Saturday, February 16, 2013

Batgirl Vol. I: The Darkest Reflection

In 2011, DC re-booted (again) its entire line-up of comics. I'm wary of these re-boots, but when I saw that Barbara Gordon has returned to being Batgirl and that Gail Simone is writing the new Batgirl series, I decided to read Batgirl Vol. 1: The Darkest Reflection, which collects issues 1-6.

I knew Simone as the writer of "Double Date," one of the best episodes of Justice League Unlimited, but had not read any of her comics. Simone is well-known for pointing out the stupid things that comics do to female characters, and that was another reason I decided to start with Batgirl as my introduction to the New 52, the name given to the re-boot .

The series begins three years after the Joker shoots Barbara Gordon through the stomach. She lives but is unable to walk. Gordon becomes Oracle, using her computer skills and knowledge to assist other Gotham-based heroes. After regaining her ability to walk, she becomes Batgirl again, and this is where the series begins. We're not told directly how Barbara regains this ability, but there are hints that she received a neural implant at an experimental clinic. Interestingly, the seemingly miraculous nature of her recovery is part of the theme of the first story arc: a villain who calls himself the Mirror is killing people in Gotham who have miraculously escaped death in one way or another. The Mirror believes that they shouldn't have escaped death, and Barbara is on his list.

Barbara is rusty as Batgirl and is still haunted by the shooting. At one point, she freezes when the Mirror points a gun at her stomach, and the consequences are fatal, albeit not to her. Barbara also struggles to be independent of the Bat family, rejecting help from Nightwing (aka Richard Grayson, the first Robin) in taking down the Mirror. Batman and Bruce Wayne also make an appearance in this series, and Bruce, not having seen Barbara for some time, tells her that she was always meant to be Batgirl.

Overall, this volume is well-written and does justice to the character. The only criticism I have of the story is the rather random and sudden appearance of Barbara's mother, who abandoned her as a child. This plot thread seems tacked-on, although I suspect that not everything is as is seems.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

You Dumb Americans

According to the Guardian, the linguistic quality of presidential speeches has declined steadily in terms of reading level.  In other words, they're easier to understand.  Why this signals a decline, the Guardian doesn't say.  I can only imagine the cries of "elitism" if our contemporary presidents delivered complex speeches amenable only to the highly-educated--and I suspect that the Guardian would be one of those crying "elitism."

Is This Thing On?

Wow, the last post here was in 2007, which seems a lifetime ago.  Perhaps it's time to remove the mothballs and begin anew.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Atheism vs. Objectivism

(Richard) "Earnest, what do you mean by your use of the concept 'God?' Are you talking about a literal conceptualizing consciousness with a will and "super powers," or are you talking about the 'moral dimension of reality,' i.e., the 'vertical axis of existence,' as some of the Eastern religions attempt to frame it?" (end quote)

God is rational and a maximally powerful being. (no "superpowers" in the comic-book sense of the term) I was going to write up a long explication, but I found an old commentary on Peikoff from my friend Bill Ramey which should be enlightening:

Realism is the position that reality exists outside of and independent to the human mind. Christianity is a very realist religion, having labeled anti-realist teachings (e.g. gnosticism) as heresy. G.E. Moore, in his summary of realism, includes theism within philosophical realism precisely because it assumes that something exists outside of the human mind.

(Peikoff) "Every argument for God and every attribute ascribed to Him rests on a false metaphysical premise. None can survive for a moment on a correct metaphysics....Existence exists, and only existence exists."

And now we need to ask the question: "What is the nature of this existence?" The hidden assumption in Peikoff's argument is that the universe and existence are one and the same. But this is precisely the contention between theists and atheists. For the last 2000 years, atheists from Lucretius to Peikoff have believed the universe to be self-existing and eternal. Theists, on the other hand, have argued that the universe is utterly contingent and hence requires a cause. Despite attempts by no less than Einstein and Hawking to avoid the implications of a contingent universe, contemporary science and mathematical set theory indicate that the universe is not eternal, self- supporting, or self-sufficient. It had a beginning, and unless we want to hold the irrational position that it came into existence from nothing--a position that Rand called "reification of the zero"--the universe had a cause.

