June 28, 2005


I've been neglecting the blog a bit, and that's not unlikely to continue for some time. A couple of brief posts may ensue, but in the meantime I recommend reading this. (Ignore my intervention.)

Posted by Matt Weiner at 01:52 PM | Comments (3)

June 26, 2005


Kevin Drum discovers that the governor of California from 1939-43 was a devout atheist--the president of the United Secularists of America.

Ain't that a hoot? The president of the United Secularists of America probably couldn't get elected dogcatcher in Berkeley, let alone governor of California these days. How times change.

I think he's right about forthright atheists. (And I think that's shocking. I disagree pretty strongly with this, but I think the fact that about half of Americans tell pollsters they wouldn't vote for an atheist for president is pretty virulent prejudice.)

But--Rocky Anderson, the two-term mayor of Salt Lake City, has no organized religion. That doesn't mean he's an atheist--he says he's had profound spiritual experiences (via here--but it surprised me. I think one of the factors may be that in Salt Lake City about half the population is non-LDS, and in the face of a single extremely well-entrenched religion we were particularly likely to rally around someone secular.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 11:58 AM | Comments (0)

Indefensible, continued

via Ogged, a Rasmussen Reports poll shows that 20% of Americans think prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are being treated worse than they deserve, 36% percent think they're being treated better than they deserve, and 34% think they're being treated just right.

I like to think that this isn't because 70% of Americans are soulless monsters (or drawing fine distinctions between Guantanamo and our other prison camps), but because most Americans understandably don't pay much attention to the news, and some soulless monsters have devoted a lot of energy to giving them the impression that complaints about U.S. prisoner torture are just petty whining by nasty terrorists.

On the same general issue, this Michael Berube post is superb:

After all, it is axiomatic that when morally serious persons encounter horrific crimes against humanity, they do not resort to casuistry, pettifogging, or related forms of bullshit, such as arguing that the crimes are not nearly so widespread or systemic as other crimes. Still less do they waste their time and ours by parsing the words of those who call attention to those crimes in order to try to stop them....
Posted by Matt Weiner at 11:24 AM | Comments (0)

June 23, 2005

Watching People Defend the Indefensible

I can't really summon up the vitriol to say what needs to be said here.

via Fontana Labs, Rush Limbaugh's Club Gitmo t-shirts. via Henry Farrell, Chris Muir thinks that U.S. prisoner abuse is offering someone an orange-glazed chicken. Bruce Tinsley's Mallard Fillmore (a cartoon that's in my local daily paper) has been running a series parodying torture allegations by saying that the prisoners were shown naked pictures of Rumsfeld, and then that they asked for them.

What sort of condition does your soul have to be in to produce this nonsense?

The United States has been torturing prisoners in its overseas prisons. Many have died. One was beaten so badly that it looked like he was run over by a bus, and--not that it would be acceptable otherwise--U.S. investigators believe he was an innocent man with no connections to terrorism. There's a lot of evidence out there for the severity of the crimes against humanity that are being committed in our name, if you make any effort to find out about them. (And I suspect that for every case we know about, there are others we do not. It beggars belief that we know the worst of what's gone on, given that our government is doing its best to conceal what's happened--including the Republicans in Congress who ought to be exercising their duty of oversight.)

I simply don't have the words for those who've decided to mock and minimize what's going on. Is the idea that you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs? Never mind the absence of omelette; hasn't that been discredited? Is it that anything the United States does is by definition good? (Ah, here it is--"the perfect is the enemy of the good." Scroll down.*) Is it that any criticism of the evil things we do will aid and comfort our enemies--so we must be left free to do every evil thing we want? Is it simply a refusal to accept the evidence of what is happening? Is it, for Christ's sake, that these people don't know that beating prisoners, chaining them on the floor in their feces and urine--not to mention locking up people without giving them recourse to prove their innocence--is WRONG?

I suppose this is what fellow-travelers sounded like, back in Stalin's day. In the face of an overwhelming amount of evidence for terrible moral crimes, deny, attack the motives of the people exposing it, subordinate it to the greater moral good.

And yes, what we are doing is not as bad as what Stalin did. But the apologists for torture I think really are on the level of fellow-travelers. They seem to have set themselves up to excuse any atrocity that their side commits. Their side hasn't committed atrocities that rank with the worst in history--but it's not because the apologists are stopping them. (It's because our great political system hasn't been destroyed.) Excusing crimes against humanity strikes me as like eating potato chips--once you start it's hard to stop yourself.

Recently Sen. Durbin said, quite correctly, that the stories coming out of U.S. prisons are not stories you'd expect to hear about an exemplar of democracy and freedom, but about history's worst regimes. On this topic, one SteveMG said something I heartily agree with:

Watching people defend the indefensible is always an interesting hobby but sometimes hobbies have more serious consequences.

Except his idea of indefensible conduct isn't the US torturing prisoners. It's criticizing that torture. As Matthew Yglesias says, "if it's better than Hitler, it's a-okay with them."

