Free trip to Israel

by Eszter Hargittai on April 16, 2004

It’s that time of year again, time for 18-26-year-old Jews who have never been on an educational trip to Israel to sign up for a free trip. I went four years ago and it was truly an experience of a lifetime. I realize I went when things were calmer, but people have been going for the past four years without problems. Although at some level there is an underlying agenda – the organizers would like visitors to enjoy their time and develop an interest in Israel – there is nothing forced about the program. Many students who go are secular or have little connection to their Jewish heritage and keep questioning many things while there. We had very interesting discussions both amongst ourselves (you travel with a group of students and a few organizers) and with people we met there.

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Mind-Body Problems

by John Holbo on April 16, 2004

I linked to this at John & Belle, but let me share it here – and advertise it a bit more strenuously: philosophy action figures!

I like Plato (with divided line® accessory). “Enemies progress from imagining to believing to knowing they’re in trouble!” And Gottlob “Ain’t afraid a-ya” Frege “with both Morning Star® and Evening Star® accessories (only one accessory included).” Spinoza’s good too. “The order and connection of his fists is the same as the order and connection of his enemies’ pain!” Ouch! That’ll take the everlasting joy out of life!

Reminds me of my own good old Philosophical Abecedarium. Please feel free to leave your poetical contributions in the comments box. (I’ve got two K’s – Kant and Kierkegaard – so I could use more.)

And speaking of all sorts of mind-body problems, here’s your philosophical puzzle for the day: can ‘carnal knowledge’ be adequately defined as ‘justified, true carnal belief’? Answer either as Dan Savage or Edmund Gettier.

Local interest

by Ted on April 16, 2004

The local alt weekly, the Houston Press, can be hit or miss, but it’s a good week. Worth reading:

* The cover story on Islamica News, a Muslim Onion-style spoof website that’s not bad. Headlines include “Halal Butcher Loses Finger, Hopes No One Notices“, “Muslims Form New Bloc Vote Organization: ‘Get Backstabbed 2004“, and “Man Blames Everything on Jews“.

* Music writer John Lomax tells the story of Nirvana’s three Houston shows. It includes this anecdote:

“The day after the Houston gig, the band was supposed to play an electric in-store at Waterloo in Austin, but the Waterloo staff spaced and forgot to get amps. Someone in the audience furnished Cobain with an acoustic guitar, which he destroyed at the end of the show.”

My affection for Kurt Cobain just went way, way down. I don’t care if you’re Jimi Hendrix, you don’t smash a fan’s guitar.

* Finally, there’s an eerie story about one of Spalding Gray’s worst performances.

UPDATE: In comments, Basharov says that he attended the Spalding Gray show described in the article, and tells his story.

Comments Threads and Spam

by Brian on April 16, 2004

A lot of people use fake, or altered, email addresses on comments threads, presumably because they want to avoid being flooded with spam. But it turns out that these are actually not that vulnerable to spammers harvesting.

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Fort Marcy Park

by Ted on April 16, 2004

Left-wing partisans: file this story away somewhere. You never know when you’ll need it. Thanks, Steve.

Against Equality of Opportunity, Part II

by John Q on April 16, 2004

When I first posted on Matt Cavanagh‘s Against Equality of Opportunity, a lot of the discussion focussed on the way Cavanagh’s views on race and gender discrimination were being used by The Guardian as a stick with which to beat UK Home Secretary David Blunkett, who had recently hired Cavanagh. Unlike Chris, I wasn’t sufficiently closely attuned to UK politics to pick up on this, and, in any case was most interested in the general issue raised by the book’s title.

It took me a while to get hold of the book from our library, but I’ve finally been able to read it. Having done so, I agree with Chris and others that the Guardian story was a dreadful beat-up. Cavanagh’s views on anti-discrimination policy are unexceptionable, and his main concern is on working through the reasons why we might support laws prohibiting racial and gender-based discrimination while opposing a general principle of meritocracy.

On the other hand, I see no reason to change the (pre)judgement I made, based on the reviews I had read, that,

Cavanagh seems to take the naturalness of capitalist property relations as a given, and argue against equality from there, in the manner of Nozick, though not with the same commitment to pushing premises to their logical conclusions.

Given that he is dealing with issues that have been debated for well over a century, the extent to which Cavanagh’s analysis takes for granted assumptions that (on the left at least) have been widely accepted only in the past fifteen years or so, is truly striking. The main change I’d make is to substitute “employment relations” for “property relations”.

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