Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Anyone Else?

I'm not in the mood right now. The financial aid office is illiterate and innumerate, and thus I'm trying to find a way not to be evicted next week.

Post or don't. I'll be back soon, hopefully still in law school.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I started as a 3L yesterday. Funny anecdote.

In Securities (Act of 1933, if you want the whole title of the course), the professor was explaining that she allowed laptops but cautioned people not to play games or surf the web on them. "The reason I say this is because..." and somewhere in the middle of the word "because" a student's laptop made a loud instant messaging sound. This actually happened at the precise moment it could be most relevant and most arouse laughter from students and professor.

That's all.

Monday, August 25, 2008


Another stupid philosophy article? Yoooou betcha. I'll hit the highlights.
"Would the world be a better place if kids began learning philosophy in school? Yes. It would result in a more inquiring society, a society of thinkers who are rational and reasonable."
We live in a society that also depends on automotive mechanics, short order cooks, retail cashiers, and police officers. Do these people really need to know the predicate calculus?
On the world stage, philosophy is part of the high school curriculum throughout Europe and Latin America; it's only the English-speaking countries such as the United States, Britain, New Zealand, Canada and Australia that are to catch up.
I've always suspected that Anglo-Americans were sensible people. And look! I was right. Again.
The Queensland program is taught to year 10, 11 and 12 students at Calamvale and is composed of three strands: deductive logic, critical thinking and pure philosophy.
Pure philosophy. What is that, speculation about the metaphysics of philosophy, or what?
"I now question absolutely everything, and I take everyone's word as opinion and not fact," Said says.
Perhaps when he gets to "pure philosophy," Said here will discover the utter stupidity of this ouroboros of a first principle. I'm skeptical, though.
As for Sara: "I'm Christian so I had very firm beliefs to begin with. But I found that even then I was able to become more sceptical and think about things in a different way because I had learnt to reason. Philosophy is not a yes or no subject."
"p and ~p" is a satisfiable schema. Yes or no, Sara? The law school "it depends" answer won't fly, but I don't want to be too hard on someone who hasn't taken logic in high school, thus being totally unable to figure out what this means.


So this is what philosophy-in-high-schools is - a justification for philosophically-bankrupt, intellectually-dishonest, faux-transgressive skepticism about everything. The problem with skepticism about everything is that it's totally absurd, self-defeating, and leads absolutely nowhere, so, while one can entertain the thought that nothing true exists, it's the basis for a dead philosophy of nothing. Naturally, philosophers, not wanting to be put out of business by too-clever-by-half sophistry, tend to disdain extreme skepticism.

But by all means, let's create an entire country of nihilists, eagerly impaling sensible people with their razor-sharp negation signs.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Quousque tandem abutere, Catilina, patientia nostra

I tried to watch this apparently relevant-to-my-interests video. You know what? I can't get past the four minute mark.

I don't understand why giving a speech always has to be such a self-indulgent affair. How in love with the sound of your own voice do you have to be to prattle on like literally everyone does when making a public presentation?

When you're up in front of a crowd, you have a responsibility to say only things that will be relevant to that crowd. Anything else is a waste of their time and ultimately reflects your own inflated ego. Your words are interesting only insofar as they can convey information about something or trace the outlines of an argument that will lead to something important. Anything else you say, with the exception of a very brief allotment for formalities, is worthless. If you are saying one worthless thing, your listener naturally suspects everything you say.

This post should make it clear why Clarence Thomas deserves some respect. After having read briefs, he doesn't need to hear his own brilliant intellect asking puny lawyers questions to make up his mind.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Belgians are stupid.
H. Cattoir, Belgium
Georgia, backed by the idea the US and some West European will help them, recently was attacking Ossetia, bombarding and killing civilians. An act normally punished by The Hague International Court. The reason: There president became very unpopular and tried a strategy used by some dictators. Alas, he didn't win and now he is screaming for help. I remember we where told the cold war was over, but instead I see the US positioned troops in most of East European, and even in Asian country's, damaging their independence. Probably to promote peace? I know Georgia still has monuments for Stalin (may be for Beria too?). I think it is the last country having them.
Least literate thing read today, but it's still early...

Oh, Right

For several reasons, I haven't updated lately. I thought I was just being lazy the past couple days, but when my malaise was followed by actual bronchial congestion, I knew I was really sick. So I suppose I have a genuine excuse! Still, I don't think it would trouble me too much to update.

So, expect that.

Thursday, August 14, 2008



Robert Brandom, University of Pittsburgh. Awesomest beard ever.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Thought Devourer

Don't understand an issue? Write about it anyway!
While nobody can blame the McCain campaign for using tire-gauge jokes to prompt some real discussion on energy policy, the fact some Americans became incensed over a call to pump up the PSI simply speaks to the immaturity of the electorate.
It's sort of rich to have this dig at Americans' immaturity in a pro-Obama article. Maybe this is metasatire?