One of the ironies of Rand's critique of Kant is that she did not realize that Kant's attack on natural theology was also an attack upon modern science, because for Kant the universe is not a fit subject for rational or empirical enquiry. The double irony here is that natural theology *always* believed the universe to be a fit subject for rational enquiry and that if we accept Peikoff's argument, the universe is just a brute fact whose origins cannot be investigated rationally. One of the reasons I am a theist is that I reject Kant's anti-realism and his arguments against philosophical and scientific cosmology. Contemporary science ignored Kant and went on to produce stunning results in cosmology--results already known by those "obsolete" ancient and medieval philosophers and theologians.

(Peikoff) "For instance, God is infinite. Nothing can be infinite, according to the Law of Identity. Everything is what it is, and nothing else. It is limited in its qualities and in its quantity: it is this much, and no more.

Nothing can be *actually* infinite, i.e., nothing can exist that would subsume an infinite number of members (for example, a library with an infinite number of books). But it does not follow that nothing can be eternal and maximally powerful, as is God. Moreover, no one has suggested that God does not have a nature but only that God has a maximally powerful nature.

(Peikoff) "Is God the creator of the universe? There can be no creation of something out of nothing. There is no nothing."

Creation ex nihilo only states that there was no matter before the creation of the universe, i.e., there was no material cause. The doctrine does not say that something came from nothing, but rather that God did not create the universe from pre-existing matter.

(Peikoff) "Is God omnipotent? Can he do anything?"

God can do anything that can be done. The usual paradoxes offered to counter omnipotence, such as God creating a square circle, involve incoherent act descriptions; not only do square circles not exist, but the very notion of one is inherently illogical.

(Peikoff) "No reason will lead you to a world contradicting this one. No method of inference will enable you to leap from existence to a "super existence."

Peikoff, Leonard. "God." The Ayn Rand Lexicon: Objectivism from A to Z. Ed. Harry Binswanger. New York: Penguin-Meridian, 1986. 187

Aside from the wrong implied assumption that theism is some sort of philosophical idealism, Peikoff is committing the stolen concept fallacy. His argument is purely Kantian: one cannot reason from the existence of the universe to the existence of something transcending the universe. But as I noted earlier, Kant's argument would have stunted science had scientists accepted it. Moreover, if the universe had a beginning--and most scientists believe that it did have a beginning--then the only way to avoid inferring the existence of something outside of it is to suggest that the universe came into existence uncaused, i.e., that something came from nothing. Or one could argue that the universe is infinite, but as you said, "Nothing can be infinite."

(end quote)

Unfortunately, Peikoff also makes the key intellectual error of associating the notion of -causa sui- ("self-causation") with the concept of God, a fallacy also committed by Spinoza and Sartre. In orthodox Christian theology, God does not "self-create himself," such a notion is arrant nonsense. Rather, since something now exists, something has always existed, and that always existent- something is God, contra Peikoff. (OPAR, pp. 18-22)

Aquinas's contention is that God exists, not on anyone's "say-so," but demonstrably from the facts of existence. This notion that Christianity is -based- on "faith" as "blind belief without proof" (as opposed to certain Christians mistakenly -affirming- that it is based on such "faith") is exactly the "question-begging" fallacy I object to!

(E.B.) "I suppose the root of my interest in Objectivism is trying to find out how someone like Rand who gives lip service to the greatness of Aristotle and Aquinas can go so horribly wrong as to attempt to marry their philosophical accomplishments to atheism

(Billy) "I would like to know more about what you mean by that, because it’s incomprehensible to me. It’s the word 'marry' that throws me. That has never occurred to me in any way.

I don’t get it, man.

One of Ayn Rand's justifications for propounding Objectivism in the first place was to fight the notion in philosophy that there was no such thing as "objective truth."

She also claimed that you could not "pick and choose" among philosophical premises to make your own "crazy quilt" of philosophy. She called this "crow epistemology" and the "stolen-concept fallacy."

The problem is that she tries to conjoin ("marry") this notion of philosophical objectivity to her militant atheism, which is an instance of the stolen concept fallacy. This is so because to do this atheistic move Objectivists have to resort to skepticism about the human mind's ability to to comprehend the ultimate nature and origin of the universe, just as Hume and Kant do.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Falwell Paradox

Jerry Falwell was supposedly a bad man because he expressed "hate" and "intolerance." But his critics have expressed more hate and intolerance in response to his death than he ever did in his entire life. No doubt they think they're justified in spewing vitriol towards a man they regard as supremely evil, but their doing so belies the notion that they represent the tolerant side of the culture war. Moreover, the amount of vitriol aimed at Falwell is incommensurate with his sins. Unlike others who likewise engaged in non causa pro causa reasoning about the causes of 9/11, Falwell apologized.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Dial E for Endarkenment

