I view this as a good development in an otherwise very bad situation, one that will reduce the risk of nuclear war. As a career military officer, he understands what nuclear weapons are, unlike Dopey Donald Chump ("DDC" for short), and his writings indicate a commitment primarily to maintaining combat-ready ground forces. (Mattis is also an opponent of torture, a supporter of the Iran nuclear deal, but a harsher critic of Putin than Trump.) DDC is clearly intimidated by military people, and so will hopefully do what he is told. The fact that Mattis doesn't watch TV and reads widely are also positives (and makes for an amusing contrast with DDC).
A propos Prof. Albin's comment on an earlier post, the NYT has now run this informative piece. In both South Africa and the American South, it was white communists who opposed apartheid decades before other members of their race.
The former (by a "Pedro Pan" child who fled Cuba in the early 1960s) is devoid of evidence for its assertions, some of which are pretty obviously false, while the latter is mostly anecdotal, but from someone who less obviously has an axe to grind. Probably the truth is somewhere inbetween, though only if Cuba becomes a more "open" society will we be able to find out.
NYT obituaries are often more informative about the ideology of imperialism and the American ruling class than they are about their subjects, and the obituary of Castro does not disappoint in that regard; the very first paragraph (the revealing parts in bold):
Fidel Castro, the fiery apostle of revolution who brought the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere in 1959 and then defied the United States for nearly half a century as Cuba’s maximum leader, bedeviling 11 American presidents and briefly pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war, died Friday.
Last I looked, Cuba was a sovereign nation not under U.S. control, so what can it possibly mean for the leader of that nation to "defy" the U.S., unless of course one assumes that a sovereign nation close to the U.S. must do the bidding of the U.S. as it had done under the fascist Batista. Even more remarkably, it is Castro whose agency is credited with bringing "the world to the brink of nuclear war," not the "best and the brightest" of the imperial power whose self-serving provocations actually created the crisis.
If Castro had been a student of Marx, he would, shortly after overthrowing the fascist Batista, have created a social democracy, with robust private markets to fuel the development of productive forces in his underdeveloped nation and combined that with a generous welfare state to promote and protect human well-being. He tried to do the latter, but could only sustain it with support from the Soviet Union (since the U.S. economic blockade deprived Cuba of it primary trading partner), which ended when the latter did. As Marx had observed, communism "presuppose[s] a great increase in productive power, a high degree of development," which only capitalism can produce; this is, he said, "an absolutely necessary practical premise because without it want is merely made general, and with destitution the struggle for necessities and all the old filthy business would necessarily be reproduced," as, indeed, it was tragically in "communist" Cuba.
UPDATE: Roger Albin (Michigan) writes:
The NYT obit doesn’t mention what was likely Castro’s greatest achievement- the important role played by the Cubans in the demise of apartheid. Cuban military action, which included battles with the South African Defense Force, prevented the apartheid regime from maintaining a cordon sanitaire around South Africa. This was a major factor in the De Klerk regime’s decision to seek some kind of accommodation. Since our lazy media are committed to the facile view of the end of apartheid as an example of non-violent change, this will not be mentioned in any descriptions of Castro’s life. Mandela knew better. Shortly after his release from prison, he visited Havana to express gratitude to Castro.
This is very significant, and could actually help restore democracy to the United States (both parties gerrymander, but the Republicans have been more aggressive about it). (The theory of the case was developed and argued by one of my colleagues.) It is only because of gerrymandering that the Republicans have a majority in the House of Representatives.
MOVING TO FRONT: ORIGINALLY POSTED MAY 11, 2016--folks keep sending me this quote, which is circulating again
Jerry Dworkin calls my attention to this NYRB piece on Donald Chump, which includes this:
I recalled a remark that the philosopher Richard Rorty made back in 1997 about “the old industrialized democracies…heading into a Weimar-like period.” Citing evidence from “many writers on socioeconomic policy,” Rorty suggested that:
members of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers—themselves desperately afraid of being downsized—are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.
At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for—someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots….
One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past forty years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion…. All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.
Let's hope Rorty sticks to his track record, and is wrong about this too.
