Posts from February 2006

Fat Tuesday Lazy Linking

Around the web in the past couple weeks. Part of the news that’s fit to link…

  • In honor of Carnival, let’s start with a couple of Carnivals. The Ninth Carnival of Feminists is up at Mind the Gap! and Philosophers’ Carnival #26 is up at Hesperus/Phosphorus. I happen to have a submission featured in each; but if you’re here you’ve probably already read them. Fortunately, like all good Carnivals, they contain multitudes. Prepare to fill out exactly one zillion tabs with excellent reading material.

  • Roderick Long, Austro-Athenian Empire (2006-02-21): Spooner on Rent does his best to sort out just what Lysander Spooner’s views on land ownership and rent are. The evidence suggests that Spooner was more like Murray Rothbard and less like Benjamin Tucker on this one. Interesting mainly as a historical and exegetical question (Spooner didn’t dwell on the issue, so it’s not like a treasure trove is being discovered; and the fact that Spooner thought something hardly makes it so). But, Roderick adds, to the extent that there’s any polemical payoff I suppose it’s this: those anarcho-socialists who grant the title of anarchist to Tucker and Spooner but deny it to Rothbard and other so-called anarcho-capitalists on the grounds inter alia of the latter’s disagreement with Tucker about land will find their position at least somewhat harder to maintain to the extent that the distance between the saved Spooner and the damned anarcho-capitalists is narrowed. Read the whole thing.

  • ginmar, A View from A Broad (2006-01-30): It doesn’t matter what you think we said…: You ever dealt with somebody who uses the word pussy in front of you–I’m speaking as a woman, here–as a synonym for cowardly, disgusting, vile–and then gets up in your face when you call them on it? Well, uh, I didn’t mean it like that. I didn’t intend it like that.Not thinking is no longer proof of innocence. What it just means is that you don’t give enough of a fuck to think about it. (Boldface added.) Read the whole thing.

  • Media Matters (2006-02-14): If It’s Sunday, It’s Conservative: An analysis of the Sunday talk show guests on ABC, CBS, and NBC, 1997 – 2005: In fact, as this study reveals, conservative voices significantly outnumber progressive voices on the Sunday talk shows. Media Matters for America conducted a content analysis of ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, and NBC’s Meet the Press, classifying each one of the nearly 7,000 guest appearances during President Bill Clinton’s second term, President George W. Bush’s first term, and the year 2005 as either Democrat, Republican, conservative, progressive, or neutral. The conclusion is clear: Republicans and conservatives have been offered more opportunities to appear on the Sunday shows – in some cases, dramatically so. The Right had an especially pronounced advantage when you screened out government flunkies and just looked at journalists. Read the whole thing.

  • Natalie Bennett, Philobiblon (2006-02-19): The baby choice, not the baby gap: Well I wanted many things when I was 21 – although I didn’t want children – and I don’t now want many of the same things. I didn’t want many of the same things when I was 25 or 30. At 21 you are still chiefly the product of your conditioning and upbringing – you are only just starting to grow up and construct yourself as an independent individual. No doubt many of those women later changed their minds, or decided that while a baby might be nice, it wasn’t their top priority. Also, no doubt, when they asked those early twenties women the question, they were thinking of having a baby as something that would happen in the far distant future – it is not a serious practical prospect. With, as I’ve reported before, 30 per cent plus of women in Scotland chosing not to have babies, when are the researchers (and the newspaper editors) going to recognise that this is a valid, sensible, entirely normal choice? Sometimes the demographic hand-wringers try to coerce you; other times they just try to hector you and generally treat you like an idiot. In either case, they’re acting like a bunch of bullies and need to drop it already. Anyway, read the whole thing.

  • Andy the Slack Bastard (2006-02-18): Burn-A-Flag-For-Lenin Week!: Andy has sort of an ongoing hilarious documentary on the weird, wild world of Marxist-Leninist splinter sects. It’s kind of like a form of neo-surrealist theatre in which the actors don’t realize that they’re part of a show. The latest? Confronted with a recent and continuing downturn in membership, the youth wing of the neo-Trotskyist Democratic Socialist Perspective appears to have hit upon a brand new (sic) idea to try and reverse the trend (or at least make a few dollars): selling flag-burning kits to University students. Commodification of dissent in the name of Communist dictatorship? The power is yours Australia! Read the whole thing.