With all the touhoubou about Christopher Hitchens's new book, (I've read the advanced reader's copy, it is even more purile than Dawkins or Harris, and that is saying something), I thought that I would repost a Usenet reply to an article that Billy Beck linked back in 1999 that deals with part of Hitchens's intellectual pathologies:

REASON * January 1999

Dark Bedfellows

Postmoderns and traditionalists unite against the Enlightenment

By Walter Olson

If you think you've sorted out your scorecard in the culture wars, try guessing who wrote this obituary for the Enlightenment, circa 1992: "The claims of universal reason are [now] universally suspect. Hopes for a system of values that would transcend the particularism of class, nationality, religion and race no longer carry much conviction. The Enlightenment's reason and morality are increasingly seen as a cover for power, and the prospect that the world can be governed by reason seems more remote than at any time since the eighteenth century."

On the face of it, this is a fairly standard exercise in academic postmodernism. There's the reason-is-dead theme; the announcement of the failure of the "Enlightenment project"; the typical deconstructionist swipe at the use of reason as a "cover for power"; and the multiculturalist view of all value systems as contingent on such matters as class and race. Throw in "phallologocentric hegemony," and the parody would be complete.

And yet this quote appeared not in a pomo academic journal like Social Text (of Sokal hoax fame) but in the orthodox Catholic New Oxford Review. Its author was the late Christopher Lasch, a social theorist (The Culture of Narcissism, The Revolt of the Elites) who has a large following among many of the very sorts of people--center-left communitarians, Strauss-influenced conservatives--who consider themselves immune to trendy downtown ideology.

If, unlike Lasch, you think reason hasn't been discredited; that some institutions (such as free speech and private property) can be prescribed universally; and that moral reasoning, while at times a cover for the illegitimate workings of power, is in the end the best hope for overturning them, then you may be feeling a mite lonely. Hardly anyone is defending the Enlightenment these days, while across the political spectrum it seems most heavy duty thinkers can't stand it

