I want to argue that this situation demonstrates an absolute fissure in contemporary progressive politics, that there is a direct and unambiguous conflict between our efforts to address mass incarceration and the insistence that people accused of crimes such as sexual assault should be presumed to be guilty and that those who are guilty are permanently and existentially unclean. I want to argue that there’s nothing particularly hidden about this conflict, that acknowledging it is as simple as noting the direct contradiction of two progressive attitudes: the belief that certain crimes, particularly sex crimes and domestic violence, should be treated not only with harsh criminal punishments but with permanent moral judgment for those guilty of them; and the idea that we need to dismantle our vast criminal justice industrial complex, to oppose the carceral state, and to replace them with a new system of restoration and forgiveness. I further want to argue that progressives are not doing any of the moral and legal reasoning necessary to resolve these tensions, and that if we don’t, eventually they’ll explode....
[I]f an acquittal is insufficient to prove Parker’s innocence, what would such proof look like? Is exoneration even possible? And what do we do with people who are accused of crimes like sexual assault and domestic violence when their cases never go to trial? The current progressive impulse seems to be to simply treat them as guilty regardless, and permanently. Yet this strikes me as unambiguously contrary to the spirit and philosophy that contribute to our drive for criminal justice reform. How can we make such reform possible if we condemn huge groups of people to the status of guilty despite never being found guilty of any crime? And if such crimes carry existential and disqualifying moral judgment for life even for those only accused, how can we bring those imprisoned and released back into normal adult life?
People swing wildly from talking about criminal justice reform to insisting that everyone accused of entire classes of crimes, let alone convicted, are necessarily condemned to a lifetime of guilt. These impulses are not compatible. I strongly believe that we can balance the need to give sexual assault victims far more support and understanding than we traditionally have, and to begin to fix our society’s ugly failure to protect women from sexual assault, while still fighting mass imprisonment and the carceral state. But it will take hard work to get there, and the issue does not seem to even been on the radar for most people.
Clinton leading Trump by huge margins in North Carolina and in Colorado? The margins in Florida and Virginia are also dramatic. Trump is in freefall, and we can be sure, given his psychological disturbance and stupidity, that he is the gift that will keep on giving. That's important because, as Achen and Bartels discuss in Democracy for Realists, events in the three months before an election have a hugely disproportionate impact on voter behavior.
People are playing with fire here, and there is no bigger flamethrower than Donald Trump. Forget politics; he is a disgusting human being. His children should be ashamed of him. I only pray that he is not simply defeated, but that he loses all 50 states so that the message goes out across the land — unambiguously, loud and clear: The likes of you should never come this way again.
And what about the children, who are unabashed supporters and enablers? Why would anyone do business with them after this nightmare Presidential campaign?
A propos this item, reader Mike G. calls my attention to the fact that a California congresswoman has called for Trump to undergo a psychiatric evaluation given that he displays all the symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I was speaking the other day with a psychologist who also thought that Trump was a "textbook" case for this diagnosis, more so he thought than Anti-Social Personality Disorder (though the two are related). Pathological lying is a feature of both, as is lack of empathy and exploitation of others; the key difference, this psychologist thought, is that "sociopaths" tend to lay low, so as not to attract extra attention to their manipulation and exploitation of people, and that obviously isn't Trump.
Some readers suggested a DSM personality disorder could not be at issue since it requires some kind of impaired functioning, and Trump is, as one reader put it, a "success." Here, I think, even readers unsympathetic to Trump have been fooled by his endless self-promotion: he is not a success, and his functioning is seriously impaired, a fact obscured by the team of lawyers that protect him from what would be the normal consequences of his dysfunctionality. Remember (I reviewed some of the facts here): this is a guy who came into a huge real estate fortune ($250 to $400 million dollars) in the mid-1970s in New York (way before the huge run-up in New York real estate prices), and has managed to underperform the stock market and other investors for forty years. He's not one of the major players in New York real estate, in part because the actual major players view him as unhinged and unreliable and steer clear of him. He's managed to wrack up 3500 lawsuits over the course of his business career, as well as many failed business ventures. Daddy's money plus the general run-up in New York real estate prices, and the team of lawyers, plus the unbelievable knack for self-promotion, obscure all this.
