Sunday, September 29, 2013


Just returned from a tour of Auschwitz I and Birkenau... 

I don't know what to say right now other than:


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Heroes of the Keyan Mall Murders: Abdul Haji

This dude is awesome.

Another Brit's Heroic Actions in the Kenyan Mall Murders

Mitul Shah dies trying to save kids from the Kenyan Mall murderers.

Seriously you are made of sterner stuff...

[Daily Mail via Reddit]

Friday, September 27, 2013

Greetings from Krakow...

...where I'm attending a conference. 

I've never been to Poland before, so that's exciting. I've basically only seen the three blocks between my hotel and the Jagiellonian University law school...but, still...tres European...

My paper is solid, but my talk was shitty...a cold + terminal jet lag + bad sleep + no chance to prepare overheads + no water for speakers didn't exactly help...but, meh, waddaya gonna do?  I seem to be making a habit of giving shitty talks of late...

Thus far the Poles have seemed not terribly friendly to me...but it's a big city, so that may very well explain it. At the very least, it's likely overdetermined...

That's all I got...

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

You've Got To Love The Brits (Kenyon Mall Attack Edition)

Not to ignore all the other compelling aspects of this monstrous crime, nor what are undoubtedly other acts of heroism by many different people...but here are the first two stories I've read concerning  specific individuals:

4-year-old British boy and his family and others freed after boy tells attacker "You are a bad man."

Former Royal Marine re-enters Kenyan mall 12 times, saves 100 people

One hates to give them bigger heads than they already have, but dang, you do have to love the bloody Brits.

McAullife Leads Cuccinelli by 8 points


The less-bad option by a mile.

Monday, September 23, 2013

False Equivalence Watch: CNN: Gov't Shutdown if GOP and Dems "Don't Stop Bickering"

Just over a week remains. If the Democrats and Republicans don't stop bickering and agree to how the U.S. should pay its bills, the federal government will shut down, come October 1.
Because, of course, that's exactly what's happening. GOP...Democrats...six of one, half a dozen of the other... If they'd just compromise already, everything would be fine...

Why can't the irenic centrists and the maniacal, dogmatic extremists hellbent on ruining the economy just meet in the middle for chrissake?

I mean, that's what they should have done in Birthergate...  All that bickering over whether Obama was born in Hawaii or Kenya...they should have just compromised on, like, Venezuela or something. Problem solved! But no... Nothing but bicker, bicker, bicker like a couple of school kids. I swear...

U.S. Military Likely to Retire the A-10


The cynical part of my reaction is: I guess it's too cheap and does it's job too well. Best replace it by a fragile, expensive plane that's a jack-of-all-trades and master of none... (JSF, I'm looking at you... (though, actually, it's not yet clear that the F-35 can actually do anything...))

Needless to say, the Pentagon knows more--and cares more--than I do, though. So I expect that that part of my reaction really is just cheap cynicism.

Drum: How Austerity Wrecked the American Economy

You already know the basic story...but here's a summary of Drum's new piece on it.

al-Libi Dead in Syria Fighting

I call this win-win...

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Case of CJD Confirmed in New Hampshire


Worse, the person had brain surgery, and 13 other patients may have been exposed to the surgical instruments. Standard sterilization in an autoclave may not be sufficient.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Wired on the CDC's New Report on Antibiotics

Austerity: New Extremes

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Tom DeLay Money Laundering Conviction Overturned.


No comment, other than that I hope that the court got it right.

Road Rage + Concealsed Weapons --> 2 Dead

Well, this is no good for CCW defenders...

Of course, Guy 1 might have both initiated some kind of vehicular hostilities against Guy 2 and initiated gunplay as well, in which case Guy 2 was at least able to get his licks in before being killed...  But that's stretching a bit. Sounds like yet another situation in which the presence of firearms just made things worse. (I mean: 2 firearms are worse than 0 firearms in this case, clearly, though there are easily-imaginable versions of this case in which 1 firearms would have been at least a little bit worse than 2 of them...)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

McAuliffe Up 3 Points on Cuccinelli

Well, good news given the options, I reckon.

Better the slimeball than the nutbag.

Firearms: Starbucks's Reasonable Request

They are asking people not to carry openly in their stores anymore. In fact, they are asking people not to bring in firearms at all, so that entails that they don't want people carrying concealed firearms either. 