I can stand it (heavy duty or not) and most other individuals who are familiar with historical development can stand it. What they can't stand is the pathetic "temporal ethnocentrism" involved in yearning for a false Arcadian Eden that needs to be "returned to," if only in spirit. Olson's entire essay treats the "Enlightenment" period as though it were both easily demarked and -intrinsically rational-, which I find to be hilariously wrong-headed and productive of exactly the kind of backlash he snivels about.
The arrows land from every direction. Environmentalists, notes The Economist, chide the Enlightenment for launching a "western Promethean conception of human relations with the earth." "Racism and enlightenment are the same thing," adds one of the critical race theorists quoted by Daniel Farber and Suzanna Sherry in Beyond All Reason: The Radical Assault on Truth in American Law (1997), while Colorado law professor Richard Delgado suggests: "If you are black or Mexican, you should flee Enlightenment-based democracies like mad, assuming you have any choice" (never mind that, as it happens, the actual migration seems to run in the opposite direction). On the right, Roger Scruton in City Journal finds and expresses unease about a "growing tendency" among American conservatives to turn against the Enlightenment as well.
Schematizations of "race" do indeed come out of the Enlightenment, as a part of the stereotypical "passion for order" that the period is said to embody. Race as a standard of judgement for superiority or inferiority is, however, more of a 19th century phenomenon. In any case, it is only a reification of the very ethnocentrism that the "cultural studies" gits promote anyway, so they shouldn't be upset by it. This, however, is not what Olson is concerned about. He wants them to be "Miniver Cheevys" about the Enlightenment, and is just upset that they don't like his pet era as much as he does.
So what is it, exactly, that's so upsetting to these people about the period when the lights came on in Western culture
Perhaps because calling it "the period when the lights came on in Western culture," is not only a gross over-simplification, but patently false to boot!
The Enlightenment, writes Edward O. Wilson in Consilience, is "the West's greatest contribution to civilization. It launched the modern era." In a fierce, hot blast of invention, intellect, and enterprise--the period can conveniently be dated to the century between 1687, when Isaac Newton published his Principia, and 1787, when the U.S. Constitution was devised--Europe and America forged not only the modern scientific method but also modernist thinking about metaphysics and morality, government, and society. A few simple but sweeping propositions emerged. The universe is governed by fixed, objective, and impersonal laws, in principle discoverable by the exercise of human reason, experience, and observation. Traditions, customs, and claims of revelation cannot expect to be permanently insulated from such rational scrutiny, and, while no part of humanity's complex inheritance should lightly be discarded, beliefs and practices that prove squarely inconsistent with reason and experience ought eventually to yield ground
The actual fact of the matter is quite different. The Enlightenment thinkers found that this attitude tended to corrode moral, ethical and even rational principles that they wished to hold onto, thus their timorous adherence to a "disinterested" Universal Architect. (Becker, 46-70) What Wilson, and by inference the author, is tapping into is a discredited approach to historiography known as the "Whig theory of History." In the "Whig Theory," science (starting in the Renaissance) sees an upward procession from success to success, all the way being thwarted by the forces of reaction (headed by religion). (Kearney, 15-22) In actual point of fact, it was the "evil old Middle Ages" that saw the beginning and development of the sustained fusion of technology and science that fueled Western development. (Goldstein, 199) It is also the case that resistence to change came as much from the "scientific establishment" and its jealousy and inertia of its membership as from organized religious opposition. As a historian of science, Wilson's a fine biologist, but at least he's no Dawkins or Sagan and that's saying something.
By challenging the intellectual authority of the church, the Enlightenment made its first set of durable enemies; it soon went on to anger the throne as well, by systematizing the idea of individual rights and adding what historian Isaac Kramnick calls the "explosive" proposition that the individual had a morally legitimate right to pursue happiness. "Enlightenment liberalism set the individual free politically, intellectually, and economically," writes Kramnick in his introduction to the Viking Portable Enlightenment Reader.
Yep, right for enlightened despotism.
Derided by some for their abundant confidence in Progress writ large, Enlightenment thinkers also believed in progress writ small, in the form of personal self-cultivation. The emergent Enlightenment man might be at once a man of affairs, a scientist, and an agitator: Condorcet was a mathematician, Locke a physician, Jefferson an agronomist and architect. Self cultivation would enable an obscure provincial to shed his hometown prejudices and become a sophisticate, a "citizen of the world" accepting the best productions and ideas of all lands.
Well then, Boethius was an ignorant clodhopper, Aquinas thought the world ended at Rome, and we won't even mention Buridan and Oresme. The multi-talented universal genius was not the sole product of the Enlightenment, and in fact he became pretty much extinct at the era's close. The specialization of knowledge favored in this period, which (by the principles of division of labor) greatly expanded the total sum of knowledge, also had the result of making an exhaustive knowledge of several disciplines by one individual quite impractical.