DSM is a highly problematic tool, of course, and whether his disordered personality should be deemed a "mental illness" is debatable. But what DSM is pretty good at is picking out behavioral patterns, and it certainly seems to pick out his: if someone does not think Trump's way of behaving is "disordered" that's their prerogative! But I think "personality disorder" is a rather good description of the distinctive behavioral pattern he exemplifies. And I'm glad to see it's gaining more public attention. (For the poll watchers, by the way, Trump's national polling numbers have collapsed in the last week--even the Republican-leaning Rasmussen Reports shows Clinton ahead by 4 points, and other polls show her leading by up to 10 points nationwide.)
UPDATE: Turns out The Onion, as usual, was on to this awhile back. (Thanks to James O'Connor for the pointer.)
I was a lawyer in New York in the late 1980s, and everyone then knew Trump was a bombastic and slightly unhinged character, though one constrained by lawyers on the other side. It would not have been controversial then to worry that he was a narcissistic sociopath, because his mental illness was circumscribed by countervailing forces. That was then. Now he's the nominee of the Republican Party. Why isn't the press seriously investigating the question that Michael Bloomberg, raised at the democratic convention last week, i.e., whether Trump is sane? Bloomberg is another ideologically deluded billionaire, to be sure, but those are a dime-a-dozen; but he's clearly not in the grips of a DSM-defined disorder, and he's known Trump for a long time, so knows what New Yorkers, especially rich ones know: this guy is seriously "off." Some prominent opinion pieces have raised the issue, but where are the systematic media inquiries? He released a report from his personal doctor, why not from a psychiatrist? Will some journalist ask him whether he has even been diagnosed with or treated for a DSM-recognized mental illness?
MOVING TO FRONT FROM YESTERDAY: THANKS TO THOSE WHO HAVE SIGNED, THEY ARE SLOW TO UPDATE THE SITE, BUT I ENCOURAGE OTHERS TO SIGN AS WELL!
A philosophy graduate student (who did not want to be named, for reasons that will become obvious) calls my attention to this petition which I encourage all faculty to sign: it protests the creation of a blacklist of students deemed anti-Israel by an organization called "Canary Mission." The aim is to harm their professional and educational prospects. I do wish so many American defenders of Israel weren't disgusting fascists.
Among those awaiting the speakers was Jim Magill, a retired chief master sergeant in the Air Force. A Republican, he said he supported Mrs. Clinton and did not believe Mr. Trump’s promises to veterans.
He was appalled, he said, about the Republican nominee’s criticism of the Khans.
“It was deplorable somebody would say anything like that about a veteran who died for his country to his parents,” Mr. Magill said. “He should have been slapped.”
There are 10.7 million more eligible voters today than there were in 2012. More than two-thirds of net growth in the U.S. electorate during this time has come from racial and ethnic minorities. Hispanics, blacks, Asians and other minorities had a net increase of 7.5 million eligible voters, compared with a net increase of 3.2 million among non-Hispanic white eligible voters.
The growth among non-Hispanic white eligible voters has been slower than among racial or ethnic minorities in large part because they are overrepresented in deaths due to an aging population. Non-Hispanic whites make up 69% of U.S. eligible voters, but accounted for 76% of all eligible voters who died (6.6 million of 8.7 million) between 2012 and 2016.
If, as Achen & Bartels argue in Democracy for Realists, social and group identity drives much of voting behavior, then this bodes ill for DDC.
From Gingrich to Trump. The only future for America is one in which what remains of that Party is vanquished for good, and then the Democratic party can divide into its two factions, the 1970s Republican faction led by Clinton, and the liberal faction led, for now, by Sanders.
Obsessing over last week's or this week's polls is irresistible, but they are pure noise (see here). This essay in the NYRB makes for timely reading (I've been reading the Achen & Bartels book, on recommendation of Jason Brennan, and it is instructive on a number of points). 10% of the electorate might actually be undecided; everyone else will largely vote their tribalist loyalties. Events in the world, or what the candidates say and do, are not wholly irrelevant, but apparently fairly close to being so. Here's two things that might matter:
1. An economic collapse of 2008 proportions in the next couple of months--that would favor Trump, not because he'd have a rational response to it, but because the Democrats would be blamed (also irrationally).
