Mighty Morphin Power Brokers

by John Holbo on October 20, 2005

Fast on the heels of Henry’s post about Tom DeLay’s ‘I am become county sheriff’s office’ incarnation – another report of another powerful legislator managing a yet more abstract transmogrification [transmogrifaction?]: “According to the Associated Press, Alaska’s senior senator was the forefront today of a clash of generations and political philosophy.” Sounds Hegelian.

Ye Ladies of Easy Leisure

by Kieran Healy on October 20, 2005

So by now everyone and his same-sex partner knows that Maggie Gallagher’s “stint at Volokh”:https://crookedtimber.org/2005/10/19/same-sex-marriage-breakdown/ is one long struggle between “her strong argument”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0385500858/kieranhealysw-20/ that marriage has many benefits and her “handwaving”:http://volokh.com/archives/archive_2005_10_16-2005_10_22.shtml#1129815953 about gay people bringing down the Roman Empire. As I “said originally”:https://crookedtimber.org/2005/10/18/same-sex-marriage/, if you think the world is going to hell in a handbasket, you probably believe that same-sex marriage is the least of the threats to civilization-as-we-know-and-like-it. Well, via “Lawyers, Guns and Money”:http://lefarkins.blogspot.com/2005/10/deep-thoughts-from-land-of-double.html here is “Leon Kass”:http://www.boundless.org/2005/articles/a0001154.cfm — Addie Clark Harding Professor in the Committee on Social Thought and The College at the University of Chicago, and Chairman of the President’s Commission on Bioethics — in the first of a three-part series on what’s _really_ wrong with America:

Today, there are no socially prescribed forms of conduct that help guide young men and women in the direction of matrimony … most young women strike me as sad, lonely, and confused … today’s collegians do not even make dates or other forward-looking commitments to see one another; in this, as in so many other ways, they reveal their blindness to the meaning of the passing of time. … Here is a (partial) list of the recent changes that hamper courtship and marriage: the sexual revolution, made possible especially by effective female contraception; the ideology of feminism and the changing educational and occupational status of women; the destigmatization of bastardy, divorce, infidelity, and abortion; the general erosion of shame and awe regarding sexual matters, … widespread morally neutral sex education in schools; the explosive increase in the numbers of young people whose parents have been divorced … great increases in geographic mobility, with a resulting loosening of ties to place and extended family of origin; … and an ethos that lacks transcendent aspirations and asks of us no devotion to family, God, or country, encouraging us simply to soak up the pleasures of the present.

Now that’s more like it. The end of bastardy! The rise of female contraception! Divorce! Sex education! Cars! Maggie Gallagher could learn a thing or two from Leon Kass. If you think society is being dragged to perdition by a bunch of car-owning, pill-popping, body-piercing, career-oriented, degree-granted, sexually confident, frequent-flyer, atheistic sluts then just come out and _say_ it. And the best part is, Leon is just warming up.
[click to continue…]

Creative Reasoning

by Kieran Healy on October 20, 2005

“Here’s a story”:http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/21/business/21adco.html from the Times about an apparently well-known Ad executive who said there aren’t many female creative executives (the people who come up with Ad campaigns) because they aren’t up to the job:

bq. Mr. French told an audience … that women “don’t make it to the top because they don’t deserve to,” saying their roles as caregivers and childbearers prevented them from succeeding in top positions. … Mr. French is often called one of advertising’s best copywriters … His reputation is built in part on his knack for streamlining print advertising copy. … In an interview, Mr. French defended his remarks. “A belligerent question deserves a belligerent answer,” he said. “The answer is, They don’t work hard enough. It’s not a joke job. The future of the entire agency is in your hands as creative director.” … Mr. French said he did not regret his remarks, but thought the reaction to them was “lunacy.” “I’m extremely sad about it,” said Mr. French, who has been widely pilloried on the Internet. “Death by blog is not really the way to go.”

What I like about this is that he couldn’t blame it on women’s lack of math skills or their preference for communication over analysis, or their edge in verbal rather than numerical reasoning. Unless maybe “streamlining advertising copy” involves a lot of complex topological manipulations. As for “Death by blog,” I guess there’s some irony watching the world’s top ad guy radically misjudge consumer sentiment.

The Exterminator!

by Henry on October 20, 2005

“Matt Cheney”:http://mumpsimus.blogspot.com/2005/10/tom-delay-shape-shifter.html tells us that Tom DeLay has a hitherto unknown secret superpower. In addition to “interdimensional travel and death-grip gloves”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death-Stalker, he can transform himself into a large public building “in the blink of an eye”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/20/AR2005102000248.html. The Washington Post tells us that

bq. Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) turned himself into the county sheriff’s office in Houston, and was then photographed, fingerprinted, and released


Update: the wording seems to have been changed while I was writing the post, but if you go to the Post’s “main page”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/ quickly, you can still see “Former House majority leader turns himself into sheriff’s office in carefully planned appearance.”

William Morris: sufficientarian and capability theorist

by Chris Bertram on October 20, 2005

I happened to be reading a paper by a friend today and came across a lovely passage by “William Morris”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_morris on the principle of distribution that would obtain in a socialist society. The passage is from Morris’s “What Socialists Want”:http://www.marxists.org/archive/morris/works/tmp/want.htm and I found it interesting in the light of the arguments that go on today among egalitarian liberal political philosophers. Thus spake Morris:

bq. when a family that is comfortably-off sit down to a leg of mutton how do they act? do they bring in a pair of scales and weigh out to each one his share of the victuals? No that is done in a prison, but not in a family: in a family everybody has what he needs and no one grudges it: Mary has one slice, Jack has two, and Bill has four: but Mary and Jack don’t feel wronged, since they have had as much as they wanted: and the reason for this is that enough has been provided, and that the members of the family trust one another. My friends it is for you to choose whether you will live in a prison or a family: we Socialists beg you to choose the latter.

