it again after reading this:

The CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe, according to U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the arrangement.
The secret facility is part of a covert prison system set up by the CIA nearly four years ago that at various times has included sites in eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and several democracies in Eastern Europe, as well as a small center at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, according to current and former intelligence officials and diplomats from three continents.
The hidden global internment network is a central element in the CIA's unconventional war on terrorism. It depends on the cooperation of foreign intelligence services, and on keeping even basic information about the system secret from the public, foreign officials and nearly all members of Congress charged with overseeing the CIA's covert actions.

No wonder McCain's bill isn't going over so well. Via Drum.


 

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Whining about the teaching of philosophy

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 11.02.05

I'm trying to formulate a point about an unusual aspect of philosophical pedagogy, and I'm not quite clear on how best to put it. The basic thought is this: for many disciplines (and for parts of philosophy, e.g., logic) at least large parts of what's taught is settled and fairly clear. But for most issues in even the most introductory survey course in philosophy, almost everything remains controversial, open to professional disagreement, and so on. Example: when I teach logic, I can, with confidence, say: here is a truth table. Here are the truth-functional connectives. End of story. (I realize that there are issues in the philosophy of logic here, and that my intuitionist-relevance friends who may or may not also be members of the Pet Shop Boys would object, but I'm looking for differences of degree here.) But when I talk about affirmative action, say, I have to get into questions about harms, reparations, the nature and significance of groups, the nature of race...and there's so little that's settled professional opinion about any of this. And other popular intro topics are even more fraught ("the state-of-the-art in personal identity is...").

One reason this is frustrating: either I qualify things endlessly ("of course, this view presupposes x, y, and z, all of which are controversial"), which is tiresome, or I pretend that certain points are decisive when this is not so. Another reason: this sort of endless back-and-forth adds to the perception that philosophy never really progresses. A third: it's hard to feel competent on even the most rudimentary material.

Does this make philosophy different from other fields? Do chemists have this kind of problem?


 

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Pickup lines of the century

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 11.01.05

Via Yglesias I am reminded of one of my favorite passages by Leon Kass:

According to the story of the Garden of Eden, our humanization is in fact coincident with the recognition of our sexual nakedness and all that it implies: shame at our needy incompleteness, unruly self-division, and finitude; awe before the eternal; hope in the self-transcending possibilities of children and a relationship to the divine.5 For a human being to treat sex as a desire like hunger — not to mention as sport — is then to live a deception.
Thus how shallow an understanding of sexuality is embodied in our current clamoring for "safe sex." Sex is by its nature unsafe. All interpersonal relations are necessarily risky and serious ones especially so. And to give oneself to another, body and soul, is hardly playing it safe. Sexuality is at its core profoundly "unsafe," and it is only thanks to contraception that we are encouraged to forget its inherent "dangers." These go beyond the hazards of venereal disease, which are always a reminder and a symbol of the high stakes involved, and beyond the risks of pregnancy and the pains and dangers of childbirth to the mother. To repeat, sexuality itself means mortality — equally for both man and woman. Whether we know it or not, when we are sexually active we are voting with our genitalia for our own demise. "Safe sex" is the self-delusion of shallow souls.

I was about to write a post about this, but I remembered-- thank God-- that I already did. The only thing I would add is this. It's unbearably obnoxious to move from the sort of metaphysical dangers of sex (the dangers of any interpersonal relationship, hell is other people, etc.) to the other sorts of dangers of sex (disease, pregnancy, waking up next to W-lfs-n, and so on). I suppose there's some really plausible principle in the background, but honestly this is just completely craptacular philosophizing.


 

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Drudge

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 10.31.05

This is a funny list of captions for that funny picture of Maureen Dowd in the Times magazine. Via the bandarlog-- but no link, so Ogged will have to chide me in comments.


 

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Casting call

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 10.31.05

Berube casts an updated All the President's Men, but I think he left out the obvious choice. Consider Philip Seymour Hoffman

capote_head.jpg

as Karl Rove.

rove_head.jpg

Not an exact visual equivalence, but add a few pounds and...voila! Who could exude that creepy sliminess better than PSH?


 

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Spousal notification

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 10.31.05

Atrios shares Alicublog's distaste for this post of Instapundit's:

ABORTION AND SPOUSAL NOTIFICATION: As several people point out, that's going to be an issue with regard to Alito. I'm not sure what I think about this issue, but looking at the Pennsylvania statute I notice a lot of exceptions, one of which is this: "Her spouse is not the father of the child."
I'm not sure about Pennsylvania, but in many states her spouse -- even if he's not the father of the child -- would still be on the hook for child support. Likewise, if he didn't want children, but she disagreed, lied to him about birth control, and got pregnant. And he certainly couldn't force her to have an abortion if she did so, even if his desire not to have children was powerful, and explicitly expressed at the outset. (The usual response -- "he made his choice when he had sex without a condom" -- never comes up in discussions of women and abortion.)
So where's the husband's procreational autonomy? Did he give it up by getting married? And, if he did, is it unthinkable that when they get married women might give some of their autonomy up, too?

This, I think, is a troubling issue. My crude understanding of the law is that many individual states seem to use causal rather than moral responsibility as the test for child-support obligations. (There have been some weird "sperm-harvesting" cases, cases where consent to sex is not present or not clear, and so on.) And this seems really odd; it also has serious implications for the degree of control men have over procreation. (As an aside, I think I've noted here that the famous Thomson argument for abortion rights seems to allow for a man's refusal to give support just as it allows a woman to prevent bodily resources from being allocated to the fetus.)

There does some to be a genuine puzzle here: why should consent to sex mean consent to the responsibilities of fatherhood when consent to sex does not mean consent to the responsibilities of motherhood? On the other hand, the obvious biological inequality of burdens has to be factored in somehow, no? This is like parental notification in that actually requiring consent or information seems to have some moral grounding but will lead to some horrible results in individual cases.

If I were more awake and less pressed for time I'd try to say something substantive about this, but no such luck. Instead I recommend Ogged's solution: play with the Tivo instead.


 

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Guitar!

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 10.31.05

Would someone please post something?

I'm looking for a recommendation for a beginner's guide to playing the guitar. It's not for me, but a friend of mine has picked up the (electric) guitar and I thought it would be nice if I could come through with some instructional material, preferably something fun, not too pedantic, etc. If you know of something good, or if you just want to make fun of Ogged, you know what to do.


 

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