This is a good piece of reporting, that makes clear that it was economics, and not racism, that drove a lot of the voting behavior of working-class whites (some of them, among other things, voted for Obama previously). It makes a useful contrast with this dismissive comment by Justin Weinberg (South Carolina).
Reader Roger Albin (a professor of medicine at the University of Michigan) writes:
One of the things we’re likely to lose with the accession of Trump is competent governance aimed at producing incremental, but significant, improvements in American life. A very good example is tobacco control. While not widely known, improved tobacco control was a major accomplishment of the Obama administration. Smoking prevalence among American adults has been declining since the 1960s. From the early 1990s to 2008, the rate of decline was approximately 0.3% per year. During the Obama presidency, the rate of decline approximately doubled (http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1607850). At present, approximately 15% of American adults smoke. Extrapolating the pre-Obama administration rate of decline predicts a 17-18% prevalence of smoking among adult Americans. Converted to absolute numbers, this is a large effect. A difference of 2% is > 5 million people. The rule of thumb is that tobacco abuse leads to premature death in one third to one half of smokers. Using the conservative one third parameter, a 2% reduction in smoking prevalence translates to approximately 1.5 million avoided premature deaths.
There's now an actual website that features some concrete (some less concrete) policy proposals that, I assume, the Trump Administration will put forward. (Scroll to the bottom of the page: under the "Making American Great Again" section, you can click on various topics, though not all are filled in.) A lot of the sections are, at this point, just fluff. But here are a few highlights that are more specific:
The section on "Immigration" includes the idiotic "build the wall" proposal, and many other harsh measures, but there's no mention of mass deportations. There is the suggestion that that issue will be revisited after the borders are "secure," which is to say he will never revisit it.
The section on "Energy Independence" makes clear that environmental concerns, including about climate change, are going out the window, in favor of letting oil companies, and coal companies, do what they want, where they want.
The section on "Transportation and Infrastructure" reaffirms a commitment to spend $550 billion on public infrastructure, which Trump mentioned in his acceptance speech. This is really quite remarkable, both for being so explicit and so dramatic an expenditure. It is sorely needed in America. This is likely to be a first point of conflict with the Tea Party lunatics in the House of Representatives.
As one would expect from a representative of the ruling class, Trump proposes to deregulate "financial services," specifically by gutting Dodd-Frank.
The Affordable Care Act will go first to the chopping block, that seems clear. An unknown is whether they will target the two provisions that are popular with well-to-do people who vote Republican: namely, the bar on insurers rejecting people with pre-existing conditions; and the ability to keep children on parents' health plans until they reach the age of 26. Previously Republican attempts to repeal the ACA have, tellingly, preserved those two. There are no meaningful details of Trump's alleged alternative.
Trump commits to the "original public meaning" view of constitutional interpretation. What, if anything, this really means we will not know until we see which judges he puts forth. (Amusingly, the folks who wrote this do not realize that the first written constitution still in force is in Sweden, not the United States!)
Nothing meaningful about Social Security or Medicare here (fluff about "modernizing" Medicare is it), which is actually a good sign. All of the actual policy is bad, except the "Transportation and Infrastructure" commitment. An unknown is how the rhetoric about tax cuts--standard fare for the imprudent wing of the ruling class--will be squared with spending $550 billion on public infrastructure, which is the only hopeful proposal.
Notice there is also nothing about LGBT rights, same-sex marriage or the like. Silence on this is also hopeful, but consistent with my hypothesis about the New Yorker Trump: he's not scared of LGBT people (Ivanka, Eric, and Donald Jr. probably are close friends with lots of them!), unlike Mike Pence and the Christian bigots.
With the real polls set to start closing in some places (it's 6 pm ET), I'm shutting down this poll. Let us hope the "confident in a good outcome" folks are right (assuming they're not all Trump voters!).
There would be an injection of $500 billion — $275 billion of which comes from federal coffers — into rebuilding roads, highways, mass transit, airports, seaports, broadband networks, electrical grids, water pipes, and other forms of infrastructure. This would be the largest public works push from the federal government since the building of the interstate highway system in the 1950s. Much of that money would go to directly hiring workers, particularly youth in minority communities. The Clinton campaign estimates that the $500 billion would create about 6.5 million jobs, more than half of which come from public money.