More idiocy:
It also suggests that the slightest bit of sacrifice is too much for some Americans -- the Dennis Leary "I'm An A-hole" vote, perhaps -- a fact which some campaigns have not yet learned.
How many Americans are unwilling to sacrifice for a good cause, for family, for whatever? The weasel-word "some" doesn't cut it here; how many Americans does this guy think are total narcissists who wouldn't give up a single luxury for the most worthy recipient?

Now, just when you think you've got the Bad Samaritan demographic nailed down, think about this: how frivolous is an iPhone, and how many Apple fanboys are voting Obama?

So, be careful with your stereotypes and your middle-America bashing. A similar embarrassment happened after the 2004 election, when disappointed Democrats were calling all the red-staters stupid, dirt-poor welfare mooches. The problem was, the numbers didn't differentiate among people within the state (so, like, all the poor idiots in the red state might have voted Democrat), and, well, D.C. got awfully lonely as the blue "state" down at the bottom. The implications are probably too scary to get into in polite conversation, but if any libs bring that up, go ahead and scandalize them.

Anyway, my comment:

Americans were incensed over a joke of a candidate making a nonsensical, non sequitur remark about inflating their tires. Even though Obama's numbers were wrong (that is, the amount of gas saved through proper inflation would be nowhere near the amount of oil that could be pumped domestically if Democrats would stop obstructionist politics), let's take them to be accurate, arguendo. So, inflating one's tires will reduce consumption and thus reduce dependence on foreign oil. OK, so why not have us inflate our tires AND drill domestically? Obama's implicit false dilemma speaks of a weak mind too mired in shameless partisan politics to bother putting simple premises together.

Sorry if that went way above your head, but those incensed Americans aren't as simple as you seem to think. Do your homework next time before passing ignorant garbage like this off as journalism.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Second Amendment Thoughts

I finally have something to say, if not exactly about D.C. v. Heller, then at least about the constitutional right to bear arms in general.

The history of the development of the Constitution shows that the Founding Fathers were not fools. They did not think that previous governments had all been tyrannical to some extent, but that theirs would be free from this flaw. Indeed, they were aware that even well-intentioned governments run by good people would turn to oppression if not sufficiently checked. Perhaps the means to check government encroachment on individual rights does not exist, but, at the least, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were meant to guide government away from abuse when it went astray.

The idea that a even government with a philosophically pure foundation could not be trusted to protect its citizens was not shared by, among others, Rousseau. For him, there certainly were illegitimate governments, but once the "general will" of a truly democratic government were formed and its demands implemented, dissent would thereafter be treasonous. I don't mean to suggest that all our Founding Fathers were on the anti-Rousseau side of this, either; I just think that, on the whole, and especially with Jefferson, the view was that even a good government should tolerate dissent against its rule, both because government can never be sure that it is good (and thus that its silencing of dissent is just) and because good government is incompatible with suppression of speech and ideas, even bad ideas and unpleasant speech.

Of course, the founding was not made by ideas and speech alone - it was accomplished with force of arms. Interpretation of the Second Amendment ought to give consideration to this question: was the amendment designed to protect the right of the citizenry to accomplish against the new government what it had against English rule, if the situation called for it, or was the right limited by the presumption that a founding document could not sanction armed uprising against the very rule that it implemented?

The question seems most difficult in the case of the Second Amendment. It's no longer very controversial to say, about the right to free speech, that even someone who says that the Constitution and the United States government are deplorable things that ought never to have been has the right to say that. Even though, were the desire expressed by his words to be made manifest, he would lose the constitutional protection even to say them, this apparent contradiction is the result of our distrusting government to judge what is worth saying and what can safely be suppressed. Similar analysis attends the constitutional status of flag-burning, protected even though a person burning the flag implicitly defiles the symbol of the very freedom he exercises.

How does this analysis work with the Second Amendment, though? Does the Second Amendment guarantee people the freedom to arm themselves for, among other things, overthrowing the very government that secures the right to bear arms? Here, the extreme exercise of the right would actually bring about the destruction of the civil society supporting the right, whereas merely saying seditious things does not on its own destroy the government protecting the speech.

I've had to choose my words carefully, because there is in fact some sophistry in this line of thought. If the right to bear arms is conceived of as a natural right which the Second Amendment merely emphasizes, then an armed rebellion would not actually negate the ordered system that brought about the right, unless that rebellion could overthrow nature. Thus the apparent contradiction disappears, though one might still wonder whether it is wise for a government that is designed to be robust in protecting rights to tolerate the seeds of its own destruction.