  • Lab Kat (2006-02-20): The barefoot and pregnant crowd, Part III takes notice of Ypsilanti’s finest, Tom Monaghan. Now he’s planning to build his own city. No, not on rock and roll; on the mercy of Our Lady. I’m all for this clown building his own city. Get all the religious right nutjobs in the country to move there, away from those of us who don’t buy their dogmatic horseshit. Let them go play in their La-La Land while the rest of us live in the real world. Read the whole thing.

  • Meghan Sapp, Women’s eNews (2006-02-20): Fight to End Mutilation Hits Gritty Juncture looks at the hard work to come in the struggle against female genital mutilation in Africa: moving from international sentiments and governmental resolutions to actual change on the ground. Amid the surge in activities and reports, campaigners against the practice find themselves at a critical juncture. For nearly three years, they have been focused on persuading African Union leaders to ratify the Maputo Protocol. But now that is done, application of the anti-FGM provision at the national and local levels becomes the gritty political challenge. Of the 28 countries where genital mutilation is practiced, 14 countries have passed anti-FGM laws. But only Burkina Faso, Ghana and Kenya actively uphold those laws, according to the London-based Foundation for Women’s Health, Research and Development. Countries faced international pressure to ratify the Maputo Protocol, but within their own societies they face the opposition of many traditional ruling classes to cultural change. Read the whole thing.

  • Kieran Healy, Crooked Timber (2006-02-11): The Papers Continue Fatuous looks on aghast as Andrew Sullivan happily reprints e-mails from his ever-present Anonymous Liberal Reader explicitly pondering genocide against Muslims in Europe. Here’s the word from Betty Bleedheart: I’m honestly starting to suspect that, before this is over, European nations are going to have exactly four choices in dealing with their entire Moslem populations–for elementary safety’s sake: (1) Capitulate totally to them and become a Moslem continent. (2) Intern all of them. (3) Deport all of them. (4) Throw all of them into the sea. Kieran adds: It’s a hollow joke that Sullivan’s blog is graced by a tag-line taken from Orwell–and one about not being able to see what’s in front of your face, at that. … I certainly hope European countries are not about to capitulate to demands from some radical muslims that civil society be brought to an end for the sake of the prophet’s honor. … Nor, I take it, are they about to round up and dump all of them (for any value of them) into the sea. And if some countries have started down one or other of those roads, it certainly isn’t because some clerical thugs are so awesomely powerful that they are in a position to destroy the institutions of western democracy. You’ll have to look elsewhere to find people with the leverage to do real damage there. Read the whole thing.

  • tiffany at BlackFeminism.org (2006-02-20): SXSW Collective Brainstorming: Are you a gay blogger or a blogger who is gay? and Tensions between being speaking for yourself or for a group looks at identity blogging and asks some hard questions for those who do (or don’t) care to do it. Read the whole thing.

  • Marjorie Rosen, Los Angeles Times (2006-02-19): The lady vanishes — yet again takes an all-too-uncritical but sometimes interesting look at the declining prospects for women in the Hollywood star system. One of the better moments: The studios are nothing if not practical, suggests Michael Seitzman, the screenwriter of North Country. Hollywood would give a role to my dog if it would bring in an audience. The real question is not Why isn’t Hollywood creating roles for women? It’s Why aren’t audiences going to see them? Men aren’t interested in seeing movies about women anymore, but from the response to movies like In Her Shoes, it appears that women aren’t, either. But there may be a perception problem here. Could it be that because Hollywood produces so few movies featuring women’s stories, each one is held up to cold, hard and — dare I say it? — unfair scrutiny? Read the whole thing.

  • moiv, media girl (2006-02-21): If You Can’t Get EC at St. Elsewhere, Call Boston Legal, meanwhile, catches us up on the wit and wisdom of Catholic League president William Donahue, who informs us that the real problem is that Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. It’s not a secret, okay? And I’m not afraid to say it. … Hollywood likes anal sex. They like to see the public square without nativity scenes. I like families. I like children. They like abortions. I believe in traditional values and restraint. They believe in libertinism. We have nothing in common. But you know what? The culture war has been ongoing for a long time. Their side has lost. Oh it gets better — Donahue’s keeping files, you see. Big fat ones. Read the whole thing.

