Sunday, August 28, 2005


"An ingenious device for obtaining profit without individual responsibility."

Ambrose Bierce

Friday, August 26, 2005

Literary agents and particulars

For part of what being an agent is (always) like, apparently, is being caught up in an irreducible oscillation between typicality and particularity: between (on one side) the forms of action that an agent must understand in order to make sense of herself as the possible performer of certain actions, and (on the other side) the concrete history without which the agent could not distinguish herself from those who might, otherwise, just as well replace her.

A Raskolnikov does not neatly fit into any such categories as “agent” or “type”: the character determines the type; the existential situation with which he’s confronted--i.e. Raskolnikov feverish, brooding on his couch, “should I whack and rob this wretched crone and landlady or not"--is not easily specified as some jungian or freudian myth, “coming of age” crap--a literary crisis of this type is more individual specific, as is our own life. One could call it ethics, mention “intentionality,” free will, et al.--or, ala Watson/Skinner, inquire as to whether Raskolnikov (a poorly conditioned lad) was perhaps reacting naturally (or not) to some stimulus--yet there are no outside frames of reference that the character (or agent) can extract from a realm of right actions, some platonic realm of “goodness” or obligation, which Raskalnikov can insert into his mind---Raskalnikov until his imprisonment does not realize or acknowledge a Kantian imperative, and he’s refusing any sort of liberal social contract--neither rationalist or empiricist, he more or less refuses to make the liberal association--the “identity function” that precedes an ethics discussion or any putative social contract--that he has some characteristics in common with his fellow humans: you could perhaps refer to him as a sort of uebermensch and he is--Die Raubtiere--one who cares little for helping either the starving or the bourgeois: he chooses to subvert all “normal” bourgeois values (and any imagined marxist ones as well really)), though still beset with some anxiety, and whack the hag, content that his reality is a subjective and solipsistic construct.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Russell vs. Shakespeare

Huemer quotes Russell on Hamlet: “the propositions in the play are false because there was no such man.”

Bravo! Here Lord Russell not only rejects the idylls of the bourgeois, but provides a brief primer on definite descriptions. Study this, gals & goys, and you may come to realize that English PhD holders are a bit lower in the food chain than the average RN.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

H.L. Mencken on Lawyers

"All the extravagance and incompetence of our present Government is due, in the main, to lawyers, and, in part at least, to good ones. They are responsible for nine-tenths of the useless and vicious laws that now clutter the statute-books, and for all the evils that go with the vain attempt to enforce them. Every Federal judge is a lawyer. So are most Congressmen. Every invasion of the plain rights of the citizens has a lawyer behind it. If all lawyers were hanged tomorrow, and their bones sold to a mah jong factory, we'd be freer and safer, and our taxes would be reduced by almost a half."
–H.L. Mencken (1880-1956), "Breathing Space", The Baltimore Evening Sun, 1924 Aug 4.


Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Frau Marilee Shrider of the Californian

Although Annie Coulter does a decent job holding down the current American media's position of shrieking right-wing hag-pundit, there exist perhaps a few freaks (like moi) who might miss old-school conservative warrior women such as Phyllis Schafly or Marilyn Quayle. So imagine my pleasure when perusing a few of the Bakersfield Californian blogs and encountering "Right Thinking," featuring the wit and wisdom of one Marilyn Shrider (rightwing gals always have such cool Teutonic names). Predictably, she's lambasting Hanoi Jane Fonda--one of the rightwing's most beloved pastimes. Though Frau Shrider does the Phyllis Schafly schtick quite well she's not too informed about the Vietnam war--"Hanoi Jane" was not some isolated individual protesting it; nor was it only drug-crazed hippies or other "morally irresponsible" humans.

Nobel prize winners were included among the 'Nam protesters--including famed British philosopher and writer Bertrand Russell (as well as Chomsky and Sartre). But I doubt Lord Russell would impress the likes of Frau Shrider: she appears to be another flagwaving Walmartian--a bootlicker, in old-left parlance--who believes the US Military and veterans can do no wrong, an all-too-common sentiment in Kern.
(Frau Shrider also has some dittoheads posting to her blog entries, such as one "fatboy" who, like many hawkish sentimentalists, hasn't quite realized that wars involve the deaths of thousands of innocents.) Perhaps if she or her fans were to take the time to do some research and perform a body count of say the combined North Vietnamese military and civilian casualites, she might begin to get a glimpse of what it was about (conservative estimates are around 3 NV million deaths, which implies about 50 of them dead for every one of ours).

I am still waiting for all those conservatives (many upstanding "Xtians" as well) who supported the liberation of Iraq to start discussing and justifying the deaths of at least 30,000 iraqi civilians which occured during the "liberation." ("cut their people a check, maynard"). Granting that Saddam was a bloody-handed tyrant, that doesn't imply that the US was required to play world cop and take him and the Baathists out. The premise of Blair and Bush's actions were the existence of WMDs and that Saddam was connected to Al Qaida. That was not conclusively proven in the least. Going into Afghanistan after 9-11 may have been justified to some degree, but Iraq was a different issue; the Baathists were tyrants, but that probably was a UN issue. Second guessing at this stage is sort of pointless, but the US will be dealing with the consequences--and the resentment and rage of the middle east and muslims--for decades.

Let's hope that Frau Shrider, She-Wolf of the Gingerfornian, provides some more yuks with more rightwing-whack job essays, maybe something on "precious bodily fluids" or why she worships Ayn Rand, or denying the holocaust: all the sorts of topics dear to Kern County's ranks of rabid conservatives.
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