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Note to Congresscritters: reading someone his rights informs him of his rights.  It does not grant them, for he already has the right to remain silent, &c.   You’d almost suspect we’d written this down somewhere in a kind of founding document and refined it through the courts.

All refusing to mirandize a suspect does is foul up the eventual prosecution.  You should have to know this if you’re a Representative.

Obviously, she needs to bring the wife along so that the boy might experience the Continent as a youngster should.

via Kieran.

Linked for truth.  Moreover, suppose Douthat was right about the alleged permissive sexual mores of 1970s Ireland.  What, by all the angels and saints and the holy living mother of the fuck does that explain?  What is that supposed to say about the U.S.? Are we to believe that this sexual liberation permeated the Church hierarchy so thoroughly that they kept the vow of celibacy instead of permitting married priests, but decided that raping children was okay and then constructed a time machine to send the abusers back in time so the authorities could establish a track record of complete wickedness and uselessness?

Look, whether raping children is wrong is not one of the hard ethical questions.  (Maybe Douthat skipped that night at RCIA.) And deciding whether to protect the institution or the rape victims wasn’t supposed to be one of the hard questions, either.

“Contrition” does not mean find a way to blame it on hippies on another continent.  Christ on a cracker.

Do you think that following the suicide bombing of the Moscow subway that anyone writing articles will bother explaining some of the history concerning Chechnya, or will it all get swept under the heading of monolithic radical Islamic extremism?  (Those damn Caucasian Arabs ….!  What about Iran!)*

/annoyed with reporting

*Note for the slow and tendentious:  I am not saying that the suicide bombing is justified.  Killing people is wrong.  It is a source of frustration that a suicide bombing in Moscow by Chechen terrorists is attributed to nothing more than radical Islam, which is apparently the only monolithic religion on the planet.  By parity of reasoning we should respond to the Catholic sex scandals by investigating the Baptist ministers.

Five?  Five??  Five?!?!? As in, I spent more on a bagel and coffee this morning five the hell what now??



This is actually an interesting article on newish research into the complexity of obesity, but the word “obesogen” is making me laugh.   Obesogens make you obese!  This sleeping pill is chock full of the dormitive virtue!

We need a tag for lame Scholastic jokes.

I am glad to see this.  I’m not much for counting calories (absolutely no patience for it), but it’s been such a little glaring piece of marketing gimick as almost everything under the sun is not new, to the swift, or actually eaten in 150 calorie increments.   Anything can look like an acceptable indulgence if its serving size is artificially reduced, but no one eats a third of a candy bar at a time.

Meditate on that, o bhikkhus, as you eat your Superbowl guacamole (in my experience, serving size roughly the mass of Earth, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.)

Interesting. According to my local liquor store owner, his business is up 28% over this time last year.

From the web edition of Jobs for Philosophers, put out by the American Philosophical Association:

306. SAINT MARY’S COLLEGE OF CALIFORNIA, MORAGA, CA. POSTDOCTORAL RESIDENT, COUNSELING CENTER. Saint Mary’s College of California – Moraga, CA. For the 2010-2011 academic year. The Residency requires a 9.5 month, 5 day per week commitment in order to meet California licensing requirements of 1500 hours supervised postdoctoral experience. Qualifications: Psy.D, Ph. D. in Clinical/Counseling Psychology. College/University Counseling Center experience at practicum and/or internship level (desired). Fluency in Spanish (desired). Salary and benefits are competitive and subject to the availability of funding sources. Complete details are available at Preferred deadline is 01/18/10. Open until filled. EOE. (184W), posted 1/11/10

Yes, that’s right.  Once again, our esteemed national organization has accepted a listing for someone with a psychology degree. Wrong APA!  I’m sure there are charitable explanations, but my preferred non-charitable one is that the national organization is suffering from the same confusion as the typical acquaintance who hears a philosopher explain that he does philosophy and then asks if he’s allowed to prescribe Prozac or if he needs a medical degree to do that.

Remember what I said about false positives?   An interesting list from Kevin Drum.

One thing I’d add is that I’m not inclined to make too much of his being rejected for a visa from the UK, nor would I want to see a policy where being rejected from one country entails automatic suspicious treatment at all other countries, because being rejected for a visa or denied entry into a country is both highly subject to the particulars of admitting countries’ laws and usually requires little in the way of evidence.   A US CBP officer can deny you entry even if you have a valid visa; they have a lot of discretion.   You can be rejected for one kind of American visa while retaining your eligibility for others.  And it’s not clear in this case that it would have helped much.  Abdulmutallab’s visa wasn’t renewed not because they thought he was a terrorist, but because the UK cracked down on those abusing the sponsorship of student visas by starting fake colleges.   (He had been a genuine student at a UK university in the past.)

