Posted by Brian Leiter on February 06, 2013 at 06:04 AM in Of Cultural Interest, Personal Ads of the Philosophers (and other humor) | Permalink
It's a new day. But it's about time! The key quote:
The sad truth is that there is more honest discussion about American-Israeli policy in Israel than in this country. Too often in the United States, supporting Israel has come to mean meeting narrow ideological litmus tests. J Street, a liberal pro-Israel group that was formed as a counterpoint to conservative groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, has argued for vibrant debate and said “criticism of Israeli policy does not threaten the health of the state of Israel.” In fact, it is essential.
A propos the attack on academic freedom at Brooklyn College, longtime reader Ruchira Paul passes on this letter sent to President Gould from Zujaja Tauqeer '11, and Ms. Tauqeer kindly gave her permission for me to post it on the blog. By way of background, Ms. Paul notes that, "Zujaja Tauqeer belongs to the Ahmadiyya Muslim community and came to the US from Pakistan with her parents. The state of Pakistan sanctions legal and social persecution of Ahmadis."
Here is Ms. Tauqeer's letter:
As Greenwald reports, city officials are now explicitly threatening to withhold funding to the College if the event goes forward. As Greenwald also notes, this is rather obviously unconstitutional.
Dear President Gould,
I hope this letter finds you well. As a Brooklyn College alumnus, a Rhodes Scholar, and the commencement speaker and class representative for the 2011 graduating class, I urge you to continue upholding the principles of academic freedom and to allow the Political Science Department to co-sponsor, as originally planned, the panel discussion on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement that has been scheduled to take place at BC.
As you and Provost Tramontano are aware, I know all too well how fragile freedom of speech can be. As a beneficiary of political asylum by the US, I am horrified to see the kinds of perverse tactics used to marginalize minority communities and viewpoints in less developed countries being introduced in an American public educational institution for the express purpose of stifling the freedom of speech, and therefore the freedom of conscience, of students and faculty. Elected officials and trustees who hold the public trust are now trying to force you to join them in betraying that very trust. They are seeking to deprive the Political Science Department of its right—and responsibility—to sponsor discussions that may conflict with the convictions of those in a position of power.
As a Rhodes Scholar selected from Brooklyn College, I have tried my utmost to represent my alma mater as a progressive institution whose commitment to freedom and toleration vindicate the sacrifices students and alumni like myself have made to pursue a liberal arts education here. Though in the past BC has stumbled in its effort to preserve civil liberties on campus, I am confident that as president you will capably show that academic freedom, so crucial to critical scholarship and democratic citizenship, is non-negotiable.
I recall at this time the motto of our school—nil sine magno labore. We cannot ensure for future students and faculty the freedoms promised to them as citizens of this country if we as an institution back down from the effort needed to uphold those very freedoms now when they are threatened by vested interests. If I can support you in any way in helping to make this case to my fellow alumni, our elected officials, and our donors, please do not hesitate to call upon me.
Zujaja Tauqeer ‘11
Glenn Greenwald has a good column on it; here's what seems to me the key bit:
In sum, the ugly lynch mob now assembled against Brooklyn College and its academic event is all too familiar in the US when it comes to criticism of and activism against Israeli government policy. Indeed, in the US, there are few more efficient ways to have your reputation and career as a politician or academic destroyed than by saying something perceived as critical of Israel....
But this controversy has now significantly escalated in seriousness because numerous New York City elected officials have insinuated themselves into this debate by trying to dictate to the school's professors what type of events they are and are not permitted to hold. Led by Manhattan's fanatical pro-Israel "liberal" Congressman Jerrold Nadler and two leading New York mayoral candidates - Council speaker Christine Quinn and former city comptroller William Thompson - close to two dozen prominent City officials have signed onto a letter to college President Gould pronouncing themselves "concerned that an academic department has decided to formally endorse an event that advocates strongly for one side of a highly-charged issue" and "calling for Brooklyn College's Political Science Department to withdraw their endorsement of this event." As a result, the "scandal" has now landed in The New York Times, and - for obvious reasons - the pressure on school administrators is immense.
