Sunday photoblogging: crane

by Chris Bertram on February 19, 2017

Crane

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Durkheimian Utilitarianism

by John Holbo on February 19, 2017

This post continues what has evolved into my critical series on Jonathan Haidt (see parts 1 and 2). The burden of the first two posts was: probably a good time to talk about justice, eh? So let’s. I’m going to split it into two, so I can kvetch about how Haidt is confused about Mill (this post), then try to do better myself (next post).

I got email about my last post (not just comments!) suggesting Haidt could do better than I give him credit for. I am 100% sure this is correct. I reconstructed Haidt’s argument with a conspicuously cloudy Premise 3: “something something plurality something pluralism something diversity?” I am sure Haidt could tighten that one up. Yet it does not seem to me he, in fact, has. In this post I am going to lay out textual evidence. Having done my best to expose the logical worst, I’m going to close this post by trying to say how he got into this hole. Honestly, I think I get it. He wants to have his Mill and eat his Durkheim, too. Best of both. I also get why he might feel his bridge from Durkheim to Mill might be load-bearing.

First, a basic point about the sense of ‘justice’ at issue in this post. (A sense we will have to broaden if and when I get around to the follow-up.)

Haidt is, we know, concerned about under-representation of conservatives in academe. There are two possible grounds for such concern.

1) It’s distributively unfair, hence unjust to conservatives, if there is viewpoint discrimination against them, as a result of which they fail to gain employment (or they lose employment).

2) It’s intellectually damaging to debate to have few conservatives present in conversations in which, predictably, liberals and conservatives will find themselves at odds.

I have no idea what Haidt thinks about 1. His arguments concern 2, so I’m going to focus on that. Justice as in: optimal intellectual balance. Epistemic justice. Justice as in justification. Not distributive justice.

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Not-Normal, To Be Sure. But How Normal Is That?

by John Holbo on February 18, 2017

Trump is not normal. He should not be treated as normal. I quite agree. But how normal has it been in US politics for a not-normal possibility to loom, as a real possibility?

We don’t write histories of the New Deal as “The Period When, But For An Assassin’s Bullet, Huey Long Might Have Changed Everything”. We call that period: The New Deal.

We don’t write histories of the Clinton Era as “The Period When, If He Hadn’t Dropped Out, Before Getting Back In, Ross Perot Might Have Been President”. We call those years: The Clinton Years.

If Trump had lost in 2016, I don’t know what era we would be in but it wouldn’t be “The Almost-Trump Years”.

We don’t do Almost Black Swan, when it comes to labeling eras. But, as in horseshoes and hand-grenades, ‘almost’ ought to count for something. Huey Long and Ross Perot are the populist ringers that occur to me as obvious Trump analogs. How many radical ‘almosts’ have their been, over the years? Suppose you went back through your US history textbook, reheading all the chapters. What are the biggest, craziest ‘almosts’ that barely weren’t?

This is, to repeat, not an argument for regarding Trump as normal.

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What Are We Doing to Stay Sane?

by Belle Waring on February 17, 2017

Plain People of Crooked Timber: we’re not, you great idiot. We do ordinary things for up to fifteen minutes at a time and then suddenly the reality of the political situation comes rushing back to us and our forehead prickles with cold sweat and our heart bangs like Charlie Watts is going at it in a particularly vigorous live version of “Bitch,” or something. OK, no, you’ve got us, Belle Waring, it’s drinking.
Me: that’s nice for you probably sometimes but I picked the wrong life to stop drinking (apparently). Solange makes a lot of good suggestions in the following song, but starts with the obvious: “I tried to drink it away…”