1. With all due respect to Lizardbreath, she’s going about her business plan completely the wrong way.  I’m sure there are merits to the Paleo diet, yuppies thinking that raw grass-fed ground beef approximates paleolithic mastodon meat aside, but if you think about it, designing a diet for an organism that can thrive just as well on whale blubber and the occasional plant as it can on soybeans and rice really shouldn’t be all that challenging.   Omnivores are adaptable!  You might not lose weight, but it’s probably not going to kill you.  If we analyze it conceptually, we can see a fad diet consists of the following elements:  a) a ban or near ban on pre-packaged foods b) a ban or near ban on one kind of macronutrient c) some form of calorie restriction d) an exhortation to exercise and e) a story about why this is so, the more romantic the better.

For example, in the caveman diet, we take “follow our conception of the caveman” as a maxim, thus, we do not eat packaged foods, cereal grains (Grok don’t farm), we eat lots of meat (Grok hunt) and berries and nuts (Grok forage), we fast now and then (Grok no have refrigerator), and we sprint and jump (Grok surprise mastodon.)

Thus, the growth industry here is in telling a good story.  I therefore present the Path of Hypatia, designed especially for women, drawn from the wisdom of the ancients who said let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine thy food.  The program recommends that you eat primarily olives, cheese, bread, lemons, fish, and wine, and recommends both quiet time for contemplation (stress makes you retain belly fat, so do your metaphysics!) and vigorous Spartan exercise every day, for is it not said, “wealth, flutes, and instruments generally?”  I’m sure LB can come up with a good lawyer saga.

2. Someone give me an argument why this isn’t simply common-sense. Here are the terms of the mortgage: pay it back or the bank can take back the house and your credit rating will take a hit.  Everyone agreed to this mortgage.  There is no clause that says “you can let the bank take the house back only if you’ve bankrupted yourself in other ways first” or (in many states) “if the house isn’t worth what the loan is, the bank can come after you for the balance.”  So by “walking away” we mean “fulfilling the terms of the contract.”

Now, sure, I think there’s generally a moral obligation not to be dork, and there would be repercussions for the lending market generally if lots of people defaulted strategically.  But.. look, there’s lots of repercussions when the housing market collapses, and I haven’t seen a call for the banks independently to do the moral thing and let people pay 33% of their income on their mortgate in order to stabilize prices.   Why is it that the homeowner is held to a higher standard?

3.  I just have to note this because the second item is cracking me up.

The cry for security theatre, once more, with feeling continues.  From the Atlantic piece:

The minute Abdulmutallab’s father walked into a U.S. Embassy with news that his son was a potential terrorist, the official in charge was duty-bound to see this through. Every scrap of paper and every byte of data on the suspect should have been called up and frozen. That’s why we have embassies. When the information was passed to the first special agent at the CIA, he or she was duty bound to see it through. When the information was passed to the first administrator at the National Counterterrorism Center, he or she, too, was duty bound to see it to the end.

Everyone who read the name “Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab” prior to December 25, 2009 should be reprimanded and fired.

Much has been made of the fact that Abdulmutallab’s father, in a modern Euthyphro dilemma, informed on his own son.  What has been made has generally taken one of two forms:  jokes about how hard it must be for a Nigerian banker to get his proposals taken seriously FOR OUR MUTUAL BENEFIT, and incredulity that when the man was turning in his son we didn’t immediately arrest the young man or at least put him on the no-fly list or revoke his visa.

The second form is an understandable reaction (his son!), but a moment’s reflection on our recent adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq should show the intelligent observer the perils of concluding that someone is a terrorist based on the say-so of a relative, colleague, or acquaintance.   If I recall, this is now one of the many lingering problems because it turns out that when you detain and torture someone based on the say-so of an informant, chances are that person is innocent, and your best case scenario is now hoping you didn’t radicalize a formerly innocent person who now has plenty of reason to hate you.

Now, obviously, no one’s suggested that Abdulmutallab should have been hauled off and tortured, but the point really needs to be made that just because someone says another person is a terrorist doesn’t necessarily mean that they are, and it’s a good thing if the United States doesn’t act like that.   That it was his father who informed on him is fascinating, but not proof of anything particularly.*

All that aside, there’s an interesting puzzle here that’s being overlooked.

Let’s treat the proposition someone is a terrorist as a proposition for which we can gather evidence that warrants belief that the proposition is true.   Let’s treat all the evidence that we can gather — parental informants, ties to radical imams, patterns of study, religion, country of origin, one way ticket, lack of checked luggage** — like a test, and let’s stipulate further that we have a very reliable terrorist test.  If we present the test with the profiles of 100 terrorists, it will correctly identify 99 of them as terrorists.   1% slip through. For simplicity’s sake, it also misidentifies, 1% of the time, an innocent person as a terrorist.

Now suppose a person about whom nothing is known comes to the attention of the powers that be, and they administer the test, and it’s positive for terrorism.

What is the chance that the person really is a terrorist?  Formulate your answer and then follow the jump.

