Monday, June 29, 2009

Father's Day

In the Mark Sanford media blitz, many people have made a big point of Sanford leaving the country on Father's Day despite having children. Leaving aside the rest of his behavior, what's the problem with not spending Father's Day with one's children? If Father's Day is supposed to be about giving fathers a chance to unwind, then I bet many, many fathers would be thankful for some time away from the kids. Given the choice between traditional Father's Day activities and some quiet time, I don't see a problem with a father choosing the latter.

Am I the only one that thinks this way?

Friday, June 26, 2009

My Position

Since it apparently has to be said, here's my position:

Child rapists are bad people.

So, there. You can put me in the shockingly small camp of people who think raping children is bad.

What About Reuben Fine?

How many things are wrong with this awful article?

It hits the ground running:
"They're all weak, all women. They're stupid compared to men. They shouldn't play chess, you know. They're like beginners. They lose every single game against a man. There isn't a woman player in the world I can't give knight-odds to and still beat." Robert James Fischer, 1962, Harper's Magazine
Now, Bobby Fischer was one of the best chess players of all time. Certainly he wasn't on the chess fringe. But this quote sets the stage for rhetorical shenanigans. After all, Bobby Fischer was an anti-Semitic schizo. If he wasn't saying something baffling, offensive, and profane, it's because he wasn't talking. The man's Sicilian was lethal but his social maturity would have gotten him banned as MiseTings (yes, even there!). He is not representative of intelligent commentary about the relative merits of Jews, blacks, women, or queen's pawn openings.

I should get this out of the way now - Natalia Pogonina and Peter Zhdanov are not native English speakers. They should probably get a friend to proofread their English writing, because it's awful. Idiomatic English is hard - get someone to help you.

Moving on.
Some say it’s about the level of testosterone that affects competitiveness – men are more likely to be trying to excel at something than women. However, if we look at the percentage of so-called “grandmaster draws” among women and men then we’ll see that women’s fighting spirits are definitely higher.
Is grandmaster-draw-frequency a reliable measure of "competitiveness"? Further, because, as the article helpfully points out at the beginning, there are de facto segregated men's and women's events, the incidence of draws in those events are not commensurate. Or maybe they are. Maybe only integrated events were considered - we don't know. If this article were Wikipedia, the quoted passage would have a few "citation needed" tags (and the talk page would have some Asperger's-ridden teenager arguing with a middle-aged homosexual about reliability of sources and "NPOV" complete with accusations of sock-puppetry, lack of good faith, and other nonsense concocted in the fantasy world of Wikipedian imagination). I hesitate to go here but...complete lack of discussion of the relevant statistics? Innumeracy? In an article about the relative abilities of men and women? It just writes itself.

This is less than insightful:
So, maybe women are just less smart than men? According to multiple studies, on the average the answer is “no”. Then what’s the problem?
On the average, people aren't grandmasters, either. So, uh, I guess no one is good at chess? Perhaps we could restrict our discussion of relative intelligence to chess players, or to the very intelligent, or something, but that would entail actually confronting the facts and apparently this husband-wife team is unwilling to go there. So ends a hilariously short section of the article.

Now what? Oh, more idiocy:
Women have started playing chess professionally long after men. Nowadays the number of professional women chess players is growing, but the proportion is still incomparable. There are very few women in chess, so they have meager chances to enter the world chess elite.
What?! But you're trying to explain this phenomenon. The article is based on trying to find an explanation for the fact that much fewer women than men play high-level chess. This section explains that, because there are fewer women playing high-level chess, there are fewer women in the chess-playing elite.


I mean.


Come on.


Moving on. I don't want to be cruel. Poor, poor Natalia and Peter.

