Sunday, December 26, 2004

Democracy In Ukraine

Yushchenko wins.


My favorite thing about Christmas is that it's as far away as you can possibly be (at least during leap years) from next Christmas. Now that we've made it to the day after, Christmas 2005 is already uncomfortably close. Why do I hate Christmas? Is it because, like Nietzsche, I regard Christianity as the life-negating Buddhism of the West? I do in fact hold that view of its Augustinian form. However, the "Christmas" holiday---an event beginning around 11:35 am the day after Halloween and ending around 11:35 pm January 6 (the day of the Epiphany for you non-believers), sandwiching in between these bookends a mega-orgy of Paris-Hilton-mainstreaming commercialism, television programming that's four parts saccharine, three parts shit, and half a part tap water, alongside the idolatrous sanctification of a fat, bearded, red-robed peeping tom who extorts from the nation's (Christian) children a morality of naked self-interest posing righteously as the ethical polarity of "naughty" and "nice"---has exactly nothing to do with the Nazarene religion or the acknowledgement of the incarnation of its Messiah.

Why do I hate Christmas, then? Because it is a bloated monstronsity that has already swallowed Thanksgiving whole, nibbles away at Halloween's backside, and lacking any real fall festivals aside from the mostly-dead Columbus day, threatens to gorge itself on summer holidays even within our lifetimes---the likelihood improves as global warming kicks in and makes summer and winter indistinguishable. (I've seen Christmas lights go up in July myself, and I can't be the only one.) I hate Christmas because it is ravenous and oppressive; because it asserts itself in your face and unrelentingly for a bare minimum of two months out of every year; because it long ago gave up on wishing you a happy month of December and reverted to demanding it; because it is a passive-aggressive bitch that strikes innocent poses while anyone who doesn't enjoy eggnog, fruitcake, nativity scenes, and "family" entertainment, or is just a bit discomfited by commemorations of Our Dear Savior's Birth (ODSB), is accused of being a spoilsport or grinch, or, this year anyway, a secularist infidel fifth columnist.

Conservatives love taking shots at Kwanzaa---and why not, considering that it is, in fact, an exercise in self-esteem-building fraud. I'm not at all sorry if someone takes offense at that comment; truth owes nothing to lies. But in the interest of fairness and balance, it's worth pointing out that while Jesus may or may not have been born on December 25 (the odds are 1 in 365.25), the reason that the holiday is placed on that day is to coincide with a variety of polytheistic winter festivals (ditto for Easter and the spring). There would have been no snow on the ground in the greater Bethlehem area (it gets very little precipitation in the first place), and there were most definitely no fir trees or any other coniferous trees to speak of. As much as the imprimatur of Zoroastrian/Parthian priests might have helped to legitimate the the Nazarenes' fledgling Jewish splinter group, and despite the propensity of Zoroastrians (uniquely among Western religions, I think) to respect the theological views of members of other creeds, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the whole Three Kings story is bollocks. I also have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell to anyone who really thinks that there was an immaculate conception sometime around 0 BCE.

I don't, and wouldn't wish Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas or Kraaaazzzzy Kwanzaa or Season's Greetings or Wowee Zowees or Scrumtrilescent Scrumblebums to any of my readers, because I have more respect for them than that. I think they're quite capable of being happy---or not---as they wish and don't require the invention of some phony "season" to do so.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

How Many Things In This Picture Are Wrong?

I find answering this question is an edifying exercise both when reading Highlights for Kids and Jonah Goldberg's posts on The Corner. In re: some inane conversation among Cornerites, Jonah writes:
Shannen - I have a -- not very original -- theory about Citizen Kane. I liked it more than you, but I think one of the things that hurts it is that all of the techniques that make it a great movie have been so completely absorbed into the medium that they don't seem that original now. This is a problem with many "firsts" they quickly seem antiquated precisely because of their influence. I've always thought the Beetles will eventually decline in esteem because of a similar phenomenon.

Meanwhile, you are objectively brilliant in noting that Office Space is an awesome movie. My one peeve, much like Andie MacDowell in both Groundhog Day (one the greatest films of the last 20 years) and Four Weddings and a Funeral (generally amusing), Jennifer Anisten brings the whole thing down because she is a terrible comedic actress on film (though pretty good on Friends).
Okay let's see: No, Jonah isn't all that original in pointing out that "firsts" that become thoroughly absorbed into their particular medium come to seem antiquated. That fact doesn't "hurt" the work in question at all. I was listening to a Woody Allen stand-up act in which (I think) he introduced the now stock-joke about imagining baseball during sex---and you know what, it was still fucking funny.

Jonah swings and misses on his "Beetles" [sic!] remark. It's about 35 years since they broke up, with no sign of their relevance or freshness fading. His "prediction" might be wishful thinking (a lot of right-wingers hate the Beatles), or it might be facile contrarian posturing, since he can never be proven wrong.

What else? Groundhog Day was terrible. Four Weddings and a Funeral was pretty bad. Whatever the merits of Jennifer "Anisten" [sic] (doesn't National Review have editors?) [he's one of them--ed.] in Office Space, there was nothing "pretty good" about her performance on Friends, easily the biggest catastrophe in the history of comedy. ("Okay, here's the pitch, let's have everybody hook up with everybody, and one of the actors will have an eating disorder and make sarcastic comments about every other character on the show. A laugh riot, I promise.")

Monday, December 20, 2004

Gimme A Break

I'm burnt out. It's been a long semester, a pretty grueling political season, and an election that didn't go the way I hoped it would, to say the least. I might check in irregularly, but I'll need most of the week off from blogging.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Thought For The Day

"When intellectuals can do nothing else, they start a magazine."---Irving Howe

50 Years of Dissent, the semi-centennial collection from America's finest political magazine, is out now from Yale University Press, and quite reasonably priced.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Intellectual Property

I thought of this idea months and months ago.

Dept. Of Clarifications

A couple of items of business. First, it seems that a number of people were confused by my little attempt at satirizing Ayn Rand. Rather than kill the joke, such as it is, by explaining who Ms. Rand was and what she stood for, I'll instead link to the famous Whittaker Chambers' review of her most famous novel Atlas Shrugged (appropriately titled "Big Sister is Watching You"). There are a number of contenders for the title of worst writer who ever lived, but I think the erstwhile Ms. Alice Rosenbaum takes the prize. Her "philosophy," a hopeless mess of unsupportable assertion, rudimentary fallacy, caricaturish hyper-rationalism, and above all, bullying, has established itself as a bonafide cult for teenagers who don't fit in but think themselves superior to their peers. Her attempts at fiction writing range from unbearably awful to simply unreadable. Uh, I guess I'll leave it at that.

Second, a few days ago Rob Spiro asked me to elaborate on a throwaway comment in this post. He wrote:
You tangentially talked about school prayer in this post, and I'd be interested to hear more about your thoughts... why is "prayer time" in public schools necessarily sectarian?
I didn't mean to give this question short shrift, because it points to a bit of carelessness on my part. At the time I wrote that post, all I had in mind when I talked about "public school prayer" was a period in the day when someone (maybe a student) would recite a prayer and other students could participate or not as they saw fit. But of course, school prayer advocacy includes proposals for setting aside some kind of quiet "prayer time," the use of which is left up to students' discretion. In fact, this proposal might be the more common, as it's clearly an effort to appease the courts that have consistently rejected overt school prayer (unfortunately for the advocates, "prayer time" has been consistently rejected as well).

So what's so bad about "prayer time"? Two things: 1) This is a point I've made before in a slightly different context, but state endorsement of all religions simultaneously is not on stronger ground Constitutionally than state endorsement of one religion. 2) In practice, of course, "prayer time" always becomes "Christian prayer time." That's actually the reason the courts cite for not signing onto it.

And these two difficulties are going to apply to any attempt, no matter how watered-down, to introduce prayer into public schools. Firstly, the government is prohibited from endorsing any form of religious dogma, including pan-religious dogma. Secondly, I don't think there's any possibility for implementation of such policy that doesn't slide away from pan-religiosity into some sectarian mode. Lastly, consider the effect of a non-specific prayer time on a heterogeneous public school. Nothing is going to do more to foster animosities than the addition of competing religious doctrines to the classroom. Try, also, being a little atheist in such a setting. I imagine it would be pretty scarring.

The Worst Half Hour In The History Of Television

You may have already heard something about the contents of the Dec. 8 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country. It's hard really to know where to begin. How about this way: The last time there was so much overt anti-Semitism in a broadcast with national reach, Father Coughlin was still on the air.

The full transcript is here, and I recommend reading through it. I'll try to reconstruct what went on between the bookends of the show's opening sequence and the vaguely absurd spectacle of (guest host) Patrick Buchanan interviewing Leann Rimes. Buchanan assembled a panel to discuss the Oscars, and that's normally light-hearted bullshitting filler on a slow news day, but not when the entire panel is somewhere to the right of Buchanan and has an axe to grind. The guests were Govindi Murty, the co-founder of an anti-Cannes conservative film festival (who, incidentally, is both a Yalie and a hottie), Jennifer Giroux, the intrepid founder of (nuff said), Bill Donohue, the head of the Catholic League a man who died about fifteen years ago but whose body and vital functions are kept intact but the force of his own lingering paranoia and hatred (imagine Patrick Buchanan on PCP, and here's what you get), and lastly, the moral hero of this tableau, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who in real life is actually a moral pygmy.