  • The Guardian NewsBlog (2006-02-20) reports that the occupation may soon be over, troops drawn down, and genuine independence at hand after a tricky political process … in Kosovo. Black Looks (2006-02-19) reports on the violence leading up to putatively open elections in Uganda. (All in the name of counter-terrorism, of course.) Ryan W. McMacken, LewRockwell.com Blog (2006-02-21) finds that red-blooded Iranians aren’t above some good old Liberty Cabbage idiocy.

  • The Guardian NewsBlog (2006-02-21): Milton Keynes: Shia inspiration watches the End of History rising over the ruins of Najaf, with a bit of help from the military-industrial complex. Come watch as the mauling of a holy city by the Warfare State is followed up with the worst that coercive, centralized Urban Renewal has to offer. For those who want to return to the glory days of Soviet-era architecture in Warsaw, I suppose. Read the whole thing.

  • rabble at Anarchogeek (2006-02-22): On the futility of creative commons suggests that the increasingly ubiquitous Creative Commons stickers and tags are useless, because they cater too much to the whims of publishers and don’t take a principled stand in favor of freedom. Looking through the guide, i realize that it’s not possible simply to replace the CC with something else. The problem is not that there aren’t good licenses, rather that the cultural war over ideas is being lost. We need a concept like GPL compatible or maybe even the less radical OSI compliant. I think that this may miss the point of what CC’s out to do in the first place, but it’s an interesting debate. Read the whole thing.

  • Jill, feministe (2006-02-20): Categorizing Race in the Bookstore reflects on the assets and liabilities of the African-American Interest (Women’s Studies, GLBT) bookshelves at your friendly neighborhood bookstore. Ghettoization? Useful classification? Both? Neither? Read the whole thing.

  • Discourse.net (2006-02-25): Florida Cops Intimidate Would-be Complainants picks out an amazing transcript of an attempt to get an official complaint form from the pigs. Via Boing-boing, a link to this absolutely amazing piece of investigative reporting: Police Station Intimidation–Parts 1 and 2 in which CBS4 News found that, in police departments across Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, large and small, it was virtually impossible to walk in the door, and walk out with a complaint form. … The TV station that broke the story reports that Remarkably, of 38 different police stations tested around South Florida, all but three had no police complaint forms yet it nonetheless felt obligated to introduce its report by saying that Most police officers are a credit to the badge, serving the community and the people who pay their salary, getting criminals off the street, making the community safer for everyone. Guess none of those guys happen to work the front desk, eh? Read the whole thing.

  • Echidne of the Snakes (2006-02-18): Virgins Matter More reports on how a man in Italy got a reduction in his sentence for raping his 14 year old stepdaughter because she wasn’t a virgin at the time she was raped. Because, you see, being forced to have sex against your will isn’t so bad if you’ve had sex already. The supreme court, apparently quoting from an amicus brief filed by Humbert Humbert, mused that the victim’s personality, from a sexual point of view, is much more developed than what would be normally expected of a girl of her age. Read the whole thing. But only on an empty stomach.

  • Laurelin in the Rain (2006-02-21): The Patriarchy Phrasebook: Occasionally (actually make that all the damn time), we rad fems find ourselves visited by Ambassadors from Planet Patriarchia, who speak in a language that is hard to understand, mostly because it’s less of a language and more of a code consisting of standard statements and arrogant presumptions. But never fear, for I am here with my dictionary of Commonly Used Phrases of Patriarchal Lackeys. These phrases are found variously in patriarchal literature, common conversation, newspapers, TV programmes, blog comments and shouted slogans when you’re minding your own frickin’ business. Read the whole thing.

Midsouth Proceedings 2006

Philosophy break.

