Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Boy I'm Lucky

Another year, another crop of prospective grad students--all of whom are more accomplished than I. Plus they totally have their sh*t together. They want to study things like "libertarianism, particularly F.A. von Hayek, and to the role of aesthetics in political arguments" or "extra-judicial killing in the conflict involving Naxalite Maoist rebels". My personal statement was something like, "I like Hobbes, Locke sux, but I will read him if I have to. The End." Man I'm lucky they took me.

Thought on Humor: Why Marx is not funny

Not infrequently, I find myself arguing with people about humor in philosophy. I think Wittgenstein was funny. Hobbes is sort of funny. Keirkegaard is very funny. Marx is not funny. People take issue with that. Marx is very funny, they respond, he is full of quips and barbs. I came across this passage in Kant's CPrR that reminded me of this debate. He writes,
...and it is no wonder that they find inconsistencies everywhere, although the gaps they suppose they find are not in the system itself but only in their own incoherent train of thought. (p8 in the Cambridge)
While some read these sorts of cracks as an indication of the author's sense of humor, it seems strange to me to consider Kant funny. The difference between cracks and humor is where one sees inconsistencies or discontinuity. Humor is about establishing patterns and then breaking them (hence the Rule of Three). Thinkers like K and Witt. understand that there are no foundational patterns and therefore consistently undermine their own projects. Kant and Marx (la'havdil elef havdalot) find the humor (and inconsistencies) in the writings of others, but are committed to a rigidly consistent project themselves. That's why they are most certainly not funny.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I'm on strike!

I have been waiting years to say that in earnest, and now my time has arrived. I am actually on strike today. My union, the GEO, has called a two day work stoppage to protest UMich not giving us more money. I like more money, so I am participating. I don't know how I feel about keeping other people from class, though.

Monday, March 24, 2008


So I don't know if this was a joke or not, but the first two comments on this blog post of UofC slogans is so very classic. Giving a long-winded explanation on some abstruse subject only to realize that the question was much more mundane than you thought. Yup, I've done that. More than once.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Re: Stuff White People Like

On my way home from shul this evening I got to thinking, (Ortho) Jews are White, does the list of SWPL correspond to us? Surprisingly, I don't think so. There are certainly some things that correspond, e.g. coffee, but most items do not. Thinking about my cousins in Monsey or the general community in Washington Heights (as I have experienced it) Jews do not particularly like awareness, diversity, recycling, NPR, David Sedaris, Indie Music, Organic Foods or a whole host of other things on the list. There are are certainly Jews that do, but it is not representative of the community at all, really.

After 12 years of day school, three of yeshiva high school, ten years of Religious-Zionist summer camp and a year plus of Gush, why am I more White than O-Jew?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Looking over the shoulder

I, and everyone I talk to, loved Obama's speech yesterday. My friends are not typical though. So I headed over to Fox News to see what others were saying. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that the only thing Bill O'Reilly could do in the face of such solid work was criticize Jesse Jackson. How is Jesse Jackson relevant??? Obviously it is an attempt to tie one black man to a less thoughtful black man (and by gezera shava they are the same), though not a terribly convincing one.

Unrelated, but my pick for a VP for Obama is Condi. I think it would be brilliant. Tying his candidacy with a moderate-right figure who has real foreign policy experience and has a very strong record on Israel. The line about Iraq might go, "In order to overcome the mistakes of the past we need to move forward together." It would be a bit hard, as she would still be serving as Secretary of State, but I think it would be a great choice.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Even birds and bees do it...

...let's do it, let's have an extramarital affair.

After all the hue and cry about Spitzer, apparently recently appointed Gov. David Patterson has also cheated on his wife (as has his wife on him). If the blind governor is also guilty of infidelity is that indicative of a larger trend? Or rather, is there anyone in this country who remains faithful?

It is hard to know if this has gotten better or worse over time so I am not going to yearn for the days of yore. My mystification is how people are so indignant about these things while the phenomenon seems so much more pervasive than anyone will admit. I guess it is better than the alternative.

Shameful (Department) Self-Promotion

U. Michigan's Political Science department is getting a new political theorist in the fall, Lisa Disch! That brings us up to six, plus Lars Rensmann, a visiting faculty member. It is a really big pick up for us as it fills our hole in contemporary political theory. Now if only I could convince them to hire a senior medievalist I would be set.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Importance of the White Male Vote

I will take a stab at election reporting in the zevian vein:

The Washington Post ran an article today with the headline: White Male Vote Especially Critical

The article stated:
In the fierce campaign between Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, a battle dominated by questions of race and gender, white men have emerged as perhaps the single critical swing constituency.

In which elections in the past history of the United States have white men not emerged as "perhaps the single critical swing constituency"?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Passive Racism and Obama's Dilemma

This might be off the mark, so I hope it does not offend.