Imagine being elected to public office and then deciding to use your time and influence to interfere in the decisions of academics about the types of campus events they want to sponsor. Does anyone have trouble seeing how inappropriate it is - how dangerous it is - to have politicians demanding that professors only sponsor events that are politically palatable to those officials? If you decide to pursue political power, you have no business trying to use your authority to pressure, cajole or manipulate college professors regarding what speakers they can invite to speak on campus.
These elected officials are cynically wrapping themselves in the banner of "academic freedom" as they wage war on that same concept. They thus argue in their letter: "by excluding alternative positions from an event they are sponsoring, the Political Science Department has actually stifled free speech by preventing honest, open debate." But if that term means anything, it means that academia is free of interference from the state when it comes to the ideas that are aired on campuses.
The danger posed by these politicians is manifest. Brooklyn College relies upon substantial grants and other forms of funding from the state. These politicians, by design, are making it mandatory for these college administrators to capitulate - to ensure that no campus events run afoul of the orthodoxies of state officials - because obtaining funding for Brooklyn College in the climate that has purposely been created is all but impossible....
That's the nature of politics in general: it requires subservience to empowered factions and majoritarian sentiment. That's what politicians do by their nature: they flatter and affirm convention. That's exactly the reason politicians have no legitimate role to play in influencing or dictating the content of academic events. It's because academia, at least in theory, has the exact opposite role: it is designed to challenge, question and subvert orthodoxies.
That value is utterly obliterated if school administrators live in fear of offending state officials. That is exactly what is happening here, by intent: making every college administrator petrified of alienating these same pro-Israel factions by making an example out of Brooklyn College. That's why anyone who values academic freedom and independence - regardless of one's views of the BDS movement - should be deeply offended and alarmed, as well as mobilized, by what is being done here.
The primary defense being offered by these would-be censors - we just want both sides of the issue to be included in this event - is patently disingenuous. In his lengthy email exchange with me yesterday - printed in full here - Dershowitz told me that his objections were not to the holding of the event itself, but to the sponsorship of it by the Political Science Department, especially given the lack of any BDS opponents. For those reasons, Dershowitz claims, "it is crystal clear that the political science department's co-sponsorship and endorsement of these extremist speakers does constitute an endorsement of BDS."
But nobody proves the disingenuousness of this excuse more than Dershowitz himself. Like the BDS movement, Dershowitz is a highly controversial and polarizing figure who inspires intense animosity around the world. That's due to many reasons, including his defense of virtually every Israeli attack, his advocacy of "torture warrants" whereby courts secretly authorize state torture, his grotesque attempt to dilute what a "civilian" is and replace it with "the continuum of civilianality" in order to justify Israeli aggression, and his chronic smearing of Israel critics such as author Alice Walker as "bigots".
Despite how controversial he is, Dershowitz routinely appears on college campuses to speak without opposition. Indeed, as the Gawker writer who writes under the pen name Mobutu Sese Seko first documented, Dershowitz himself has spoken at Brooklyn College on several occasions without opposition. That includes - as the college's Political Science Professor Corey Robin noted - when he was chosen by the school's Political Science department to deliver the Konefsky lecture in which he spoke at length - and without opposition. He also delivered a 2008 speech at Brooklyn College, alone, in which he discussed a wide variety of controversial views, including torture. As Professor Robin noted, when Dershowitz agreed to speak at the school, "he didn't insist that we invite someone to rebut him or to represent the opposing view."
Nor did any of the New York City politicians objecting to this BDS event as "one-sided" object to Dershowitz's speech given without opposition. Why is that?
In fact, it is incredibly common for academic departments to sponsor controversial speakers without opposition. I speak frequently at colleges and universities, and always express opinions which many people find highly objectionable. As but one example, I spoke at the University of Missouri School of Law last September, in an event sponsored by the law school itself. As this news account from the school's newspaper notes, I spoke at length about the highly controversial ideas in my last book, and that speech was followed by a panel discussion of like-minded civil liberties and civil rights advocates.
