06 October 2008

Too Many Sausages, Not Enough Caffeine

I took advantage of early voting and cast an absentee ballot,1 so I'm going to slightly dial back the election rhetoric.

  • One reason that I voted early was to avoid my newly designated polling place: A church. And, of course, the nearly-wingnut country clerk who designates polling places completely blew off my objection, since he's never seen a religious conflict in action, and has made plenty of public statements indicating that he does not believe in separating church and state. (I wonder what he'd think of Guatemala, let alone Ireland?)
  • Over at <SARCASM> that notoriously liberal egghead news source ZDNet </SARCASM> (owned and controlled by the communications oligopolist Sumner Redstone), there's some somewhat useful discussion of your FBI file and you. In this day of the USA TRAITOR Act,2 that's not a bad thing to do. The whole system denies the existence of ineffective terrorists, which (given the overwhelming historical evidence) is just as stupid as focussing on racial identity... which, in the 1950s through 1970s, was a major subject of FBI files.
  • An ignorant moron at the LAT complains that the film industry is suffering from an alleged overemphasis on film quality (possibly reflected in Palin's reverse snobbery). This isn't exactly a new concern; compare Brazil to, say, Ishtar. Or maybe not-so-simple economics has something to do with it. There are plenty of opportunities to spread the blame around in Hollyweed; consider this unfair labor complaint by fired screenwriters, which seems a case of both sides being so wrong they can't see it — the writing quality in Tyler Perry's little postbellum-South empire has never been acceptable, but that does not excuse union-busting in the sweatshop.
  • First it was second-rate "alternative rockers." Now it's first-rate violinists with websites and blogs, like Hilary Hahn.
  • Remember the old saw about academic politics being so vicious only because the stakes are so low? Dan Markel quoted a colleague with some probably worthwhile, if incomplete, advice for prospective law professors... which led to a simplistic conniption fit and short rebuttal. I wonder if Mr Greenfield has ever stopped to consider that a better theoretical foundation for legal ethics rules, or at least a better understanding of the pathetic theoretical foundation that exists, might prevent sanctions for misleading a court?

    Maybe, though, this argument has weight and currency (not to mention ubiquity!) because lawyers don't know shit about intellectual history, so they can't see how different modes of discourse test different parts of hypotheses in different manners — and synthesis at the end of the discussion leads to better hypotheses. I've encountered the same problems in literature and the other arts... but much less so in the sciences, because scientific education is much more process-oriented (and falsity-oriented) than elsewhere. And, Mr Greenfield, two of my biggest "victories" in court have come through thinking about, and reacting to, law review articles. So phhhhhhht!

    My point is that "professional knowledge" is a process, not a thing; when you stop learning, and reconsidering what you think you already know in light of new evidence and new perspectives, you fail as a professional. That necessarily means being willing to embrace even disagreeable sources. Or, perhaps, this is just another religious argument: Not whether one accepts descent from the Prophet as necessary to lead the religion, but whether one's sources and writings must do so.

  1. No, I'm not going to say who I voted for. What part of "secret ballot" do you pollsters out there not understand? As Leo famously says to Jed during one of the beginning-of-second-season flashbacks on The West Wing, I'm getting tired of choosing among/between the lesser of "who cares?" for political office.
  2. The USA Totalitarian Regime Activity Incitement To Obscure Reality Act, Pub. L. No. 107–56. They had to destroy civil liberties and representative democracy to save them. Riiiiiiight. What part of "protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic" did they not understand... aside from "all of it"?