2. A catastrophic terrorist attack (e.g., a 9/11-scale event in the US) or catastrophic military event (e.g., Israel bombs Iran, Russia invades Urkaine). This might favor Trump as well. (Assuming ISIS favors Trump, which they presumably do [assuming they are somewhat instrumentally rational], then that probably raises the risk of a domestic terrorist incident in the coming months.)
I realize all of these are pretty dramatic scenarios. But read the NYRB essay. Clinton's pick of Kaine is explained pretty easily by the thought that there's only 10%, if that, of the electorate up for grabs. And barring one of the preceding extreme scenarios, it's still a very good bet Clinton will win, and win by the margin she's been leading for most of the last eight months, namely about 4% or so. If 1 or 2 occur, or something else comparable, then all bets are off. Anyone have contrary evidence? Informed criticism, with links preferably, of Achen & Bartels would also be welcome.
Here. Dreger is an historian of science, who has herself been the victim of the thought police because she has discussed, sympathetically, disfavored views about transgender people. Her main theme is that threats to academic freedom in universities come from three sources: the "left" (as she calls the "identity politics left," which, of course, isn't the left, since for the actual left, only one identity counts, the human), the right (I.e., reactionary state legislatures that want to censor research and teaching), and corporate sponsorship (which wants universities to adhere to the "brand").
Two revealing articles have recently appeared, which one can only read for amusement if one assumes, as I still do, that my country will not elect this vermin (with apologies to vermin, who do something useful). Quoted in the NYT piece is lawyer Richard Seltzer, whom I worked for almost 30 years ago, on various real estate litigations, though none (at that time) against Trump. (Seltzer was the partner who thought I was "crazy" to leave law practice to go get a PhD in philosophy, as I discussed in my interview with Clifford Sosis.)The New Yorker piece, quoting at length from the Tony Schwartz, the ghost writer of Trump's fake book The Art of the Deal, is even more damning. An excerpt:
“I put lipstick on a pig,” he said. “I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is.” He went on, “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”
If he were writing “The Art of the Deal” today, Schwartz said, it would be a very different book with a very different title. Asked what he would call it, he answered, “The Sociopath.”
"[I]t’s impossible to keep him focussed on any topic, other than his own self-aggrandizement, for more than a few minutes, and even then . . . ” Schwartz trailed off, shaking his head in amazement. He regards Trump’s inability to concentrate as alarming in a Presidential candidate. “If he had to be briefed on a crisis in the Situation Room, it’s impossible to imagine him paying attention over a long period of time,” he said....
...site of a highly publicized police killing of an African-American man a couple of weeks ago. The only thing this guarantees is that there will be more police shootings of innocent people, since increased and justified paranoia among police in certain neighborhoods will now be the norm: those afraid of being shot are more likely to fire in what they take to be self-defense. (Earlier coverage of these issues here and here and here.) The only possibly hopeful note is that just maybe this kind of violence against the police will lead to stricter gun control. I admit that is a remote hope.
UPDATE: That it was a lone individual murdering police is better than the alternatives. Although it was not an organized resurrection by African-Americans, it will still increase paranoia among police nationwide, which will only result in more harm.
...while a self-driving car kills its driver (maybe intentionally?) Joking aside, as I was discussing with Markus Gabriel recently at the Bonn Summer School on the "Hermeneutics of Suspicion," there is something very odd about sci-fi fantasies about domination by robots occupying philosophers when there is actual domination by states and ruling economic elites throughout the developed world. Imagine if equivalent intellectual energy were expended on the actual issues? (Earlier discussion.)
He collects some useful links, and more or less makes the crucial point that the Brexit vote is a symptom of the dysfunctionality of the neoliberal model of capitalism (though without drawing very clearly the connection between racism and xenophobia and the latter).
In 1964, the Republican Party made a fateful decision to “go hunting where the ducks are” in Barry Goldwater’s (in)famous words. Goldwater’s opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and that of some of his supporters may have been based on the sincere libertarian conviction that government should not tell businesses who they must serve and who they must consider hiring. Nevertheless, Goldwater and his allies were well aware that the vast majority of persons who opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and related measures did so because they supported a racist status quo. The end result was the modern Republican Party, an alliance of elites and interests who advanced intellectual respectable justifications for policies that the mass base of the party supported because they buttressed longstanding racial, religious and gender hierarchies....