I respect this request in part because it seems so un-American. By which I mean: they're not trying to get a law in place, they're not making some kind of putatively enforceable rule...they're just saying "hey, we'd rather you not." 

I'm not a CCW enthusiast...  I've had my own application sitting around un-submitted for some time. I don't like carrying, and carrying brings with it more disadvantages than advantages IMO--at least in the fairly peaceful area where I live. I'll probably get a permit someday, just to have it...but I'm hardly passionate about the whole thing. At any rate: I think people should respect Starbucks' request, and I plan to do so. 

Yeah, it wouldn't surprise me if this request had its origins in agitation by some whiny soccer moms/dads...but it's best not to dwell on such things. It's a reasonable request, even if it will please a lot of unreasonable people.

Anyway, that's my initial reaction.

The Navy Yard Shooter Should Not Have Been Permitted to Own Firearms

It's hard for me to imagine that anyone would seriously deny the proposition that the Navy Yard shooter is exactly the kind of person who should not be allowed to own firearms.

He had a history of using firearms in property crimes (e.g. shooting out people's tires, shooting through the floor of his apartment, seemingly at the person who lived below him). I don't see how anyone could reasonably argue that he shouldn't have lost his right to own guns after the tire incident alone.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

CDC Antibiotic/Antimicrobial Resistance Threat Report 2013


Unsurprisingly, this is alarming.

Confirmation that Ghouta Sarin Attacks Were Conducted by Assad Regime

Drum summarizes.

A Surprising Fact About the Navy Yard Shooter

I'm sure I don't have to point it out, but:

Not white.  

Unusual for a mass shooter in the U.S., no?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Russian Shot in Quarrel Over Kant


I'm going to guess it was over the Transcendental Deduction...though the Second Analogy is the bit that has pushed me closest to violence...

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Pat Robertson: Gays Be Intentionally Infectin' You With Teh Gay...and AIDS...With Secret Pokey Spy Rings...

via Reddit...allegedly Mr. Robertson would like this scrubbed from the intertubes...

Do let me know how that works out for ya, Pat.

50 Years Since the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing



What can one say? One of the most gut-wrenching events of the struggle for civil rights. I didn't know the date, but just happened to run across this.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Lead in Gas: 4 Grams/Gallon????

Leaded gas typically had 4 grams of lead per gallon??????

This seems unbelievable to me.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Rich Get Richer Through the Recovery

GOP Politicizes Anniversary of 9/11

Still, pathetically, beating the dead Benghazi horse...


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Patriarchy Is Dead

Why, yes it is...

And it has been for quite some time now.

Which is, of course, not to say that things are optimal. (Silly that I have to explicitly say that, but there it is...)


Well, here we are.

I have nothing interesting to say about it.

Monday, September 09, 2013

George Zimmerman Questioned After Allegedly Assaulting Wife's Family; Gun Involved

Well, this certainly seems to offer substantial support to the anti-Zimmerman position.

(via Reddit)

WaPo: Obama Administration Had Restrictions On NSA Reversed in 2011


This seems pretty bad.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Sushmita Banerjee Murdered by Extremists in Afghanistan

Because this is what the Taliban does to women who get out of line. Or, well, anyone who gets out of line...though their conception of what constitutes getting out of line is much stricter in the case of women.

I very much hope that the people responsible have a rendezvous with a drone in the very near future...

Rush Limbaugh's Children's Book

Oh, this should be awesome.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Syria: The Credibility Argument

Will we lose credibility if we fail to strike Syria?

I never know what to think of such arguments... We'll lose some credibility no matter what we do here, I'd say. Is anyone seriously trying to figure out which course of action will cost us more credibility? Or, for that matter, the relative value of lost credibility and the other things that we stand to lose or gain?

Um, no, right?

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Syria: Obama Goes to Congress

Just expressing my (belated, unimportant) approval of Obama's decision to seek Congressional approval for strikes against Syria. I would have bet money that he wasn't going to do it. I'm happy about that not because I think they'll vote against it, but, rather, because I generally favor seeking Congress's approval for military action that isn't in response to an imminent threat.