The way that happens is exactly how it happened here: a student group decides it wants to invite speakers or host an event and then seeks organizing support from one of the school's departments. That does not remotely connote departmental agreement with all or any of the ideas to be aired; it simply reflects a willingness to help students organize events they think will be beneficial. As Professor Robin told me about the BDS event: "The student group explicitly asked us if we would like to 'endorse' or 'co-sponsor' the event; we explicitly opted for 'co-sponsor.'"
I hope readers will take a moment to e-mail Brooklyn College President Gould (firstname.lastname@example.org) urging her to continue to stand firm for academic freedom and the First Amendment. In situations like this, academic leaders need to know that if they cave into craven politicians that will cost them standing in the academic world, and that by standing firm, as President Gould has done so far, she has earned respect and recognition for her integrity from the academic community. I would also urge all departments at Brooklyn College to join as co-sponsors of this event, as a way to make clear that the integrity of the university is at stake. (Ordinarily, I would not encourage a Philosophy Department to co-sponsor an event featuring Judith Butler, but...she does have a PhD in philosophy! And, from what I've read, she's more articulate and interesting on this topic than on most topics she writes on.)
UPDATE: Here, as a sample which anyone is free to borrow, amend etc, is what I wrote to President Gould:
Dear President Gould,
I know I speak for many in the academic community in congratulating you on your strong and principled stand in defense of academic freedom at Brooklyn College. Yours is undoubtedly the morally and legally correct posture, and I hope you will feel free to call on me and others for support in light of the campaign of political intimidation now being waged against you and your institution. You should feel free to share this correspondence, as you deem appropriate, with others.
My father, now 80, graduated from Brooklyn College more than a half-century ago, where he studied philosophy. He is as appalled by this disgraceful campaign against the College as I am.
Please remain firm in your commitment to principles central to the integrity of the academy.
Karl N. Llewellyn Professor of Jurisprudence
Director, Center for Law, Philosophy & Human Values
University of Chicago
1111 E. 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
ANOTHER: My father Maurice, Class of 1954 from Brooklyn College, writes: "Thank you for mentioning me. You are correct in describing me as appalled by what is taking place. Our
public forums are infested with ignoramuses whose malicious conduct would make any fascist proud."
...to North Carolina! The "PhD in philosophy" is singled out for derisive remarks by these know-nothings, appraently unaware that UNC has one of the best philosophy programs in the United States. (The irony is William Bennett has a PhD in philosophy, though it didn't do him any good!)
UPDATE: IHE has coverage too.
Thus spoke Nietzsche:
"What is the task of all higher schooling?--To turn people into machines.--"What method is used?"--The student must learn to be bored.--"How is this done?"--Through the concept of duty."Who is the model for this?"--the philologist: he teaches how to grind away at work.--"Who is the perfect human?"--The civil servant.--"What philosophy gives the highest formula for the civil servant?"--Kant's: the civil servant as thing-in-itself set to judge over the civil servant as phenomenon. (Twilight of the Idols, "Skirmises," sec. 29)
Posted by Brian Leiter on January 23, 2013 at 11:54 AM in Of Cultural Interest, Personal Ads of the Philosophers (and other humor) | Permalink
The Republican Party is still insane...which may be good news for humanity, if it finally finishes this freak show of a political party off.
UPDATE: Since I posted this several hours ago, when House Republications were threatening to vote against the McConnell-Biden deal, they reversed course, proving once again the far-reaching influence of this blog!
Posted by Brian Leiter on December 23, 2012 at 05:40 PM in Of Cultural Interest, Personal Ads of the Philosophers (and other humor), The Academy | Permalink
Jeff McMahan (Rutgers) has a very good takedown of the idea that more guns is a solution. He argues for a nearly total ban on private ownership of firearms. This would require overturning the dubious interpretation of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution recently adopted by the Supreme Court.