No citizen was more worldly than businessman-diplomat-inventor Ben Franklin, who "seized fire from the heavens and the scepter from the tyrant's hand," and who, after rendering due service to his Philadelphia neighbors, went on to be fussed over in Paris salons. Assailed during his life as a libertine and infidel, Franklin was one of history's most persuasive moralists, Poor Richard's Almanac having inculcated more sound conduct than all the works of the Puritan Fathers. While on the subject, there's no doubt which country best embodied Enlightenment ideals: the United States. "An asylum against fanaticism and tyranny" (Diderot), America achieved with its Constitution the highest proof of the practical uses of speculative philosophy. Known as the land of the "self-made man" -a concept Kramnick sees as closely related to that of the Enlightenment man--America was also the land of individual rights and, before long, of science. Even the great exception in the American scheme of freedom, the tenacious existence of slavery in the South, was destined to be eroded at last by the free exercise of moral reasoning
That's strange, I thought it was "eroded" by men with great big guns. What a pathetic wowser!
To be sure, Enlightenment thinking generated its own fads, blind spots, and excesses, especially in undervaluing long-evolved traditions and overrating the prospects for redesigning basic institutions from scratch; these richly deserved their later correction by such figures as Burke and Hayek. And it got widely blamed for the French Revolution's horrors--although, since the philosophes themselves got purged fairly early in the game, the exercise might seem a bit like blaming Kerensky for Leninism. Still, the criticism stuck and the lessons were fairly learned: Edinburgh and not just Paris came to set the tone, and few people any more wish to rename the months
Actually, it was the natural philosophers (i.e. scientists) who got the dandruff cure, and the French Revolution's excesses can hardly be excused as not being of its era if we hold it to the same standards that Olson et. al. implicitly put on the "Dark" and "Middle" Ages.
But it's one thing to trim the hedge and another to hack at its roots. Today's diverse opponents of the Enlightenment seem to be attempting just that, in ways that often converge curiously with each other: Cut science down to size. A key tenet of the postmodern study of science, according to Noretta Koertge's introduction to the new essay collection A House Built on Sand, is that the field needs to have its claims to objectivity deflated: "Science must be `humbled.'" Echo on the right: Paul Johnson, whose London Spectator column has a distinctly crankier streak than the doorstop histories he ships across the Atlantic, now rails against "scientific triumphalists" and names, as the chief menace to be fought in the new century, "Darwinian fundamentalists.
Yep, exercise reason, except when reason tells you that someone's spewing bunkum. Johnson, Olson, and the postmodernists *deserve* each other.
Deride the "self-made man." Lasch and other antimodernist critics decry, as the defining act of the deracinated modern, the flight into "choice" and away from a dense matrix of local associations. So they tend to belittle--as "self-inventing," "narcissistic," or worse--anyone who, in Virginia Postrel's phrase, turns his back on the old neighborhood with a mind to seek new challenges and associates in a place of his own choosing. Likewise, where identity politics holds sway, the young person who defects from a particularist subculture into the wider generic American culture can expect similar abuse, even if the epithets differ ("sellout," "assimilationist," "Oreo").
Or, for those who do not buy into the mythology of the Enlightenment that Olson spews, "reactionary," "irrationalist," etc. I follow facts, not teary-beery garbage like the above, -from either side.-
Stop the globalization of culture. The borrowing of Western culture by poor countries would have thrilled the philosophes; it appalls equally Lasch and the conservative philosopher John Gray, who see it as an assault by generic modernism on traditional and authentic forms of community. The 60s-era campus left was more straightforward about what it was fighting: "Western imperialism.
So, instead, Olson wants to join Lasch and Gray in their -actions- in stomping down other false garbage into the throats of poor countries.
Trash the concept of tolerance. Thirty years ago it was Herbert Marcuse who unmasked the idea of "tolerance" as a tool of repression by the elite. Now social conservatives, from Harvey Mansfield to Robert Knight in The Age of Consent, have learned the deconstructionist dance steps. (Mansfield: "Toleration is not neutral....If we don't keep up the standard of morality we will bring it down.")
And toleration *is* "neutral?" Is toleration "neutral" *for you*? Gee, for me toleration always meant respecting the right of men and women to "differ or be wrong," insofar as it did not impinge on the person, property or freedoms of others. Toleration only works if we legitimately and objectively recognize differences, without unjustly stigmatizing them. That's not "neutral." It's precisely because of Olson's boneheadedness that we now have a rebound of irrationality in the other direction.