You may not have noticed, thanks to my use of post-scheduling ninjitsu, but I was actually on the road this past weekend with L., at the (30th annual) Midsouth Philosophy Conference in Memphis, Tennessee. A good time, except that you need to know that if you’re going to visit Memphis on the weekend without a car, you’d better either get a hotel right downtown, or else get to like spending all evening stranded in your hotel room. (Next year I intend to do the former. Also to make sure I have all the bus schedules I’ll need printed out and in my bag with me when I go.) Here’s the ego-centric summary of the conference proceedings:

  • On Saturday, I presented my essay Intuition-Pumping for Fun and Profit, on appeals to intuition and two arguments against hedonism, drawn from G. E. Moore and Francis Hutcheson. Here’s the basic idea: the category of philosophical appeals that the current fashion dubs philosophical intuitions is something of a motley grab-bag, and the things subsumed under it have so little in common that I doubt the category can be both coherent and interesting at the same time). At least some of these non-inferential appeals to some more immediate form of insight or understanding are probably indispensable tools in philosophical reasoning, but they are also blunt tools and too rarely examined given how often philosophers rely on them. This leads to confused blame for arguments that use them as much as confused praise; an excellent example can be found in Moore’s Two Planets argument against ethical hedonism and Hutcheson’s Dying Benefactor argument against psychological egoism. Both rely completely on intuition-pumping to do their work; both are routinely dismissed as crass question-begging. But I argue that an asymmetry in our intuitions in each of these arguments reveals that the charge is unjust, and that they ought to be just as decisive for skeptics as to converts. If I’m right, that tells us not only that hedonism and egoism are false, but also something interesting about the nature of philosophical intuitions. For more, read on…

  • Also, on Friday, I read some remarks in reply to Mylan Engel’s essay Epistemic Contextualism and the Problem of Knowing What One Says. Mylan has a clever argument to suggest that two of the most common versions of contextualist semantics for knowledge-claims have a serious problem: they seem to indicate that it’s often impossible for you to know what the truth-conditions of a knowledge-claim are until after you’ve already made it (which is, of course, a problem if you want to assert only what’s true and avoid asserting what’s false). It’s an interesting argument, but I (tho’ not a contextualist myself) suggest that there is probably an equally clever way out of the problem in the general run of cases (which has the advantage of being a contextualist solution for contextualists to apply to the problem); and that it’s at least controversial whether this is even a problem for those remaining cases where the general solution won’t pan out. Read on…

Incidentally, feel free to leave any comments on either the paper or the commentary here in the backtalk section.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled parade of facile sarcasm and polemical revisionist history.

In Their Own Words: “Orrin Hatch knows which is to be the master” edition

Orrin Hatch (R-UT), sitting member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, on Saturday, 18 February 2006:

Appearing before a group of Iron County, Utah, business leaders Saturday, Hatch said: And, more importantly, we’ve stopped a mass murderer in Saddam Hussein. Nobody denies that he was supporting al-Qaida, he said, according to The Spectrum newspaper in St. George. Well, I shouldn’t say nobody. Nobody with brains.

— Salt Lake Tribune (2006-02-22)

Orrin Hatch (R-UT), sitting member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, on Tuesday, 20 February 2006:

Saddam clearly had a long history of supporting terrorists, but I was not talking about any formal link between Saddam and al-Qaida before the war, Hatch said in a statement. Instead, I pointed out that the current insurgency in Iraq includes al-Qaida, under the leadership of al-Zarqawi, along with former elements of Saddam’s regime.

— Salt Lake Tribune (2006-02-22)

Humpty Dumpty, sitting on a wall:

And only one for birthday presents, you know. There’s glory for you!

I don’t know what you mean by glory, Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!

But glory doesn’t mean a nice knock-down argument, Alice objected.

When I use a word, Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.

The question is, said Alice, whether you can make words mean so many different things.

The question is, said Humpty Dumpty, which is to be master — that’s all.

— Through the Looking-Glass, Chapter VI

Over My Shoulder #12: Michael Fellman (2002), The Making of Robert E. Lee

You know the rules. Here’s the quote. This is from Chapter 4 (Race and Slavery of Michael Fellman’s The Making of Robert E. Lee (2000). Of course I’ve written about this before, in GT 2005-01-03: Robert E. Lee owned slaves and defended slavery. I picked up Fellman’s book as another source to consult over the relevant sections of WikiPedia:Robert E. Lee. The passage contains some new material that I hadn’t been aware of before. It also contains a couple of minor factual errors; see below.

