November 30, 2006

An Untackleable American Hero

I'm sure most of us have seen that Madden '07 commercial with the guy getting tackled (in the game) over and over and over again. Well, the guy getting tackled is Dallas Clark and he didn't take too kindly to being destroyed over and over and over again in a nationally syndicated commercial. Fearing the wrath of a gynormous pissed off pro football player, the guys over at Rooster Teeth (the funny lads behind Red vs. Blue) decided to make amends with an apology and "director's cut" of the commercial to show Mr. Clark's true skillz. Funny stuff.

It's like a post, only easier

First read Hugo on Peter Singer (the professional philosopher most prominently associated in the contemporary imagination with the animal rights movement) coming out in favour of certain kinds of research on non-human animals. Then scroll down to my comment on the post, on Singer's consequentialism.

November 29, 2006

A Match Made In Heaven

Don't get me wrong, I *loves* me some Spiderman. The comics, the movies, it's all great, fun, comic book stuff. While I still love those classic characters of the Marvel and DC universii, it was more artsy stuff that got me back into comics after a decade sabatical brought on by the mediocrity of mainstream comics in the 90s. And, as any fan of Watchmen, Y: The Last Man, or Sleeper will tell you, a major motion picture just really isn't the best vehicle for the more serious dramatic series. Watching Supes punch guys can be fun for a couple hours, but you're not really going to get much of Sandman's depth without a series of Peter Jackson proportions and few, other than perhaps myself and a few other uber nerds, want to watch a 3-4 hour talkey movie.

So really, the announcement that Garth Ennis' landmark Preacher series will be coming to HBO as an original show was something of an inevitability. Hopefully the more serious, more adult comics on the Vertigo line (as well as those on Wildstorm, Mavel's Max, Image, etc.) will get the HBO treatment down the road. Yorrick Brown on the small screen. My fingers might break, I'm crossing them so hard.

November 28, 2006

Terminally In Iraq

Terminus is back kids! Well, those of us who knew Drew knew that it was only a matter of time, but it's still nice to see him back at his own place, under the old moniker.

His most recent post is his attempt to get back into the political side of things and, well, it seems like as good a time for me to wade back in as ever. He's talking about Iraq and what the hell we're supposed to do with the debacle that it's become. As he's said for a while now, he thinks we should pull out immediately. He dismisses the moral argument that we owe it to the Iraqi people to fix the mess we've made and dismisses even more readily, and rightly so, the President's argument that we can only lose if we leave. The latter is utter foolishness that wouldn't even be considered a serious position if it weren't the official position of the President. At this point I'm pretty sure he thinks the country is Ed Norton in Fight Club and he's scarring our hand with lye to show us how awesome pain is.

I'm not completely convinced that the former argument is as easy to dismiss. I know this is close to what so many self-important "serious centrists" have been saying for a while now, but what if we pull out and it gets much much worse. Darfur worse. It's entirely possible that the country could turn into, if it isn't already, a massive human rights disaster. Will we go back in then to stop an ethnic cleansing? Will the global community be willing to help? Putting aside whether we would be able to muster the political will to send troops back, is that something we'd be morally obligated to do? It's certainly hard for me to argue that we wouldn't. I've certainly condemned our lack of involvement in Darfur and I don't think I'd be able to weasel my thinking out of finding an obligation to get involved in a similar situation in Iraq, even if we just left. That being the case, is it better to stay if we would just have to come back?

All that being said, at this point it's mostly guilt talking. I never supported the war, but hey, we're all in this mess together and nobody should be above the guilt over what we've done. Still, it certainly doesn't look like we're making any headway on this problem and staying forever just isn't an option. An important issue in "sticking around" is the fact that we have, last I heard, built several large, permanent military bases in Iraq. Now, I didn't pay much attention to it at the time because it was just one ridiculous idea among a sea of ridiculous ideas, but I was under the impression that the US had closed down its bases in Saudi Arabia amid pressure from their citizenry and opted to make Iraq the military staging ground for US troops in the future.
Does pulling out mean eliminating those bases? If so, pulling out seems increadibly unlikely if that would leave us with no strategic outpost in the region.