A few more illustrative figures: according to FIDE’s website, there are 20 female players who hold the GM title to 1201 male grandmasters (about 1 to 60), 77 female IMs to 2854 male (about 1 to 37), 239 WGMs and 7 female FMs to 5400 male FMs (about 1 to 20). Side note: notice the downward trend?
Facts! Numbers! That's what we've been in need of. In fact, the "side note" is exactly what we needed: it hints that the distributions of men and women in intelligence match the distributions in relative chess-playing skill - could there be a correspondence? Might the fact that chess players tend to be more intelligent on average mean that the distributions we'd normally see (more really bad and really good men, more average women) don't occur because of the bias toward high intelligence in chess players? Well, we can't dwell on facts and numbers long, so we won't get an answer to that. Still, evidence! Hi there!
The other important issue is that in order to become a top chess player you’ve got to study chess diligently from early childhood.
If only we knew of three sisters who studied diligently from early childhood but still, while having great success, never challenged male supremacy. But we don't. Obv.
Roy Gates (Southern California, USA) recalls:
I think that there's definitely some cultural/sociological bias at work that has made it more difficult for women to excel in chess. I realized a few years ago (after it was pointed out to me by an ex-girlfriend) that I was taking a much more active role in my nephew’s chess education than I was with my niece despite the fact that she was more eager to play/learn and seemed to take to the game much quicker. I had subconsciously not taken her interest in chess seriously and was mortified when I realized I was helping to perpetuate the myth that boys are better chess players.
Southern California? Oh, I know this will be good! How is it a "myth" that boys are better chess players when boys do better at chess? Again, this article is all about explaining why the obvious fact is true. We're not here to debate the obvious facts. They're obvious. Mr. Gates reminds me of so many law students who, rather than answer a question, tried to fight the hypo. Look - the terms are set beforehand so we can focus on things that are actually at issue. "Boys/men are better at chess than girls/women" is the peculiar fact that needs explanation; it's not dubious. If it were, then all this would be easy - we could just blame the liberal media or Fox News or Iran for perpetuating a totally false, untrue myth that is not factual at all.
Moreover, serious chess studies require substantial investments (coaches, trips etc.), while it’s a well-known fact that women chess players can’t make a decent living playing chess unless they’re at the very top.
Male chess players can't make a decent living playing chess unless they're at the very top. This was true long before the economic crisis; it must be worlds more difficult now. Make sense, article.
A stereotype exists in chess that women are no match for men.
This "stereotype" grew from bigoted people who saw the score "Random Man-Random Woman 1-0" time and time again and made an inference. Damn bigots.

Seriously, why is this article fighting its own hypo, so to speak? What if a professor asked you "Assuming the plaintiff has standing, what remedies are available?" and then shot down every answer with "That's nice but you didn't establish that the plaintiff has standing"? Yeah.
That’s why many female chess players are taught from early childhood that they’ll never make it to men’s level. TV and books are also trying to convince them that it’s unreal. But all this is a myth! The first woman to break it was the incredible Judit Polgar, the greatest woman chess player of all times.
"All times" lolol. Sorry, I am supposed to be nice. This is incredibly silly. I'm actually getting a little pissed right now. Learn statistics, folks. We're talking about group averages, not individuals. Judit Polgar could beat me in a blindfold simul - we know that. What we want to know is why Judit Polgar never played another woman, ever, when she was in the chessplaying elite.

What if women are just not interested in chess?
Then why do they still go to tournaments? I mean, you told us they had these chess tournaments for women. Are you contending now that women were never really serious about it anyway? Sore loserdom is full of buffoons who lose, throw a fit, and claim they weren't really trying anyway.
Robert Tierney (Binghamton NY, USA):
Adding my two-cents here, I think the question is phrased wrong. "Why do women play chess worse than men" is an improper question, framed in a male-dominated area with a male-dominated history. Since everyone (here) seems to agree that women are quicker learners than men, and mature quicker than men, perhaps they are too intelligent to spend more time at something that is just a game, as Morphy stated several times. Maybe the question should be, are men too stupid or too immature to quit obsessing on chess? Then maybe we wouldn't have this topic getting abused over and over again. "Chess is a sign of lack of intelligence"--now wouldn't that be a kick in the head?
"Male-dominated X" reminds me so much of this lovely poem about Bobby Fischer:
We loved his Jew-controlled chutzpah
and his Jew-controlled moves
And his Jew-controlled antics
gave us Jew-controlled grooves

Worldwide Jew-controlled plotting
caused his Jew-controlled bind
and an uncontrollable Jew-controlled hatred
filled his Jew-controlled mind