Things were supposed to go the way you might have expected, a basic (rhetorical) circle-jerk on the (filmographic) carcass of Michael Moore. (I hate Moore, incidentally.) But the good rabbi quickly dashed any hope of having a satisfying agreement session when he described The Passion as "an abomination":
It really is like Mohammed al-Zarqawi‘s movies on the Internet where a guy gets his head chopped off. It's gory. It's ugly and it's not inspiring.
Well you can imagine that didn't go over well. Buchanan rushed to play the "how dare you be insensitive to our beliefs" card of the pedestrian right-wing post-modernism I touched on here. Perhaps you too can hear the mournful notes of the world's tiniest fiddle while Buchanan says:
Well, since about tens of millions of Americans saw it, loved it, appreciated it, and honored it, that tells us, Rabbi, I think, what you think of the intelligence and sensitivity of millions of Americans.
OR: "Since tens of millions of Germans read it, loved it, appreciated it, and honored it, that tells us, Rabbi, I think, what you think of the intelligence and sensitivity of millions of Germans." But perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself. Nothing Buchanan has said (well, recently anyway, and, er, in public, at least as far as I know) could top the uncharacterizable mess that came out of Donohue's mouth as soon as Buchanan prompted him to speak about The Passion's Oscar prospects:
Who really cares what Hollywood thinks? All these hacks come out there. Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. It‘s not a secret, OK? And I‘m not afraid to say it. That‘s why they hate this movie. It‘s about Jesus Christ, and it‘s about truth. It‘s about the messiah.

Hollywood likes anal sex. They like to see the public square without nativity scenes. I like families. I like children. They like abortions. I believe in traditional values and restraint. They believe in libertinism. We have nothing in common. But you know what? The culture war has been ongoing for a long time. Their side has lost.

You have got secular Jews. You have got embittered ex-Catholics, including a lot of ex-Catholic priests who hate the Catholic Church, wacko Protestants in the same group, and these people are in the margins.
I don't have the faintest idea how to get a purchase on this. As one of my professors said, there are two forms of moral persuasion. One is to appeal to shared intuitions. The other is to use a sword. I try to be careful not to make hyperbolic statements, and I don't think it's a hyperbole to say that if Bill Donohue's views ruled the country, Gene Vilensky and I would both have been burnt at a stake. I'll just leave the following as an open question: Although Donohue clearly hates Jews most of all, he didn't forget to let us know that he hates Protestants and ex-Catholics as well. Whom do you think he hates more, the heretics or the traitors?

I'm re-reading the transcript, and it looks like something very interesting happens at this point. After Donohue's "Kikes! Kikes!" outburst, Buchanan decided that the master can still teach the pupil a lesson or two in couching one's anti-Semitism so that it's plausibly deniable. Doing the only logical thing in response to that sort of rant, Buchanan asked Jennifer Giroux, who as the founder of obviously has a great deal of expertise in the cultural sentiments of the Jewish community, to explain why it is that Jews didn't like The Passion. He set the question up this way:
[H]e [Boteach] shares a view that's not only of the secular Jewish community about "The Passion of the Christ." But also neoconservatives, who often align themselves with conservatives, were vicious on this movie.

What is your explanation for why the almost among—in the Jewish community, it is almost universal, except for folks like Michael Medved, the contempt and hatred and revulsion at what we consider a beautiful movie?
If your curious about that last remark, I mentioned in a comment here that Shorter Medved on The Passion is: "We kikes had better own up to our Christ-killing, or else a rising wave of global anti-Kikism is no one's fault but our own." I wasn't joking then or now. Nor is it a joke that "neoconservatives who often align themselves with conservatives" is Buchanan-speak for "bloodsucking Jewish cabal." That, friends, is the slick way to hate Jews. Has Donohue got no class at all (don't answer)?

Rather than answer Buchanan's question (she's laboring under the impression that "way more Jewish people saw the value in this film, the artistic value, the historical value, than is let on in the national media, OK"), Giroux made a startling admission:
No matter what you think about “The Passion of the Christ,” Rabbi, the acting was so inspiring, so unforgettable. The scenes that he did, including the blessed mother running towards Jesus, the flashbacks, the circular camera that he used at the crucifixion that made you feel like the blood was hitting you in the face, artistic genius.
Something there bears repeating: "the circular camera that he used at the crucifixion that made you feel like the blood was hitting you in the face, artistic genius"!!! So much for the notion that Mel Gibson and Quentin Tarantino aren't bizzaro-world twins. How else can one describe Giroux's faith except as blood-worship? And what is the probability that her sentiment isn't shared among Gibson's fans? Between Donohue and Giroux, we have everything that motivated Eric Cartman to found a Gibson fan club.

Govindi Murty, as you might expect of a Yale graduate, has a considerably more sophisticated analysis:
Now, in terms of business vs. art or art vs. politics, I think art should be paramount. And the conflict between “The Passion” and between “Fahrenheit 9/11” is a conflict between art and between political propaganda. “The Passion” is a movie that ennobles and inspires the human spirit. “Fahrenheit 9/11” is a work of political propaganda that incites hatred against Americans and hatred of our own country and of our president.
It would be beating a dead horse to explain (yet again) what's wrong with characterizing The Passion as "a movie that ennobles and inspires the human spirit." Murty's original contribution to the crimes-against-reason genre of the Gibson apologists is to attack F9/11 for "inciting hatred" as a means of drawing a contrast with The Passion. As if there were any clearer form of incitement to hatred than a cinematic passion play that just about tops Oberammergau for reliance on anti-Semitic iconography as a plot device. But Murty, unlike her co-panelists, has something of a conscience:
Let‘s remember, secular Jews built up our film industry and founded most of our Hollywood movie studios and were very patriotic Americans for a long period of time. So I‘m a little—I feel some concern about the comments about secular Jews.
It's charitable of her to say so, even if a very plausible way to interpret that statement is as a suggestion that secular Jews are no longer patriotic Americans.

What Murty ambiguously implies, Buchanan readily endorses:
The movies, the war movies, the Western movies—I saw somewhere where seven out of the top 20 movies of the 20th century, according to artists themselves, were made in the 1950s.

They were made by secular Jewish folks. And they transmitted values of honesty and faith and courage. What has happened to Hollywood in 40 years?
Patrick my old boy, you should have known better than to trust those people 40 years ago.

Around this point in the discussion, Bill Donohue probably got the feeling that, despite managing to soil himself on national television, he was beginning to get outdone by his comrades. Seizing on the opening created by Boteach trying to deflect the pressure off of secular Jews and onto secularism in general, Donohue got to the bottom of things once again:

Obviously, he‘s concerned about secularists. I‘m talking about secularists in Hollywood. They‘re not Rastafarians. They‘re Jews. Just pick up any copy of the Jewish...


DONAHUE: And you‘ll learn that.

BOTEACH: Those Jews.

DONAHUE: Now, the fact of the matter—I didn‘t say those Jews.

BOTEACH: Them Jews.


DONAHUE: No, no, no, hold on here. Don‘t try to play this game with me here. To say that Hollywood...

BOTEACH: What a ridiculous statement.

DONAHUE: Wait a minute. To say that Hollywood...

BOTEACH: In 2004 America, the Jews, still. Come on, Bill.

DONAHUE: You‘re going to tell...


BOTEACH: Come on, Bill. Come on. You‘re too smart for this.


DONAHUE: You‘re going to tell me that the Chinese don‘t live in Chinatown, right? To say that Hollywood is dominated by secular Jews...
MSNBC isn't Fox News, and its executives ought to be ashamed of themselves (but probably aren't) that they allowed a show to become so unbalanced that no one, not even the lone Jew present, is going to call Donohue exactly what he is. Instead, we get Giroux's phantasmagoria about the moral decline of Hollywood/America hopelessly tangled inside excuse-making for anti-Semitism in general and Donohue in particular:
I constantly hear that there is a very, very strong homosexual push on Hollywood. I think it‘s the result of the sexual revolution. The decency laws, they keep pushing the envelope on that. What really makes me sad, here we are 10 minutes later, is that the Rabbi continues to pull out the anti-Semitic card, when, in fact, the pope himself, Billy Graham, all the religious leaders that lead millions around the world, have all come out and said, a beautiful movie, true to the Gospels. We all look inward and see what our part was. Pontius Pilate was conflicted.
Economical, isn't she. In one paragraph, half a dozen empty labels Giroux doesn't even understand (stong homosexual push that's the result of the sexual revolution and the pushing of envelopes on decency laws indeed), an exculpation of Pontius Pilate, and the suggestion of Billy Graham---whom we actually know from his recorded statements on the Nixon tapes to be a fanatical anti-Jewish bigot---as an arbiter of what constitutes anti-Semitism. The lack of both moral and intellectual education is staggering.

Murty, on the other hand, is sort of an intellectual, which is why her whitewashing of The Passion's anti-semitism is less pathetic than Giroux's and more incriminating:
MURTY: But let me address the anti-Semitism, please.

Let‘s face it. Let‘s look at the empirical evidence. What anti-Semitic acts have there been after “The Passion” came out? There have been none. In fact, there‘s a beautiful movie by Tim Chey called “Impact: The Passion of the Christ” that we showed at our recent Liberty Film Festival in Los Angeles.
This is excellent. The fact that the low low low church Protestant audience for The Passion in America hasn't had enough schooling in the iconography of 17th century Catholic anti-Semitism to know how to respond to such a movie is supposed to count as evidence against such images being anti-Semitic. Let's not say a word about the film's reception in parts of the Muslim world where the Protocols of the Elders of Zion seem to be gaining in popularity, because Murty's earned the right not to have her bubble burst.

