Monday, June 30, 2008

My Master's Thesis, Revisited.

What got me thinking about it was a post on MLW today, wherein the author referred to the late, renowned ethical philosopher John Rawls.

It just so happens that I wrote a Master's Thesis in which I referred extensively to Rawls'"A Theory of Justice," his dense and difficult masterpiece, published in 1971.
General Conception
All social primary goods - liberty and opportunity, income and wealth, and the bases of self-respect - are to be distributed equally unless an unequal distribution of any or all of these goods is to the advantage of the least favored.
I, in fact, replied to "philandrel," the author of the original piece, as follows:
Rawls was an inartful writer, and "A Theory of Justice" is hard-sledding...but the notion of "justice as fairness" is compelling, not only for it's historical continuity with the rich tradition of ethics stretching back to Aristotle, but also for it's insistent repudiation of 'utilitarianism.' Rawls reasoned that people do NOT naturally work to maximize their advantages, but rather to minimize their disadvantages. In the pursuit of that strategy, they are more likely to act in cooperative ways that benefit the collective.
He then replied:
Yeah, and It's Too Bad....To a significant extent, "A Theory of Justice" is a compendium of articles Rawls previously wrote, so the book doesn't go together well. As to your summary comment,

Rawls reasoned that people do NOT naturally work to maximize their advantages, but rather to minimize their disadvantages,

I REALLY LIKE IT! It puts Rawls in a nutshell. Left to summarize him myself, I would have droned on and never gotten him as clear. KUDOS!
by: philandrel @ Mon Jun 30, 2008 at 06:05:03 AM PDT
With perfect, 20/20 hindsight, I recalled:
Yeah, I only wish I'd been that parsimonious...when I wrote a painfully awkward, excessively wordy, cautiously inconclusive Masters' Thesis on Rawls in the context of journalistic ethics. It woulda changed everything...
(I continued in a subsequent post)...
Couple "Justice As Fairness" in that Maxi-min calculus ...with "the Precautionary Principle," and I think you'd have a decent foundation for the ethical dissemination of public information for the public good which, I would argue, was a pragmatic, plausible, defensible "telos" of the Press...and a sufficient reason for the protection afforded the Press by the Constitrution.
That's what I shoulda written, maybe even tried to write, but at the time didn't really KNOW as I know now, HOW to write...
Draw into this discussion the wisdom of the etho-biologist (okay, it's a neologism) Paul Shepard and his vastly accumulative interrogations of the ontogeny and philogeny of the complex, continuing, and syncretic interactions of physical and social human development into the so-called "modern" age. It all just slides right together, and

VOILA! The Master's Thesis I shoulda written 25 years ago...I wish they were ALL that easy...

now I goddadodat to my Diss...

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The "Marriage Amendment":

There's been a fair amount of pundritry on line about this, but I think Bernard Chazelle, on ATinyRevolution, got it exactly right:
The Craig-Vitter Amendment
By: Bernard Chazelle

Senators Larry Craig and David Vitter are co-sponsors of S. J. Res. 43: "A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to marriage." As ThinkProgress puts it:
If passed, the bill would amend the Constitution to declare that marriage “shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman.”
They're still haggling over the precise language. Vitter is pushing for "marriage shall consist only of the union of a man and his diaper." But Craig stalls.


— Bernard Chazelle

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Mea Culpa: I Was One Of Those Who Tried To Educate Rod Dreher

Yes, THAT Rod Dreher. The fatuous blow-hard for "traditional" (yea, verily, nearly Biblical) Xian morality and values wants to live in a 'godly' community...but keep his cushy, pretty-well-paid ($75-100k/yr, masa o menos) job at the Dallas Morning News. The God-Mammon thing gets 'em every time.