If, on the other hand, we're just talking about troops patrolling Iraq it's also important to not that leaving "immediately" doesn't mean people drop what they're doing and run for the nearest chopper. It takes quite a while for a force the size of ours to pull out of the country; it just meanse we start preparing to leave now and do so as quickly as possible.

This has been an awfully rambly post, but hey, I'm just getting back into the swing of things. I've also been pulled away from writing this post at least four times which tends to unfocus things. I don't think the guilt over what we've done will ever go away, which increasinly makes me feel that my guilt is a bad basis for letting President Bush dump lye on us.

November 22, 2006

Oh, the Angst!

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A Bit Late

It seems like everyone's gotten over the election hoopla pretty fast, but I'm still feeling that warm sunny glow from finally winning a major election. In that spirit of ass kickery, here are two posts:

1) Found through Dan Brottman, a promise from Michael Moore to discouraged conservatives.

2) Found through Atrios, a band who seems to have completely missed the election. Granted, this was probably filmed and possibly released before the election, but these guys don't even seem to realize that Bush is on his way to having the least popular presidency of all time. I'd love to think this was satire, but it just doesn't have any moments of winking at the camera to let me know it's all a wonderful joke. Still, a catchy, if simple, tune.

Martha Nussbaum, Frontiers of justice

You can read my review of Martha Nussbaum's latest book, Frontiers of justice, here (PDF).

November 18, 2006

Thinking about property -- Aquinas

I've been thinking about private property and moral obligation lately. We (by which I mean Americans, or possibly citizens of affluent countries in general, but not philosophers) tend to think that our moral theory needs to keep fixed the system of private property at the bottom of our system of production -- helping out the poor is all well and good, but unjustified taxation is theft, and so on. (Yes, your socialism alert should have just gone off.) Some Libertarians -- Nozick is a good example of this -- actually try to base a theory of political justice on our property system quite explicitly, talking about how every individual owns themselves. (Though doesn't Nozick also say that you're not allowed to sell yourself? It seems like nonfungible property is a contradiction of terms in our system of private property.)

But, of course, our private property system -- like our system of production -- is a relatively recent development. And it certainly wasn't taken for granted throughout most of the last century. If we (ethicists and political philosophers now) purport to give more-or-less universal standards of justice, it seems weird to think that we have to take the economic system of one particular historical epoch as fixed.

Here's a nice quotation from Aquinas, via Peter Singer:

Now, according to the natural order instituted by divine providence, material goods are provided for the satisfaction of human needs. Therefore the division and appropriation of property, which proceeds from human law, must not hinder the satisfaction of man's necessity from such goods. Equally, whatever a man has in superabundance is owed, of natural right, to the poor for their sustenance. So Ambrosius says, and it is also to be found in the Decretum Gratiani: ``The bread which you withhold belongs to the hungry; the clothing you shut away, to the naked; and the money you buy in the earth is the redemption and freedom of the penniless.

That's ST II-II, q 68, art 7, trans by Dawson.

November 17, 2006

Friday Random Ten!!!!!!!!

Wow, it's been a looooong time since I did one of these, especially actually doing one on a Friday. So to refresh our memories, here's the deal: Load up itunes or your Rio MP3 player or whatever it is you use to listen to MP3s, set the thing to shuffle, random or whatever randomizes the songs, and then post the first ten songs it plays in the comments to this post. The only real rule is that your list be truly random and therefore you're not allowed to omit songs your embarrassed of or artists who inexplicably turn up more than they should. Most of the fun is seeing what weird tastes we all have and how crazy obsessed our computers are with Abba.

(Artist - Song)
1. Pink Floyd - Run Like Hell
2. Maker - Counter Earth
3. B.B. King - You Upset Me Baby
4. Colin Hay - Beautiful World
5. MC Chris - MC Number 2000
6. John Williams -Return of the Jedi Finale (editor: Whoo hoo! Vvvvvrrrrooowww vrrrrrrrwwoooooow...Fffffkkwwwiissshhhh!)
7. Quasimoto - Real Eyes
8. Prefuse 73 - Storm Returns
9. The Beatles - Come Together
10. The Allman Brothers Band - Jessica

Feel free to offer commentary on either my list, your own, or someone else's. I'm pretty stoked about my list. I mean, it's got Star Wars in it. Given the huge Library this is pulling from, it's weird that half the list is actually singles. Let's see your stuff!