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Via feministphilosophers, an intriguing collection of summaries of articles, accompanied by intelligent commentary, on the psychology of beauty.  So often journalistic science writing on these kinds of topics can be parodied very quickly, but not unfairly as, “back on the veldt, men had to hunt down the wild jungle tigers while the women stayed home to tend the children and weave the straps of those cave girl bikinis, and this explains why I am attracted to interns”, but this blog strikes me as very good, as it notes the implications, strengths, and offers a word of caution about most of the studies.  So I thought you might find it of interest.

Plus, this is just cool.

When I am king the word “listicle” will be first against the wall.

Thesis:  A successful children’s cartoon in the 80’s required three elements: an occupation, a natural kind, and the ability to fight crime, broadly construed.

Case in point, from a late-night conversation:

“…the Mighty Ducks.”


“They were hockey players.  Who were ducks.”


“And they fought crime.”

Discussion point:  I admit one has to construe “crime” broadly to include the Decepticons and whoever it was that were the foes of the Care Bears.  I submit, however, that this is a legitimate construal.

A woman starts a freelance writing service from home.  Her business struggles along.  On a whim, and to distance herself from her struggling business, she chooses a male pen name, James Chartrand.

Her business takes off, earning two to three times the income she earns under her own name.  She wins recognition, and now she’s outing herself as a pseud.

The phenomenon here is reasonably well attested.  J. K. Rowling published under her initial upon the advice of her publisher, if I recall correctly, because of the belief that a book by a male writer would be more appealing to the kids’ market.  Identical resumes with female names have been found to be presumed to be less qualified than their male counterparts.   What’s striking about this particular anedote is both that it’s removed from most of the external forces that would amplify or diminish prejudice and that the outcomes are so stark.  Two to three times as much money!

No doubt that part of the difference in success is simply that success follows success; once James Chartrand had a few nibbles and early successes, he became not merely James Chartrand, freelancer, but James Chartrand, successful freelancer with a proven track record, and she had the confidence that goes along with success.   Even if that were the whole story, however, it’s still interesting how a small difference in her client’s perceptions (it’s tantalizing to speculate what their thought processes were, but I suspect it was mostly nothing more than “this guy looks qualified enough” vs. “I’m just not convinced that her work is good, who else can we look at? ” rather than anything overt) is quite literally the difference between wondering whether she can feed her kids on her income and having enough money to purchase a house.

Can someone explain to me why this isn’t an obviously bad idea?  During pregnancy, quite a lot of the weight gain is blood volume, water retention, and the fetus plus the architecture that supports it; it’s not comparable to a non-pregnant 15 pound weight gain.

So if someone’s goal is to gain no weight during pregnancy, that’s going to amount to losing things like fat and bone density and muscle tissue quickly because there is no way to make a weightless placenta or a weightless baby, and doing this while expending all of the energy required to put together a little human being.  Fat doesn’t turn into a baby any more than fat turns into muscle while you exercise.

Epictetus warned us not to go to graduate school twenty centuries ago — even if we could always go to law school become tax men as a back-up:

Thus, some people, when they have seen a philosopher… wish to philosophize themselves.  Man, first consider what kind of business this is.  And then learn what your own nature is; can you bear it?… Do you suppose you can do these things and keep on eating and drinking and enthusing and sulking just as you do now?  You will have to go without sleep, labor, leave home, be despised by a slave, have everyone laugh at you, have the worse in everything, in jobs, in lawsuits, in every trifle.

Encheiridion, 29.

Via beamish down in comments somewhere, and via my dad (sorta), some bohemian Muppets.


Oh, Holbo.  I know you’re not baiting me, but it feels like you are.

John has a problem that everyone who has to teach history of early modern has to face.  The standard story explains 17th and 18th century philosophy as a debate between two epistemological factions.  The rationalists Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz meet the empiricists Locke, Berkeley, and Hume in the octagon!   Who will emerge victorious?  KANT!  Thesis, antithesis, synthesis.

The virtues of the standard story are these.  Having a narrative that unites the whole period and builds towards contemporary thought helps give a survey course some thematic unity, which is important given the difficulty of the readings.  It’s also the standard story that almost every practicing philosopher has encountered, which makes it both very easy to teach and the conservative option.  Given that the students are almost certainly going to forget about most of the particulars after the final exam, if they’re left with a vague idea that Descartes is like the Matrix and Hume is like modern science and Kant said something but damned if I was doing the reading a week before finals, there’s not too much harm done.

The vice of the standard story is that it’s false.  As Holbo notes, Descartes’ philosophy, far from springing full-born from the head of Socrates, has much in common with the musty medieval theologians he criticizes.   None of the rationalists shunned empirical study, and the empiricists include Berkeley (which always struck me as a stretch of the framework.)  Making the whole period about warring factions in epistemology also means that certain writings of the moderns that don’t fit easily into that framework tend to get ignored.

So, Holbo’s solution:  frame the class on “Everything I Am Supposed To Teach You About [Early Modern Philosopher] is Wrong”, and mix contemporary treatments of similar problems into the early modern syllabus. He asks for inexpensive reading suggestions.

My criticisms and suggestions, mostly constructive but not sparing the snark, after the jump.

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