I prefer to concentrate instead on the next act of this drama, in which the rabbi is asked more or less directly to account for the culpability of the Jews as Christ-killers. Buchanan, in his genteel way, suggests that at the least, the Jews around at the time of Jesus's death were Christ-killers:
BUCHANAN: Did not the Jewish establishment want this man who said he was the messiah, who said he was the son of God, who said he was coming to bring a new religion, did they not want him out of the way?
Donohue, now chest high in his own filth, pipes in:
DONAHUE: It was the Puerto Ricans that did it.
And then Giroux hammers the point home by telling Boteach that he as well as all Jews everywhere aren't helping themselves by trying to duck responsibility for being messiah-slayers:

All I can say, Rabbi, is, you‘ve got to concede the fact—and it‘s difficult because we all at times in life have to say, I‘m sorry, I was wrong—we cannot go back and make it that the Hawaiians killed Christ. Mel Gibson and all Christians...
I've poked fun at Shmuley Boteach before, and will do so again, but his response to that remark has got to be his life's crowning achievement:
BOTEACH: What bothers me, Jennifer, is that you‘re an ignorant peasant who doesn‘t even know Christian text, for God‘s sake.
L'chaim, as they say. Murty, to her credit, isn't party to the Christ-killing strophe/antistrophe dynamic. But she does manage to pinpoint the root cause of her confusion:
MURTY: Rabbi, let‘s look at the actual—I‘d like to ask the Rabbi a question. This is an honest question...


MURTY: ... from someone who is neither Jewish, nor Christian.

Let me just ask you, who are the biggest supporters of Israel in America today? It is the Christian right. It is the Christian right.
The Christian right supports Israel, to paraphrase Lenin, the way that a rope supports a hanging man. Is there anyone at Yale today (as opposed, apparently, to Murty's day) who doesn't understand that the reason evangelicals are supportive of Israel is because they want all the Jews to go there in order to bring about apocalypse, in which all Jews will either be killed and damned or converted? With friends like those....

That's about all I got. By way of closing, I'll borrow one of Murty's throwaway comments:
MURTY: I would like to say something, which is, you know what? I‘m not Jewish and I‘m not Christian. I‘m Hindu. And I liked “The Passion.” So there are a lot of different ethnicities working in Hollywood today.

Please face that.
Consider it faced. The American Dream: That a Hindu Yalie, a Protestant yokel, and a pair of medieval Catholics who would subject each other to an auto-da-fe if they should ever run out of other people to persecute, can all get together, and in the spirit of brotherhood, tolerance, unity, and patriotism, heap blood-libels on an Orthodox Jewish rabbi who's made a living as an apologist for the ideology that informed The Passion of the Christ and continues to inform its defenders.

UPDATE: Tim Cavanaugh caught this edition of Scarborough Country, too.
His description of Donohue In the course of covering his now-standard set of "Your revolution is over, Mr. Lebowski; the bums lost" talking points, the great Bill Donohue fingers the shadowy group that is really responsible for the Kulturkampf
seems on the mark. Though this original appellation of mine might be unimprovable: Donohue is what you'd get if Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor somehow accidentally lobotomized himself. (Hey, how about this for a one-act play---Donohue runs PR for the Inquisition, and takes a courageous stand against the ongoing persecution of Catholics: "I'm just disgusted by the anti-Catholic bias we're being subjected to. Are Catholics responsible for having our kids abducted at passover and made into those funny Jew-crackers?")

UPDATE: Yes, my spelling, "Donohue," is correct, and MSNBC's, "Donahue," is incorrect.

Theocracy Watch

This one's for Gene's sake. A judge in Alabama has embroidered the Ten Commandments onto his robe. His predictable defender, the ex-judge Roy Moore who disgraced himself by attempting to install a Ten Commandments monolith on the grounds of his courthouse, had this to say:
"I applaud Judge McKathan. It is time for our judiciary to recognize the moral basis of our law," Moore said.
This is nothing so sophisticated as natural law theory. The "moral basis of our law," it seems, is a decalogue revealed by God directly to his prophet, utterly inaccessible to reason or analysis.

Defenders of including the Ten Commandments in the public square love to point to its prohibition against murder, stealing, and lying, and proclaim, as Moore does anywhere he can get an audience, "Behold, our founding principles." That's bollocks. The first four commandments are dogma without so much as a fiber of moral teaching to them: 1) Yahweh is God; 2) Worship Yahweh, don't worship idols; 3) Don't say "Yahweh" out loud (it's a bit like saying "Bloody Mary" or "Candyman," as Rabbi Akibah once remarked); 4) Don't work on Saturdays.

Edifying moral lessons, no? The situation improves somewhat at 5) Honor your father and mother. But it declines all over again when you read a bit past the Charlton Heston on the mountain scene and find out that the penalty for disrespecting one's parents is death. (But the Constitution might allow that, since if it's in the Bible, it's not cruel or unusual, by definition. Gun rights are definitely an indispensable freedom, though, right Gene?)

Then there's the all important 6) Thou shalt not kill, which actually isn't all that helpful, as the intellectual history of just war theory seems to demonstrate. Do we really owe our prohibition against murder to this one line in Exodus? Really? So the commonality of a prohibition against unlawful killing to every culture from the proto-Indo-European clans of the ancient steppes to the cannibalistic tribes of Polynesia doesn't count as evidence that the causal history of the prohibition against murder isn't so clear-cut, or that the single line in Exodus wasn't quite a sine qua non? No? Okay, just checking.

Number 7) Thou shalt not commit adultery. Well that's totalitarian.

Number 8) Thou shalt not steal. Same as with murder, only none of the intuitions are as strong.

Number 9) Don't lie or slander. This one I may have to concede. The intuition we all feel when someone lies about us must come from the Bible. Where else could it come from? Unfortunately, unless we're talking about perjury or libel, we're talking about something the law is powerless to punish.

Number 10) Don't covet things that don't belong to you, like your neighbor's ox or slave or wife. As George Carlin says, this is just bad for the economy.

I'm not trying to be flippant (well, not exactly), but for all the bluster about the "moral foundation of law," I have yet to hear a single example of a law premised on the Ten Commandments.

It's Too Easy

John J. Miller, author of a philistine book about Franco-American relations, posting at The Corner:
I tried the asparagus ice cream with K Lo. Kate O'Beirne suggested that we order it, I think mainly so we could spend the rest of our lives telling people that we've actually tasted the stuff. Can you imagine a better topic for small talk?[emphasis mine]
A: Yes. And furthermore, who or what are these people?

Friday, December 17, 2004

Faith And Reason

Quite a bit of the recent blogospheric noise about the (in)commensurability of faith and reason in politics is traceable back to this post by Kevin Drum a few days ago. Responding to a LAT op-ed ostensibly aimed at defending the jurisprudential philosophy of Clarence Thomas, Kevin writes the following of Thomas's cited belief that "our rights come not from government but from a 'creator' and 'the laws of nature and of nature's God'":
Coming from a priest or a preacher, this would be fine. Coming from a Supreme Court justice who's supposed to interpret the constitution on secular grounds, it's an embarrassment.
Of the right-blogosphere's reactions and responses, I thought this post by Pejman Yousefzadeh was the smartest and the most likely to foster dialogue. Pejman's main point is that the views to which Thomas adheres are an expression of natural law theory, and not to be so easily mocked. He writes:
I find it bizarre that Kevin Drum seems to think that Clarence Thomas is an "embarrassment" simply because Thomas is an adherent to the concept of natural law...[N]atural law has a rich intellectual history behind it, and indeed, the key portion of the Declaration of Independence is founded on natural law principles...Again, I do not subscribe to the natural law theory of jurisprudence when natural law comes into conflict with an originalist or strict constructionist interpretation of the Constitution. But the debate over natural law and its role in American jurisprudence is a far more serious one than Kevin appears to realize. As such, the debate--along with Justice Thomas--deserves far more respect than Kevin appears willing to afford.
In the body of the post, Pejman goes on to cite Thurgood Marshall in an approving reference to "natural rights." I'll step up and answer Pejman's rhetorical question: Kevin Drum would (I assume) not consider Thurgood Marshall an "embarrassment."

Kieran at Crooked Timber came up with what strikes me as the perhaps decisive synthesis of this dialectic:
My feeling is that objections to Clarence Thomas’s jurisprudence should focus on what we think people’s rights are, substantively, rather than where we think they come from. But let me comment on the God vs Man question anyway. Actually, let Roberto Mangabeira Unger comment on it, from his Politics:
Modern social thought was born proclaiming that society is made and imagined, that it is a human artifact rather than an expression of an underlying natural order.
The Constitution of the United States is a decisive political expression of this conviction. It doesn’t preclude deep and shared religious convictions — it just doesn’t presuppose them.
Needless to say, I agree with Kieran (and Mangabeira), but I want to table this for now in order to set up a related problem. About a month ago, Eugene Volokh enunciated a very-persuasive looking challenge to the position I've been endorsing recently:
Imposing One's Religious Dogma on the Legal System:

I keep hearing evangelical Christian leaders criticized for "trying to impose their religious dogma on the legal system," for instance by trying to change the law to ban abortion, or by trying to keep the law from allowing gay marriage. I've blogged about this before, but I think it's worth mentioning again.

I like to ask these critics: What do you think about the abolitionist movement of the 1800s? As I understand it, many -- perhaps most or nearly all -- of its members were deeply religious people, who were trying to impose their religious dogma of liberty on the legal system that at the time legally protected slavery.

Or what do you think about the civil rights movement? The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., after all, was one of its main leaders, and he supported and defended civil rights legislation as a matter of God's will, often in overtly religious terms. He too tried to impose his religious dogma on the legal system, which at the time allowed private discrimination, and in practice allowed governmental discrimination as well.