No historian has established how many slaves Lee actually owned before 1857, or how much income he derived from this source. The more general point is that to some extent he was personally involved in slave owning his whole adult life, as was the norm for better-off Southerners, even those who did not own plantations. Unlike many other slaveholders in Baltimore, for example, he did not manumit his personal slaves while he lived in that city and, indeed, recoiled at the thought of losing them. He carried them back with him when he returned to Virginia.

When his father-in-law died, late in 1857, Lee was left with the job of supervising Arlington and the various other Custis estates, perhaps as many as three others. Moreover, the Custis will specified that these slaves be freed by January 1, 1863 {sic–see below –RG}; therefore Lee had the dual tasks of managing these slaves in the interim and then freeing them, immersing him in the contradictions of owning, protecting, and exploiting people of a different and despised race. It was very likely that the Custis slaves knew that they were to be freed, which could have only made Lee’s efforts to succor, discipline, and extract labor from them in the meantime considerably more difficult.

Faced with this set of problems, Lee attempted to hire an overseer. He wrote to his cousin Edward C. Turner, I am no farmer myself & do not expect to be always here. I wish to get an energetic honest farmer, who while he will be considerate & kind to the negroes, will be firm & make them do their duty. Such help was difficult to find or to retain, and despite himself Lee had to take a leave of absence from the army for two years to become a slave manager himself, one who doubtless tried to combine kindness with firmness but whose experience was altogether unhappy. Any illusions he may have had about becoming a great planter, which apparently were at least intermittent, dissipated dramatically as he wrestled with workers who were far less submissive to his authority than were enlisted men in the army. The coordination and discipline central to Lee’s role in the army proved less compatible with his role as manager of slaves than he must have expected.

Sometimes, the carrot and the stick both worked ineffectively. On May 30, 1858, Lee wrote his son Rooney, I have had some trouble with some of the people. Reuben, Parks & Edward, in the beginning of the previous week, rebelled against my authority–refused to obey my orders, & said they were as free as I was, etc., etc.–I succeeded in capturing them & lodged them in jail. They resisted till overpowered & called upon the other people to rescue them. Enlightened masters in the upper South often sent their rebellious slaves to jail, where the sheriff would whip them, presumably dispassionately, rather than apply whippings themselves. Whatever happened in the Alexandria jail after this event, less than two months later Lee sent these three men down under lock and key to the Richmond slave trader William Overton Winston, with instructions to keep them in jail until Winston could hire them out to good & responsible men in Virginia, for a term lasting until December 31, 1862, by which time the Custis will stipulated that they be freed. Lee also noted to Winston, in a rather unusual fashion, I do not wish these men returned here during the usual holy days, but to be retained until called for. He hoped to quarantine his remaining slaves against these three men, to whom the deprivation of the customary Christmas visits would be a rather cruel exile, though well short, of course, of being sold to the cotton fields of the Deep South. At the same time, Lee sent along three women house slaves to Winston, adding, I cannot recommend them for honesty. Lee was packing off the worst malcontents. More generally, as he wrote in exasperation to Rooney, who was managing one of the other Custis estates at the time, so few of the Custis slaves had been broken to hard work in their youth that it would be accidental to fall in with a good one.

This sort of snide commentary about inherent slave dishonesty and laziness was the language with which Lee expressed his racism; anything more vituperative and crudely expressed would have diminished his gentlemanliness. Well-bred men expressed caste superiority with detached irony, not with brutal oaths about niggers.

The following summer, Lee conducted another housecleaning of recalcitrant slaves, hiring out six more to lower Virginia. Two, George Wesley and Mary Norris {sic–see below –RG}, had absconded that spring but had been recaptured in Maryland as they tried to reach freedom in Pennsylvania.