My law school colleague Geoffrey Stone notes an unfortunate kind of American exceptionalism:
Of the 188 nations that have written constitutions, the vast majority have adopted fundamental guarantees that were first fully articulated in the US Constitution.
Indeed, 97 per cent of all the world’s constitutions now protect the freedom of religion; 97 per cent protect the freedom of speech and press; 97 per cent the right to equality; 95 per cent protect the freedom against unreasonable searches; 94 per cent the right of assembly; 94 per cent prohibit arbitrary arrest or detention; 84 per cent forbid cruel and unusual punishment; 84 per cent protect the right to vote; 80 per cent prohibit ex post facto laws; 72 per cent protect the right to present a defence and 70 per cent the right to counsel. These freedoms, first constitutionalised in the US, are now widely recognised as fundamental to a free, humane and civilised society.
Yet, only 1 per cent of all the other nations of the world recognise a constitutional right to keep and bear arms. The idea that individuals have a fundamental right to purchase and possess firearms has been resoundingly rejected by 185 of the world’s 188 nations.
Finally, a reader comes up with an interesting idea: require gun owners to carry insurance:
I am a daily reader of your blog, and I very much appreciate your recent posts on the Newtown killings specifically, and gun control generally. I am a high school teacher in a small, rural upstate NY community where guns are a very important part of the culture. I frequently hear those who are anti-control say silly things such as, "guns don't kill, people kill. You would not ban cars because people are killed in accidents?", or some such related thing. Given that these people like to push that analogy, I propose that gun owners are required to insure their guns against any future violence, intended or accidental, that those guns might be responsible for either by the owner or some other individual who was able to obtain them. We would have different rates for different guns. A small gun such as a one shot derringer would have a relatively low premium. A semi-automatic would have a much higher premium. Following the car analogy, in the same way that you have to present proof of insurance to the DMV to get a car registered, you must present proof of insurance before a gun can be sold to you. Think of all the fun actuaries would have calculating the premiums on the various guns. If you pay a premium on each gun you own, that may go a long way toward reducing the number of fire arms people own without having to put in place any ban. These are my thoughts, for whatever they are worth. Again, thanks for the blog, it really is refreshing to find a voice of reason in the blogosphere.
ANOTHER READER writes:
Unlike, I expect, the large majority of people w/ a PhD in philosophy, I have a pretty fair amount of experience with guns. My father was a police officer for 30+ years, and my younger brother is a police officer now. I've shot guns since I was quite young. We had a fair number of guns at my house while I was growing up- what was, at the time, the standard-issue police .357 revolver, a snub-nose .38 revolver (my father's "off-duty" gun, and the main one he carried when he did various sorts of "plain-clothes" work for 10 years or so), a .22 pistol, and a fairly old 7mm hunting rifle. Sometimes my older brother, who liked to hunt a lot, had a shot gun and a hunting rifle. I've shot all of these guns, and many more. I shot in boy scouts and in hunter's education (though I didn't like hunting- among other things, it involved getting up at 4am in cold weather.) I've shot .44 and 9mm pistols such as Glocks, several times (and am a pretty good shot, if what I'm shooting at holds still and doesn't shoot back.) I rather enjoy target shooting. I am nominally the owner of a retired police .357 revolver, though I've only had it in my possession for less than a year- when I moved to go to grad school for the first time I gave it to my father to keep- not being an idiot, I knew perfectly well that it was more likely to be dangerous to me to have it around than to help me, and all I ever wanted to do w/ it anyway was target shoot, but that had become too expensive, and it was too difficult to keep in that state anyway. I've never regretted not having it with me.