Or how about religious opponents of the draft, opponents of the death penalty, supporters of labor unions, supporters of welfare programs, who were motivated by their religious beliefs -- because deeply religious people's moral beliefs are generally motivated by their religious beliefs -- in trying to repeal the draft, abolish the death penalty, protect labor, or better the lot of the poor? Perhaps their actions were wrong on the merits; for instance, maybe some anti-poverty problems caused more problems than they solved, or wrongly took money from some to give to others. But would you condemn these people on the grounds that it was simply wrong for them to try to impose their religious beliefs on the legal system?...

So people should certainly criticize the proposals of the Religious Right (or Religious Left or Secular Right or Secular Left) that they think are wrong on the merits. But they would be wrong to conclude that the proposals are illegitimate simply on the grounds that the proposals rest on religious dogma. Religious people are no less and no more entitled than secular people to enact laws based on their belief systems.

And they would be quite inconsistent to (1) say that religious people ought not enact law based on their religious views, and nonetheless (2) have no objection when religious people do precisely that as to abolition of slavery, enactment of antidiscrimination laws, abolition of the death penalty, repeal of the draft, and so on.
The difference between the point Kevin Drum made and Pejman Yousefzadeh criticizes, versus the point I made and Eugene Volokh criticizes, is that the former concerns the politics of the metaphysical origin of human and civil rights, whereas the latter concerns the legitimacy of the source for beliefs about rights. These two arguments are more than superficially related; there are a variety of biconditionals that would follow from the various orientations they could take relative to one another.

My hunch is that the second argument, about an ethics of political foundationalism, is logically prior, at least from the standpoint of political philosophy. And here, I have no problem conceding, Volokh's criticism is essentially valid and correct. Indeed, I said as much when, clarifying my YDN piece on politicized Evangelicalism, I wrote the following in response to Lukas Halim's objections to the piece:
Where Lukas got the impression that I was referring either to all religious believers or to all Christians is beyond my ability to guess, but it certainly wasn't from the column.
But I can see why there's a certain amount of lingering ambiguity, so I want to try to clarify further.

I can't imagine how it would be possible to construct a politics that isn't both formally and substantively foundationalist; that is, I can't picture even the most enthusiastic supporters of coherentism and infinitism in abstract epistemological debates trying to argue away from foundationalism in politics. That's because, in the case of coherentism for example, there's nothing at all incoherent about political systems we find abhorrent; indeed, the worst tyrannies are often strenuously consistent in their ruling principles. But any political foundationalism is going to run up against the problem that all foundationalisms encounter, namely, that at some point in the explanatory chain, we're going to find a premise or set of premises that are primitive and aren't subject to an analysis. There's a meta-justificatory move that philosophy students can point to without much trouble, but all that really achieves is laying the dilemma of primitivity onto a meta-justificatory criterion rather than the foundational premises they explain.

So the seemingly insoluble problem looks something like this: How can I claim that my political primitives---which correspond roughly to the four freedoms plus rights to democratic participation and the privileging of personal autonomy over collective concerns except in extreme cases---are any more "legitimate" or "appropriate" than the primitives of the Christian right? My meta-justificatory move would be to point to the Constitution, which is a way of ducking the question (okay: now justify the Constitution). Theirs would be to point to the revelation of Almighty God, and I've got to say, they're on mighty firm ground if they've deciphered the will of God correctly. The temptation, faced with competing sets of brute values, is to adopt a thorough-going relativism. Traditionalists, who overlap the religious right to a significant extent, often accuse what they call the "secularists" (who are far more diverse in their views than their opponents tend to admit) of being apologists for such relativism. By the same token, we're in the midst of a new, right-wing relativism in everyday political discourse (watch a solid hour of Fox News and you'll see what I'm talking about), whereby any normative judgements made against Christianity are to be condemned, even before they are assessed, on the grounds that sensitivity to religious people's views takes precedence over truth.

As you might guess, I'm not sympathetic to any of these suggestions, all of which, I think, find their origin in the problem of intractable primitives I've alluded to. If relativism is "true"---and let's assume for the sake of argument that relativism isn't a priori self-defeating---then any pragmatic rationality against adopting it is unpersuasive (I have in mind the Straussian justification of the white lies without which a society cannot cohere).

My suggestion for saving unanalyzable primitives both from the kinds of holy wars they can inspire and from the relativism that looks like a reasonable meta-philosophical conclusion to draw from them, is to borrow the concept of "sensitivity," which was Robert Nozick's proposal for solving the problem of epistemic skepticism. Rather than justify the primitives of political ideologies in terms that include a justificatory element, I think we can analyze them in terms of the sort of subjunctive (counterfactual) conditionals that Nozick envisioned, but in this case, the criterion is empiricism-sensitivity rather than truth-sensitivity. It would go something like this: The legitimate primitives are the ones that would not close themselves off to fundamental reassessment in the face of disconfirmatory evidence. In the possible worlds in which I am given reason to doubt my own primitives, I will be forced to reconsider those primitives, adjusting some and jettisoning others. (And for the sake of the example, we're controlling for psychology---the adaptation of primitives is solely a function of their content.) Under this framework, I think the intuitive argument in favor of Mangabeira's (and, incidentally, Hume's) conception of society as a "human artifact" that is the product of complex historical contingencies as a legitimate foundation for ideology looks awfully compelling; whereas the Aristotelian/Thomistic (both in the sense of Aquinas and Clarence Thomas) vision of society as a collective and more or less inevitable telos looks like exactly the sort of foundation we ought to ditch. It is a system geared towards interpreting mildly disconfirmatory evidence as confirmatory evidence, and grossly disconfirmatory evidence only as proof that such evidence is faulty.

Now, by the way, we have an answer to Pejman Yousafzadeh: "natural law" and "natural rights" don't mean the same thing, even though the philosophy behind them has a shared intellectual history (at least causally), and some of the advocates of the latter saw themselves in the tradition of the former. "Natural rights" dialogue is the product of the Enlightment, of empiricism, and of an ideologized Humeanism; "natural law" dialogue is the product of hyper-rationalist, unarguable Scholastic certainty, and the Aristotelian rejection of empirical science.

And we have an answer to Eugene Volokh as well: What makes certain religious beliefs illegitimate as primitives is not that they are religious; it's that they are substantively incommensurate with empiricism, and are both politically and epistemically "non-sensitive."

UPDATE: Before I get myself into trouble, Rawlsian reflective equilibrium is not the kind of coherentism I had in mind when I said that a coherentist politics struck me as unlikely. The process of arriving at reflective equilibrium is strongly foundationalist in a formal sense (cf. Ernest Sosa's "The Raft and the Pyramid for further explanation). I simply meant that no one involved in political philosophy is going to be satisfied by the justificatory criterion of thorough-going coherentism, namely that internal coherence justifies a system of beliefs.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Proving Me Right

"The separation of church and state is not in our Constitution and not in the First Amendment."

--Presbyterian Minister Rev. D. James Paterson, Ph.D, on the O'Reilly Factor 12/16/04

What was the statement Gene Vilensky wanted me to cite before he would reconsider his position?

How To Prevent The End Of Social Security

Josh Marshall explains. Step 1: "Next, as we've discussed before, this isn't a debate about 'reform', 'privatization' or 'saving' Social Security. It's about phasing out the Social Security program, or not. Framing it any other way concedes half the battle before the fighting even begins." Duly noted.

He goes on to describe how the Democrats can achieve the parliamentarian unity they'll need if they're going to have a prayer of winning this thing:
The worst thing that can happen for Democrats is that a few of their members of congress get played for fools by signing on to President Bush's plan in the hopes that they can secure some small improvements in the legislation or reflected glory for themselves -- slightly less money carved out of Social Security, bumping up the payroll tax cap, etc. Whatever miniscule benefits could be achieved in such a fashion would be greatly outweighed by the way that it would lessen the chances for fixing the damage after the next election.

The question will be how to enforce discipline at the margins. And here Democrats should take a page from the Republican playbook in 1994 (on health care) and 1998 (on impeachment).

I think Democrats should consider pulling together the major funders of the party, the official committees, the major organizations, basically the entire infrastructure of the Democratic party and making clear to individual members that if they sign on to the president's plan to phase out Social Security, those various institutions and individuals won't fund their campaigns. Not in 2006, not ever.

Similar committments can come from voters, activists and volunteers. And free rein to primary challengers. If a couple folks lose their seats because of underfunding or tough primaries, so be it...

It's that important. And there is an importance to unity on this issue that transcends the particular debate over Social Security.
I'm normally put off by calls for popular-front style solidarity. But it's Marshall's throwaway line at the end the touches on why this is an exceptional case. Social Security is at stake, and that's important; but what's also at stake, and transcendentally important, is the existence or non-existence of organized opposition to the Republican majority.

Now read the rest.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Pot Calling The Kettle Black Award

"While PFAW comes close in their fascist interpretation of the Second Amendment, I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they are not really for overturning the Second Amendment..."

"So, stop your hyperbole."
---Gene Vilensky, including a bit of performance art about the dangers of overheated rhetoric in his response to me

Theocracy, Socialism, and Rationalizations Thereof

In the latest counterpoint in a recent blog-fight, Gene Vilensky has written a rejoinder to my response to his response to me (clear?). When last we spoke of this, I charged him with trying to bait me into taking a position I disavow, and with asserting a false equivalence between People for the American Way (PFAW from here on out) and like-minded groups on the one hand and politicized Evangelicalism on the other.