These observations explain why the drive to have mainstream Republicans repudiate Trump is besides the point. The real issue is will Republicans repudiate Trump supporters and no longer hunt where those ducks are. The answer seems already clear. Trump is to be repudiated only because he speaks too directly and not because he is mobilizing the most bigoted forces in American politics. Republicans want to mobilize those forces as well. They have been doing so for years. But Republican political operatives want the more respectable forces in the party to lead the crusade through language that will, without making the direct bigoted appeals that turn off more affluent Republicans supporters, again signal an unwillingness to challenge existing status hierarchies. Should this happen, the repudiation of Donald Trump will have no lasting significance. A political culture in which a quarter to a third of the electorate is moved by race, gender and religious prejudice is a political culture headed towards a train wreck, regardless of the Supreme Court and regardless of the Constitution.
I know that many readers are concerned that, after the massacre of degenerate young people in Orlando by a 2nd-Amendment-freedom-lover affiliated with ISIS, there is a real risk that normal Republicans and Christians could be affected by the proliferation of Instantaneous Laser Incineration (ILI) technology. Obviously, the Framers of the Constitution were concerned with the threat of tyranny involved in state regulation of ILI. Thomas Jefferson,, for example, wrote in 1772:
If King George could have banned ILI, the cause of the American Patriots would have been lost.
Chief Justice Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court, in the first major incineration decision after the War of Independence, concluded:
ILI weapons guarantee our liberty, as long as they aren't turned on the Supreme Court.
It is true, of course, that none of the Founding Fathers anticipated all the ways in which the "arms" protected by the 2nd Amendment might evolve. But even James Madison wrote in 1777:
There may come a time when the musket will be replaced by the mega-musket, a weapon that might not only obliterate the English army in New England, but obliterate England, and any of its allies. But that is the price of freedom. Even so, the ILI would be a step too far.
The wisdom of Jefferson and Madison should be respected, so I propose a reasonable solution to the current crisis involving the proliferation of ILIs:
(1) no members of ISIS or Al-Queda should be allowed to acquire Laser Incineration technology; and
(2) No convicted mass murderers should be allowed to acquire Laser Incineration technology.
There would, of course, be an exception for the Republicans leaders of the House and the Senate.
His unfavorable rating hits a new high (while Clinton's improves), and his poll numbers are collapsing, with Clinton now having a 12% lead. One thing about most Americans, they are nice and polite people, and Dopey Donald Chump is neither.
We realize he's the nominee of a freak show of a party--did you ever read AEI's Norm Ornstein?--but he's also the clearest threat to what remains of democracy in the American plutocracy. He's also a narcissistic sociopath, clown, and life-long fuck-up: ask anyone in the real estate business in New York over the last forty years. If he farts, you can ignore it. If he tweets, you can ignore it.
You should do so before civilization ends. We've just concluded the first election cycle in my lifetime in which an honest person who actually supports regular people has garnered millions of votes. That wasn't Hillary Clinton, and that wasn't Dopey Donald Chump. That humane candidate lost, alas. Hillary Clinton is reprehensible, a war-mongerer worthy of George W. Bush, a Nixon Republican, an empty vessel like her husband Bill. But at least the Clintons are parochially decent and mildly prudent plutocrats, unlike the mentally ill ignoramus whose opinings you report.
There's only one serious question about Dopey Donald Chump, the proto-fascist and narcissistic ignoramus worth contemplating. But it would not be polite to write about it here. So, please, just ignore him.
Let me begin by thanking all the people who signed the Change.org petition to save the WIU philosophy major. Though I have signed quite a lot of petitions, I used to think signing them was silly, and now I know they are broadly ineffective. But what I didn’t anticipate was the feeling of emotional and psychological support the kind words of friends and strangers from across the globe could provide. So, thank you.
It will come as no surprise to those paying attention that the Board of Trustees has voted unanimously to authorize the elimination of philosophy and three other programs at Western Illinois University, but readers may be interested in how this happened so quickly over the last two weeks.
Continental Philosophy Farhang Erfani, a philosopher at American University, provides a useful set of links to news, events, interviews, reviews, videos, etc. related to "Continental philosophy" (broadly construed)