This song is so good it will keep you sane for over four minutes.
Plain People of Crooked Timber: we love you but you have terrible taste in music, Belle Waring. Oh wait, damn, that song is great. We reserve the right to hate future songs, however, and we still have questions about your judgment.
Me: I don’t know that that’s so nice. What am I doing to stay sane, you didn’t particularly ask? Listening to music, that’s good, and hiking in the desert, and beading, and making a needlepoint of the opening screen of Super Mario Bros for Violet, and playing Animal Crossing, and having migraines. Can’t care about the body politic when you’ve got the old Boethius hat on, can you? However, I do not recommend this terrifying mighty distractive tool to anyone not currently serving in the Trump administration. That dead-eyed D-List-Goebbels/Pee Wee Herman guy, frex; he could be trying to puke out a headache right now and I’d feel fine with that. I had a nice neurologist inject my head with deadly botulin toxin on Monday afternoon and you must all do a save-Tinkerbell clapping thing for me whereby you wish very hard that this start to work soon. It very well should might better! So, what are you, the Plain People of Crooked Timber, doing to stay sane slowly inch away from the precipice of panicked madness? It’s ok if you’re huffing paint; no hate.

UPDATE: other things, called to mind by ozma and the Solange song: playing with adorable children; going alternately in the insanely hot hot tub and then the cold pool; changing my hair, which has been pastel blue, and then lavender, with white in between (needed prep) about 6 times each.

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A double disaster for science and public health (updated)

by John Quiggin on February 16, 2017

Zombies never die, and that’s even more true of zombie ideas. One of the most thoroughly killed zombies, the myth that Rachel Carson is responsible for millions of deaths from DDT, has recently re-emerged from the rightwing nethersphere where it has continued to circulate despite repeated refutation. That wouldn’t be worth yet another long post except for the source: Dr Paul Offit, a prominent pediatrician and leading pro-vaccination campaigner, writing in the Daily Beast. Offit’s revival of the DDT ban myth is a double disaster for science and public health.

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Happy Valentine’s Day

by Belle Waring on February 14, 2017

Doilies! Glitter! Overpriced prix fixe menus! But there are songs too.

Is this the best soul song ever? Wait, no, the most beautiful? The way he makes his voice break on “please hear my cry” blows my mind every time.

I hope you all eat chocolate or enjoy the highest pleasure of souls entwined who, the modeling the other on Zeus, begin to grow wings because of their intense attraction to and vivid memory of the Forms, or whatever. But with less physical restraint? (The Phaedrus is not crystal clear on this point.) I’m going to finally see my honey at 10 pm on Monday!

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Sunday photoblogging: steps

by Chris Bertram on February 12, 2017

Steps

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Howl’s Moving Castle

by John Holbo on February 11, 2017

It’s good to see that National Review is awakening to the threat of one branch of government being afflicted by lunacy and threatening to ride roughshod over the other branches, and the Constitution.

I’ve been seeing much Facebook bemusement this morning over this opinion piece by Eugene Kontorovich.

More broadly, constitutional structure supports examining only executive statements to interpret executive action. When Trump made his most controversial statements, he was private citizen. He had not sworn to uphold the Constitution, or to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. He was, in this sense, a legally differently obligated person. His policies and their relation to the Constitution would presumably be affected by his oath — that is why the Constitution requires it.
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Alan Simpson is dead

by Harry on February 8, 2017

My dad lost a lot of blood a couple of years ago. Enough to have us all quite worried. I knew he was getting better when I asked him how much he’d lost and he said “very nearly a legful”.

Listen to the lead up to the punchline. Listen to every word. Of course, ‘very nearly’ is perfect—better than ‘nearly’ or ‘almost’ or… any other word. But every word Hancock says is perfect—chosen to emphasize all the features of the real Hancock’s personality that make the fictional Hancock so grotesque, pitiable, but loveable. For some reason, Pinter won a Nobel prize for literature, but Galton and Simpson didn’t. And now they won’t.

Alan Simpson obit here. (My dad’s fine—he got refilled thanks, presumably, to someone who had ‘a body full of good British blood’ [1] and was ‘raring to go’).