Gene responds to that charge by revising his initial claim: It's not that PFAW is as bad as the Family Research Council and the James Dobson coterie; it's that they're worse! He first acquits Dobson and his comrades of advocating theocracy and then lets us know that the real threat to Constitutional liberty comes from left-wing ideology and liberal special interest lobbies.

I wish to revise my earlier charge as well. It's not that Gene made an incorrect equivalence claim; it's that he's doing everything he can rhetorically to avoid serious consideration of what the religious right is, what it stands for, or the scope of its influence. What else but intentionally question-begging frivolity could explain the preposterous standard of proof he asks me to meet before he will acknowledge that the goal of the Christian right, as I put it originally, is "reciprocal religious control of government and government control of religion":
Well, color me stupid, but I have not heard a single statement from Dobson, Weyrich, et al. advocating theocracy, just as PFAW doesn't explicitly advocate socialism. That was the entire point of my post: the same hyperbolic hysteria Dan espouses about Wyrich/Dobson could as easily be used against PFAW. If Dan can provide me a quote where Weyrich, Dobson, et al. in fact said, that there should either be "a law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," I would reconsider my position.
I'm not going to "color" him stupid, because this has nothing to do with intelligence. On the contrary, this has everything to do with having sufficient intellectual courage to criticize one's own side publicly and unreservedly when it is clearly in the wrong (and incidentally, in case it's thought that I'm the slightest bit reluctant to criticize the left, just peruse the archives of this blog a bit).

I'll bite the bullet and answer an unserious question seriously. Let P = the establishment clause of the First Amendment. Dobson, I'm almost supremely confident, has never said "~P," at least not in a public forum. On the other hand, I've heard more than one prominent evangelical, including the good Revs. Falwell and Robertson, if you want names, stating straightforwardly that they don't think the Constitution creates a separation of church and state (that's almost verbatim and I invite you to lexis and google me if you're skeptical). Now that that's out of the way, can we please rejoin the reality-based community? I hope that we can, because Dobson's discipline to this point, as far as I know, in not uttering a direct repudation of the First Amendment that could only serve to discredit him and his movement is neither impressive nor important. Whereas it's exceedingly important that on the obvious counsel of you-know-who, or perhaps on the understanding that Dobson doesn't actually need to be asked what he wants, only given it, the government has been spending federal tax revenue on abstinence-only sex ed programs.

"What's so bad about that?" asks Gene in keeping with his apology for public school prayer. (A: If you can't figure that out, I'm not sure there's a point in trying to explain.) Aside from being foundationally premised on sectarian Christian dogma (sorry, that's what's so bad about public school prayer), and aside from having had zero verifiable positive impact on public health (though that doesn't change anything from a libertarian standpoint), these programs impart to public school students such valuable lessons as that "half the gay male teenagers in the United States have tested positive for the AIDS virus," that "touching a person's genitals 'can result in pregnancy,'" that "[a] 43-day-old fetus is a 'thinking person,'" and in a move that might be actionable for the condom industry, that "condoms fail to prevent HIV transmission as often as 31 percent of the time in heterosexual intercourse." This isn't even close to an exhaustive list, and one would have to have a pretty strong imaginative organ indeed to come up with a pro-abstinence (or anti-gay) lie that these characters would feel is beneath their standards for admission into scientific discourse. My favorite little pornographic detail is the pathetic excuse-making on the part of the professional abstinence-only propagandist whom the Washington Post interviewed:
McIlhaney acknowledged that his group, which publishes "Sexual Health Today" instruction manuals, made a mistake in describing the relationship between a rare type of infection caused by chlamydia bacteria and heart failure.
It was an innocent mistake that could have happened to anyone, I'm sure.

Shall we go further? How about one more example? Consider the story of Alabama Congressman Gerald Allen, no doubt a man of "deep religious convictions," as our intrepid Bush-hating media like to euphemize. Congressman Allen might have spent his time in the legislature doing important things like thwarting Osama bin Laden's murderous designs on Tuscaloosa, or introducing an anti-Confederate-flag-burning amendment into the state constitution, but his priorities are a bit different, as his hometown newspaper reports:
A bill by Rep. Gerald Allen, R-Cottondale, would prohibit the use of public funds for "the purchase of textbooks or library materials that recognize or promote homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle." Allen said he filed the bill to protect children from the "homosexual agenda."

"Our culture, how we know it today, is under attack from every angle," Allen said in a press conference Tuesday.

Allen said that if his bill passes, novels with gay protagonists and college textbooks that suggest homosexuality is natural would have to be removed from library shelves and destroyed.

"I guess we dig a big hole and dump them in and bury them," he said.
I guess there's a kerosene shortage in Alabama or something. Among the works to be buried are Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, The Color Purple, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Brideshead Revisted. That's just the short abridged list-for-explanatory-purposes of Kim Chandler of the Birmingham News. If the criterion is applied consistently, I don't see how more than half the dialogues of Plato could be spared, and it's a national disgrace that that should even be a plausible thing to say (don't worry, it is a plausible thing to say).

Andrew Sullivan, who confesses to having once "read these kinds of stories and dismiss[ed] them," asks a perfectly appropriate question: [I]n Karl Rove's Republican party, how is this in any way out of place? Before Gene non-answers by linking to a story about petty corruption at a Democratic fundraiser, I'll admit that I didn't cite the question merely for rhetorical purposes, and that I already know the fact of that matter. It's not out of place. At all. If it were out of place, Congressman Allen wouldn't have been invited to dinner at the White House (with the president) only a few days after his offering his proposal for removing literary sodomy from Alabama schools.

Lastly, and I hope this doesn't count as offering one datum more than I confined myself to, there's the story of another effort at inserting creationism into biology classes underlying the media criticism of the previous post, which is a token of an increasingly and therefore depressingly common type.

The agenda of the religious right isn't a mystery. Gene's efforts at making it seem mysterious amount to "shameless cocooning bullshit" (now I owe a royalty to Mickey Kaus). More salient, perhaps, is what follows from a point I made in my original YDN piece on this issue: President Bush is a member of his own religious base. I know that Gene was a Bush supporter, and that he also doesn't believe in Evangelical dogma. Now, democratic citizens have a civic obligation to accept the consequences of getting their way in an election. Doing whatever first-order logic will allow in order to avoid brushing up against the reality of the consequences of one's vote is neither an effective nor an original way of shirking that responsibility, but shirking that responsibility is precisely what it is.

Enough about the religious right. A little part of me dies every time I write about them. I want to get back to Gene's comparison of PFAW and, let's say, FRC, which was fallacious before and is morally repugnant now. The errors he makes in that comparison---and I call them "errors" in order to maintain a semantic neutrality, not to suggest they have anything in common with what goes on when one misspells a word---come in two basic varieties: scope errors and substantive errors. I didn't give nearly enough attention to the former in my previous reply to Gene, so I'll try to do so now. One of the reasons that Gene's one-for-one substitution of terms produces a disanalogy is that Ralph Neas could not possibly remove a Democrat he didn't like from a committee appointment (or, as the case of Specter turned out, force his moral castration). Another is that it's just laughable to suggest that senators' and congressmen's knees buckle in fear of the wrath of Neas. Whereas the Republican presidential campaign, and virtually the whole of its domestic policy, is crafted to appease the Christian right faction in general, and one man, Dobson, in particular. That's part one of Gene's scope error, the notion that an insidery pressure group like PFAW wields influence over the Democrats that's even remotely comparable to FRC's influence over the Republicans.

Part two of the scope error follows from part one: The power of the PFAW to implement actual policy or even advocate for implementable policy (as opposed to influencing policy positions) is a microfraction of the equivalent power of the FRC. With no legislation coming before the House of Representatives that doesn't have the support of the majority of Republicans, Ralph Neas's influence over policy is quite a bit closer to my influence over policy than James Dobson's. By contrast, it would be difficult to imagine any lunatic proposal of the Christian right not getting a hearing at least before the House. Furthermore, by what mechanism, exactly, did a proposed Constitutional Amendment to make gays into permanent second-class citizens end up on the floor of the Senate? Who phoned that one in? That disgrace should have been the Kronstadt moment for a morally conscientious Republican. I'm sad to say that it wasn't in Gene's case. I hope he can at least recognize that "theocracy," if it means anything at all, refers to an effort to insert a sectarian religious doctrine into the Constitution. (And do spare me a tortured defense of the FMA as secular policy---it would have 1% of the support it enjoys if not for its religious component, and it would be even more vile, if that's possible, since it would be an argument for arbitrary discrimination for the sake of arbitrary discrimination.)

As for the substantive errors of Gene's comparison, one of them belongs largely to the time-wasting subgroup of the category of unseriousness about real advocacy of theocratic governance. Why, he asks, wouldn't socialism be a violation of the Ninth Amendment provision which states:
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.(?)
Because socialism doesn't have the slightest thing to do with construing one Constitutional right so as to "deny or disparage" another. I don't really know what else to say except that this objection isn't even close to germane.