November 14, 2006

Women: The only way to save your marriage is by being a fawning twit and good consumer!

Oh, the MSN Lifestyle site. It has all the eye-rolling ridiculousness of the supermarket checkout magazine display, but it's free! This time around, one Lisa Lombardi has decided women need to be incredibly anxious about their perfectly comfortable and healthy long-term relationships. Let's see what important tips she's suggesting!

1. Praise him like a kindergartener for doing simple household chores. You know, the stuff he wouldn't notice you doing.

Maybe you always say thanks when he does something huge, like backs up your computer files or cleans out the basement. But most days, we're guessing the ordinary contributions he makes barely register. "Over time, we stop noticing what our partner gives. His nice gestures become like wallpaper," says Levine. "We think, Of course he'll take the trash out. So we don't bother to say, 'Thank you.'"

2. Exploit underpaid Mexican immigrants to get some extra alone time.

"Buy some time together — literally," suggests Sanby. "Hire someone to take care of onerous tasks, like mowing the lawn."

3. Take two minutes every day to worship and adore him, and question whether you're being obsequitous enough.

Spend the time giving your man one good compliment ("Your new haircut makes you look hot") or sharing a moment that made you smile ("It was so sweet when you took Ethan out for a bike ride after dinner"). You can also use it as check in time: Ask him, "Anything you wish I were doing more of?"

4. If you don't spend lots of money trying to live up to a standard of beauty only achieved by anorexic teenagers with the help of Photoshop, you forfeit your sexuality.

By touching up those roots or slathering on a rich body lotion, "you stay connected to your sensual side" — meaning you'll stay connected to your sexual side, too, helping to keep up the intimacy and romance that makes love fun.

5. Women who criticize their men are unlovable shrews.

Viewing your love through a soft-focus lens, rather than one that plays up every last flaw, can have a magical effect on your relationship.

6. More fawning. I mean, really, go out of your way to give him everything he could possibly want, even if he doesn't actually want it.

We're talking really easy stuff: Buy his favorite kind of ice cream instead of the compromise flavor you usually drop in the cart. Offer him the extra pillow he always chivalrously gives you (yep, yank it out from under your head). Or, if you want to be even more generous, invite his crazy Aunt Maude over, because you know he loves the old nut.

7. Focus on what you would lose if you broke up. The answer is everything, because you're a helpless girl. While you're at it, evaluate your relationship in strictly utilitarian terms.

Just having a partner has so many perks — from the profound ones, like having someone to talk to late at night, to the practical ones, like having someone else to kill those water bugs late at night. By valuing those fringe benefits, you can't help but feel good about him.

8. As his live-in sexbot, your most important obligation is to make sure he gets laid every single night. Why else would he put up with your incredibly servile female inferiority?

If you want to show your guy how much you appreciate him, get hands on, advises marriage therapist Betsy Sanby. "Being touched makes men feel loved in a way that words can't," she explains.

Oh, I suppose I should've mentioned that those are my titles for the entries on the list.

There are actually some good bits here and there, but I guess "maintain intimacy, both physically and emotionally" is a little short, and doesn't put enough pressure on women to carefully compare themselves to the patriarchy-approved fawning sexbot and good consumer standard.

November 10, 2006

Oh, South Bend!

And here I was worried you weren't going to provide me with the entertaining, mid-grade mass insanity that so characterized the small town in which I grew up.

Fortunately, today you vomited one Edward G. Sara onto your local daily's op-ed page. Ladies and gentlemen, watch in amazement as Mr. Sara argues that Roe v. Wade -- and not misogynists with guns -- is directly responsible for the recent rash of tragic shootings. Then oooh and ahhh as he follows up by proposing that the solution is more guns and more patriarchy. It's a spectacle not to be missed!