He's now in Jew-controlled hiding
said the Jew-controlled news
to the Jew-controlled pleasure
of the Jew-controlled Jews
I am actually feeling some Schadenfreude at the pique expressed in Mr. Tierney's comment. Clearly the guy is really, really bothered that men are better at chess than women - I don't know why; he's gotta be a dude, right? - and his response to the obvious facts is "NO U." The poor guy; did you have to print his insane ramblings? I don't know if he's fishing for tail or just being a PC douche, but don't draw attention to the poor fool.
It’s also important to note that (no matter what their interests are) most women have to dedicate a lot of time to their family: e.g. when a child is born they don’t have enough time to study chess or participate in multiple chess tournaments.
What about barren women? Where are that stats on them? I miss when numbers and facts were provided to support arguments. ;_;
Final question – what should we do to make chess more popular among girls?
This is missing "if anything." I mean, if Mr. Tierney is right, we should be thankful that women aren't wasting their time making themselves stupider playing a stupid game that is stupid and for idiots.
Another key thing is sponsorship – women chess is very attractive and exciting, so it’s worth investing into.
Then people will do it. Seriously; people with money do not like wasting their money. If something is worth doing, it will have money thrown at it. Investors are not allergic to profit!
If prizes in women’s events increase to the same level as in men’s, then girls (and their parents) will have a good financial motivation to consider chess seriously.
No they won't. Prize support is pathetic as it is. Chess is a profession only for those at the very top. Get real.
Finally, the girls themselves should know that they are equal to men in terms of chess talents, play in men’s tournaments, study hard and believe in their powers.
Even if it's not true! Believe in yourself! Don't grow up or anything.
If most women start acting that way, then one day quantity will lead to quality, and the world chess elite will be enjoying more female players.
What? If enough chicks start playing, they'll crowd out the dudes? Under what system of logic does that follow? Ho-dal logic?
It’s essential to remember that the sky is the limit and all the obstacles are in our heads…
So we've selected delusion as our ethic. Aight.

Amusingly enough, the wife in that couple is clearly carrying the husband. "Successful IT-specialist, leading world debate expert, top blogger and a proficient chess player," really? I can stretch my way into three of those categories and a few weeks at RACC would take care of the fourth.

I keep thinking "world debate" means Spinozism.

Keep reaching for that rainbow, girls.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Contra Jeffries

The article.

My reply:

Mr. Jeffries:

With all respect, I disagree both with your diagnosis of President Sarkozy’s ignorance and your interpretation of Hegel’s political theory.

Turning first to the trivial point, arguably European politics has seen too much Hegelianism across the centuries. Especially chilling in this regard is sec. 331 of the Philosophy of Right: “The nation state is the spirit in its substantial rationality and immediate actuality, and is therefore the absolute power on earth.” When Germans speak about the absolute power of nations, people are understandably concerned. Because the path from Hegel to Hitler is crooked, and none can doubt that faithful application of philosophical principles was not a chief feature of Nazi political life, I’ll say nothing more firm than this: Hegel is perhaps not the best place for politicians to go for enlightenment.

Turning from the trivial to the textual, I thought your reading of Hegel was superficial and mistaken. I say this realizing that I may scarcely be able to do better; still, if the failure to read Hegel is responsible for so much evil, a misreading can’t be much better.

First, the distinction between abstract freedom and concrete freedom is not between illusion and reality. Abstract freedom is freedom of a kind; its failing is its one-sided focus on the absolute liberty that possession of a free will entails. “But the free will in and for itself cannot be coerced.” (sec. 91). If the ethical life is possible at all, the will must be entirely free in the abstract; it is the voluntary submission by the will to the commands of duty that conditions concrete freedom: “A binding duty can appear as a limitation only in relation to indeterminate subjectivity or abstract freedom, and to the drives of the natural will or of the moral will which arbitrarily determines its own indeterminate good. The individual, however, finds his liberation in duty. On the one hand, he is liberated from his dependence on mere natural drives, and from the burden he labours under as a particular subject in his moral reflections on obligation and desire; and on the other hand, he is liberated from that indeterminate subjectivity which does not attain existence or the objective determinacy of action, but remains within itself and has no actuality. In duty, the individual liberates himself so as to attain substantial freedom.” (sec. 149). Abstract freedom is not an illusory sort of freedom, because abstract freedom is not a concrete fact of existence at all; it merely describes the infinite potential to act of a free will. Because concrete actions, even the sum of actions that constitutes an individual’s character, cannot occur without the application of a principle to the pure abstraction that is the free will, nothing ever occurs solely from abstract freedom. The “western fashion victim” of late capitalism has not chosen to exercise freedom without a determining principle, for any concrete application of freedom in a particular case requires some principle. What you disagree with is the choice of principle, and in that Hegel would agree. But no one in this world (except perhaps a devoted Ayn Rand cultist) is deifying abstract freedom and treating it as sufficient to determine concrete action – the infinite potential to do or not to do anything is precisely indeterminate by being indifferent to which of the infinite multitude of options ought to be selected.

