Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ronald Dworkin on one of those great mysteries

Ronald Dworkin asks, "Why do so many Americans insist on voting against their own best interests?"  Both of the two possible answers he identifies ring true:
[1] They might mean, first, that their new government is not theirs because it is not remotely of their kind or culture; it is not representative of them. Most who think that would have in mind, of course, their president; they think him not one of them because he is so different.

[...]

[2] All their lives they have assumed that their country is the most powerful, most prosperous, most democratic, economically and culturally the most influential—altogether the most envied and wonderful country in the world. They are coming slowly and painfully to realize that that is no longer true; they are angry and they want someone to blame.
But Dworkin need not have been so wordy. He could simply have pointed out that Americans are people, and that idiocy is part of the human condition.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The foundation of secular biblical hermeneutics

Biblicists do not generally believe that Scripture is meaningless, inadvertently meaningful, or laden with such a surfeit of possible meanings that championing any particular one might be described as an expression of one’s ideological commitments. Although by no stretch of the imagination an uncritical cohort, exegetes are not inclined to pursue or articulate conclusions of this nature. One need not be a sociologist of knowledge to understand why. Still, it bears repeating that our secular outrages are parasitic on the most fundamental premises of this religiously inflected discipline. To their immense credit, biblical exegetes—who are rarely secularists—have produced all the explosive raw materials. Secular hermeneutics differs mainly in its critical orientation—its eagerness to detonate.

Berlinerblau, Jacques. The Secular Bible. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. p. 52.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Political future

P.Z. Myers, spot-on as usual, warns of the approach of the turtle:
What really makes me despair, though, is that I can guess exactly how the Democrats will respond to this drubbing. Instead of refocusing on the liberal and progressive values that ought to be their main message, they're going to turtle up. They do it every time. Instead of trying to distinguish themselves from the loonies on the right, they'll all move closer to what they'll call "moderate", but is actually more of a conservative right-wing position. And the next election will be even worse.

Unless somebody on our side wakes up and realizes that they're in a fight, and that conciliatory measures are not called for. I'm looking at you, Obama. But somehow, I don't think he's the right man for the job.
It is one of those curiosities that makes one tear out one's hair: the fanatics that practically define today's political right do not want to compromise with anyone, while the do-gooders that practically define today's political center and left insist on compromising with everyone. One speaks only the language of good and evil, while the other has neither word in its vocabulary. Where is the party that starts from a strong spirit of compromise, but draws the line at accommodating fanaticism?

Paul Krugman also gets it right:
Aha. I almost forgot to mention this, but one of the surprises of last night is that Harry Reid, supposedly a completely hopeless case, is still Senator.

How did that happen? Reid did something Democrats almost never do: instead of apologizing for his party, he ran against a person with a habit of making crazy statements by hitting hard, again and again, with ads calling her a crazy person. It was very rude and uncivil. And it worked.
Reid understood exactly what he was fighting against, and chose his tactics accordingly.

Update: Forgot to mention another point-on analysis, to similar effect, from Chris Hedges, channeled through Hume's Ghost:
As long as the liberal class speaks in the dead voice of moderation it will continue to fuel the right-wing backlash. Only when it appropriates this rage as its own, only when it stands up to established systems of power, including the Democratic Party, will we have any hope of holding off the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Do the right thing

Get out and vote, you bastards! And give to charity! And build robots!

Update: I just realized that this is my 200th post. How very fortunate and appropriate that it is robot-related.