The important thing for Morris is that everyone have enough, and that everyone trusts one another sufficiently to be assured that others are not taking more than they need. And he contrasts this with an attitude of (suspicious) calculation. I’m not sure whether Morris is enunciating a principle of justice here, or whether he would say that justice is inherently calculative and that these are circumstances of abundance where the watchful attitude of strict justice no longer applies. But if (and it’s a big if) this is taken as a principle of justice, then it is notable that he isn’t endorsing a principle of strict equality, but rather one of sufficiency. Indeed this contrast is even clearer towards the beginning of the text where Morris writes:

bq. So you see whatever inequality I admit among people, I claim this equality – that everybody should have full enough food, clothes, and housing, and full enough leisure, pleasure, and education; and that everybody should have a certainty of these necessaries: in this case we should be equal as Socialists use the word ….

Again, a principle of sufficiency and the suggestion of the dimensions of human existence in which we should have sufficient that prefigures some of the lists of essential capabilites that Martha Nussbaum enumerates in various places.

The falcon cannot hear the falconer

by Henry on October 20, 2005

Sam Rosenfeld and Matt Yglesias have written a very important article on the “liberal hawks”:http://www.prospect.org/web/page.ww?section=root&name=ViewWeb&articleId=10454, and whether or not the Iraq invasion was doomed from the start. I don’t agree with everything they say – their idea of a liberal internationalist policy seems to me to understate what’s possible. But their main point seems to me to be indisputable. The claim that the Iraq invasion could have worked if competent people had undertaken it doesn’t hold water. The US military, as it was then and is now, simply doesn’t have the resources or the will. When liberal hawks argue otherwise, they’re mistaken at best, and at worst positively disingenuous. I think that the underlying burden of Rosenfeld and Yglesias’ argument is also quite compelling. Liberal hawks, because of their failure to face up to their mistakes honestly, are doing serious damage to the liberal approach to international affairs. They’re effectively discrediting the argument that the US should (where possible) help spread democracy and protect human rights, and abdicating the high ground to pragmatic realists.

bq. An honest reckoning with this war’s failure does not threaten the future of liberal interventionism. Instead, it is liberal interventionism’s only hope. By erecting a false dichotomy between support for the current bad war and a Kissingerian amoralism, the dodgers run the risk of merely driving ever-larger numbers of liberals into the realist camp. Left-of-center opinion neither will nor should follow a group of people who continue to insist that the march to Baghdad was, in principle, the height of moral policy thinking. If interventionism is to be saved, it must first be saved from the interventionists.

This is exactly right.

Also see Matt’s “evisceration”:http://yglesias.tpmcafe.com/story/2005/10/20/105013/21 of a bogus George Will op-ed on health care and globalization; he’s clearly on a roll.

Decline of Nordic Character

by Henry on October 20, 2005

Adding my little bit to the Maggie Gallagher “pile”:https://crookedtimber.org/2005/10/18/same-sex-marriage/ “up”:https://crookedtimber.org/2005/10/19/same-sex-marriage-breakdown/ ; isn’t her “claim-in-passing”:http://www.volokh.com/archives/archive_2005_10_16-2005_10_22.shtml#1129815953 that the Roman Empire collapsed because of “death by sexual disorganization” rather entertaining? Sounds like a great way to go out to me; even more fun than Death by Chocolate (what clobbered the Aztecs, as any fule kno). Gallagher isn’t the first to advance this thesis – I “linked”:https://crookedtimber.org/2003/08/25/decline-and-fall/ a while back to a list which included childlessness and homosexuality among 210 extant explanations for the decline of the Roman Empire. But her claim seems no less ridiculous on its face than some of the other putative causes, which include bolshevisation, culinary excess, decline of Nordic character, female emancipation, Jewish influence, hyperthermia, tristesse and vulgarization. “Explaining” the collapse of Rome seems to be one of those historical Rorschach tests in which quack amateur sociologists stare into the inkblots and see their own prejudices and crackpottery staring back out at them.


by John Holbo on October 20, 2005

How weird that you could write these two sentences: “But anti-elitism and conservatism are not and never have been the same thing. And I do think this will be more obvious in the months and years to come.”

Sakharov prize

by Chris Bertram on October 20, 2005

The European Parliament website has “details of the shortlist for the Sakharov prize”:http://www.europarl.eu.int/news/public/story_page/008-1413-285-10-41-901-20051013STO01412-2005-12-10-2005/default_en.htm , “awarded annually to the person or group who are judged to have made a “particular achievement” in the promotion and protection of freedom of thought.” The 2005 finalists are:

bq. “Ladies in white” (“Damas de Blanco”) of Cuba: This group of women have been protesting peacefully every Sunday since 2004 against the continued detention of their husbands and sons who are political dissidents in Cuba. They wear white as a symbol of peace and the innocence of those imprisoned.

bq. Hauwa Ibrahim: Of humble birth, she has risen to be a leading Nigerian human rights lawyer. She represents women who face being stoned to death for adultery and young people facing amputation for theft under Islamic Sharia law.

bq. “Reporters without Frontiers”: This international organisation campaigns for press freedom throughout the world. It also champions the protection of journalists and other media professionals from censorship or harassment.

That looks like a good shortlist to me. The fact that the European Parliament is celebrating Cuban dissidents and defenders of the victims of Sharia doesn’t really fit with the narratives promoted by Insta-people, EUrabians etc, so I expect they’ll just ignore the whole thing.