This one is pretty cool, though. And not in the 'Wow. Seriously? He said that?' way.

November 09, 2006

Pasta With Greens

[No picture because I ate it too fast. Maybe tomorrow!]

The guiding theme behind these recipes is (usually, at least) to find things pretty much anyone can make if they have a minimally-equipped kitchen. This time, that's especially true: this recipe requires no culinary skills whatsoever. If you can boil water and use a timer, you can impress a date with Pasta With Greens. Plus, it's totally vegan.

Pick something long and stringy -- spaghetti, thin spaghetti, or linguine are all good. Angel hair is a bit too sticky for my taste, but it would also work. To make enough for two people, make an O with your thumb and first finger, and fill the O with pasta. (Use a little more for linguine.) Japanese soba or buckwheat noodles would also work; note that buckwheat noodles only cook for about three minutes, so you'll have to fiddle with the precisely order and times given below.

Bagged, precleaned, fresh greens are certainly more convenient than the unwashed sort. Avoid frozen! Spinach, Swiss chard, and turnip greens all work really well in Pasta With Greens. Avoid hard greens, like kale -- as much as I love kale, it doesn't wilt when cooked, and won't mix with the pasta when tossed. For two people, you'll want about 6 cups of roughly chopped greens, which is about 1/3 of a bag.

Olive oil: go for the expensive extra-virgin stuff here. A quarter cup of oil, for two people, will be just a little bit too greasy.

Garlic: 3-6 cloves of garlic, to taste and depending on size.

Seriously, that's all there is to the "sauce". Marinara's actually pretty easy, but remember, we're going for water-boiling level of skill here.

These are all optional. For a little touch of extra colour and flavour, consider roughly chopped sun-dried tomatoes (check the "ethnic" aisle), coriander or sesame seeds (spice aisle), or a little grated lemon or orange zest.

Time: 20-30 minutes, depending on how fast the water heats up.

  1. Fill a large (6 quart or so) pot 2/3rds up with cold tap water. (For those of you keeping track, that's about a gallon of water. Seriously, you want this much water for cooking pasta. And cold tap water because it contains less lead than water that's gone through your water heater, always a good thing.) Put it on your largest burner, and crank the heat up as high as it goes.
  2. While the water is heating, put about an inch of water in the bottom of a medium-sized saucepan with a lid. Put in a steamer basket and the greens. Cover and set on a medium-sized burner. Leave the heat off for now.

    If you don't have a steamer basket, you can either boil and strain the greens (messy but simple; fill the saucepan halfway and wait to add the greens until after the water's boiling, in a couple of steps) or braise (only a little more advanced than boiling water, I promise, and nowhere near as messy as boiling) with half a cup of vegetarian vegetable stock (check the soup aisle) in a non-stick pan (borrow a large lid from a saucepan). Or just go buy a steamer basket. They're cheap, and steaming is a great, fast way to cook all kinds of veggies. (Just don't run out and buy it while the water's heating.)
  3. Put the olive oil in your smallest pan, and let it sit on the smallest burner. Again, leave the heat off for now. Peel the garlic and put it through a press or smash with the side of a chef's knife and finely mince.
  4. Once the pasta water is boiling, add the pasta and several shakes from your salt shaker. Stir the pasta into the water and half-cover; leave the heat on full blast. Turn the heat under the greens to high, and the the heat under the oil to medium. Set a timer for five minutes.
  5. The oil should be hot after 60-90 seconds, depending on your burner. Add the garlic and cook, stirring every few seconds, until the smallest pieces are lightly browned, about 30-60 seconds. Be careful not to burn the garlic! Turn the heat under the oil off completely. Set the table, pour the wine, &c.
  6. When the timer goes off, turn the heat under the greens off completely and pull their lid off halfway. The greens should be wilted and fragrant, but not smell unpleasant. Reset the timer for two minutes.
  7. When the time goes off again, check the pasta. It's done when it's al dente -- that's Italian for "to the tooth", and means the pasta is cooked through, but not mushy. (Linguine will take a bit longer than spaghetti. Ignore the times on the pasta box; they're never remotely accurately.) Drain the pasta.
  8. To avoid a small puddle of oil creepy across the plate, I prefer to serve this in large bowls. Add pasta, then greens, and top with the oil, trying not to let too much of the cooked garlic end up in the bowl. Top with whatever garnish you're using and serve immediately.
  9. Unless you're terribly formal about such things, this goes well with both white and red table wines. (Chianti and merlot are always good choices, in my opinion.) Serve with a slice or two of French or Italian bread (since dinner itself was cheap, non-vegans could even splurge and get some of that heat-and-serve garlic bread at the supermarket), and to avoid garlic breath, I'd recommend a citrus sorbet for dessert.

