Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

DesQending into Sar-chasm

Bleh, politics.

  • I don't think Justice Alito's silent mouthing of "not true" during the state of the union is a big deal. First, it was silent - it hardly constitutes expression, and second, it was during a very rare direct confrontation between these two branches of government as part of a traditional speech. Courts are not apolitical impartial referees - they may be insulated from yearly politics and campaigning, by the design of our system, but they do embody very broad, slow trends in the values of society. Additionally, while courts have a duty to the public interest (whatever set of values held by the individual justices define that), they also have an obligation to the inner logic of legal tradition. Both are necessary - we should expect of our justices neither strict rules-based thinking nor per-case pragmatism. "Judicial Activism" is part of the common law tradition, where justices occasionally create new tradition to deal with cases where the old traditions create bad results, ignore crucial interests, etc. The recent ruling might be based either on legal logic/tradition or on the broader what-is-the-public-good value discussion. In either case, while the "you lie!" moment was regrettably rude (not inappropriate in theory, but given circumstances inappropriate), this was not disruptive. In an age where thousands of cameras provide potential close-ups of everybody's face, we must distinguish between active attempts to disrupt and the personal space and mannerisms of people.
  • The State of the Union in general - again, Obama shows himself to be a fantastic orator with very good speeches. He offers significant content that should in theory get Republican support, calls for more cooperation while acknowledging there to be some irreconcilable philosophical differences, promises to get moving on repealing don't-ask-don't-tell (it's not really a presidential issue though, so all he can do is push the DOD to think about it and nudge the legislature to think about it - still, these are very good things to do and hopefully it can be ended soon - it's part of ending one aspect of cultural rot from the military), talks about the environment a bit (one of the few things he's consistantly put a lot of weight behind, and with good reason), and does a reasonably good job at trying to inspire hope. Thinking about it, I wonder how in the long run people will compare him to Clinton - both of them are (in my view, and despite Clinton's stomach-turning personal failings) likable and smart, but Clinton always focused on the likability while Obama has always focused on the smart. With the American public, likable has generally (sadly) been the better bet (sadly, the other one-word characterisations that are worth thinking about, like "principled", belong more to Republicans because a substantial number of democrats are people who are there because conservative morality is often deficient and they just want to get away from that, not find a new morality).
  • I am very interested in the investment in rail infrastructure in the US. See particularly here for general information, and here for those in the Pittsburgh/DC-and-northeast-of-there area. Like Joe Biden, I've ridden trains in Europe and have been very impressed at how easy it is to get around. I do not expect us to reach European levels of quality (in trains, healthcare, or general quality of life - we're hampered by radical individualism, lower economies of scale, and a poor educational system), but improvements would be very welcome. If I could get to New York City without either the hassle of driving or the other hassle of airplanes, I would be very happy about it - I know people who would benefit more substantially from these plans.
  • O's visit to the Republican policy retreat - kind of interesting. As much as I am tempted to think of Republicans as "the bad guys" (and Democrats as a mix of "the slightly less bad guys" and "the misguided guys"), that's really demonisation, and it's what drives the kind of paranoid crazy that creates "truthers" and "birthers", funding tabloids and the Alex Jones' of the world. The problems of the world are not those of a few elite bad guys of some flavour trying to rule everyone else (there may be some truth to the city-versus-country values struggle, although there each side thinks of its opposite as small manipulators), they're of people with different ideas, ideals, and traditions struggling for dominance. The world does and has had a few true bastards who were really in it for themselves, but even the majority of the world's most notorious bad leaders had a coherent perspective and were acting for some notion of the good. As there's no impartial public good nor impartial values, these conflicts will exist so long as there are people - this is what we should call "The Null Hypothesis of Political History", and hold it up against conspiracy theorists and those who demonise.
  • Geert Wilders is on trial. For those who believe strongly in a left-right dichotomy, this issue muddles that - in Dutch society, there are traditional (European-style) conservatives and liberals (those liberals are not the same as those I describe when I say liberalism - on the European map I would instead be describing academically-inclined culturally-imperialist democracy-and-liberty-moderate enlightenment socialism rather than American academic semiradical antimulticulturalist ultraliberalism) and growing numbers of Muslim Sharia-conservatives. This muddies the terms a bit and leads to confused alliances. I have a tough time judging this - I saw Fitna some time back, and thought it was poorly done. He raises real issues (sometimes), but does them in a sloppy, often crazy tone - I'm tempted to think of him as being the PZ Meyers of Nederlands. What I'd like to see is someone more like Richard Dawkins guiding the debate - it is important that we block Sharia at every turn, and that Nederlands remains an (american-term, not european term) liberal society (that may sound self-contradictory if you haven't read (or don't agree with) my prying-apart of multiculturalist liberalism from enlightenment liberalism). Sadly, Pim Fortuyn and Geert Wilders have framed the debate and we must work with what we have (It will be some time before the debate hits the US, I imagine, despite Anjem Choudary's claims)
  • It's kinda sad to have a nice, involved (often heated) discussion and to suddenly win it by Godwin's law. It's almost like discovering a cheap trick to solve an enjoyable puzzle, or perhaps having someone quit out of Monopoly because they don't have a clear lead. Oh well. It reminded me of, some time back, seeing an interesting debate somewhere in Latin America with Dennett and Boteach both on the stage - Boteach (who I've seen in person) Godwinned early and often (is the family suffering of Shoah something that leads, in jewish culture, to more of a tendency to fail through Godwin's Law? I'm not sure, and it would be too easy, for someone who is more-or-less an outsider, to judge this wrong).
  • This is more an applied reasoning on cultural maintenance exercise than news. I provide it because I am an information packrat and it's not easily gotten from my digital effects. Should I be hit by a bus tomorrow, there are a few people whom I've named in my (holographic) will who should have the ability to dig through my digital stuff and publish/release anything philosophically or otherwise interesting. Should the people I've named be interested in doing so, I wouldn't envy them the huge task :P

This winter:

  • I continue to be frustrated at the low quality of my apartment, particularly the extreme draftiness. I must regrettably continue to boil the upstairs neighbours (presumably - I haven't been up there enough to know how the comfortable-downstairs-temp relates to the upstairs temp - I feel less bad about this because I am paying half the heating bill). Apparently my landlord is part of a slumlord family - I've met a few people who are tenants of the Kashi family in SqHill, and there are only rarely kind words for them (except, of course, that the rent is cheap, so perhaps it is all of our faults, haha).
  • On that topic, it would be nice to picket the other SqHill landlords that raised the rent and forced our bookstore and Panera to leave.
  • I continue to complain. Yay. Probably because I have nobody to complain to IRL.
  • Nosebleeds and dizziness, continued near-complete social isolation, probably no snowboarding, but refreshingly few migraines (which is awesome indeed).
  • Still trying to figure out what to do about terrible life quality, hoping to somehow end this current situation in the moderately near-term. I wish I had social ties someplace where I'd like to live.
  • Growing conclusion that I am crazy and probably getting crazier. Not in the good way either.
  • About halfway through Libson's 「Jewish and Islamic Law:...」. It's very interesting.
  • Some very good tea, lots of sandwiches, many of them made by me.
Tags: politics

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