Gene might have an inkling that socialism is a red herring, since he adds the disclaimer, "suppose even that socialism is a bad example." He then runs to a fairly predictable fallback position, namely leftist views on gun rights. He's on stronger ground here legally and constitutionally, but is only exacerbating the problem, and I wouldn't keep using this term if there were a more appropriate one, of moral unseriousness. I'm for gun rights on libertarian grounds; I got there all by my lonesome and I don't need the ultra-liberal, wait, scratch that, liberal, hold on, better yet, somewhat liberal Lawrence Tribe to enunciate that position for me. I also think that barring the sale of weapons to convicted violent felons is roughly analagous to the exceptions on free speech for direct incitement to violence: both make me uncomfortable as a libertarian, but I'm not sure how to accept the jurisprudence on one but not both. That said, if PFAW is in fact in favor of overturning private gun ownership rights, and not just in favor of a gun control regime, then they certainly are in favor of overturning a Constitutional right. It just so happens that this particular right is as relevant for assessing the health of Constitutional freedom and liberal government as a Constitutional right to sugar cones with all purchases of ice cream. In other words, not bloody important. Build a duplicate America in which everything stays constant but there are no guns and no right to own guns, and the relative freedom of the society moves maybe one iota. Build a duplicate America in which gays have been legislated out of civic life, in which the content of public school curricula is a function of commensurability with biblical literalism, in which private sexual conduct is subject to criminal sanction, in which...I could go on and on, but Gene knows all the examples already, and if he's being honest with himself, he'll acknowledge that they are part of the religious right's vision of our country's future. The point is that in the second case, the circumstances are utterly different.

I don't really know what else to say. It could be that Gene and I inhabit different epistemic universes, but I'd like to think that's not the case. My only request of his response, if he responds, is that he give some, any indication that he that he's willing to call theocracy theocracy, and that he understands why theocracy's a bad thing in the first place.

What Country Do I Live In? Part 1004

CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 just did a feature on the latest effort to destroy biological science by eradicating it among the youth. With Cooper on vacation, the show was guest hosted by a pleasant enough telebimbo, whose journalistic chops were really on display tonight. Some amphibian from the Family Research Council was booked to debate a representative of Citizens United for the Separation of Church and State. I could complain about the fact that Ms. Pastel Suit Sans Shoulder Pads treated evolution and "intelligent design theory" with equal credence ("intelligent design theory" is the name that creationists use in public settings rather than "creationism" because as long as you don't say "God," who's to say whether or not the intelligent design or its intelligent designer is a religious concept---even though the term "creationism" was already invented for that precise purpose). I could complain about the fact that the creationist got an open floor for the explicit purpose of asserting and defending the truth of "intelligent design." But to complain would be petty.

Really, what I want is for any "journalist" who asks a question like "Aren't you just associating 'intelligent design theory' with 'creationism' in order to discredit it?" or "So why aren't you open to alternative scientific theories?" to secure her pretty, telegenic self a crippling FCC indecency fine. These are public airwaves, and people are watching with their families, for Chrissake.

The Next Big Thing

A few days ago Kevin Drum asked why, if Hollywood is so liberal, the movie stars who end up in politics are almost all (all?) Republicans? Rather than answer the question, I'd like to unveil a future governor, senator, or perhaps even president right out of God's Own Party: Vincent Gallo's cock [we figure that if Vincent is a Republican, little Vincent probably is too--ed. N.B.: No, this isn't a joke, and yes, it's there if you follow the links...somewhat obscured by Chloe Sevigny's head, however.].

Disney/Pixar Shrugged

I've gotten a couple of e-mails grilling me for a throwaway line in my criticism of Ben Shapiro from a few days ago. I wrote:
What's the "family friendly fare" whose triumph over a very bad Oliver Stone movie Shapiro is so enraptured by? "“National Treasure,” “The Incredibles,” “Christmas With The Kranks,” “The Polar Express,” and “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.”...In other words, three cartoons and two movies too bad for words. The is the same discriminating taste that covinced Shapiro that cutting his own hair without a mirror was the way to go.
As you can see, I'm doing my level-headed best to be coldly rational and dispassionate. My mistake, apparently, wasn't taking a deserved cheap shot at Shapiro's hair (did I mention that he's a 20-year-old virgin?), but in including The Incredibles in the category of Shapiro-beloved movies that I was dismissing.

My anonymous correspondents agree with me---or so I interpret them as saying---that everyone involved in the production of National Treasure, Christmas With The Kranks, and The Polar Express, and that includes the coffee boys, should be pistol whipped. Spongebob is just a kiddie movie they say, incommensurate with the others, while The Incredibles, despite its animatedness, is a great film and my consideration of it alongside the Nicholas Cage and Tim Allen atrocities is totally unwarranted. Well, the fact is that neither Shapiro nor I chose those five movies arbitrarily; those were the five that grossed more than Alexander at the time Shapiro wrote his column (assuming he told the truth).

But I understand the point; though I haven't seen The Incredibles, this is not the first time someone has told me that it's really good and that I ought to see it. So I had mixed feelings about the comparison of The Incredibles to the other films at the time of the original post, and decided for the sake of brevity not to add a meandering qualifying clause. As long as I'm allowed to take a mulligan on that post, let me point out, as I should have at the time, that Team America, which is raunchy, campy, gory, and awesome on every level, acquitted itself nicely at the box office, and is surely the highest-grossing puppet movie ever. [The Muppet Movie? The Muppet Christmas Carol? Muppet Treasure Island? The movie with the guy who looks like he's real but is actually made out of plastic and is operated by having some guy's hand up his ass, er, what's that called...The Matrix?--ed.]

One potential counterindication I've heard about The Incredibles, however, is that it's a cartoonization of the philosophy of Ayn Rand. That rumor might come from predictably hysterical corners of the left, but suppose it's accurate. If somebody could successfully make a film that's true to Rand and also subversively funny, he deserves an immediate Oscar for lifetime achievement. I myself have been working on a one-act dramatization of Randianism, and in fact, everything in this post so far has been a been a bit of throat-clearing and build up to this point.

My working title is The Egotrip, although I'm considering Masturbatory Pseudo-Intellectual Nerd Wish Fulfillment Writ Large as a secondary option:
[The setting is a luxury hotel on the top floor of the tallest skyscraper in the world which is on top of the tallest mountain in the world which overlooks Manhattan. The year is 2045, at the conclusion of a transnational global war, in which the world's 634 richest, and therefore best people, declared war on the remainder of the earth's population and defeated them in hand to hand combat, despite being outnumbered 9.46372x10^6:1, proving conclusively that A equals A, that a being of volitional consciousness has no automatic course of behavior, and in a real surprise, that existence exists. They have gathered at this place to determine on the basis of objective rationality the entire future course of human history. We enter the grand ballroom of the hotel.]

[The best leadership of the world stands about in nervous clusters. A man can be dimly overheard suggesting the expenditure of capital to improve the lot of suffering humanity. He is drawn and quartered, in accordance with the principles of reason. We're going to want to actually draw and quarter somebody here---it would be altruistic not to. And if the actors' union complains, we can shut ourselves up in a mountain until they relent.]

[Enter our hero, Ragnarok Miguel Antoninus Herodotus Hercules Gramsci Thornjulffson d'Acosta d'Atrophe Augustulus.]

Eunuch #76548 [known as David Goldschmidt before the war and the revelation that he belongs to a lesser species---he speaks into a megaphone with the word "Galtcorp." etched in letters shaped out of dollar signs and wreathed by an unquenchable flame]: Gentleman, Ragnarok Miguel Antoninus Herodotus Hercules Gramsci Thornjulffson d'Acosta d'Atrophe Augustulus has arrived.

[If any audience member smiles or giggles at hearing the name, shoot the offending party in plain view of all the cast and audience. Men would shudder if they saw a mother bird plucking the feathers from the wings of her young, then pushing him out of the nest to struggle for survival--but that's life, whaddya gonna do?]

William Bronzium Cobalt [a former professional football player, he discovered the cure for cancer back in 2023, when he realized that experimentation was useless and that the free exercise of rationality alone justifies the existence of mankind---he currently has controlling shares in the world's largest producer of nanotech enemas, and due to his courageous, innovative, individualist, rational, and aesthetically triumphant policy of firing and then flaying the skin of every employee, the company currently operates at 60000000% productivity]: Look there, Calliope, I'd say Ragnarok Miguel Antoninus Herodotus Hercules Gramsci Thornjulffson d'Acosta d'Atrophe Augustulus is about to speak.

[Ragnarok Miguel Antoninus Herodotus Hercules Gramsci Thornjulffson d'Acosta d'Atrophe Augustulus turns towards the assembled crowd---a countenance of neither fear nor hope, but of serene intensity, of the cold hot fire of a rational consciousness aware and in command of its own rationality is evident from the bottom to the top of his 9'4" inch body, which at the time of his birth was made of the average man's fleshy hydrocarbon, but had been transmogrified by sheer force of will into a form of marble harder than steel. We may need to up the make-up budget for this.]

[Where there had been nothing but air before, a box comes into existence, the product of Ragnarok Miguel Antoninus Herodotus Hercules Gramsci Thornjulffson d'Acosta d'Atrophe Augustulus's creative productive intelligence. The looters outside the gates of the hotel at the top of the world's tallest skyscraper on top of the world's tallest mountain overlooking Manhattan could not have appreciated the box. Theirs was an aesthetic of collectivism, of weakness, of slavery. But the assembled best leadership of the world immediately recognizes the box as an object of raw and untameable genius, by which all previous art has been invalidated. It is also made out of soap. Ragnarok Miguel Antoninus Herodotus Hercules Gramsci Thornjulffson d'Acosta d'Atrophe Augustulus ascends the box and clears his throat.]

[Calliope Margaret Elizabeth Hecate Davenport, a woman universally recognized by all free volitional consciousnesses to be the most beautiful woman in the world, orgasms loudly, but in a way that only Ragnarok Miguel Antoninus Herodotus Hercules Gramsci Thornjulffson d'Acosta d'Atrophe Augustulus can hear.]

Calliope Margaret Elizabeth Hecate Davenport: Aaaahhhhhhhhh!