The gradual convergence of antirationalists on the right with their pomo Doppelgängers may have sped up a little in February 1994, when First Things published--I am not making this up--a piece with warmly appreciative things to say about Michel Foucault. Rising traditionalist thinker J. Bottum, who's now books editor of The Weekly Standard, praised the Frenchman's insights and noted a "curious parallel" between the work of left- wing icons Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Frederic Jameson and that of such medieval thinkers as Eckhart, Cusa, and St. Bonaventure: "What believers have in common with postmoderns is a distrust of modern claims to knowledge." He proposed exploring common ground toward the joint goal of overthrowing the modern temperament, with its "scientific" and "technological" bent. He admitted the two camps still "disagree on whether God exists," but figured that little problem can be worked out after the rationalists are driven from the field
Well; A) Bottum is loaded with a great deal of garbage if he thinks that Bonaventure, at least, did not make an appeal to objective knowledge about the world in order to establish the existence of God. In fact, Bonaventure was the principle defender of the Kalam Cosmological Argument for the existence of God, which presupposes the validity of our experience of time and the world. (See the URL below for more details). B) This attitude evinces a contempt for the Medieval heritage that produced Western science and technology. Bottum is telling us to despise the people he claims to love.
Letters published in First Things since then confirm that other readers have been thinking along similar lines. Thus Susan Mennel of the University of New Hampshire salutes the "postmodern denial of the possibility of objective, neutral knowledge" since it "means that the appeal to some kind of objective `proof' is itself ruled out, and therefore religious arguments, which have never relied on such a standard, can be far more intellectually convincing to a contemporary audience than to earlier ones more assured of the validity of naturalistic explanation.
Ms. Mennel's education apparently does not extend to the concept of -a posteriori- demonstrations and the Thomistic proofs. 'Nuff said. :-<
By now, some explicit and vocal defenses of the Enlightenment might seem in order--and in fact they are turning up here and there, as in Wilson's Consilience. Also among those pursuing the issue are some of the followers of Ayn Rand, the Enlightenment lineage of whose general position is plain enough. In October the Institute for Objectivist Studies, which has been moving lately to engage a wider intellectual audience and shed the sectarian tone often associated with Rand circles, held its annual conference in New York on the theme "The Real Culture Wars: The Enlightenment and Its Enemies." IOS Executive Director David Kelley suggests one productive step might be to stop describing the culture wars as mostly a left-right squabble when in fact at least three distinct cultures are contending with each other: the Enlightenment culture that still holds sway in much of American life, a postmodern/relativist culture with a stronghold in the universities, and a pre-Enlightenment culture that has never given up its claims to authority and is staging something of a comeback
And there's a fourth, those who are interested in historical truth and not in scoring polemical points for an ideology by twisting history.
Who is likely to rally to the Enlightenment banner? Among the obvious candidates are scientists and technologists, who know from their daily experience that the material facts of reality cannot be arbitrarily redefined at will. (In Wilson's wry version: "Scientists, held responsible for what they say, have not found postmodernism useful.") Businesspeople as well, says Kelley, instinctively share the Enlightenment outlook, what with their common-sense grasp of material reality, their optimistic assumption that problems exist to be solved, their knowledge that scientific facts count, and the high value they place on individual achievement as something that deserves direct reward. Another likely science-based flashpoint, Kelley believes, is today's rapid spread of anti-evolutionist ideas. Confined until only recently to a few beachheads like Tom Bethell's American Spectator column and David Klinghoffer's back-of-the-book in National Review, critiques of Darwinism are now the rage across the conservative press, even in places like Commentary and The Wall Street Journal. More--much more--friction on this issue appears to lie ahead. According to the newsletter of the Seattle based Discovery Institute, California's Ahmanson family, through its Fieldstead & Co. foundation, has donated $1.5 million to the institute's fledgling Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture for a research and publicity program to "unseat not just Darwinism but also Darwinism's cultural legacy." Observing that "the most severe challenge to theology over the last two hundred years has been naturalism," the center proposes to "cure western culture of this unfortunate Enlightenment hangover.
Why shouldn't criticism of an idea or theory have a hearing? Hmm, it seems like "tolerance" goes into the dumper as soon as it's inconvienient for Mr. Olson. How quaint, but then how like an "Enlightenment hypocrite." This is also ironic in view of his "special creation" view of the Enlightenment, as opposed to a factual recognition of the evolution of the notions of freedom, science and technology that the historical record reveals.
Ben Franklin once said he was almost sorry he was born so soon since it meant he would not have "the happiness of knowing what will be known 100 years hence." Two centuries later, amid the undreamt-of levels of health and comfort that science has brought the West, a generation of intellectuals amuses itself in efforts to gnaw away at the Enlightenment foundations of the enterprise. Were he hooked to an underground turbine, Ben Franklin might be discovering a new way to generate electricity: spinning in his grave.
To give him credit, I think that old Ben would spin a bit, if only because Olson chooses to worship an era rather than respect the work of certain -individuals- of that time who advanced ideas which came to them from the past, and who added their own to the mix.