I say this to show that I have some personal knowledge of these things. This isn't to fall into the dumb idea that only people w/ experience with guns can talk about them, but to suggest that I have some personal experience to ground what follows. The "gun control law that would actually work" article you link to is pretty good, and I agree with most of it (though I think the "assault weapons ban" was less pointless than is suggested.) Mostly, though, I wanted to say something about the update, where "speed loaders" for revolvers are mentioned. I know these things very well, as they were standard issue for police officers when they used to carry revolvers. (In fact, I used to think they were fun to play with- we'd use them, w/ the bullets, as if they were bombers while playing w/ plastic army-men.) Here's a picture of a typical speed loader.
With these, you can reload a revolver much more quickly than w/o one. But, it's obvious that this is still much, much slower and less efficient than replacing a clip in a pistol. the best evidence for this is that when guns like the Glock 9mm became common enough with criminals, police all switched to using 9mm's rather than revolvers, so as to not be "out-gunned". (This is despite the fact that there is much more chance of a gun like a Glock 9mm malfunctioning or jamming than a revolver.) Also, it's a bit harder to be fast w/ a speed-loader, for all sorts of reasons, than just changing the clip in a 9mm, which is very easy. So, even beyond the easy point that it would be perfectly plausible to ban private ownership speed-loaders, they just are not really comparable to the sort of clips in a Glock 9mm. Even if we think (which I don't) that there are a lot of plausible cases for having a hand-gun for self defense, this could almost always be met with a revolver, but that would make mass-killings of the sorts we've seen much harder. And, as a beneficial side-effect, perhaps police could go back to using revolvers. Why would this be beneficial?
We've seen several cases recently (including a shooting at the Empire State building in NYC) where quite a few people were hurt by the police firing too many shots. In a stressful situation, it's very easy to fire all of one's bullets very quickly. (Several years ago my father was involved in a fatal shoot-out, where he was very slightly hurt and another police officer was seriously hurt, and my father just barely missed being seriously hurt- he had bullet holes through his boot and jacket- where all the shots were fired in less than 1 minute, for example) But, if police used revolvers (becauseI would be quite happy to support much stronger gun control legislation than this, and think that background checks and licensing, including at gun-shows (where it's now largely not required) is also obvious. But, these are small steps that are perhaps political plausible that could do a lot of good.
that's what most criminals had) then they, too, would have to re-load, and would shoot less. That would almost always be a good thing.
My impression is that it would also be perfectly feasible to make all guns such that their rate of fire was limited, and that this, too, would be an obvious benefit. Of course, people could get around this w/ home modifications, but the fact that a law isn't perfect is obviously no reason to not try.
...this one designed to deflect attention from the real consequences of NRA opposition to meaningful gun control. There is a good statement on the matter, and contact information, here. (I disagree with the statement, however, that there is an issue of academic freedom here, except indirectly; it is, however, very much a First Amendment issue about free speech and the right of state university professors to express controversial views without being hounded out of work by cyber-mobs. As I've noted, this right protects even reprehensible fools like Glenn Reynolds.) The University of Rhode Island President has, so far, handled this terribly, and ought to issue a public apology for carelessly adopting the right-wing lie that Professor Loomis had threatened the head of the NRA with violence.
UPDATE: I commend Professor Protevi's letter to the University administrators as a good model, especially his first paragraph which sounds all the right notes (I agree with the thrust of the second paragraph too, but I think the key message for the University administration to get is that they smeared a faculty member based on a right-wing blogosmear.)
AN ADDENDUM ON ACADEMIC FREEDOM: Some readers asked why I didn't think this implicated "academic freedom," except indirectly, so let me add a few words about this. There is a tendency to use "academic freedom" to mean "the freedom of academics to say anything," an interpretation which finds no support in the law or in AAUP interpretations of academic freedom. What "academic freedom" clearly encompasses is the right of academics to teach and write in their areas of expertise according to their best professional judgment, without sanction. A faculty member's "tweets" about issues of the moment are not protected by academic freedom, unless those issues are rather clearly within his or her area of professional expertise. But any US citizen's "tweets" are protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, which prohibits a state entity, like the University of Rhode Island, from sanctioning the "tweeter," no matter how many NRA fans are offended, for good or (in this case) absurd reasons.