The Results Are In

I passed the New Jersey Bar Exam. That's 2 for 2, baby. Watch out Stephen Hawking, there's a new brain on the block and he's writing "A Brief History of Kicking Your Ass." I leave you all now to party...perhaps to the extreme.

November 08, 2006

Send the freshman Dems a little reminder

One important reason many of them them were elected is their pro-choice views. Take thirty seconds and remind them.

Via Feministing.

And then it's business as usual, on the streets and highways that God built!

Via PZ.

By the way, this is an entirely accurate representation of academic philosophy. All the formal logic and plaid is just a facade to keep the job market open. Suckers!


I'm nowhere near as wonky as many of my friends and associates, but what a night! I was up way past my usual insomniac's bed-but-not-sleeping time, updating the NYT election thingy. And what did I see?
  1. Almost a complete reversal of power in the House; Republicans had 232, and now Democrats have 230.
  2. The Senate hangs in the balance, dependent upon recounts in Montana and Virginia. Both have a Republican incumbent who lost to their Democratic challenger by less than half a percentage point. If the results stick and Lieberman doesn't defect and caucus with the Republicans, Democrats will control both houses of Congress for the first time in I can't remember how long.
  3. And if, on top of that, Democrats finally get their act together, they should be able to wrest a lot of power back away from Bush in his final two years in office. Sadly, I still think this is the biggest if.
  4. More broadly, Amanda identifies signs of some very positive cultural trends: the South Dakota abortion ban lost, as did a weird parental notification (not consent) proposition in California; Virginia Senator George Allen's campaign was seriously harmed (though perhaps not irretrievably) by gross racism. Check out the full list!

November 06, 2006

Another one to sell to the alumni


Washington Hall, in the foreground, is actually a theater building of some sort; the ND Basilica is on the other side of the Golden Dome, and you can't see it in this shot. Still, this is the sort of schmaltzy crap alumni pay out the nose for at the Bookstore.

I forgot to make a note of the date, but based on the leaves, this was probably taken in mid-September, 20006. Posted by Picasa

November 02, 2006

In honor of the first Lake Effect snow of the year

Two shots from last December. The internet says less than an inch of accumulation this time, which is pretty typical for Lake Effect snow (the flakes are big and fluffy and pack down pretty tightly once they're on the ground), so we probably won't see anything this dramatic for a little while longer. But still, SNOW!

I honestly have no idea where exactly this is; I can't tell which building that is.


Very Cold Jesus. (It's a weird statue in the first place, because it's like 3/4 of life size: Jesus is only about 4 feet tall.)

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De facto campaign promises

Big-D Democrats, take note!

A substantial majority of Americans expect Democrats to reduce or end American military involvement in Iraq if they win control of Congress next Tuesday and say Republicans will maintain or increase troop levels to try to win the war if they hold on to power on Capitol Hill, according to the final New York Times/CBS News poll before the midterm election.

There was a piece in Harper's a few weeks ago outlining a concrete and nuanced plan to end the occupation of Iraq. The core notion was that the money we're pouring into mercenaries armed escorts and cronyism no-bid contracts would be much more efficiently spent rebuilding the Iraqi police force and utility infrastructure. Marshall Plan-esque grants to Iraq over the next year would achieve a lot for less than the occupation is costing us now.

