I was happy to be invited to contribute this to the inaugural issue of the Indian Journal of Legal Theory. The paradox is twofold: on the one hand, philosophy has no "results" it can report to the public that would guide its conduct; on the other hand, the public, including the supposedly "elite" sectors of the public, is quite clearly indifferent to the sorts of distinctions to which philosophers draw attention. The one thing philosophers do offer is "discursive hygiene," which, as lawyers show, sometimes matters to what public institutions do, though philosophers might learn from lawyers the importance of rhetoric (once upon a time, philosophers did know that!).
Politician Ron Johnson and columnist Christian Schneider have claimed that assault weapons don't need to be banned because they already are. They say this to deflect attention from the AR-15-style weapons used by the Orlando murderer, since his weapon was a semiautomatic, and since it shares the same kind of reloading mechanism used in many other kinds of rifles that are primarily used for sport — target or hunting — and does not deserve the pejorative "assault" adjective.
Weapons are tools of intent. Black-powder muzzle loaders are obviously weapons used with the intent to hunt, and to do so with particular skill, given opportunity. Bull-barrel blowback semiautomatic pistols are intended to hit targets accurately without reloading after every shot (I own one). Blowback and recoil-operated shotguns with tube magazines are intended to allow better chances to kill waterfowl in flight (as improved over older double-barrels).
And then there's a lightweight, gas-operated, rapid-fire semi-or-fully automatic that fires high-powered but small-bore cartridges, complete with high-capacity magazine and (usually) a field hand-grip/sight first designed by the U.S. government for the single-minded purpose of what is genially called "anti-personnel field combat." What would you call that?
If that murderer in Orlando had used a classic Gatling gun, it would not have been automatic or semiautomatic by contemporary parlance. It is a single-fire rapid-repeating mechanically driven weapon that, using the vocabulary of Johnson, et al, would not have been an "assault weapon."
Shame on them for using mere words to try and wash away obvious truths about what should be public policy.
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).
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.
A nicely done item from the Boston Globe. If you live in Ohio, Arizona, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, or North Carolina, the article makes it easy to send the article via social media to your Senator.
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.
From the victim and from the convicted assailant's mother. They are both worth reading. I guess I am more sympathetic to the view that the six-month sentence was light given the jury's findings, but I think far more ominous is the move to recall the judge for acting well within his legal discretion to take into account the defendant's past history. Such a move will only result in more harsh sentencing by more judges, which is not what America, the world leader in incarceration, needs.
Gun control advocates contend that semiautomatic weapons like the AR-15 are a logical choice for mass shootings because of their ability to rapidly fire multiple high-velocity rounds. Defenders of the firearm [i.e., delusional morons] say it is misguided to blame a gun that is used by millions of owners across the country in a responsible manner.
The rifle is legal to buy in most states, including Florida. In 1994, Congress passed an assault weapons ban that prohibited manufacturing AR-15 for civilian sale with large-capacity magazines, bayonets or pistol grips. The ban limited, but did not end, sales of AR-15s. The weapons ban expired in 2004.
In a video taken by a bystander, more than 20 rounds can be heard being fired in rapid succession. This would indicate that the weapon had a magazine with a capacity commonly used in military service.
Like most states, Florida does not restrict the capacity of magazines. State bans have been ineffective: the shooters in San Bernardino used high capacity magazines despite California’s ban on semiautomatic rifles with magazines with more than 10 bullets.
Early on, as readers will recall, I endorsed Dopey Donald Chump as clearly the most qualified of the Republican candidates, and I stand by that judgment. I can not claim sole credit for his victory, but I can claim prescience.
Dopey Donald Chump, alas, is also afflicted with certain rather obvious deficiencies as a candidate and a person, including: (1) he finds criticism, and especially humiliation, very painful, (2) he's a lifelong fuck-up, whose incompetence has been obscured by Daddy's fortune, lawyers, and bankruptcy, and (3) he hates to lose.
Ergo, I predict that as it becomes increasingly clear that he will go down in catastrophic flames and become the laughing stock of the entire world, he will withdraw from the race, blaming a "rigged" and "biased" system/media/dishonest people/Mexicans/Muslims/menstruating women for making a fair election impossible. By doing so, he will avoid ending up like this guy, a real loser!
Thanks to philosopher Cheyney Ryan (Oxford) for sharing this anecdote from Ali's biography:
When Ali encountered a distinguished, ninety-something English fellow prior to his fight with Henry Cooper, he asked him his opinion on the outcome.
“Our ‘Enry’s capable but I think you’ll win.”
Ali responded, “You’re not as dumb as you look.”
He had no idea at the time he was addressing the eminent philosopher and pacifist Bertrand Russell and later wrote to him to apologise. Fortunately, the author of Principia Mathematica took no offence at Ali’s backhanded compliment and the pair exchanged correspondence until Russell’s death in 1970, with Russell writing Ali letters of encouragement concerning his stand on the Vietnam war.
(Russell corresponded with Ali offering material from his Vietnam War Crimes Tribunal for Ali's legal defense for refusing conscription.)
As a kid in Manhattan, I can still recall huge posters advertising "Cassius Clay." I'm pretty sure they were leftover from before he changed his name.
ADDENDUM: As if on cue, Audrey Yap (Victoria) (yes, that Audrey Yap). At least the "battle lines" are clear, and many on the wrong side of these issues have identified themselves.
