Saturday, October 01, 2005

Virtue 

Good grief!

I remember Bill Bennett being the "disinguished lecturer" at my undergraduate university during a semester in the early 90's. Like myself (along with Patrick Swayze's brilliant character in Roadhouse [2!]) Bill Bennett is very proud to have majored in philosophy, and doesn't hesitate to mention it. So when he came to talk I hoped that, given his background, he would do more than sprinkle a few Aristotle quotes into some boilerplate speech on... oh I can't even recall what the nominal subject was... perhaps politics, or ethics, or political ethics, or the politicization of ethics, or Nicomachean slot machine ethics... or some such blather.

Speaking of which, anyone who tells you that they are "pretty close to even" after playing hi-limit slots for ten years is lying (to you and themselves) 99.9% of the time.

But let's fast forward to this week, where virtuous Bill said:

But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.

My, what a wonderful little scenario to have at the top of one's consciousness! I wonder what other intellectual nuggets he dispenses during his radio show.

So after the resultant furor, Bill defended his remarks thusly:


Then, putting my philosophy professor's hat on, I went on to reveal the limitations of such arguments by showing the absurdity in another such argument, along the same lines. I entertained what law school professors call 'the Socratic method' and what I would hope good social science professors still use in their seminars. In so doing, I suggested a hypothetical analogy while at the same time saying the proposition I was using about blacks and abortion was 'impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible,' just to ensure those who would have any doubt about what they were hearing, or for those who tuned in to the middle of the conversation.
Bennett also said this:


As a philosopher, I was showing the limitation of one argument by showing the absurdity of another. I was showing the fallacy of a proposition by using what's called an argumentum ad absurdum or an argumentum ad finum.


Bennett gives philosophers a bad name. First off, "law professors" have an extremely loose definition of Socrates' elenchus (his method). Even so, Bennett was absolutely not using the Socratic mode of inquiry and investigation there. He doesn't question his interlocuter in a Socratic manner, nor would Socrates ever respond to a claim by saying "But I know it it true that [insert wild hypothetical here]..."

That's the part that really gets my dionysian goat. The "I do know that it's true" phrasing. It reveals a lot about philosopher Bennett's second-class intellect. Here's the question to ask this sanctimonious prig, who seems exceptional only in terms of unwarranted self-regard:

Bill. Precisely why is there "too much that you don't know" regarding the abortion/Social Security theory, and yet, the black abortion/crime hypothetical is something you "do know" to be "true"?

Here's just one counterexample out of many to consider: in this new world you described, perhaps black men and women (as well as non-fascist whites... etc) would decide to rebel against such an immoral arrangement, and so-called "crime" would increase. Isn't that plausible in the scenario you outlined? How do you "know" that such a circumstance would not occur in all the possible worlds where black babies are aborted in the U.S. to reduce crime? Should you apologize to the philosophical community for using it as cover for your clumsy use of language (and intellect)?

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Plato's Socrates is famous for knowing only that he did not know. However, he did claim that if he did actually know something it would be "Love", a subject he learned from the prophetess Diotima. In the dramatic Symposum dialogue, Plato has Socrates recounting his youthful tutelage in Love, during a wine-soaked dinner party with friends. (I consider that dialogue to be a piece of philosophical artwork nonpareil.)

So, one thing the philosopher Socrates knew was Love, and one of the things that philosopher Bill Bennett knows is the public safety benefits inherent in race-based abortions.
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Friday, September 30, 2005

 
My apologies for the lack of posts recently. Free time has been rather scarce of late.

My temporary base of operations is Houma. This is an area where, if you own a business and want to advertise on billboards, you sure as hell better put your ugly mug on the signage. It seems to be a requirement down here... they just won't trust ya unless you blow up your face to uncomfortably large dimensions....

Houma is also a town with a huge influx of evacuees (including local folks who were flooded when Rita bands helped breach the levees) and a stunning paucity of smart traffic lights. That has created an ungodly amount of congestion.

Yesterday, I snuck into my Broadmoor neighborhood to inspect my home for the first time since nasty "Kat" came through. Coming in from Jeff Highway, I wasn't stopped once. The ole homestead looks amazingly good... considering all it has endured. The real mess is on the inside, of course. Gross fuzzy mold everywhere-- but, more things survived intact (like photos) than I would have predicted. I was actually smiling at all the progress around me during my drive home. Most Uptown streets have been cleared, and crews are already repairing and rebuilding houses. It will take some time and a tremendous amount of effort, but people will be surprised at how quickly this city will be back on its feet. I predict New Orleans will have a triumphant tricentennial (2018, if memory serves); and I plan to celebrate it as a proud resident.

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Two quick notes:

Umm, would it kill Office Depot and OfficeMax to give an extra discount to evacuees and/or LA/MS/TX/AL residents? I mean, there's been a significant number of small biz owners who are trying to get back on their feat, and paying $2 for a lousy pen isn't exactly helping me stretch every dollar right now-- if Old Navy can give us an extra 15% off, I'm sure y'all can as well. Didn't Bush say that the region would be rebuilt by entrepreneurs? I know y'all can do more.

Looks like EvolveTV is now becoming available.
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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Great column by James Gill 

Read it here if you haven't seen it.
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Keepin' it real 

I share Blake's optimism that enough New Orleans "diehards" will return to the city and preserve the character of New Orleans.

He's started a forum called Humid Beings where we can bitch, scheme and create something new.

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Also: Given recent crude realities, Blake also has some edgy gear available.
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A chance for redemption 

Seems the eye wall of Hurricane Rita slammed directly into my favorite east Texas town: racist Vidor. I've heard that $39,000 in net improvements resulted from the storm, but there has been no confirmation of that figure as of yet.