[Calliope Margaret Elizabeth Hecate Davenport is the world's leading expert on commercial travel at lightspeed, having proven at the age of 13 that the dirty relativist Einstein was wrong in every particular. She is named in memory of her parents, who were 329th generation Americans as well as descendants of the Olympian gods (we have the DNA testing on this). Their greatest gift to her was to kill themselves 53 minutes after her birth, an act of charity for which she would hate them if she were capable of irrationality, which forced her to raise herself from infancy to adulthood. At 27 months old, she had annexed the state of Nebraska, which she renamed Reasonland. In adulthood, her voice began to take on a strong and unmistakable Russian accent, which surprised many of her acquaintainces considering her very American lineage and the fact that she had never been to Russia, but those who knew her best knew that the modulation of her voice was dictated by the universally applicable and understandable laws of reason. No man could hear her voice without wishing to penetrate her gential cavity, rationally.]

Ragnarok Miguel Antoninus Herodotus Hercules Gramsci Thornjulffson d'Acosta d'Atrophe Augustulus: Those of you who wish to know knowledge, I bring you the reason you as an autonomous consciousness already possess, if only you could volitionally understand your own powers of rational creativity. [Ragnarok Miguel Antoninus Herodotus Hercules Gramsci Thornjulffson d'Acosta d'Atrophe Augustulus's speech is as yet unfinished, though a skilled reasoner should have little difficulty determining its precise contents. The speech is estimated to begin sometime around 9:30 pm and conclude just before next Ramadan. Carry on with the show.] Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generating action. If an organism fails in that action, it does; its chemical elements remain, but its life goes out of existence. It is only the concept of 'Life' that makes the concept of 'Value' possible. It is only to a living entity that things can be good or evil. Thank you.

[A cheer goes up, but Ragnarok Miguel Antoninus Herodotus Hercules Gramsci Thornjulffson d'Acosta d'Atrophe Augustulus silences the assembly. He gestures into the crowd, making the clear and unmistakable sign of the Reasonland Pound Sterling (which had become the world's last legal currency at the conclusion of the war. It looks similar to the dollar sign, except that it is shaped like a penis, pen tucked into its foreskin, drawing the blueprints of an experimental architectural design. You can see the veins and hair.)]

[Ragnarok Miguel Antoninus Herodotus Hercules Gramsci Thornjulffson d'Acosta d'Atrophe Augustulus steps off of the soapbox and grabs Calliope Margaret Elizabeth Hecate Davenport and in one move puts his tongue down her throat, into her esophagus, down into an indeterminate point somewhere in her GI tract. She orgasms again. This time, the assembled dignitaries hear her.]

Calliope Margaret Elizabeth Hecate Davenport: Aaaaaahhhhhh!

William Bronzium Cobalt: Bravo!

[A tender, passionate lovescene ensues, in which our heroine acquiesces to rape. Ragnarok Miguel Antoninus Herodotus Hercules Gramsci Thornjulffson d'Acosta d'Atrophe Augustulus is able to come 76 times before going flaccid, during which period Calliope Margaret Elizabeth Hecate Davenport orgasms another 1022 times. After he comes for the 47th time, she begs him to stop.]

Calliope Margaret Elizabeth Hecate Davenport: Stop!

[Ragnarok Miguel Antoninus Herodotus Hercules Gramsci Thornjulffson d'Acosta d'Atrophe Augustulus's arousal increases with the knowledge that she has become his property. Once again, she acquiesces to rape. N.B.: When she told him to stop, she actually meant "keep going." If he had stopped, she would have torn his head off and continued copulating, then devoured the rest of him in emulation of the praying mantis, a creature more rational and volitionally conscious than the looters who comprise the bulk of humanity. Finally, they conclude.]

Ragnarok Miguel Antoninus Herodotus Hercules Gramsci Thornjulffson d'Acosta d'Atrophe Augustulus [while replacing his trousers]: I don't love you.

Calliope Margaret Elizabeth Hecate Davenport: That's why I love you.

Ragnarok Miguel Antoninus Herodotus Hercules Gramsci Thornjulffson d'Acosta d'Atrophe Augustulus: Again?

Calliope Margaret Elizabeth Hecate Davenport: No.

[He removes his trousers again. She acquiesces to rape.]

The End

[N.B.: During the lovemaking, the stage manager should assign the audience members most closely resembling beasts of burden to take down the set, mop up the blood from the execution(s), and clean the santorum stains off of the stage with a toothbrush. If they refuse, tell them to stand on line for the glue making machine. Don't worry, they're too dumb to notice.]
Well that's what I've got so far. I'm a bit worried that it's unstageable. It's obviously unwatchable---but it's Rand, and if you could sit through it, either I wouldn't have done my job or you'd be missing the point.

Ezra The Scribe

One quick post before I go take my Dostoevsky final [wouldn't it be more appropriate if you psyched yourself up by blowing all your money gambling and marrying a consumptive?--ed.] [Well, maybe. Remind me to write a YDN piece about the "lofty and sublime" (by which I mean insulting and preposterous) practice of assigning final exams in literature classes--F.]

Riffing off of Matt Yglesias, Ezra Klein comes out of the blue with a respectable impersonation of his namesake, the 5th Century BCE Jewish scholar who, despite in all likelihood knowing better, excised any potentially offensive material from the authentic first edition of the Hebrew Bible [which came with the authentic signature on the dedication page, we're told, of its author, God Almighty--ed.]. Ezra wants liberals to have a moment of moral reflection over Grand Theft Auto. Et tu, I mean, v'Atah, Ezra? Have you really thought this through? We can't be for censorship, and shouldn't be---and if we were to take a Joe Lieberman line on video games, it would be transparent that we're not making any credible threat of force, the way that wackier conservatives do. And you know that. And moreover, there's nothing wrong with games like GTA. And you know that too. Yet you want liberals to sell their principles, look like jackasses, and still lose in the process. It's quite a troika.

UPDATE: Apropos of inappropriate content, I thought I'd pass along this link. Which you should avoid if offensive things offend you. If not, turn your volume up.

So Tired

One more final to go, and blogging will recommence.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

"Biggest Cock In The Building"

I really like this VF profile of Judith Regan, who is the Leona Helmsley of the publishing industry, only considerably hotter and a bit more deranged. Contra Judith Newman, however, I've met this personality more than a few times before, and it's not one of a kind.

UPDATE: I guess I shouldn't have assumed that this is common knowledge. Regan was Bernard Kerik's paramour and is among the reasons (mafia-ties, a nanny that didn't actually exist), etc., for his rather swift fall from DHS grace. She wasn't the only woman on the side, but definitely the most interesting.

Shout Out

Apologies to Matt et al., but it's not immediately obvious when you look at Bulldog Blue that it's a group blog. I'm absolutely in awe of the fact that Dan Munz hasn't had a drop-off either in quantity or quality of posting through reading week, finals, etc. Unlike, say, some people.

Bogus Question

Nick Gillespie is propagating a major fallacy about opposition to the death penalty. He writes:
If anyone deserves to be executed, surely it is Scott Peterson, who acted in a completely premeditated fashion, showed no remorse, and on and on.
Now, just for background, I'd like to say that on a personal level I'm completely indifferent as to whether or not Scott Peterson lives or dies, and I'd prefer to live in the possible world in which Scott Peterson had never been born, so that I wouldn't have had to spend months of news-watching artfully dodging any coverage of the Peterson case. (Though of course, our intrepid infotainment-media would have found something else to seize on during the same period, and I'm just guessing they would have filled the void with a child abduction or a wife-slaying, and not, say, investigation of the Torture Memo. Or oppression of women in the Muslim world.)

Though he doesn't say so explicitly, and in fact, backtracks away from this position somewhat ("[T]hat's the question: If anyone deserves to be executed..."), Gillespie is lending creedence to the idea that one can oppose the death penalty but be for it in really extreme cases. And that's patently false. Opposition to the death penalty---well principled opposition, and opposition from a libertarian standpoint, certainly---relies heavily if not exclusively on an intuition about the legitimate scope and uses of state power, of which putting citizens to death is not an example. Building any exception into that opposition is just a way of taking a pro-death penalty position. Of course no one (almost no one) is for the death penalty under anything but exceptional circumstances. The only difference between a captial punishment supporter and an opponent-but-for-x-y-and z-cases is the criterion for determining those circumstances. Moreover, Scott Peterson's case may be one of terrible brutality and malice, but it's hardly outside the norm for murder cases. So if he's the sort of criminal whose execution this sort of nominal death penalty opponent would support, then it's perfectly clear that the position is affirmation and not opposition.

Also, shouldn't it be obvious that opposition to the death penalty is only meaningful in precisely the sorts of purported-to-be-exceptional cases that offend societal moral intuitions the most deeply? Who is arguing for the death penalty in cases of mundane, everyday felonies? [There is somebody, I'm sure--ed.] I'm against capital punishment in all cases because I think that a realm of autonomy manifestly inclusive of one's own physical existence is intrinsic to the very notion of citizenship, and that no citizen, therefore, no matter how bestial a criminal, is property of the state such that he can be executed by state fiat. And since the government really is a social compact, I'm revolted by the fact that every application of the death penalty makes me a party to a premeditated killing.

Now, I recognize that any practicable moral system includes an escape hatch for "emergency" scenarios, such that, e.g., killing in self-defense is morally justified. The death penalty, and the notion of "exceptions" to the rule against state-sanctioned killing, is plainly not such an emergency case. Prisoners in shackles do not create the immediate overriding imperative for lethal action that's necessary for an emergency to obtain. The upshot of that is that opposition to the death penalty not only can't admit of exceptions, but is a rare example of a moral legislation that is both absolute and practicable. So practicable, indeed, that all the other industrial democracies are trying it. And if Sweden jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge...then shouldn't you?