INDEED as this mindlessness migrates to philosophy, the results should be interesting. The typical "intro" graduate seminar to 20th-century analytic philosophy would involve reading Frege, Russell, Strawson, Carnap, Quine, Kripke, maybe some Davidson or Putnam or D. Lewis too. That course would have to go. The study of German Idealism: that's out too, all a bunch of white guys, Fichte, Schelling, Hegel etc. 19th-century German philosophy: forget it, all white guys again, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, maybe also Feuerbach and Schopenhauer (and all Germans to boot--what a disgraceful lack of diversity). Of course, the study of ancient Greek and Roman philosophy would have to go, once again all white guys (were they white? I'm not even sure, but they were definitely guys!). The future of academic philosophy is going to be interesting!
...with these appropriately condescending attacks. She's got three big advantages: she's smarter, she's more articulate, and she's not a pathological liar. As this perceptive game-theoretic analysis of Dopey Donald Chump's modus operandi makes clear, Senator Warren's relentless, belittling attacks will drive him to distraction and self-destruction.
On Facebook, I've got, broadly speaking, three "kinds" of friends: academic lawyers, academic philosophers, and regular people (the latter category including some lawyers, relatives, neighbors etc.). The FB habits of these three groups are strikingly different.
Regular people use FB the way I thought it was supposed to be used (and the reason I joined): to post photos of kids and pets, recent vacations, occasionally a bit of personal or professional news. Academic philosophers do a little of that, and so do academic lawyers, but for most of them, that's only a small portion of their posting.
Academic philosophers increasingly treat FB like a blog, a forum for pontification about everything from real politics to academic politics. Until I realized I could "unfollow" people without "unfriending" them, I dumped a fair number of academic philosophers because their pontifications were so tiresome. My advice: get a blog! Anyone who wants to read me pontificating, can come here, but I don't impose it on my FB friends.
Academic lawyers do a fair bit of pontificating too, though not nearly as much as the academic philosophers, and theirs is almost always confined to real politics. The really revolting aspect of some academic philosopher behavior on FB is its "high school with tenure" quality: back-stabbing, preening and posturing, endless displays of righteousness and "pearl clutching", faux solidarity with all the oppressed and "wretched of the academy" (less often the actual wretched of the earth), and so on. An awful lot of academic philosophers on FB come across as teenagers desperately seeking approval and affirmation. I've managed to "unfriend" most of the offenders, but it was really a kind of depressing and sickening spectacle while it lasted.
The first is an interview with AEI political scientist Norm Ornstein, who was one of the first prominent voices to diagnose the pathological dysfunctionality of the Republican Party and who also was one of the first in 2015 to see that Trump could win. He views Trump's rise as resulting from the pathology of the Republican Party, but still gives him a 20% chance of winning in November. The whole interview is worth a careful read.
The second piece by neocon war-mongerer Robert Kagan is actually a good piece of writing about Herr Trump:
[W]hat Trump offers his followers are not economic remedies — his proposals change daily. What he offers is an attitude, an aura of crude strength and machismo, a boasting disrespect for the niceties of the democratic culture that he claims, and his followers believe, has produced national weakness and incompetence. His incoherent and contradictory utterances have one thing in common: They provoke and play on feelings of resentment and disdain, intermingled with bits of fear, hatred and anger. His public discourse consists of attacking or ridiculing a wide range of “others” — Muslims, Hispanics, women, Chinese, Mexicans, Europeans, Arabs, immigrants, refugees — whom he depicts either as threats or as objects of derision. His program, such as it is, consists chiefly of promises to get tough with foreigners and people of nonwhite complexion. He will deport them, bar them, get them to knuckle under, make them pay up or make them shut up....
Today, less than 5 percent of eligible voters have voted for Trump. But if he wins the election, his legions will likely comprise a majority of the nation. Imagine the power he would wield then. In addition to all that comes from being the leader of a mass following, he would also have the immense powers of the American presidency at his command: the Justice Department, the FBI, the intelligence services, the military. Who would dare to oppose him then? Certainly not a Republican Party that lay down before him even when he was comparatively weak. And is a man like Trump, with infinitely greater power in his hands, likely to become more humble, more judicious, more generous, less vengeful than he is today, than he has been his whole life? Does vast power un-corrupt?
This is how fascism comes to America, not with jackboots and salutes (although there have been salutes, and a whiff of violence) but with a television huckster, a phony billionaire, a textbook egomaniac “tapping into” popular resentments and insecurities, and with an entire national political party — out of ambition or blind party loyalty, or simply out of fear — falling into line behind him.
This is amusing, but contains no surprises for anyone from New York who has watched Dopey Donald Chump for years. His is a mafia mentality from top to bottom, one familiar to any New Yorker, and one visible not just in narcissistic huckters like Trump, but in many political figures in New York, as well as the actual criminals. You take care of your friends; you kill, or at least fuck over, your enemies. You're loyal to your gang, you keep your distance from the other gangs, though you do business as necessary. You get things done for your friends, no matter what it takes. No rules apply when it comes to your enemies. Dopey Donald Chump is Don Corleone, but without the fictional Don's dignity. There's simply no way he wasn't up to his neck in dealings with the mob while expanding his father's real estate empire in the 1970s and 1980s. And I'm sure it came completely naturally to him.
Now admittedly the reliability of these things isn't great, and in the Clinton v. Trump poll less than 90% of those polled expressed any preference, plus, of course, Trump is getting a bump from having locked up the Republican nomination, and Sanders hasn't been subjected to the kind of withering criticism that both Clinton and Trump have been. But still, Clinton really should step aside and let Sanders be the nominee: too much is at stake!
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)