The only "indirect" implication of this affair for academic freedom is this: the irresponsible statement by the Universityy of Rhode Island President might well communicate to faculty whose research relates to issues of gun control, in one way or another, that if their research offends proponents of absolute gun rights, the University will sooner "duck for cover" than stand up for the work. That would be a reasonable inference to draw from the fact that the University has not made a clear statement about the constitutional rights of Professor Loomis to offend partisans of gun rights and the NRA. He has that right, no matter how many right-wing blowhards e-mail the University.
ANOTHER: A nice confirmation of the strategy of the Crooked Timber bloggers is that we now see even brain-dead hacks (this one a clinical law professor) professing their commitment to Professor Loomis's job security. Of course, some of these brain-dead hacks have reason to worry, and not because of inflammatory tweets.
(Thanks to Phil Gasper for the pointer.)
The case of Australia:
Our 1996 reforms were precipitated by the Port Arthur massacre, the 13th mass shooting in 15 years in which five or more victims died in places like Hoddle and Queen Streets in Melbourne and Strathfield Plaza.
The central provisions of the reforms were the ban on semi-automatic rifles and pump action shotguns, accompanied by gun amnesties and two national buybacks, which together saw some 820,000 guns destroyed. Because of their rapid firepower, semi-automatics are the guns of choice for those intent on killing many people quickly. John Howard introduced the reforms to prevent US-style mass killings....
In the 12 years since the law reforms, there have been no mass shootings.
This is perhaps too polite for my taste, but it makes the point.
UPDATE: And a good column on the child-killing lobby:
ANOTHER: Here is historian Juan Cole (Michigan):
After the Aurora killings, I did a few debates with advocates for the child-killing lobby—sorry, the gun lobby—and, without exception and with a mad vehemence, they told the same old lies: it doesn’t happen here more often than elsewhere (yes, it does); more people are protected by guns than killed by them (no, they aren’t—that’s a flat-out fabrication); guns don’t kill people, people do; and all the other perverted lies that people who can only be called knowing accessories to murder continue to repeat, people who are in their own way every bit as twisted and crazy as the killers whom they defend....
So let’s state the plain facts one more time, so that they can’t be mistaken: Gun massacres have happened many times in many countries, and in every other country, gun laws have been tightened to reflect the tragedy and the tragic knowledge of its citizens afterward. In every other country, gun massacres have subsequently become rare. In America alone, gun massacres, most often of children, happen with hideous regularity, and they happen with hideous regularity because guns are hideously and regularly available.
The people who fight and lobby and legislate to make guns regularly available are complicit in the murder of those children.
Why don’t the news anchors or discussants ever bring up the simple fact that between 1994 and 2004, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994: The Federal Assault Weapons Ban prohibited assault weapons? The prohibition was not unconstitutional. Congress foolishly put in a 10-year sunset provision, and of course Bush and his Republican Congress allowed it to expire.
Why doesn’t anyone blame George W. Bush for these mass shootings? He’s the one who led the charge to let the assault weapons ban expire. Why aren’t the politicians in Congress who take campaign money from assault weapons manufacturers ever held accountable by the public?
Why don’t the news programs bring up the reported moves of Sen. Diane Feinstein to prepare new legislation banning assault weapons and their accoutrements? Are they so afraid of the NRA that they can’t even discuss the legislative process in public?
What in the world does the 2nd amendment have to do with these incidents? Do they look like a “well-regulated militia” to you? Semi-automatic weapons are the 18th-century equivalent of artillery in terms of their ability to kill. Do you think people should be allowed to have artillery pieces in their back yards, too? Is this some sort of sick joke, that you are telling us our children have to die because the Founding Fathers wanted madmen to have high-powered weaponry?
Why does complaining about semi-automatic weapons (and the means to make ordinary guns semi-automatic by attaching e.g. ammunition drums) being freely available always devolve into an argument about gun control and hunting? No one minds if people buy rifles to shoot deer with in the countryside. An ordinary, non-automatic rifle can’t produce a mass killing like that in Connecticut because it cannot get off so many rounds so quickly. Nobody hunts with an automatic pistol, and if they do, they should be publicly shamed by, like a group of hot girls calling them wusses as they set off in their hunting jackets.