...about Trump and the Repugs. I am confident, per Sam Wang the Princeton scientist whose data analysis was the best in 2012, that Clinton will win on Tuesday (he puts the odds at greater than 99%). But we won't be done with Trump, or the racist reactionaries he has unleashed, or the dysfunctional Republican Party, all of which will do their best to undermine democracy, thus paving the way for a more skilled fascist than Trump to try to take the reigns of power down the line. Until the Republican Party is destroyed as a viable political force, there really is little reason to be hopeful about America's future. Fortunately, the country's demographics make that destruction a real possibility.
ADDENDUM: And for those in a state of anxiety, see also this.
The dramatis personae of the liberal class are all present in this amazing body of work: financial innovators. High-achieving colleagues attempting to get jobs for their high-achieving children. Foundation executives doing fine and noble things. Prizes, of course, and high academic achievement.
Certain industries loom large and virtuous here. Hillary’s ingratiating speeches to Wall Street are well known of course, but what is remarkable is that, in the party of Jackson and Bryan and Roosevelt, smiling financiers now seem to stand on every corner, constantly proffering advice about this and that. In one now-famous email chain, for example, the reader can watch current US trade representative Michael Froman, writing from a Citibank email address in 2008, appear to name President Obama’s cabinet even before the great hope-and-change election was decided (incidentally, an important clue to understanding why that greatest of zombie banks was never put out of its misery).
The far-sighted innovators of Silicon Valley are also here in force, interacting all the time with the leaders of the party of the people. We watch as Podesta appears to email Sheryl Sandberg. He makes plans to visit Mark Zuckerberg (who, according to one missive, wants to “learn more about next steps for his philanthropy and social action”). Podesta exchanges emails with an entrepreneur about an ugly race now unfolding for Silicon Valley’s seat in Congress; this man, in turn, appears to forward to Podesta the remarks of yet another Silicon Valley grandee, who complains that one of the Democratic combatants in that fight was criticizing billionaires who give to Democrats. Specifically, the miscreant Dem in question was said to be:
“… spinning (and attacking) donors who have supported Democrats. John Arnold and Marc Leder have both given to Cory Booker, Joe Kennedy, and others. He is also attacking every billionaire that donates to [Congressional candidate] Ro [Khanna], many whom support other Democrats as well.”
Attacking billionaires! In the year 2015! It was, one of the correspondents appears to write, “madness and political malpractice of the party to allow this to continue”.
DeNiro remarked (with remarkable New York restraint) that Trump is a "mutt," a "dog," who should be "punched in the face." Please watch around 21:00 this video about the effect of Trump's rhetoric on human beings (here children). "Mutts" deserve a lot better than Trump.
(Thanks to Daniel Buk for pointer to the video, which is worth watching in its entirety.)
...plus pathetic sexist tripe, but it also has its own resident raving anti-Semite, one "Jacques," whom no other contributor to that blog appears to have criticized for his insane bigotry. Some quotes from comments he's posted on that sorry blog:
Since the time of Marx through the many Bolshevik mass murderers like Kaganovich through to the present era of “whiteness studies” (i.e., anti-white-gentile studies) rammed with ethnocentric anti-white Jews, there is no group of people on earth who have been more venomously effective in the propagation of anti-Christian bigotry than leftist Jews. No group is more privileged or powerful or tribalistic...Jews enabled the Moors to take Spain. Jews traded in Christian slaves in huge numbers through the middle ages. Jewish wealth funded the rabidly Christophobic Bolsheviks. The Talmud tells us Christ is in hell boiling in excrement. All major Jewish organizations righteously demand that we flood Christian lands with unvetted limitless numbers of Muslims while making no similar demands on Israel.
Is it anti-semitic to believe on solid evidence the true proposition that...“leftist Jews” have been vastly over-represented among haters, oppressors and mass murderers of Christians, and in anti-Christian anti-European movements, and notably under-represented in the defense of the interests of Christians and non-Jewish Europeans
That the blog let this stuff stand defies belief. RightlyConsidered is operating at about the level of Breitbart, though trending towards StormFront! If right-wing philosophers want to be taken seriously, this blog is not the way to do it! But if they simply want to have their own cyber-circle of self-congratulation plus unabashed sexism and racism, then they're doing a great job!