The recent controversy with Obama's pastor's 'indelicate' remarks is, I think, indicative of a certain kind of racism. As Matthew Yglesias puts it:
After all, before Obama was a half-black guy running in a mostly white country he was a half-white guy running in a mostly black neighborhood. At that time, associating with a very large, influential, local church with black nationalist overtones was a clear political asset (it's also clear in his book that it made him, personally, feel "blacker" to belong to a slightly kitschy black church). Since emerging onto a larger stage, it's been the reverse and Obama's consistently sought to distance himself from Wright, disinviting him from his campaign's launch, analogizing him to a crazy uncle who you love but don't listen to, etc.
I don't believe that Obama harbors any of these beliefs himself, but being black and organizing in the African-American community in the South Side of Chicago, these kinds of associations are inevitable. That then has the potential to mark a black candidate whereas a white one would never have to had confronted such a dilemma (and people are not nearly as outraged by culturally/sexually defamatory remarks, which might make some sense considering the position in question is serving as the executive of the United States).

Coming from a frum world where rabbomin can be less than delicate (although not quite as indelicate as Pastor Wright) I am sympathetic to this problem; I am not certain most Americans feel the same

Stuff White People Like

I feel rather implicated by Stuff White People Like (12 million hits in three months!) though I think only about 20 of the posts actually apply to me (I would venture that among my friends I could find coverage for almost all). I don't think it is as simple a parody as it comes off; I don't know that I could come up with a similar list for orthodox Jews, for instance.

My confusion is that by "white" he means, "upper middle class Americans." My cohort in grad school, for instance, is made up of a Mexican-American, Romanian, three Koreans, a Palestinian, an Indian-American and then four whites (one of which is me, as Jew, thus also white). I could of course add to this list--art museum memberships, specialty stores, imports, anything featured on Sex and the City, etc.--but it is really just a list of what urban American consumers with disposable incomes do. White here does not mean rural Americans or Republicans (though them less so). Jews, Asians, Indians and Latinos with money (who were at one point not whites), they are white.

Obviously the fact that I was prompted to write this post at all means that I find the blog both funny and humiliating. Another thing whites like is writing about themselves.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Just Another Airline Kvetch to Add to the Pile

I have a flight from Chicago O'Hare to Newark and on to Madrid in two months. Having decided that I want to spend some time in New York before I leave (you're on notice O&M) I figured I would just get on at Newark. So I called Continental today. Sure, no problem. We just need to recalculate the fees, an extra $5 (which already makes no sense). OK, I can deal with an extra $5, oh, and did we forget the penalty fee. Penalty? What, high sticking? Slashing? Changing a reservation? And this was no two minute minor either, they wanted $200! That's right, an extra $205 and so I could open up a seat for them from ORD to EWR!

Mamesh ganovim. Ptew.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Let's talk about "linked," shall we.

When I first read the NYT headlines "Spitzer Linked to Prostitution Ring" I thought that he was materially involved with organizing the ring (hence the txt mssg, Oren). That would have been very, very bad; but he wasn't. He was a "client." I am not "linked" to Hiller's Market just because I buy kosher Munster there, nor am I linked to BP because I fill my car at a BP station. Consumers and distributors just have different levels of culpability and the article's syntax masked that. I am not going to get all philosophy of language at the moment, but the NYT was irresponsible, sensationalist and stupid. (Yes, Jeremy, you get a point.)

Monday, March 10, 2008


Thednesday is the day in the week that is not really there. It doesn't occur every week, or most weeks for that matter. It doesn't even appear regularly; you can't say, "Did you know there's a Thednesday in two weeks?" But when it's Thednesday, you know. It's that day that makes it seem that the week is longer than it ought to be.* When you're, like, "It's only Tuesday?" that's because it's not Tuesday, it's Thednesday.
Today is totally Thednesday.

*For some reason, though, weeks with Thednesdays are no more productive than weeks without. I would venture to guess less productive, actually.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

I knew this was going to happen

Clinton won OH 54/44 and TX 51/48 and will probably lose the delegate race there. She needed a blowout and got a puff, so how has she "turned the corner"? If you look at exit polls Clinton cleaned up in the Latino vote (generally gaining 10 points over the avg for any given age demographic). All the remaining contests have negligible Latino presence. Obama will blow out Clinton in NC and Clinton will win PA as the east of the state loses out to the west, but barely. Wolfson must have the Press intimidated, or something.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Hamas, the UN, and Accountability

As long as the UN's humanitarian aid continues to pour into Gaza, a Hamas regime will not be held accountable by its people for either supplying or not supplying food, electricity, medicine, and other humanitarian essentials. The same holds, mutatis mutandis, for rogue states around the world.

Monday, March 03, 2008


Wonder (n)
Wonder (v)