Granted, Hegel does (as you rightly point out) blame hypostasization of abstract freedom for the Reign of Terror. But you cannot say without hyperbole that the French are still in the habit of executing dissenters. Under no national government today is abstract freedom considered the ideal incarnation of liberty.

Moving on from what I believe is a poor choice of words (“real” and “abstract” are not poles in Hegelianism), Hegel does not say that concrete freedom comes from “having the freedom from societal conditioning and the fatuous whirl of desires by using reason.” Indeed, this is almost exactly wrong. “Societal conditioning” includes the manifestations of duty particular to a certain arrangement of political affairs in a certain nation. To take an example from my own country, a strong sense of patriotic duty is wound up in the ethic of American political and social life. The “societal conditioning” that inculcates patriotic sentiment in American citizens is not a hindrance to concrete freedom, but a moment in its realization. Because “[t]he state is the actuality of concrete freedom,” (sec. 260) the richness of concrete freedom cannot be achieved except through collective determinations of individual wills. Whether the collective determinations have their source in law or in custom, the individual is never able to liberate himself other than through the state. Just so: “The determinations of the will of the individual acquire an objective existence through the state, and it is only through the state that they attain their truth and actualization. The state is the sole precondition of the attainment of particular ends and welfare.” (sec. 261).

If anything, President Sarkozy is opposing the divisive custom of a minority with the collective will of the French people. France has a history of hostility to subsidiarity, especially the formation of independent religious factions within the French state. This smells Rousseauian and Hegelian: by forcing Muslim women to be free (On the Social Contract Book I Sec. 7), President Sarkozy intends merely to enforce the general will and to prevent the dissolution of the state by intermediate organizations, organizations that may threaten concrete freedom by coming between the state and individuals and substituting a conflicting duty on those who are simultaneously French and Muslim.

I object to the idea that “capitalism” can define a society. Capitalism is a certain arrangement of economic affairs; it is not a general political ideology. If capitalism deprives anyone of an identity, it is because he was too shallow to form ethical principles of his own. Crass materialism is not a result of capitalism, but an ordering of values that find capitalism conducive to the efficient enjoyment of material goods. Capitalism is merely a tool for allocating material resources; those too shallow to value non-material aspects of existence have been quite capable of debasing themselves without capitalism’s help. To say that “late capitalism” does not encourage the exercise of concrete freedom is nonsensical; it can neither encourage nor discourage it, because it is not a determining principle in ethical life.

I hope you take these comments in the spirit they are offered – hope for enlightenment through the clarification of concepts.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Excuse

I meant to have a real update but it'll have to wait. I've been spending my time trying to interpret the e-mail equivalent of "Croatoan" from a certain someone, and it's exhausting work.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


If you find yourself with a surfeit of free time (sigh), try BlockRogue. It's an Adventures of Lolo type puzzle game created by Stan Patton.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Capitalism - Not a TOE

Capitalism is a certain arrangement of some (not all!) economic affairs. It is not a comprehensive system of human interaction. "The United States is a capitalist country" is correct (or used to be correct; thanks, Presidents Bush and Obama!) if it means that production and trade in the United States are organized on roughly capitalist lines. It is incorrect if it means that the citizens of the United States take the capitalist economic system to be a model for all theoretical and practical principles.