And yes, it is true, I taught classes at LSU's J-School in the mid-'80s, in which Rod Dreher was a student. I blame myself for not foreseeing all this and flunking his ass right the fuck out of school...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Chris Floyd: He Talk, You Listen

"Let's be clear about one thing: Israel will not attack Iran without the full knowledge and approval of the United States government. The trigger of the "warning shot" of Israel's long-range air-strike exercise last week was actually pulled in Washington
(...)
It is of course an article of faith for some people that the Israeli tails wags the big American dog. This rather ludicrous assertion is nothing more than the pernicious doctrine of "American exceptionalism" tricked out in "dissident" drag. For its underlying assumption is that good ole true-blue American elites would never commit war crimes or seek empire and geopolitical dominion unless they had somehow been tricked into it by those wily Jews. This is exactly backwards. If Israel was of no use to the American elite's domination agenda, then it would be discarded, or at least downgraded in terms of military, economic and diplomatic support.
There's more. Go read.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Hey Folks! Stay Tuned As We Find...America's Next Genius...

With your host, the genial, child-murdering, civilian-bombing war-criminal, everybody's favorite shitty pilot, let's hear it for BOMBING JOHN MCCAIN!!!
McCain will inspire "the ingenuity and resolve of the American people by offering a $300 million prize for the development of a battery package that has the size, capacity, cost and power to leapfrog the commercially available plug-in hybrids or electric cars."
Arthur Silber riffs on this whole concept with unrestrained delight over on his blog. Arthur Silber is in a league of his own when it comes to this kinda stuff:
This is brilliant. With regard to the most dauntingly complex issues involving our dependence on fossil fuel and the fabric and operation of our entire economy and culture, which are made up of hundreds of thousands of interconnected elements that all affect each other in a dizzying multitude of ways, issues that require experts to study the relevant facts, economic and political theory and history, etc., etc., blah blah and blah for decades, after all of which most of these same experts ponderously announce, "Well, huh. Who the hell knows? This is complicated, man," all our problems will now be solved. All we need to do is make the Murkin peepul think they're playing the greatest teevee game show of all time!

And if you win, you get a really, really big prize!
Arthur's a bit sheltered, you can see. He lives very close to the bone, and so I doubt he avails himself of cable/satellite tv (in fact, he lives only on the proceeds he can promote from his writing; the link's here...) and so he might thereby have missed a (trivial) distinction, between a "game" show and a reality show. Game shows showcase trivial skills and/or shallow mastery of trivial, arcane knowledges. "Reality" shows are more or less the lebenswelt equivalent of professional wrestling: there at least seems to be 'real' consequences at stake. America's Next Chef/Model/Band/Vocalist/Hairdresser/Couturier/Cowboy/Poker star. C'mon, you cheetoh-stained, basement-dwelling, acne-spotted, virginal geniuses! Show us your star turn, save the planet, bring back cheap gas, and All This Can Be YOURS!!!!!

Which should not deflect significantly from the rest of his analysis. Arthur understands things...

"shitpisscuntfuckcocksuckermotherfuckerandtits": You say it like a secular prayer...

George Carlin, 1937-2008.
Seven words you STILL can't say on Television.

But you know, I'm pretty sure 'tits' made it a couple of times...

"Religion convinced the world that there's an invisible man in the sky who watches everything you do. And there's 10 things he doesn't want you to do or else you'll to to a burning place with a lake of fire until the end of eternity. But he loves you! ...And he needs money! He's all powerful, but he can't handle money!
[...]
I've begun worshipping the sun for a number of reasons. First of all, unlike some other gods I could mention, I can see the sun. It's there for me every day. And the things it brings me are quite apparent all the time: heat, light, food, a lovely day. There's no mystery, no one asks for money, I don't have to dress up, and there's no boring pageantry. And interestingly enough, I have found that the prayers I offer to the sun and the prayers I formerly offered to God are all answered at about the same 50-percent rate.
[...]
Religion is sort of like a lift in your shoes. If it makes you feel better, fine. Just don't ask me to wear your shoes. And let's not nail the lift to the natives' feet."

Friday, June 20, 2008

Executive Privilege

Invoking Executive Privilege, which is more an executive gag order than anything else, leaves anyone and everyone … wondering not so much if the President has anything to hide, but just how much damaging information he has still managed to keep hidden.