If one's conception of the right to bear arms is predicated on the idea that rights are posterior to government, or that this right at least is an artifact of government, it seems easier to limit the right. However, it is not obvious that this should be so. Certainly the government could, through some means or other, remove the right to bear arms from its constitutional provisions. The question, though, is whether having such a right is compatible with the right's being exercised to overthrow the system protecting the right. Here the question turns out to be more difficult. Because the right would not exist at all in the absence of civil society, its exercise would lead to its destruction, not merely to overthrowing one method of ensuring its protection. If we still conceive of the right to free speech as encompassing the right to dissent against the system protecting free speech and even against the very idea of free speech, what result with the right to bear arms?

I think, and I am perfectly willing to be corrected by someone with more historical knowledge, that the Founders did not view the system they created as immune from the corrupting influences that would justify an armed revolt. Thus, the right to bear arms would extend so far as to allow citizens to keep weapons whose anticipated use would be in an armed rebellion.

None of this means that the United States government needs to tolerate a revolution or simply allow itself to be destroyed by any uprising that comes along. It simply means that "Your guns are a threat to civil order" is as bad a reason for restricting gun ownership as "Your book makes the government look bad" is for imposing a prior restraint on publication. Government indeed has a responsibility to preserve itself when it is supported by popular will. It is when the people have made up their minds to rebel that the government becomes a factional element, bereft of lawful power (which can only flow from the people as true sovereign), and the enemy of liberty.

As big government is comfortable and guns are scary and dangerous, none of this discussion will ever mean anything in the real world. If no one has rebelled yet, no one ever will. But still...remember when liberty used to mean something? Or, remember reading about a time when it meant something?

Monday, August 11, 2008


Incredibly smart bloggers who are experts in your respective fields - do me a solid.

I can't tell you're smart unless you, like, do something fancy with your site, or make posts really long, or exude smartness somehow. This sounds like it's my problem that I can't recognize smart commentary by its content alone, but here's the deal about that - I'm not an economist. Or a psychologist. Or a biologist, or a physicist, or a metamathematician. So I'm going to have a hard time sifting through the pseudointellectualism and triviality to find the real pros. Now in the fields I know (law and philosophy, I hope), I can judge content on its own terms. In other fields, not so much, and the additional problem is that I'm interested in fields I don't quite understand, so I need your help. Don't be corny.

Take this. It's the webpage of a leading Kant scholar. You wouldn't know that from looking at it, though, would you?

Please avoid this sort of mismatch between style and substance.

Friday, August 08, 2008

A Shameful, Dishonest Development

Albright, why you gots to be like that?
Albright College will no longer require standardized testing (SAT or ACT) for students applying for admission beginning in 2009. Submission of test scores will be optional for applicants.
In a vacuum, this change might not seem very relevant. After all, if Albright can winnow an applicant pool down to a quality class using other criteria, that's good for them. I'm sure it's not impossible. However, Albright hasn't exactly established a good track record of high academic quality, and in fact had a number of scandals relating to its academics when I was an undergrad - it dropped to the fourth tier of the U.S. News and World Report rankings, had an acceptance rate one year in excess of 90%, and had a pathetically low SAT range - that last is probably setting off thousands of alarm bells already. In short, Albright has an awful academic reputation as it is.

Dropping the SAT is a laughable attempt to boost enrollment. After all, in 2000, the middle 50% of admitted students at Albright was apparently 920-1140. Yes; twenty-five percent of admitted students had a combined math and verbal score lower than 920. I'm stunned (no, not anymore, not really) that a person can graduate high school and not manage more than 920 on the SAT. That an institution awarding a bachelor's degree could not be scandalized having a quarter of its students being effectively illiterate is unthinkable. Albright is a joke.

The rationale for dropping the requirement is even more of a joke. First:
“Our extensive research confirms that there is very little correlation between test results and first-year grade-point averages or graduation rates, and that high school preparation is a much stronger predictor for student success,” said Gregory E. Eichhorn, vice president for enrollment management.
Does anyone do well in high school and score a 910 or lower? Anyone at all? From what I've seen of the quality of freshman composition at Albright, "gaggle of illiterates" is not a hyperbolic description of each incoming class. It's sort of hard to fault someone who effectively failed the SAT for not knowing how to write, because such a person is clearly unqualified for undergraduate study. It's embarrassing to the school (or ought to be) and embarrassing to alumni that Albright is accepting clearly unqualified applicants who waste their time and shockingly large sums of money struggling to understand a curriculum meant for people a full standard deviation above their level.

Now get this:
According to Eichhorn, Albright has had many students who have achieved far beyond what test scores would have predicted.
Sic! Is that the result of grade inflation, I wonder? I know anecdotal evidence doesn't cut it, but allow me - I saw an incoherent pile that wouldn't pass muster on a web forum about Pokemon receiving a passing grade - the idiot who wrote it happened to leave it lying around, clearly as baffled as I that his lunatic scribblings hadn't been met with the expected "MASSIVE FAILURE, ACADEMICALLY DISMISS IMMEDIATELY". Do professors think they're doing a service to kids by letting them slide when they haven't learned a damned thing?