LONGTIME READER Jason Walta writes:
Not that we need any more evidence to prove that Glenn Reynolds is a moral monster, but the the beginning of his piece in USAToday really takes the cake:
"After a shooting spree," author William Burroughs once said, "they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn't do it." Burroughs continued: "I sure as hell wouldn't want to live in a society where the only people allowed guns are the police and the military."
Mr. Walta adds: "Burroughs famously killed his own wife by shooting her in the head while drunk. In the words of the Jezebel article you cited earlier, Fuck Glenn Reynolds."
Many readers will by now have heard about the horrific mass shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut. How people can recover from such ghastly events I do not know; I imagine many do not. Their sorrow and grief must be harrowing.
What we could do, were the U.S. civilized, is take serious remedial and preventive measures. Predictably, the usual cast of depraved fools are cynically trying to stop serious discussion of how to prevent such events with preemptive accusations that any such discussion would constitute a "cynical" exploitation of the event! Talk about shameless hypocrisy! Countries with real gun control almost never have these kinds of events, the U.S. does, and increasingly so. Period. (Recall this.) This was one of the weapons used by the shooter: ban it. Ban all semiautomatic, rapid fire weapons. Ban the semiautomatic variation of the M-16 rifle and the pump-action 12-gauge shotgun used by the Aurora, Colorado mass murderer. No one needs these weapons for any legitimate or civilized purpose, other than police and the military (even the police wouldn't need them if others didn't have them). Let hunters buy their hunting rifles, let all citizens purchase a musket for self-defense, as the framers of the Constitution intended. But there is no reason why anyone other than law enforcement should have access to the kinds of weapons that have figured in all the recent mass shootings.
Perhaps if everyone wrote to their elected representatives demanding a ban on the kinds of weapons used in these mass shootings, something would happen? Is it possible that the mass murder of kindergarteners might prompt the cowards in Congress to act?
UPDATE: In a case of cruel but revealing irony: a deranged would-be killer of children in China, but armed only with a knife, wounds nearly two dozen, but kills no one. (Thanks to Michael Sevel for the pointer.)
What took him so long? Krugman has been such a relief to those of us in the United States, because the public culture is so bereft of critical perspective, but the fact remains that he's an apologist for the capitalist system, just not as bonkers as some of the others. I quote from his recent posting on the implications of the displacement of human labor power by robots, which means profits go to those who own capital, not those who actually work:
Better education won’t do much to reduce inequality if the big rewards simply go to those with the most assets. Creating an “opportunity society”, or whatever it is the likes of Paul Ryan etc. are selling this week, won’t do much if the most important asset you can have in life is, well, lots of assets inherited from your parents. And so on.
I think our eyes have been averted from the capital/labor dimension of inequality, for several reasons. It didn’t seem crucial back in the 1990s, and not enough people (me included!) have looked up to notice that things have changed. It has echoes of old-fashioned Marxism — which shouldn’t be a reason to ignore facts, but too often is. And it has really uncomfortable implications.
The public culture of the United States is obviously an embarrassment, so I don't want to knock Krugman too much, since he's been the most visible voice for civilization in recent years...BUT look what he wrote: "the capital/labor dimension of inequality....didn't seem crucial back in the 1990s." He at least does a mea culpa, so kudos to him for that. Now that the Repugs have been trounced in the latest national elections, we need a real revival of the labor movement in this benighted country to recapture a larger portion of capital from its current heirs, and insure that it meets human needs in the decades ahead.
UPDATE: The Ed Asner video, produced by the California teachers' union as I understand it, is timely.
ANOTHER: More from Krugman. The awakening continues!
The latest installment in our series of scathing book reviews:
Needless to say, Judge Posner does not leave it at that, and the criticisms seem to me mostly quite sound.