The key assumption here is that much of the momentum driving the country into civil war is over the American military presence, so that, if we withdraw in the right way, much of the conflict will simply evaporate. I don't know enough about the situation in Iraq, but assumption could be a dangerous one -- certainly the ethnic conflict stirred up by the British in Rwanda didn't just evaporate in the decades after decolonialization.

I suspect we really are doing far more harm than good in Iraq, and wasting lots of money and lives in the process. But, as bad as things are now, any plan for withdrawal must look seriously at the possibility that they would only get worse.

November 01, 2006

Bad philosophy still makes my head hurt

This is what happens when smartass atheists who've read too much analytic philosophy try to talk religion. Only analytic philosophers could misunderstand pantheism this spectacularly:

So if God = Everything then Everything = God. If I am a ‘thing’ and ‘every | thing’ is God, then I am God. Now, if you are saying that ‘Everything’ is the sum total of ‘every | thing’, then I’m a part of God, sure, but that then brings up this question: Did God create himself?

The only answers are ‘yes’, in which case explain to me how that’s logically possible, or ‘no, God has always existed’, in which case you’re first assertion falls apart:

1Premise: God is Everything
2Premise: God has always existed
Conclusion: Everything has always existed.

1Premise: Everything has always existed.
2Premise: If something has always existed, it’s infinite.
Conclusion: Everything is infinite.

1Premise: Everything is infinite.
2Premise: I am a part of Everything.
Conclusion: I am infinite.

So if God is Everything, then I am infinite.

The metaphysics here is just terrible (bad philosophy of time, worse philosophy of causation), but metaphysics is pretty much always terrible IMO. The fact that someone with a BA in philosophy equivocates on "everything" so egregiously is downright embarrassing. (For the equivocator, and for the faculty that actually let him get away with a BA.)

Bad philosophy of science is also embarrassing:

In order to accurately define God, one must not believe in the existance of God. This gives what scientists call “objectivity.”

Anyone who is a scientist and asks a theist what God is and then denies or challenges the answer is no scientist. This is because scientific thought looks at a differant perspective than do theistic thoughts. From the perspective of a theist (not all apply to all beliefs), god is. God is the creator, the magical everything and nothing that binds us. God is life after death and a meaning to it all. That’s a fact of a perspective. Trying to turn that into science is illogical just like taking a metaphore litterally is illogical.

Anyways, here's the thing. When trying to argue with theism (or pantheism or what have you; anything, really), you can't throw a smarmy little syllogism at the particular definition that's offered up. Good philosophy has to start with charitable interpretation of one's interlocutors. And charitable interpretation means giving them the benefit of the doubt: assume they're reasonable people doing their best to articulate a difficult idea. Once you have a good, solid understanding of, eg, what Aquinas means when he says that God is the being whose essence is identical with its existence -- including why this definition is supposed to be a good one -- then it's time to tear it to pieces.

What we see in this thread isn't philosophia or dialektikos; it's eristikos.

More evil

[T]o be sure, it was the act of penetration that was the essence of the crime of rape; after this initial infringement upon the responsible male’s interest in a woman’s sexual and reproductive functions, any further injury was considered to be less consequential. The damage was done. It was this view that the moment of penetration was the point in time, after which a woman could never be “re-flowered,” that gave rise to the principle that, if a woman consents prior to penetration and withdraws consent following penetration, there is no rape. Maryland adheres to this tenet, having adopted the common law, which remains the law of the Land until and unless changed by the State’s highest court or by statute.

So, according to a Maryland appellate court, rape is bad because it's a form of property damage -- and once your property isn't a virgin anymore, it's basically too worthless to be damageable. When was this appalling opinion handed down?
(a) 1794
(b) 1877
(c) 1942
(c) The day before yesterday
Answer below the fold!

Of course the answer is the day before yesterday (pg 32).

I think I'm saving this one; it's a fantastic example of how some really nasty notions about sexuality are incredibly pervasive, and it would be good to have students read this along with some radfem material from a couple decades ago.

Via Amanda, who has links to discussions at feministing, feministe, and Broadsheet.