As if this were not problem enough, on June 24, 1859, the New York Tribune published two letters that accused Lee–while calling him heir to the Father of this free country–of cruelty to Wesley and Norris {sic–see below –RG}. They had not proceeded far [north] before their progress was intercepted by some brute in human form, who suspected them to be fugitives. They were transported back, taken in a barn, stripped, and the men [sic] received thirty and nine lashes each [sic], from the hands of the slave-whipper … when he refused to whip the girl … Mr. Lee himself administered the thirty and nine lashes to her. They were then sent to the Richmond jail. Lee did not deign to respond to this public calumny. All he said at that time was to Rooney: The N.Y. Tribune has attacked me for the treatment of your grandfather’s slaves, but I shall not reply. He has left me an unpleasant legacy. Remaining in dignified silence then, Lee continued to be agonized by this accusation for the rest of his life. Indeed, in 1866, when the Baltimore American reprinted this old story, Lee replied in a letter that might have been intended for publication, the statement is not true; but I have not thought proper to publish a contradiction, being unwilling to be drawn into a newspaper discussion, believing that those who know me would not credit it; and those who do not, would care nothing about it. With somewhat less aristocratic detachment, Lee wrote privately to E. S. Quirk of San Fransisco about this slander … There is not a word of truth in it. … No servant, soldier, or citizen that was ever employed by me can with truth charge me with bad treatment.

That Lee personally beat Mary Norris seems extremely unlikely, and yet slavery was so violent that it cast all masters in the roles of potential brutes. Stories such as this had been popularized earlier in the 1850s by Harriet Beecher Stowe in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and they stung even the most restrained of masters, who understood that kindness alone would have been too indulgent, and corporal punishment (for which Lee substituted the euphemism firmness) was an intrinsic and necessary part of slave discipline. Although it was supposed to be applied only in a calm and rational manner, overtly physical domination of slaves, unchecked by law, was always brutal and potentially savage.

–Michael Fellman (2000), The Making of Robert E. Lee. New York: Random House. 64–67

No servant, soldier, or citizen that was ever employed by Robert E. Lee could with truth charge him with bad treatment. Except for having enslaved them.

The letters to the Trib are online at Letter from A Citizen (dated June 21, 1859) and Some Facts That Should Come to Light (dated June 19, 1859). Wesley Norris told his own story in 1866 after the war; it was printed in the National Anti-Slavery Standard on April 14, 1866.

Although Lee acted as if the will provided for him to keep the slaves until the last day of 1862, what Custis’s will actually said was And upon the legacies to my four granddaughters being paid, and my estates that are required to pay the said legacies, being clear of debts, then I give freedom to my slaves, the said slaves to be emancipated by my executors in such manner as to my executors may seem most expedient and proper, the said emancipation to be accomplished in not exceeding five years from the time of my decease. (Meaning that at the very latest the slaves should have been manumitted by October 10, 1862, the fifth anniversary of Custis’s death.) Fellman also seems to have misread the primary sources, which state that three slaves tried to leave in 1859 — Wesley Norris, Mary Norris, and a cousin whose name I haven’t yet been able to find. Mary and Wesley were the children of Sally Norris. It’s possible that Fellman misread a reference to a George, on the one hand, and Wesley and Mary Norris, on the other; in which case the third might have been George Clarke or George Parks. I’ll let you know if I find out more later.

Further reading

Well, thank God #3

You can rest easier tonight knowing that our august solons have taken it upon themselves to warn us about one of the great dangers threatening our nation:

City of Shaker Heights, OHIO – ( Jan 17, 2006 ) Following a health trend that appears to be brewing up all over the nation, Mayor Judith Rawson has signed a proclamation for the City of Shaker Heights that addresses the issues regarding caffeine intoxication and dependency.

In the proclamation the Mayor is calling upon all Shaker Heights citizens, public and private institutions, business and schools to increase awareness and understanding of the consequences of caffeine consumption.

The proclamation also spells out many dangers of caffeine abuse such as heart disease, pancreas and bladder cancer, hypoglycemia, and central nervous system disorders. By getting the word out about the serious dangers of caffeine, Mayor Rawson hopes to prevent a substance that can pose a significant hazard to health and longevity.

— I-Newswire (2006-01-18): Mayor Judith Rawson Declares March National Caffeine Awareness Month

Well, thank God, says I. Now that we have a bipartisan caucus of legislators running behind us all, shouting You’ll put out an eye with that thing!, what better follow-up than for the Executive branch in our great republican experiment yelling, You’ll stunt your growth! at us all from across the kitchen?

(Hat tip: Matthew Bryan (2006-02-20): What, No Appeal for The Children?)