For enlightenment and reason...

against "The Enlightenment" and "(R)eason," I remain,

E. Brown

Works Cited:

Becker, Carl F. THE HEAVENLY CITY OF THE EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY PHILOSOPHERS. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1932.

Goldstein, Thomas. DAWN OF MODERN SCIENCE. Foreward by Isaac Asimov. American Heritage Library edition. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1988).

Kearney, Hugh. SCIENCE AND CHANGE 1500-1700. World University Library. (New York, Toronto: Mc Graw-Hill, 1971)

Sunday, October 23, 2005

I oppose the Miers nomination

To answer NZ Bear's query, I oppose the Miers nomination, not because I have any insane delusions about an "originalist" Associate Justice saving us from ROE V. WADE or KELO or any other statist abomination the court has thrown up, but because it is a symbol of the embrace of foul, mediocre lowering of standards which typifies the "Endarkenment" we are now going through.

Her supporters have shown themselves to be grossly delusional about Miers herself, claiming that a high-powered Dallas corporation lawyer is "just like folks" and acting as if she is some font of cracker-barrel wisdom, when in reality she is a sycophantic bureaubot with a prose style that would shame Dilbert's (TM) pointy-haired boss. They also accuse her detractors of "elitism," which I deal with in the preceding post.

Her best defender has been Beldar and his efforts smack of irrelevant post hoc justifications for Miers on grounds which might charitably be labeled as "jesuitical casuistry."

There is simply no good reason for this nomination, and no decent justification for it.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Elitism of Achievement vs. the Elitism of Association

The thing that really disturbs me about the Miers nomination is the willful embrace of know-nothing populism by her defenders like Hugh Hewitt. In calling her detractors "elitist," they conflate the "elitism" of achievement, which is good, with the really negative connotation of the term, which refers to the -elitism- of association, cf. "noble" birth, nepotism, cronyism, etc.

It is the Miers defenders who are the real "elitists" in the second negative sense that they falsly impute to their opponents, since they contend that Bush by virtue of his position has the right to uncritically appoint anyone he associates with to any post he wants without criticism.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Let Slip the Hounds of Love: Kate Bush Returns

If you're a Kate Bush fan, you can hear a sample of "King of the Mountain," the first release from her upcoming double album, Aerial. The entire song is available digitally on iTunes, Walmart, Napster, et al. I nabbed it from iTunes as soon as I saw it.

It doesn't have the immediate hook of "Rubberband Girl" or "Experiment IV," but instead sounds like one of the more hypnotic songs found on the second side of Hounds of Love, e.g., "Watching You Without Me" or "Under Ice." That, by the way, is not a bad thing. Hypnotic Kate Bush is just as good, if not better, than hooky Kate Bush. The upshot is that by the third listen, I was hooked. It's got what I can only describe clumsily as Kate Bush vocal phrasing and texture; Kate's voice is not only beautiful, but she uses it to create vocal texture through complex phrasing. Put less abstractly, you can hear a variety of vocal textures just in one word sung by Kate. For example, the chorus in "King of the Mountain" runs:

The wind is whistling
The wind is whistling
Through the house

She runs through a variety of textures in "whistling" and then slows her phrasing down on "through the house." That kind of measured phrasing in Kate's songs is what got me hooked on Kate, even in the midst of my long defunct career of listening to hardcore punk in the early 80s. It's also why I find divas such as Whitney Houston and Celine Dion to be so annoying; they have beautiful voices, but they're pressed into the service of banal, histrionic pop. Kate leaves them in the dust.

Another treat in "King of the Mountain" is Kate's unabashed attempt to be the whistling wind by singing "wooooooooo ooooooh." It recalls her barking on the "Hounds of Love."

And, yes, I know that Kate leans to the left, while I lean to the right. One of my worst imagined fears involves Kate pulling a Dixie Chick and remarking that she's ashamed to have the same last name as a certain President. If that happens, I'm leaving the planet. For now, I have a strict don't-ask-don't-tell policy in regards to Kate's politics. I don't want to know what they are, and you better not tell me.

Monday, October 03, 2005

An Unsurprising and Disgusting Choice

Hugh Hewitt maunders on about Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court and wonders why "the base" is so upset by it.

"The base" is upset because they've been busting their humps defending Bush from the charge that he's a crony-loving corporate shill only to have the Bush Baby reward them by sticking his finger down his throat and projectile vomiting in their faces.

Abe Fortas had more qualifications for the Supremes than she does. She's a big-government corporatist hack whose only qualification for the job is that she has a lapdog-like devotion to W.

That's it.

I defend Bush when he gets unjust treatment from the mainstream media and the usual gang of pro-fascist leftist idiots. This does not mean that he gets any sort of pass from me on stupid behavior. Believe it or not, there are those who are consistently principled and who reject feeble affirmative-action hires for good reason. EVEN IF MIERS TOOK A BLOOD OATH PUNISHABLE BY A THUNDERBOLT FROM ZEUS THAT SHE WOULD VOTE AGAINST ROE V. WADE OR IN FAVOR OF JUDICIAL RESTRAINT, SHE WOULD STILL BE A BAD CHOICE, especially when women judges of far higher caliber than Miers are fully available to Bush Jr.

This is Bush's "To Blazes with you, I wanted Alberto Gonzales" moment.

Update: These are the kind of people Miers made her money off of. It could be argued that this would no more dispose her to defend government intervention in favor of business than a criminal defense attorney's choice of specialization augers for her to want more crimes committed. The cronyist career of Miers suggests otherwise.