A propos this earlier discussion, Professor Bonevac has explained his reasons in detail. Some dubious factual claims are involved, and some even more dubious implicit claims about cause-and-effect. But the basic mistake is in thinking that Trump means what he says, and so is an instrumentally rational choice given Professor Bonevac's stated objectives.
Colin Kaepernick is a multi-millionaire, NFL quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. He recently made headlines by refusing to stand for the U.S. National Anthem before the start of NFL games. Lot of people have impassioned opinions on the acceptability of his refusal to stand, even a Supreme Court Justice, who eventually apologized for the remark, have been critical of him.
Last week, one of my students asked me about Kaepernick during class. This was one of those teachable moments we all really look for. Philosophy in the real world making a difference! I said unless someone really understood his reasoning, they couldn’t be critical of the refusal to stand. The student pressed me on my view…
...we won't be done with him, since he's psychologically incapable of losing gracefully, and will without a doubt do his best to incite violence and disruption after the election. My prediction, however, is that once he has officially lost, Republican leaders will move quickly to repudiate and discredit him in full. One fortunate aspect of his latest insane rhetoric about election fraud is that it may depress turnout among his supporters, which will have ramifications for other Republican candidates. In the happiest scenario, Trump's craziness will hand the House (as well as the Senate) to the Democrats.
AND A MORE REPUTABLE pollster (NBC/Wall Street Journal), consistent with the preceding, shows Clinton up by 11 points. The really happy scenario is that this magnitude of a loss at the top of the ticket will throw both the Senate and the House to the Democrats, and then the liberals and 1970s Republicans who make up that party can actually govern!
Most readers have probably heard by now about an interview in which Trump jokes about various acts of sexual assault and how he can get away with them, which now is leading to speculation that he'll withdraw (he won't) or, perhaps a bit more likely, that the Republican Party will instruct the electors to choose someone else when they vote in December, probably Mike Pence, the extremely conservative Indiana Governor who is Trump's usually invisible VP candidate. That would be a risky gambit for the Republicans, since it's not clear whether the message would get out in time to affect the election, and it's also not clear what the effect would actually be, given the cult-like loyalty Trump enjoys among an alarmingly large segment of the electorate. I'll add links if I see any intelligent analyses of these possible scenarios (please e-mail me, readers, if you see any). As things stand now, we are looking at a huge win for the Democrats, and Trump still has another month of gaffes and outbursts to come (plus two more debates, starting tomorrow)!
A propos my observation last week that academic law has more conservatives and libertarians than academic philosophy, along comes this study, which doesn't cover philosophy (but one can infer the likely result):
We investigate the voter registration of faculty at 40 leading U.S. universities in the fields of Economics, History, Journalism/Communications, Law, and Psychology. We looked up 7,243 professors and found 3,623 to be registered Democratic and 314 Republican, for an overall D:R ratio of 11.5:1. The D:R ratios for the five fields were: Economics 4.5:1, History 33.5:1, Journalism/Communications 20.0:1, Law 8.6:1, and Psychology 17.4:1. The results indicate that D:R ratios have increased since 2004, and the age profile suggests that in the future they will be even higher. We provide a breakdown by department at each university. The data support the established finding that D:R ratios are highest at the apex of disciplinary pyramids, that is, at the most prestigious departments.
These results are not surprising, given that the Republican Party is now nothing more than a FOX-created freak show. But the variation by field is telling: economists have many more Republicans because they are in the grips of a theoretically coherent but false world view about markets and regulation that make support of Republicans instrumentally rational against that background worldview (academic law is parasitic on this). "Journalism/communication" is not a Wissenschaft, so put that to one side. Most parts of current academic psychology mimic and sometimes live up to wissenschaftlich standards, but nothing about the field's self-conception as a scientific discipline would lead anyone to think Republicans are anything other than a fringe party. My guess would be that academic philosophy is closer to Psychology than Law, but if anyone looks at the facts about party registration let me know. Unnoted in studies like this is that the Republican Party in the U.S. is now a radical outlier, a "freak show" as I've put it. The old Republican Party now occupies the Democratic Party, which still also has its liberal, FDR wing. The current official Republican Party is, as Donald Trump has made finally clear, a deranged amalgamation of the pathologies of capitalism in America in the early 21st-century.
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)