Saturday, March 24, 2007


The incredibly distinguished Saul Levrmore, Dean of the University of Chicago Law School, has a post on the UC Law Faculty Blog about primary reform. As usual, he explains all the important points of the issue in a very clear manner without taking sides. My own position on this issue is pretty clear, although I'm sure it's colored by my own perspective -- as an activist, and as someone who lives in Florida. (BTW, when the flig is Blogger going to learn to support Trackback? I'm starting to wonder whether I'll need to migrate my blog to another site in order to be able to use Trackback...)

Duke W. Nukem, Part 2

Brian Reynolds Myers -- whom I was familiar with only through his brilliant polemic "A Reader's Manifesto" -- has an article at OpinionJournal explaining why the South Koreans aren't particularly happy with our efforts to "protect" them from North Korea. This lends even more support to the policy (which I support) that we should disengage from the Korean situation: withdraw all our military forces immediately, with a clear statement that we have no further commitment to giving military (or other governmental) aid to South Korea.

It is absolutely insane to have military forces to "protect" or "help" people who do not want our protection or help, whether in Korea or Iraq. Anyone who espouses such a policy is either an idiot or a liar, depending on whether or not he believes what he says. (And it is immoral to use military force for any reason other than to protect people.)

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Transgressing the Boundaries: Whoring for Peace

Baron Bodissey writes: "Now, this is the kind of transgressive antinomian empowerment that you expect from a top-of-the line state college. It makes me proud to pay my son’s Student Activities Fees when I know they go to fund such worthy causes."
"After all, the cross in the chapel was controversial because it offended people — well, one person, according to President Nichol — so it had to go. But a 200-pound (90 kilos, for our European readers) stripper in a G-string and pasties — why, no one could possibly be offended by that! Ask the Muslim Students Association — I’ll bet they really dig that sort of thing."
"It may be a pig gussied up in a transgressive silk dress with postmodern lipstick, but it’s most emphatically still a pig."

I couldn't say it better than he did.

And speaking of that second quote, about the Muslim Students Association -- on the Independent Women's Forum, Charlotte Hays says "It’s so interesting that radical feminists would rather attack the U.S. than defend women’s rights in the Middle East. I suspect that the reason is Islamofascists hate the West—just as our own homegrown radicals do deep down."

Personally, I would love to see the femocrats get into a feud with Islamofascists, and (as a staunch defender of Political Correctness) I will try to do everything I can to promote that. At the very least, I strongly advocate giving burkas to Katha Pollitt and Barbara Ehrenreich, since they sympathize with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Great God Panopticism Is Dead

Thamus Pan-megas Tethnece!

(This week's readings for T.A.R.D.I.S. are Philip K. Dick's novel The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch and Michel Foucault's essay "Panopticism.")

"Panopticism is a method of organizing that places several parties under
the eye of one or more supervisors. This is apparent in the roots of
the word, with its prefix of pan, meaning all or whole and optic, meaning sight. The parties being observed are however isolated/restricted to some degree or another from each other. They are not aware of if and when the supervising party/parties is observing them. Thus, they are spurned on into self-regulation by the paranoia being caught not behaving properly or performing adequately. This phenomenon of panopticism is a result of the advent of industrialization and empirical/utilitarian thinking. It is found in the institutions arising during its era of its inception and is still with us today. It can be seen everywhere. Examples of it can be found in places ranging from prisons, to factories, to classrooms.
[...]panopticism works in theory because power and knowledge are entwined[...]
And look at the most rigid and supposedly sternest use of the panoptic: prison.
Prisons are awash with crimes being committed by people already
convicted of a crime and are now put there supposedly to stop them from
committing further crime until their debt to society is paid. Drug
distribution, sexual assault, bribery: you name it, it goes on. You
have but to watch the TV show OZ or read the book In the Belly of
the Beast to see examples of this. Now, take these individual
examples of knowledge not being power's shadow and quantify them
across entire societies and indeed the entire world. You start to get a
more accurate reflection of reality then.[...]The phenomenon of power and knowledge growing together is called economy of scale and the point at which they begin to grow apart is called diseconomy of scale."

Philip K. Dick was obsessed with several themes, including epistemology and metaphysics. Given his particular psychological disorders, he seemed to be experiencing the literary phenomenon of the unreliable narrator in his own life, his own psyche. The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch deals with aspects of these themes; for example, the epistemological problem of how we can know something is true rather than a hallucination (courtesy of Chew-Z or Can-D) or a virtual experience (courtesy of Perky Pat), and the contradiction between predestination (or precognition) and free will. (Dick's story "Minority Report" discusses this as well.) Dick was also interested in religion, or rather in God; hence the obvious parallels between the eucharist -- or neolithic sacred rituals involving hallucinogenic mushrooms -- and Palmer Eldritch's Chew-Z. Finally, the phenomenon of precognition is related to Foucault's theory of panopticism. The precogs (in both book and story) can see the future, but their power to control it is quite limited, unlike the Observer in Foucault.

Panopticism is modernism par excellence, or perhaps reducto ad absurdum. For Foucault, knowledge equals power equals control equals order. What Foucault didn't realize is that there is a difference between each of these terms. Knowledge without will is powerless; power without ethics, or at least finesse, causes rebellion and disorder. In microeconomic terms, the phenomenon of power and knowledge growing together is called economy of scale and the point at which they begin to grow apart is called diseconomy of scale.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Duke W. Nukem

Daniel W. Drezner pleads, "I'm going to Los Angeles for a UCLA conference entitled 'Nuclear Weapons in a New Century: Facing the Emerging Challenges.'

"As I have to say something about this in 48 hours, readers are strongly encouraged to proffer any bright ideas they might have about how to deal with this issue."

I'm pretty ignorant of international relations theory, but I offered my two cents' worth on his blog, along with a plug for my favorite IR proposal, from Joe Haldeman's Tool of the Trade.

Haldeman's proposal (in simplified form) is that the five "Nuclear Weapons States" which have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty -- the U.S., Russia, the U.K., France, and China -- should each commit reduce their stockpiles of nuclear weapons to a level no greater (according to both number of weapons and total megatons) than the largest stockpile of any nation which does not have such an agreement. (The details include rules for inspection and verification, reducing stockpiles by 10% per year over 10 years, and so forth.)

This would reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world from about 20,000 to below 2,000 and probably below 1,000; in other words, more than 90% and probably more than 95% of nuclear weapons would be eliminated. (The percentages are even higher for reducing total megatons, rather than number of weapons!)

Over 90%, and probably over 95% -- I give this plan an A.