Fatwa Fatwa Everywhere

What happens when feverish Jihadism parodies itself....

Monday, December 13, 2004

It Was Poison

So Yushchenko was poisoned, for sure. Who's behind this? Yanukovich? Putin? The KGB? The Ukranian secret police? All of them acting in concert? Impossible to say, but now that this is out in the open, I can't see how it won't backfire and propel Yushchenko to victory in the run-off. Which is good news.

More On Shapiro And Red-State TV

OTOH, I think Andrew Sullivan understands what's at the bottom of Will & Grace's red-state popularity:
The gay characters on "Will and Grace" are either mainstream and sex-less, like Will, or the gay version of "Step'n'fetchit", from an actor who refuses to say publicly that he's gay. That's exactly how many Republicans like their homosexuals. Just don't ask to be treated like an equal human being.
If the problem that Shapiro's "most Americans" have with the gay content in Alexander is that gay men aren't soldiers therefore they aren't generals therefore they aren't world-conquerors therefore it's all just more propaganda from the gay lobby, then there isn't much to say to them. Alexander definitely had sexual and romantic relationships with men. There's an objective fact of the matter about this. I don't think that constituency---and it does exist---is even close to big enough to preclude a movie with gay content from making money. If 25%, let alone 49% of the movie-going public, is open to seeing such a film, then it can do just fine---provided it's a good movie, whereas Alexander clearly wasn't.

Fighting The FCC

Good news: somebody is striking back at the FCC for its acquiescence in being defrauded by the Parents Television Council and Brent Bozell. Bad news: the somebody is the Parents Television Council and Brent Bozell.

In Rumsfeld's Defense?

A commenter asked me what the pro-Rumsfeld crowd is arguing, so here it is. Whether or not this National Review editorial is insightful is a subjective matter. What I don't think is subjective, however, is that this is probably the best case that could be presented on behalf of Rumsfeld, and, no, I don't think it holds up to scrutiny.

UPDATE: I just tried the link and realized that the TNR article is subscription only. My bad, but I'd considering getting a TNR subscription if you don't have one. Money reply to National Review's embrace of Rumsfeld's "the army you have" excuse:
But more astounding was Rumsfeld's contention that "[y]ou go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time." Astounding because, of course, the United States did not go to war with the army it had; it went to war with a mere fraction of the army it had (nor, for that matter, was there any reason it could not have gone to war "at a later time"--even the administration's most dire predictions of Saddam's capabilities did not demand action in March 2003). In fact, invading Iraq with a light force (or, on the cheap, to put it less charitably) reflected the central thrust of the Rumsfeld doctrine--a drive to transform the U.S. military to a smaller, more mobile force less dependent on heavy, cold war-era equipment. The success in toppling the Taliban using only a few hundred special operations and CIA forces in late 2001 only cemented for Rumsfeld that what the military had was not necessarily what it needed.

So when, in late November 2001, General Tommy Franks, then head of Central Command, first briefed Rumsfeld on the existing war plan for Iraq, which called for the use of 500,000 troops following a seven-month buildup, the defense secretary scoffed and sent Franks back to the drawing board. Deploying half a million troops, after all, would have effectively relaunched Desert Storm, a conflict modeled on the Powell Doctrine and its demand for decisive force. But as Bob Woodward reports in Plan of Attack, Rumsfeld believed that such a traditional approach was too risk-averse, resulting in the addition of needless troops and time to any plan. Instead, the defense secretary argued that the Pentagon needed to embrace more risk, not less. In this, he had allies who floated radical war plans. His deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, suggested using only about 10,000 troops to establish an enclave in Iraq from which Saddam could be overthrown; and Rumsfeld was, at least briefly, impressed by the thinking of Colonel Douglas MacGregor, who believed the Iraqi regime could be toppled with 50,000 men. Facing intense pressure from the secretary to devise a plan with a smaller ground component, Franks's estimates shrank and shrank again. The next iteration of the plan Franks presented to Rumsfeld called for fielding 400,000 troops over six months. By January 2002, invading Iraq required only 245,000. Ten months into the planning process, the number was down to 140,000.

Reducing the number of troops deployed was not the only change Rumsfeld made. In April 2003, Seymour Hersh reported in The New Yorker that the defense secretary removed the original war plan's call for hundreds of tanks and other armored vehicles to be sent to the region before the invasion; instead, he wanted to rely on the far smaller number of heavy vehicles that had been pre-positioned in Kuwait. This rubbed many the wrong way. According to Hersh, "In the months leading up to the war, a split developed inside the military, with the planners and their immediate superiors warning that the war plan was dangerously thin on troops and materiel." But Rumsfeld was unconcerned. In fact, he was willing to give up not only troops and equipment, but an entire military front. In early March 2003, just weeks before the invasion, when Turkey unexpectedly told the Pentagon that it would not allow the 4th Infantry Division to pass through its territory, Rumsfeld decided to launch the war without a northern front--or the 4th Infantry. In other words, he very consciously, and quite literally, decided to go to war without the army we have.


Something is rotten in Denmark. More TK.

How Not To Write About Alexander

Ben Shapiro (i.e. this Ben Shapiro) knows why Oliver Stone's Alexander bombed. It was apparently just too gay. Heh. And to think I ever believed the movie flopped because it was terrible.

In fact---are there any effete liberal Hollywood producers reading?---it might be a good idea to remove indefinitely any acknowledgement in any film that homosexuality exists: "This stuff doesn’t go over well with most Americans. Frankly, we don’t want to hear about it, and we’re definitely not going to pay money to see it." Got that? Most Americans (i.e. real Americans i.e. the Americans who count) have dug a little stream and they're on one side and gay media content is on the other. The only problem with the theory is that it's not true:
One of the shows most popular with Republicans, especially Republican women ages 18 to 34, turned out to be "Will & Grace," the sitcom about gay life in New York. As a result, while Mr. Bush was shoring up his conservative credentials by supporting a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage, his advertising team was buying time on a program that celebrates gay culture.
(Read more here about the TV shows that real Americans like to watch. It's not all family channel.)

Some polemicists impose restraints on themselves like only trying to draw meaningful inferences from true antecedents. But Ben Shapiro has more guts than that. Hence:
Critics love films with homosexuality, but very few of those films go on to see great popular success. Since 1994, 17 actors and actresses have been nominated for Academy Awards for playing gay characters; meanwhile, every movie nominated for an Oscar since 1994 containing substantial homosexuality has fallen well-below the $100 million mark, except for “As Good As It Gets” and “American Beauty,” both of which were fueled by Oscar hype.
Makes sense, no? All the films "containing substantial homosexuality" (try to imagine the expression on Shapiro's face when he wrote those words) do poorly, except for the ones that do well. But those are driven by Oscar hype. Except for the ones that get Oscar hype and don't do well. QED. Or something.

What's the "family friendly fare" whose triumph over a very bad Oliver Stone movie Shapiro is so enraptured by? "“National Treasure,” “The Incredibles,” “Christmas With The Kranks,” “The Polar Express,” and “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.” [sic, sic, sic, sic, and sic. We use italics to offset film titles, sir--ed.]" In other words, three cartoons and two movies too bad for words. The is the same discriminating taste that covinced Shapiro that cutting his own hair without a mirror was the way to go. (I had to do it. Sorry. He looks 12.)

Making It Personal

When you bomb my place of worship, it's on.

Q: Is Donald Rumsfeld Fit To Be Secretary Of Defense?

A: No.

Friday, December 10, 2004

In Defense Of Performance Enhancers

Last item before I'm gone (to bed) for the weekend: Here's a worthwhile Fox News editorial (no, really) defending steroid use in professional sports. The case is incomplete and could be made better, but it's certainly a very good preliminary brief.

Step 2: Write The Goddamn Paper

Done. And it seems like another triumph, natch, although my physical senses stopped working correctly sometime around hour 30 of this Battan death march (figuratively, I mean--relax). We're now in the 49th hour, although I will admit to taking something that could be construed as an hour long nap during hour 38. It's tough to tell, because I was very far from off the high from all the stimulants I abused, and so rather than sleep the way that people do, I entered a kind of vegetative, catatonic state of partial sensory-awareness. I can't remember if my eyes were closed.

Before I sleep until next week, a quick fuck you to the commenter who called me pretentious for employing the phrase "post-Hegelian anti-rationalism," and wished me to fall into Ivan Karamazov's late-novel dimentia (uh, spoiler alert). I'm slightly stumped about how to react to that in a way that's consistent with my own intuitions, since my pet interpretation of the conclusion of the novel is that Ivan is the last sane human left in the universe and everyone else is insane. But, to reiterate, fuck you.

Also, why hang the pretentious charge on that particular phrase? Hegel managed to step over the appriopriate boundaries of non-empirical systematization pretty egregiously, in terms of ambition, comprehensibility, and acknowledgment of his own finitude and fallibility. An unintended consequence of Hegel's campaign of genocide against natural language was the emergence of post-Hegel and anti-Hegel critics who rank among the greatest prose stylists who ever lived. Like Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche, and er, Dostoevsky. I say things that are a lot more jargony and pretentious (and less meaningful) than that all the time.

Maybe, just maybe (speaking of pretension), I'm already the founder of the analytic philosophical school of criticism I alluded to here. In writing this paper, I banged out phrases like "Dostoevsky's ontology of dreams," and "the epistemology of the Dostoevskian dreamscape" half in jest, then took a second look at them and realized that they were keepers.

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