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That’s the title of my latest piece in The Guardian. There are two key points

First, in terms of effective tax rates and tax paid, any means-tested Guaranteed Minimum Income can be replicated by a non-tested Universal Basic Income, and vice versa

Second, for a number of reasons, it would be better to begin by expanding access to an adequate Basic income (in Australia, the Age Pension is an obvious benchmark) rather than starting with a small universal payment and then increasing it to a level sufficient to live on.

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Purity, Partisanship, Pluralism

by John Holbo on February 7, 2017

A lifetime ago – in subjective Trump-time! – I made a post about how pussyhats are potent symbols. Social justice! Purity politics. Sacred values. This seems obvious to me. Then again, as a young man they made me read Durkheim. (There’s a myth about the U of Chicago: they make you read all Plato-Thucydides-Tocqueville, all the time, your first year. In my experience they had so many darn anthropologists, many of us spent our first year reading Geertz, Boas, Benedict, Levy-Bruhl, others. Not anything Allan Bloom might have approved for our tender-minded consumption. Anthropologists are mad, you see, so keep them busy lest they make trouble. They were tasked with instilling ‘core values’ in the young: relativism! Yes, yes, Durkheim is a structural functionalist. Close enough for scandalizing rubes and maroons! Ah, mid-80’s memories.)

The point of my pussyhat example was to to illustrate my allegations about blindspots and contradictions in Jonathan Haidt’s popular writings on the subject of partisanship, PC and pluralism. Things got hot in comments. (Not everyone has read Durkheim, it must be.) Then Haidt showed up in comments (Crooked Timber gets results!) He linked to a post he made, rebutting mine. So now I’m going to rebut the rebuttal. [click to continue…]

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Whose Strike?

by Alex Gourevitch on February 6, 2017

Following the massive Women’s March and the surprising partial success of protests against Trump’s immigration ban, many feel that the logical step is to escalate. Seize the momentum, put more pressure on the administration, disrupt and paralyze as much as possible. I feel it myself. There are ways in which there is more possibility in the air than there has been in a long time, and Trump has wasted little time going about his authoritarian business.

That, no doubt, is the reason why the idea of calling for a general strike – a general national strike – has caught the imagination over the past few days. After Francine Prose put the idea out in the Guardian, it spread rapidly throughout social media, and split into multiple proposals and counter-proposals.

Some, including Prose herself, see themselves carrying on in a venerable tradition of mass social disruption. But, as much as these proposals look like a natural response to the moment, they are severely disconnected from reality. Calling for a general strike now bears no relation to what mass strikes have meant in the past. The flight from reality shows up in activists’ blasé attitude to history and their very distant relationship to the working class.

The United States has the most violent labor history of any major industrial country. General and other large-scale strikes in the US have nearly always been met with major repression, from police, National Guard, even federal troops. For instance, the general strike in San Francisco of 1934, which developed out of a longshoremen’s strike, led to running battles with the police and a number of deaths.

Running battles on San Francisco’s Embarcadero 

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Sunday photoblogging: off to to the match

by Chris Bertram on February 5, 2017

Off to the football

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She Decides

by Ingrid Robeyns on February 3, 2017

The Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation has launched an initiative to raise funds to counter the possible effects of Trumps’ signing of the so-called Mexico City Policy (also called ‘global gag rule’), which prohibits US government funding of organizations that provide access to abortions, or information about it. The initiative is called She Decides, and aims to give girls and women access to family planning services. [click to continue…]

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Trumpism in Australia

by John Quiggin on February 3, 2017

I’ve had this post in draft for a while, not entirely satisfied with it, but on the rare occasion of Australia making the front pages of US papers I thought I should post it ready or not.

After the cataclysm of Trump’s election, quite a few US-based friends asked me about moving to Australia. I had, as they say, good news and bad news. First, the bad news. Over the last few years, Australia has had no less than four Trumpist political parties, two of which currently form the government. We may yet get a fifth. The goods news is that, in most respects, they have been surprisingly ineffectual. That’s, partly because of constraints in our political system and partly because of the inherent limits of Trumpist politics.

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