I continue to be basically against strikes in Syria for the same old reasons... Though I tend to favor humanitarian military interventions generally, I don't think we have the moral/political capital to take this one on. It is permissible, after all, for other countries to take the lead on occasion. It's obviously pointless to look to the U.N. on this one...but that doesn't mean that it's got to be us. Furthermore, chemical weapons are not that dangerous, so I don't buy the national defense argument for strikes against those who use chemical weapons. Pound for pound, they are no more lethal than conventional weapons.

None of this is to say that I'm not concerned about the situation in Syria. It's horrible. But my current view is that we just can't do this one. It's yet another opportunity cost of the Iraq debacle...

I'd be happy to change my mind if I'm making an obvious error. I haven't had anything like sufficient time to devote to thinking about this.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

"What's Wrong With Philosophy?"

Well, we're two essays in, and it turns out that the answer is, basically, "men"...

This essay is a particularly weak offering. Alcoff begins by discussing Colin McGinn's apparent attempt to shift the blame for his sexual harassment of a female student onto the student, claiming that she wasn't good enough at the philosophy of language to properly understand his innuendo. Alcoff then writes:
Alas, McGinn’s self-defense echoes a common narrative in the discipline concerning its demographic challenges. As The Times article reports, and the philosophy blogosphere will confirm, the paucity in philosophy of women and people of color is often blamed on us. Some suggest it is philosophy’s “rough and tumble” style of debate that has turned us women and nonwhite males away. Logical implication: we may just not be cut out for such a demanding field.
Well, it's worth noting that the only times I have ever heard this explanation seriously offered by philosophers was when it was offered by feminist philosophers. The explanation might be might even be stupid or sexist. But Alcoff suggests that it's offered by men in order to suggest that women and non-whites aren't up to snuff, rigor-wise. In fact, I've only every heard it offered by feminists who meant to suggest that the field of philosophy was defective on account of being too aggressive...

And that little bit of sophistry tells you much of what you need to know about this essay...

(Incidentally, I used to argue with some feminists of my acquaintance about the claim that philosophy was too combative... I used to be of the if-you-can't-stand-the-heat-get-out-of-the-crucible-of-truth school of thought... Now I firmly believe that they were right and I was wrong. The aggressiveness of philosophical discussion tends to turn it into debate, not inquiry. Egos become involved. People get angry and defensive. It becomes a zero-sum game... None of that is conducive to finding the truth, as Peirce tried to tell us long ago...)

Alcoff also writes:
The issue is not debate, simpliciter, but how it is done. Too many philosophers accept the idea that truth is best achieved by a marketplace of ideas conducted in the fashion of ultimate fighting. But aggressive styles that seek easy victories by harping on arcane counterexamples do not maximize truth. Nor does making use of the social advantages one might have by virtue of one’s gender, ethnicity or seniority. Nor does stubbornly refusing to acknowledge the real world contexts, rife with implicit bias and power distortions, in which even philosophical debates always occur.
As I've indicated, I agree with the first sentence (mixed metaphors notwithstanding...) But arcane examples are often the crucial I'm puzzled about what to do with the next one. The rest of it's an attempt to sneak in a particular (intellectually leftist, extremely contentious) view to the effect that things like race and sex and so forth are always relevant in philosophical discussion... It isn't true...but, perhaps more importantly, if it's going to be included, then it should be asserted and defended, not sneaked in almost in passing...

What's wrong with philosophy? Well, the problems that have been discussed so far in this series might not make my top ten... Though they are still worth discussing, I suppose. I do wish, however, that they'd really be discussed openly, honestly, and thoroughly. What we have, instead, are some programmatic, politically-slanted polemical essays that ignore and presuppose exactly enough to give the impression, basically, that what's wrong with philosophy is men. Pretty weak stuff, really, and an embarrassment to the discipline in more than just the intended way...

"Teach Naked": Sexual Harassment?


tl;dr: Instructor gives evaluations to students. One question is: what can I do to keep students' attention better? One student responds: "teach naked." Instructor freaks the f*ck out, claims sexual harassment. Metafilter (aka: Tumblr for grown-up otherkin) does likewise, of course...and notes, inter alia, that anyone who doesn't is probably a sexual harasser himself...

So I put it to you:

Sexual harassment, yeah or nay?

Proportionate response by the instructor, yeah or nay?