The President’s stonewalling is not only wrong, but can also be described from a legal standpoint as Perjury, Subornation of Perjury and Witness Tampering. As a lawyer himself, the President knows these are not only felonies, but offenses for which he, an attorney, can be disbarred. As President, these High Crimes and Misdemeanors should be cause for impeachment and removal from office.
The forgoing were the serious deliberations of a youthful--acne'd even, with cheerfully bucky teeth and a childish grin--Timothy Rollins, posted on a Right-tard page back in 1998. The tip-off, of course, is that the current incumbent isn't a "lawyer, himself,"--was, indeed rejected by the University of Texas law school--but an MBA of some undistinguished, and irrelevant kind.

As ever, it is interesting if not too useful to reflect upon whether Mr. Rollins' opinions on this matter of current import and moment have morphed--not to say 'matured--along with his physigonomy. Scroll down and learn the years have not improved things much in the appearance department for the young Mr Rollins. Nor have his writing skills appreciably increased.

(H/t Ralph, the wonder llama, over on Think Progress.)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

"With Nomination Clinched, Obama Now Free To Be Horrifying Scumbag"

(Dept. Of Harshing Your Buzz)
So writes Jon Schwarz on his A Tiny Revolution, this morning...

For evidence?
So Barack Obama just recorded a radio ad for Rep. John Barrow (D-GA). Barrow has accused Democrats of wanting to "cut and run" in Iraq, and enthusiastically supports telcom immunity. He needs Obama's support because he's being challenged in the primary by State Senator Regina Thomas. Bonus scumbaginess: Barrow is white, Thomas is an African-American woman. Glenn Greenwald has the appalling details here.
Here's Greenwald on Thomas:
(A notorious BUSH-Dog DINO) Barrow faces a serious primary challenge in July from State Senator Regina Thomas, who decided to run against Barrow due to -- as she told Howie Klein when she announced -- "Barrow's failure to support his constituents against the encroachments of powerful Big Business interests." As Klein noted yesterday, Thomas' positions on both foreign and domestic policy are firmly in line with Barack Obama's views and with the Democratic base in that district, while Barrow has continuously supported the most extremist Bush policies, as he himself proudly boasts.
Yet Barry's supporting Barrow? What the FUck?

Actually, Obama proved his bona fides as a scum-sucking status-quo monkey in 2006. I don't know why anybody is surprised. After all, Barry backed WhollyJoe last cycle.

The only thing that matters to an incumbent is incumbency. And our boy Barry's no exception.

No exception, no change. Jus' the new bahss, same as the ol' bahss...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Here are a couple of dots to connect.

From TomGram, via ATinyRevolution, at which at least one daily stop should be part of any critical blog regimen:
We're ALL North Koreans Now!
...The collapse of North Korean agriculture in the 1990s was not the result of backwardness. In fact, North Korea boasted one of the most mechanized agricultures in Asia. Despite claims of self-sufficiency, the North Koreans were actually heavily dependent on cheap fuel imports. (Does that already ring a bell?) In their case, the heavily subsidized energy came from Russia and China, and it helped keep North Korea's battalion of tractors operating. It also meant that North Korea was able to go through fertilizer, a petroleum product, at one of the world's highest rates. When the Soviets and Chinese stopped subsidizing those energy imports in the late 1980s and international energy rates became the norm for them, too, the North Koreans had a rude awakening.

Meanwhile, from ThinkProgress (though it's been up elsewhere):
Having “spent several months experimenting with the limits of physical and psychological pressure,” military officers at Guantánamo Bay turned to the CIA in late 2002 “to find ways to get terrorism suspects to talk.” CIA lawyer Jonathan M. Fredman “explained that the definition of illegal torture was ‘written vaguely’” and “subject to perception.” “If the detainee dies, you’re doing it wrong,” Fredman said.
Sometimes there just are no words, are there? If they die, you're doing it wrong. Wtf happened to "If you're doing it, you're wrong."???

Monday, June 16, 2008

Well Said

Wish I'd Said That

By various, fanciful routes, including through the luminous Arthur Silber, Margaret Kimberly, for the FreedomRider blog, presents us with a troubling quandary:
"I ask this literally, not rhetorically: can someone identify even one meaningful event from the past 18 months that would have been different had the GOP retained control of both houses of Congress? Just one." - Glenn Greenwald

I can't. I dare anyone else to try. Greenwald is venting his spleen about the great FISA treason committed by Pelosi, Hoyer and Silvestre. They are planning to give Bush everything he wants, i.e. warrantless surveillance and retroactive immunity for telecoms who broke the law.