Actually, the Austin paper has a story on black Katrina evacuees from New Orleans being treated with the "love of God" by the residents of Vidor. Similar to the Killen trial in Mississippi, the famously racist town of Vidor has an opportunity to publically redeem its ugly past. And that's great! Acting with compassion is an excellent way to start. But as the article states, there is much to redeem:

* In the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan drove every black resident out of town through a campaign of murder and terrorism. Blacks had owned large swaths of timberland, but whites took it over.

* In the '50s, hand-painted signs, using a capitalized racial slur to address blacks, read, "READ THIS AND RUN" and "DON'T LET THE SUN SET ON YOU HERE." The signs were a reminder that hooded Klansmen still roamed the night.

* In the '70s, black motorists who stopped for gas in Vidor were reportedly forced to drink motor oil.

* In the '90s, after four black families moved into a public housing complex, Klansmen in full regalia staged marches, cross-burnings and fundraisers to "Keep Vidor White." The families moved away.

* Today, according to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Hate Crimes Web site, Vidor remains the home of a Klan faction, the Knights of the White Kamellia. In a state where blacks make up 12 percent of the population, few of Vidor's 11,293 inhabitants are African American; eight blacks were counted here five years ago.


Hopefully, there will be no roadside advertisements for "Klan-o-Klaus" dolls this Holiday season. (I remember seeing them while stopping in Vidor for gas during the 90's). Hooded Santas are so un-jolly.
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Monday, September 26, 2005

Fighting for our right to party 

C.B. Forgotston, who I respect highly, contends that those who talk of Mardi Gras 2006 are being unrealistic.

I'm among those who spoke of such things. And I will promise you that there will be Carnival in New Orleans next year. And many other New Orleanians will promise you that. To be sure, the parades and festivities might not be much, but even if it's only me carrying a flashlight, and pulling Lovely and Pearlgirl on a wagon (tossing moonpies) I will guarantee you there will be parades ... and New Orleans patriots will have a Fat Tuesday-- a profound one-- that's a lead pipe cinch.

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Further, my Camp Street pal Kevin has been signing off his emails with "Thoth 2006". And you shouldn't bet against Kevin when it comes to celebrating Carnival.
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"It is beyond lunacy to run a $400 billion corporation without a good accounting system." 

...
Link to good ole Phillip Carter at Intel Dump!

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(Related YRHT oldie but goody)
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Houston evacuation bus accident twice as deadly as N.O. dome and Conv. Center "atrocities" 

Must Must Must-Read Story from the Times-Picayune:


Monday, September 26, 2005

Rumors of deaths greatly exaggerated

Widely reported attacks false or unsubstantiated

6 bodies found at Dome; 4 at Convention Center


By Brian Thevenot
and Gordon Russell
Staff writers



After five days managing near-riots, medical horrors and unspeakable living conditions inside the Superdome, Louisiana National Guard Col. Thomas Beron prepared to hand over the dead to representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Following days of internationally reported killings, rapes and gang violence inside the Dome, the doctor from FEMA - Beron doesn't remember his name - came prepared for a grisly scene: He brought a refrigerated 18-wheeler and three doctors to process bodies.

"I've got a report of 200 bodies in the Dome," Beron recalls the doctor saying.

The real total was six, Beron said.

Of those, four died of natural causes, one overdosed and another jumped to his death in an apparent suicide, said Beron, who personally oversaw the turning over of bodies from a Dome freezer, where they lay atop melting bags of ice. State health department officials in charge of body recovery put the official death count at the Dome at 10, but Beron said the other four bodies were found in the street near the Dome, not inside it. Both sources said no one had been killed inside.

At the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, just four bodies were recovered, despites reports of corpses piled inside the building. Only one of the dead appeared to have been slain, said health and law enforcement officials.

That the nation's front-line emergency management believed the body count would resemble that of a bloody battle in a war is but one of scores of examples of myths about the Dome and the Convention Center treated as fact by evacuees, the media and even some of New Orleans' top officials, including the mayor and police superintendent. As the fog of warlike conditions in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath has cleared, the vast majority of reported atrocities committed by evacuees have turned out to be false, or at least unsupported by any evidence, according to key military, law enforcement, medical and civilian officials in positions to know.

"I think 99 percent of it is bulls---," said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Lachney, who played a key role in security and humanitarian work inside the Dome. "Don't get me wrong, bad things happened, but I didn't see any killing and raping and cutting of throats or anything. ... Ninety-nine percent of the people in the Dome were very well-behaved."
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"I feel about them like a 17-year-old girl; I want them to know they're loved." 

...
Moved by politics over humanitarian appeals, LBJ visited New Orleans less than 24 hours after the city was flooded by hurricane Betsy in 1965.


Oh, that reminds me: all the tourists who've visited and enjoyed the Crescent City since Betsy, but who now complain about rebuilding it (while the U.S. rebuilds Iraq) can go suck an unpickled egg!! Shouldn't you have been boycotting the city the past forty years, or don't you know history? We rebuilt New Orleans for your pleasure then, and we'll rebuild it for your pleasure this time, too. And I'll be damned if you don't eventually visit us again, and frolic, and then go back home, spent, but ready to "tut tut" us with a more-secure- than-thou sense of superiority.

Listen, Buckwheat: just because your bland, unhistorical, suburban, cultureles, Panera Bread mini-mall wastelands could be replicated anywhere else, doesn't mean that we share your aesthetic about our city. In fact, don't you visit New Orleans precisely because it's so different here?-- even, at times, to the point of absurdity!
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