“We do not want to miss out on great students. In addition, test scores do not measure creativity, motivation, intellectual engagement or potential – all things that a liberal arts college values.”
A person may have excellent intellectual potential and yet be illiterate. In fact, this is what a person scoring 460 on the SAT verbal is - illiterate. That potential can perhaps better be developed through remedial classes, not through throwing the person into college courses to struggle along "creatively" while saying nothing of substance, because, get this, you have to know how to read to get along in college. In theory.

Now, I say that almost as a concession to his position, because he's wrong. A person who does poorly on the SAT probably has a low g-factor. Sorry; he's not creative, motivated, even capable of intellectual engagement. He's not smart. This is not a moral crime, but it is a disqualifying factor for college.

Somehow, it keeps getting worse:
Albright also has a far greater diversity in its applicant pool and on campus – both ethnically and socio-economically – than most private liberal arts colleges, with students of color making up 20 percent of the incoming class.
What about intellectual diversity? 5 Cartesians for every 4 Humeans? Right; you, and 99.46 percent of students, faculty, and administration at Albright, have no idea what I'm talking about.

Has this man considered that perhaps...I know, this is dangerous even to think...academic quality and "ethnic" or "socioeconomic" diversity are inversely related?

Well, yes! He has. And rejected it:
“Standardized tests demonstrate a bias that tends to disadvantage a large portion of our applicant pool and this policy change supports our commitment to a diverse community of learners,” said Eichhorn.

Well, Mr. Eichhorn, you've made your choice. You can have a faux-diverse student body or you can have an intellectually capable one. You have chosen...poorly.
In reviewing applicants, Albright’s admission process has historically placed very little emphasis on standardized test results, relying more heavily on high school preparation and assessment of each individual’s educational potential.
And it shows. Because this method of narrowing the pool produced numbers that looked bad in the rankings, Albright has now chosen to mask the poor quality of its students behind inherently fuzzier measures of achievement. It's a shell game.

Recall that the SAT was recently dumbed down. On the heels of this, Albright has decided that even requiring students to take the baby SAT is too much. Disgusting.

A final note - I've ranted about Albright's failure to prepare students for graduate study. This new development will make the situation worse. If a graduate school will even touch an Albright alumnus's application anymore, a lot of remedial work will have to be done to close the gap between an Albright education and a real education.

Hey, at least Hank Zimon isn't ruining our reputation anymore, right, Albright?

You people are fools.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Welcome to the World of...Yesterday

You can use some fancy words to say some pretty unfancy things.
Belfast Health and Social Care Trust has saved the equivalent of 4,000 emergency department staff hours per year with an internal Star Trek-style wireless voice communicator.
Whoa! Star Trek is coming true. Or, well...
The department's doctors, nurses, ward clerks, bed managers and medical secretaries all use the devices to contact other staff by stating their name or function.
Oh, voice dial. Yep. Even my cheapo cellphone apparently has that. Way to keep up, guys.

I bet it doesn't do anything like the Star Trek communicators.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Administration - Making Useless Look Good

An e-mail:
After careful consideration and to better reflect the services and resources we provide to our students and alumni, we are pleased to announce that the Career Planning Center is now called the Career Development Office (CDO).
This is not taken out of context. They seriously mean that they engaged in careful consideration before changing the name of a law school administrative branch. I assume this change will require their doors to be redone, stationery to be reprinted, websites to be redirected, and all sorts of purely gratuitous costs to be incurred.

Hey, you know what's also ridiculous? This e-mail comes from my old law school. I haven't been taken off the mailing list yet.

So, if those who can, do, and those who can't, teach, then...who administrates? Those who can't tie their own shoes?

Guilt by Association

Crooked Timber.

Attention authors of blogs I like - stop linking to these ivory-tower creeps. It makes me lose all respect for you. I don't see the appeal of


We're clear, then.

We won't link them anymore.


And I'll see about that Michael Savage thing, I guess.

Monday, August 04, 2008

More Era-Ending

Alexander Solzhenitsyn has died.

The 20th century, with its villains and heroes, is over. Though it was the bloodiest in history, civilization survived, due to people like Solzhenitsyn energizing the West to struggle against collectivism. We have new enemies and new internal challenges, but for the sake of those who have gone before, not less than for our own, we have to defend reason and liberty.

Requiescat in pace.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Dritten Antinomie

We scared someone off. Of course, when I read things like this:
every reasonable thinker over the past few centuries has understood that "responsibility" is a social construction with no intellectual integrity.
I'm not exactly crying myself to sleep.

Does anyone really want me to write about the Third Antinomy again? Nick, for one, would probably bleed from his eyes if I did...