Here is the really sad part. Greenwald and anyone else who is paying attention will be asking the same question about President Obama. Trust me. Change is not coming, not anytime soon.
Ms Kimberly reads Greenwald cagily. Here's the post immediately following the foregoing:

Wish I'd Said That Part II

"This is the way it always works - before the presidential election, they say: 'well, we can't risk losing the presidential election. It's too important. We have to wait until after the election.'

Then, if Obama wins, we'll hear: 'We can't risk losing our Congressional majority in the 2010 midterms. Bill Clinton overreached in his first two years and it led to Newt Gingrich. We can't risk that. So we have to wait until after the midterm election.'

Then, after the 2010 midterm elections, we'll hear: 'well, we can't risk losing Obama's re-election in 2012. It's too important. We have to wait until after the election.'

Repeat endlessly.

The only thing that can break that cycle is if a person gets into power who is transformative rather than a status quo caretaker devoted to the perpetuation of his own power. People have different views, of course, about whether Obama is such a figure. I don't think people who claim he is -- including Obama himself -- really know."


I have to disagree with Greenwald here. Anyone paying attention knows that Obama is "a status quo caretaker devoted to the perpetuation of his own power." As Greenwald said, repeat endlessly.

Arthur Silber seems to have recovered somewhat from the slings and arrows that seem to dog him, and he's ALWAYS interesting. His musings led me to the previous reports. I'll be tyou didn't know that the lying, corrupt, feckless Pelosi/Hoyer/Solvestre regime had already decided to give the Busheviks the store in the FISA/PA Act 'negotiations.' Arthur's pissed, and you should be too.

Friday, June 13, 2008

FYEIEIO, New Blog: A Chinchilla of Hope


There I shall be recounting and chronicling as much, and as honestly, as possible my baby Lila's (and my) battle with her cancer. There's a couple of posts there now. Don't focus on any one post, please; they're an evolving body of knowledge...

There's a bunch of research that suggests writing about stuff actually contributes to measurable amelioration of certain kinds of psychological complications of grief, etc... When I usta teach writing, i advocated for it to my students on the basis that I, at least, needed to write in order to learn what I knew and how I knew it. I approach this in the same spirit. I'm gonna be trying to figure this out on the fly, as it were.

I'm gonna try to be as real throughout this as I can be, but I might not get everything "right." This is a pretty emotional topic for me. Feelings can obtrude. This isn't a blog written by the ubiquitous "interplanetary ethnographer."

Lila (jeezis, she's a fuukin ROCK) and I (prob'ly a bit less so) would both be grateful if you bent your positive thoughts and good vibes her way. She's my bright, shining light.


(NB: Chinchilla sketch by KDAVIES; used without permission)

Monday, June 9, 2008

Nothing any future president does will alter the current price of energy

There's really only one solution to the problem: nationalize energy production.

Well, we could also capture, try and imprison oil speculators, too. Just as we should capture, try, and imprison (or execute) war-profiteers. How is oil speculation different from speculation in armor for military vehicles?

The SCUM is, of course, absolutely alive with complaints from 'voters' about the spiraling price and the consequent, parallel costs of these never ending increases. A piece on NPR's "Day-To-Day" focused on the complaints of drivers filling their tanks, and couched in a rhetoric that validated the complaintants' ideas that the Preznint has ANY control over gas prices at all.

Of course, they quoted the "Chimp" demanding more drilling, off-shore and in ANWAR, as i that could have any impact on current prices. Naturally, to, when "reporting" (stenography = reporting) the Chimps chump-talk, the program hosts failed to put the words into any context at all.

The media's promoting expectations of the average Murkin that the Obama (or even Bombin' Johnnie) can effect change in the market conditions is a sure recipe for casting the "New Politics" as a failure, and preparing the way--should Obama actually achieve the Oval Office--for blaming failure on him.

PS: I took the "Lila" post down. Lila objected that it (I'd) violated her privacy, and she's right (tho not, too, sorta). That post was an act of major self-pity, as much as anything, which is embarrassing...There's no such thing as "good" self-pity.
> still, thank you for your replies, your consolations.