I blame Marx for the confusion. Seeing that capitalism was consistent with the "bourgeois" values of the middle class, especially in the Anglosphere, Marx assumed that the English and Americans modeled their ethics on capitalism, treating human interactions just like commodity trading. As always, Marx was too busy being clever to be correct. Capitalism was not the first principle, it was a subprinciple. It was useful for Englishmen to arrange their economic affairs a certain way because that way was consistent with their ethics (individualism, materialism, etc.). Among the Continentals who were not culturally predisposed to capitalism, those who adopted it in their economic lives prospered, and, as even Marx must have realized, the successful would survive and define future generations. The political unrest that plagued the Continent proves that Rousseau had more influence than Adam Smith across the Channel, a fact that should have pleased Marx but certainly did no good for the prospects of European peace.

Capitalism is a tool; the purpose has to exist beforehand, and the tool has to be fit for that purpose. Capitalism cannot make a people adopt an ethical viewpoint; if, however, a people's ethics values prosperity and material goods, then capitalism will allocate human and other resources in an efficient way for that people. Because capitalism substitutes market forces for central planning, a people with individualist politics will find it conducive to an enjoyable life free from undue interference. That's why capitalism seems to be such a dominant ideology - it gives some people what they wanted with minimal effort. It works. It can't fulfill every need, but it is designed to fulfill the material needs efficiently so that there is little waste; whatever else a person is disposed to seek, he can devote more resources to seek it under capitalism than under a more wasteful system. If he is a mere consumer, then capitalism will dominate his life - not because of capitalism, but because of his constitution. Marx essentially blamed a theory for the failings of individuals.

There is also some projecting evident in Marxism. Marxism is totalitarian. It imposes its principles on every aspect of life. If it accuses capitalism of doing the same (only in a different way), it just projects its humanity-crushing absolutism onto a rival ideology. The Marxist criticism of capitalism only makes sense if capitalism is totalitarian as well - but then, the choice is between rival totalitarian ideologies, and the sensible person would choose neither.

In short, capitalism is not ethics. Randians and Marxists seem to believe otherwise (a rare point of agreement?); they are wrong. Don't be like them.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Help a Brother Out?

Anyone want to play chess?


One of those disingenuous anti-drug ads showed a pizza delivery man encouraging some kid to take drugs.

So, on the one hand, some pothead has a job delivering pizza.

On the other hand, this JD has a job...playing Commander Keen and getting rejected by every potential employer.

Seems like one of us made a mistake somewhere!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Yes, I am Bothered

That Kathryn Jean Lopez is up to it again!

Wait, did I just link to The Corner, forcing the reader not only to comb through dozens of posts to find ones by the relevant author, but also forcing the reader to figure out which one of those posts is the the target of commentary? Whoops! I just pulled a Lopez!

If you were looking for the relevant post, here it is! As you can see, she links to the front page of another blog. But by the time I clicked on it, the post she seemed (I'm not a mind-reader, so I can't say with any certainty) to be referring to was no longer the latest post. If only there were some way to link to exactly what you want, so that readers don't think you're a solipsist.

Wait, I just did. In this post. But then, I've never been the editor of an online magazine, so my greater competence in basic Internet skills is only to be expected.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wissenschaftliche Schadenfreude

This seems wrong.
1. P
2. I am morally barred from believing that P
3. If I am aware of P, psychologically, I must (believe P or believe not P)
4. I believe not P (from 2-3)
5. Moore's paradox(from (1) and (4))
Spot the fallacy? Well, I don't see any situation where the second premise would ever hold simultaneously with the first. If the second premise is ever true, it must be true for certain instances of ~P. I say certain instances, because, otherwise, we are in the difficult position of positing a moral crime whenever any falsehood is believed to be true. I think that the very act of believing a falsehood can be immoral, but only where there are sufficient grounds for believing the relevant truth (when the truth is known or ought to be known but for the believer's willful ignorance).

We're left with situations where P is true, but we can't believe it. What possible grounds could there be for believing a falsehood? Well...
(2) is a bit trickier, and may be where the weak point here is. Are there some facts that are so immoral that one should not believe in them even with evidence?