THE CONSTITUTION of the United States has its passionate votaries—none more so than Akhil Reed Amar of Yale Law School—as does the Bible. But both sets of worshippers face the embarrassment of having to treat an old, and therefore dated, document as authoritative. Neither set’s members are willing to say that because it is old, and therefore dated, it is not authoritative. Some say it is old but not dated; they are the constitutional and Biblical literalists. But most of the worshippers admit, though not always out loud, that their holy book is dated and must therefore be updated (without altering the text) so as to preserve its authority. They use various techniques for updating....
Amar’s method of updating, which is also the one the Catholic Church applies to the Bible, is supplementation from equally authoritative sources. The Church believes that a Pope receives divine inspirations that enable him to proclaim dogmas that are infallible and thus have equal authority with the Bible. Jesus Christ’s mother does not play a prominent role in the New Testament, but she became a focus of Catholic veneration, and in 1854 the Pope proclaimed the dogma of Mary’s Immaculate Conception (that is, that she had been born without original sin). This and other extra-Biblical Catholic dogmas, such as the Nicene Creed, which proclaimed the consubstantiality of the Son and the Father, form a kind of parallel Bible, equal in authority to the written one, which reached its modern form in the third century C.E.
This is the line taken by Amar. Alongside the written Constitution is an unwritten constitution. They are consubstantial. The Constitution, like the teachings of the Catholic Church, is a composite of a founding document and a variety of supplementary practices and declarations (many of course in writing also). No matter how wild Amar’s constitutional views may seem, he claims that they are in this two-in-one constitution; that he did not put them there.
Actually, despite the book’s title, it is not two in one—it is twelve in one. There is not just one unwritten constitution, in Amar’s reckoning; there are eleven of them. There is an “implicit” constitution, a “lived” constitution, a “Warrented” constitution (the reference is to Earl Warren), a “doctrinal” constitution, a “symbolic” constitution, a “feminist” constitution, a “Georgian” constitution (the reference is to George Washington), an “institutional” constitution, a “partisan” constitution (the reference is to political parties, which are not mentioned in the written Constitution), a “conscientious” constitution (which, for example, permits judges and jurors to ignore valid law), and an “unfinished” constitution that Amar is busy finishing. All these unwritten constitutions, in Amar’s view, are authoritative. And miraculously, when correctly interpreted, they all cohere, both with each other and with the written Constitution. The sum of the twelve constitutions is the Constitution.
One is tempted to say that this is preposterous, and leave it at that.
Philosopher Rae Langton (MIT) calls my attention to the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics in the U.K., coming on the heels of various scandals involving the tabloids and their intrusive and sometimes illegal techniques for acquiring "information." Interestingly, as Professor Langton pointed out to me, several philosophers and political theorists gave evidence during the Inquiry, including Jeremy Waldron, Onora O'Neill, John Tasioulas, Jennifer Hornsby, Susan Mendus, Rowan Cruft, Neil Manson, John Thompson, as well as Professor Langton. Professor Hornsby comments on some of the issues raised by the Inquiry here.
Here; an excerpt:
So over the weekend I read All In, Paula Broadwell's slobberific biography of General David Petraeus. It was nothing special, just a typically crappy piece of fawning, noncritical journalism, full of passages like the following:
"At Petraeus's change of command in Baghdad in the summer of 2008, Secretary Gates claimed that 'history [would] regard Petraeus as one of the nation's great battle captains . . .' Petraeus's success on the battlefield, his status as a military intellectual and his will to succeed allowed him to shape not only doctrine but also organizational design, training, education and leadership development in the Army and, in many respects, the broader military . . .."
You can pretty much guess the rest of the plot from there. Every environment Petraeus enters is instantly bettered by his majestic personage. We see him passing through destroyed hamlets in Afghanistan, the weight of the world on his rugged shoulders, scratching his figurative chin as he worries which strategies to choose "so that villagers could once again live in peace and prosperity"....