There are some beliefs X such that if you believe them you are evil. Consider a sentence of the form:
#=Members of race x are all liars in virtue of their being members of race x.
Presumably believing # makes one a racist. Racism, let's say, is evil. So believing # makes you evil. One is morally barred from doing things that make one evil. So one is morally barred from believing #.
This is weak. The "racism is evil" premise implicit in this example only works for a culture such as ours, where the premise is taken for granted. The premise is taken for granted not on instrumental grounds ("Let's all act as if racism is evil, because otherwise nasty things will happen.") but because we believe that racism expresses falsehoods. If "members of race x" really did exhibit moral failings by virtue of their race, then racism would not be universally evil. If we're rocking against racism because the truth is too painful to accept, then we're morally depraved self-deceivers. If, as I think (hope?) is true, racism is despised because it entails belief in falsehoods (or it entails using biased heuristics), then the paradox is not a paradox.

The paradox arises from treating beliefs like "members of race x have deficient trait y" as uniquely unworthy of consideration. But of course, such beliefs are unworthy because they are members of a certain class of false beliefs - false beliefs where the believer ought to know better. It is because of the constitution of facts in the world, and the relation of the belief to those facts, that racist and other beliefs are wrong.

Now, if we change the supposedly reprehensible premise to "members of race x are all lactose-intolerant in virtue of their being members of race x," the objections surely disappear. Indeed, there must be some distinguishing feature of race x if it is to designate a group at all, so simply by speaking about race x, we are holding as true that members of that race have some quality in virtue of being a member of that race.

Thus, holding a belief about a race must be different from holding a racist belief about a race. If the racist belief is that all members of a certain race are liars, what can that mean? If they cannot help lying, then no moral opprobrium ought to attach to what they cannot help but do; moral condemnation does not accompany the belief. If they can avoid lying but choose to lie at every chance (a remarkable coincidence, to be sure), then I suppose we have a racist belief; but, because each instance of lying is the product of individual choice, what we condemn is not the race but each individual member of the race.

Racism seems, then, to be unjust moral condemnation of individuals in virtue of their being members of a certain race. This condemnation can be unjust if, say, we condemn a person for having a certain genetic characteristic - because the physical composition of the body cannot constitute a moral crime. It is also unjust if we condemn an individual for the actions of others - as when we condemn each member of race x for the lies of all members of the race. In either case, what makes racism evil is moral condemnation; a mere expression of scientific facts about group characteristics could not be racist.

Now, a false belief about group characteristics ought not to be condemned as "racist" simply because it is false. To misjudge genetic patterns is not morally wrong. To assert that, because of those genetic patterns, all members of a certain race are depraved - that is wrong. But then, it is wrong whether or not the scientific belief is true. The truth of a claim about physics cannot justify making it into an ethical claim.

Ultimately, this "paradox" doesn't work because no true belief about the members of a race can be the basis of unfair moral condemnation.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Damn you, Goooooooglllllllle!

I expect Google to get blamed for the Holocaust, too. Nice marketing, Microsoft!

It's Dangerous to Go Alone!

I had a dream that my Antitrust professor started a new game of The Legend of Zelda in class. When he got 250 rupees, I suggested he go get the blue ring, but he had trouble avoiding the falling boulders. Also, some screens were wider than others, so you wouldn't always scroll to a new place when you reached the edge of a particular screen.

This is all I have please employ me ;_;

Monday, June 15, 2009

Your Breath - Stop Holding It

I did promise a new post on the other blog soon. Well, it won't happen soon. I just found a 350-page thesis that deals with some of the things I was going to discuss, and the dude who took several years at Pitt to write it probably managed a better job than I could in a weekend. Still doing the post, just not soon.

Sorry, Nick, I know you love that sort of thing.

Not OK

Kathryn Jean Lopez has to stop posting on The Corner.

I was going to leave it at that. But this article has always bothered me. It's not a Corner post, so it's easily avoided, but...this is just vintage Lopez.

It's the title. And then the subtitle. The title is not clever. It's not terrible, but definitely not as clever as it wants to be. But then the actually attacks everything that even attempted to make the title clever. It's as if she said, "But seriously, fuck Kant, right?" Why would she say that?! Is it so obvious that Kant is terrible that the reader is going to be worried? "Whoa, Bill Bennett reads Kant? Forget him! Douche."

What? WHAT? Ms. Lopez does stuff like this all the time. She'll say something ridiculously incomplete, something that takes making an assumption you can't figure out to make sense. Is there some policy at National Review of conducting daily two minutes' hates at Kant's expense? "Bill Bennett liking Kant; can you imagine?" YES, I CAN IMAGINE. WHY IS IT SO HARD TO IMAGINE, SO HARD THAT YOU DIDN'T BOTHER EXPLAINING IT?

I'm pretty sure I first found that article a while back, when my dad told me Bill Bennett mentioned Kant on his radio show. So, an idiotic article got even closer to Albrightian territory.

Almost every one of her Corner posts is this bad. The title of the post is usually baffling. It baffles me; I am baffled. The content is rarely good either.

Just stop this; stop having this occur.

Friday, June 12, 2009

American Education - Take a Bow

Oh, dear. Another shortcoming of the overachieving class was brought home by an incident that occurred on the television show Cash Cab. It's a quiz show that plays out in a Manhattan taxi (seriously), and it's often a painful indictment of our country. Take, for instance, what happened when two young women were asked to name, in thirty seconds, the U.S. Presidents whose first and last names started with the same letter. I suppose there are a number of approaches to answering such a question. The approach these girls took was...hilarious, sad, and typical of people whose grades far outrun their intelligence.

One girl just started naming all the presidents, in order, starting with Washington. This is one approach! But a little thought will determine that this is a bad approach. To take one flaw (not the most serious flaw, but...), "Ronald Reagan" was unlikely to pass her lips within thirty seconds. To take the real flaw, she didn't actually know a damned thing. Like a .doc file or, hell, a piece of paper, all this chick could do was to repeat, thoughtlessly, a list of facts. Apparently the very idea of sorting the facts internally, selecting some, and focusing attention on them (you know, what we high-class intellectuals call "thinking") was foreign to her poor data-stuffed mind.

This sort of thinking-without-thinking can survive very long. All of the authors of this blog have spent substantial time in law school classes. All right, guys, how many times have you heard a student approach a complicated legal question by doing nothing more or less than listing elements? It is as if, to the question "How well does the application of the felony-murder rule advance the policy of retributivism?" these clever fools expect the answer "A criminal homicide constitutes murder of the second degree when it is committed while defendant was engaged as a principal or an accomplice in the perpetration of a felony" to score high marks. This kind of reasoning is over- and under-inclusive. Where some aspect of the answer isn't even arguably in dispute, it looks like ignorant redundancy (like answering "George Washington" to the original question); when the answer fails to address a relevant aspect of the question, it looks clueless.

This isn't smart. Stop rewarding it and these retards can skip seven years of schooling and go straight to their unrewarding desk jobs.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I love the internet

The internet is one of the greatest forms of entertainment on the planet. For example, where else can you find someone asserting that F. A. Hayek was a fascist? I mean, I'm sure there are some poorly-written treatises and some Marxist professors that make that claim, but those are not delivered directly to my home for my entertainment. With the internet, though, I can read that sort of thing (see the comments for enlightenment) from the comfort of my favorite chair! It would be better if I could somehow point and laugh directly at the author, but perhaps that feature will be added in Web 3.0.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I Have Had The Fate To Be In Love With Hops

Some stories just hit very close to home.

In other brewery news, I wonder if Philadelphia deserves such a fine establishment as Victory. Well, well, the race is not always to the swift.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Not having West...

...really sucks. A lot.


This is sort of...amazing.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Close Call

The University of Miami School of Law wants to screw up the economy even worse. No, really; one of our biggest problems was that property securing loans was not sufficiently valuable to prevent substantial financial loss by the creditor in the event of a default. By struggling valiantly against the use of the foreclosure device, Miami Law graduates will be fighting against the preservation of value in any entity that has a stake in the Florida real estate market. Way to go!

Of course, because we're talking Miami Law alumni, there's probably little risk that the foreclosure defense will be successful. Whew. That was a close one! Now if they got UF students to do this, we'd be in trouble...

Friday, June 05, 2009

What Is Afoot, Is; What Is Not, Is Not

Things that are not going so well: finding work. Convincing a woman well out of my league to date me. Working through Phenomenology of Spirit.

Things that are progressing, with all deliberate speed: A new post on the other blog about Wittgenstein and Kant. As it turns out, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus makes an interesting (and sophisticated [and cryptic; it's the Tractatus, after all]) claim about the ideality of space that raises a number of familiar Kantian issues. It'll be done when it's done, but it should be good (if you're interested in that sort of thing).

I've also, quite by accident, made a habit of beating Super Mario Bros. 3 every two weeks. At least I've switched it up - with whistles, without whistles, on two-player mode.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

How Do I Manage This?

I've taken up daily walks to improve my health. Coincidentally, I've been walking at almost exactly the same time of day. When local housewives set their clocks by my daily constitutional, maybe I'll start having a problem. But then if I revolutionized epistemology, it would be fair compensation for being known as a ritualistic weirdo. Thoughts?

In other news, contacting a fellow philosophy major from undergrad, I was asked "Are you still a Kant enthusiast?" by the second reply.

I expect my blogging co-authors to stage an intervention.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Grumble grumble

I don't recall leaving my full-time job with benefits for all this.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

It's Just What I Always Wanted!

The court of appeals is where policy is made.
From Obama's attempt to outblunder Reagan, Sonia Sotomayor.

I know, I'm coming to this late. I don't really care much about the nomination, because it's no surprise - the race-obsessed man in the White House picked a race-obsessed woman to sit on a black-robed bench full of pseudointellectuals. It's not exactly a shocker, nor is essentially getting O'Connor back on SCOTUS a massive change in direction. Still, this line has been getting a lot of play. So, my analysis.

I didn't think the statement was very controversial, at first. Courts of appeals make policy when they interpret the law a certain way. The problem is, the federal circuit courts are especially constrained in their ability to make both law and policy. Interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, of federal statutes, and of federal regulations, as well as creation of federal common law (yes, it exists; everything you were told about Erie is wrong, ho-hum), is ultimately the responsibility of the Supreme Court. Where statutes are at issue, the Congressional policy expressed in the text of the law is paramount. A judge or justice interpreting that language must defer to the policy judgments of the Congress that passed the law, unless the Constitution requires another outcome. Regulations are created by agencies working under statutory grants of rulemaking authority; the policies both of the Congress that delegated the authority and of the agency that promulgated the rule constrain judicial policymaking. Where, as in the case of federal common law, the law exists only by judicial fiat, there are still special restrictions on what circuit courts can do. The Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter of federal common law; circuit courts may have to perform work filling out the concrete applications of broad statements of law, but the Supreme Court makes the common law and the Supreme Court can change it. Thus, lower courts are still constrained by the policy judgments of another body.

Where state law provides the rule, federal courts must defer to the interpretation given by the highest court of the state at issue. Because state common law is more extensive than federal common law, state intermediate appellate courts may have substantial scope for implementing policy choices in their decisions. But, because of all the constraints on the work of the federal courts of appeals, their legitimate fabrication of policy is likely to be rather rare. In other words, to the extent that Judge Sotomayor is right, the courts of appeals are probably just usurping the power to set policy that ought to be in some other hands.

No serious person can doubt that courts can and should make law, when it is necessary in the exercise of the judicial power. Nor does any serious person doubt that policy influences the exercise of the judicial power, and must, if just adjudication is to occur. But the federal courts of appeals are the last place we should see policy being made - and thus, by focusing on the policymaking aspects of those courts, Judge Sotomayor simply seems to be drawing attention to a disregard of the federal system. If she can't get worked up about this, perhaps she doesn't understand the limited role of the judiciary in a federal system. And that is a pretty serious flaw in a potential Supreme Court justice.

I've seen some people object "But policy is made in the courts of appeals!" So it is. But, as I've said, the scope for making policy is limited. Imagine if someone were to say "Motion practice is how we keep poor people from winning cases." Could be! But is it a good thing? Is it right? Is it constitutional? Apply these questions to the original statement.

In sum, Judge Sotomayor made a lot less sense when I thought seriously about what she said. But the attitude is familiar - judges should disregard the rule of law in favor of outcome-based adjudication, the consequences be damned. O'Connor's back, baby!

Monday, June 01, 2009


Who is silly girl?

And is she hot?