*Dsquared's response: "In related news, I've seen operations that I consider to be 'perfect' and operations that I consider to be 'good', and neither of them included people tied up in their own excrement." Well struck. I've closed that page and I'm not going back to it.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 01:39 PM | Comments (0)

June 22, 2005

From Jenny Holzer's Living

At the confab with Wolfson and Tammy the subject of drooling in your sleep came up (don't ask). I was trying to remember a relevant aphorism from Jenny Holzer. This is it:

More than once I've awakened with tears running down my cheeks. I have to think whether I was crying or it is involuntary, like drooling.
Posted by Matt Weiner at 10:46 AM | Comments (0)

June 21, 2005

What Will We Tell the Children? Or Youngish Adults?

[UPDATE: Billmon has more, via Michael Froomkin.]

According to The New York Times, Donald Rumsfeld is considering a promotion of General Ricardo Sanchez. [Sanchez's promotion seems to have been reguarly scheduled. It doesn't matter. He should be in a cell in Leavenworth or the Hague.]

Such a move, which has been urged by senior Army officers and civilian officials now that an Army inquiry has cleared General Sanchez of wrongdoing, seems to reflect a growing confidence that the military has put the abuse scandal behind it.

I'll give the mike to Phil Carter on what it means that Sanchez was 'cleared'.

[C]ommanders (and NCOs) are responsible for everything their unit(s) do or fail to do, period. A commander, especially a general officer, is not just responsible for those things he/she ordered, but for those things that he/she knew about — or should have known about. This is the essence of the mantle of command.... Based on the evidence contained in the Taguba report, Schlesinger report, Fay-Jones report, and the Church report, as well as the volume of documents obtained by the ACLU's FOIA litigation, I believe there to be sufficient evidence to find probable cause that these senior officers committed criminal failures of leadership. One of the worst scandals in American military history happened on their watch, under their direction, at least partly due to conditions under their control. And yet, the highest-ranking individual to see prosecution so far for these abuses is a Staff Sergeant.

But it should be no surprise that the Bush Administration considers Sanchez to be washed pure as the driven snow. This is the president who said about his Iraq policy, "We had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 elections," as if his actions were not always accountable to the American people--and to his conscience, and to God. For Bush and his subordinates, accountability seems to mean whatever you can officially get away with.

Many things make me angry about this--the gratuitous suffering taking place in our prison camps, the dishonor done to me and my country when our government tortures in our name, the increased danger to me and my loved ones, the harm to the ideas of democracy and human rights from their contemptuous treatment by the country that should be their greatest exemplar.

But there's something a little more personal here. I'm going to be teaching ethics to accountants at Texas Tech. Part of the point, I believe is that they learn to do the right thing for their own sake--that ethics isn't just this stupid set of rules that they need to work around on their way to the tall dollars. I wish our national leadership weren't currently sending the message that ethics is whatever you can get away with. It probably won't make my job easier.

In closing, Adam Kotsko:

If you have devoted considerable space to explaining away every "allegation" of "misconduct" in American interogation techniques, then you lack the moral judgment of an eight-year-old child.... Insistence that one turn a blind eye to the abuses of one's own government in order to denounce the abuses of others, separated by wide expanses of time and space from oneself, is an affront to the principle of democratic self-governance. If anything should count as "un-American," such rhetoric should -- it denegrates the legitimate right and privilege of the people of the United States to exercise the principle of democratic self-governance, in favor of giving those in power a free hand to do whatever they want. Such servile authoritarian rhetoric, of which we get reams and reams spewed forth from the unoffical Republican Party organs represented by Fox News, the right-wing press, and bloggers such as Glen Reynolds, is absolutely contrary to the principles on which this country was founded and should be denounced, execrated, and shouted down by all those who take seriously their responsibilities as citizens in a democratic polity and as rational human agents.

(I've clipped Adam's point 2 because I don't fully agree. Some of the people in our prison camps need to be put on trial and, if found guilty, locked up. But he is right that Guantanamo Bay needs to be shut down as soon as possible. The whole purpose of putting prison camps in Guantanamo Bay is to create a zone where we are not bound by laws--not our own or any others. That is not acceptable in any way.)

Posted by Matt Weiner at 02:33 PM | Comments (1)

Never Steal a Turkey in Lubbock

Our New Home!

Posted by Matt Weiner at 01:30 PM | Comments (0)

n Cultures (for some value of n)

Mom e-mails me this link to one of Belnap, Perloff, and Xu's branching-time diagrams in the online poetry journal The Diagram. (Belnap was my advisor--'was' only because I finished the thesis.) The link is Jim Bogen, whose wife Deb is an accomplished poet.

This also seems useful.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 12:54 PM | Comments (1)

June 18, 2005


Last night I met up with Wolfson for the Empty Bottle improvised music festival.* In the past people have complained that these meetings don't result in enough dish, so here goes.

1. At dinner I wondered, as I long have, why in fans 'high' rather than 'low' is next to 'off'. The words weren't out of my mouth when Wolfson said, "I found that out just the other day." I should've predicted that. (Apparently electrical devices are less likely to fail if you start them up in something that draws a lot of power rather than a little, or something like that.)

2. The subject came up recently of things that people do not notice. A thing that Wolfson does not notice: An ambulance howling along the street right next to him. (To be fair, he noticed a bookstore cat that I did not.)

3. Tammy is charming.

4. Attempting to explain who John Perry is, I said, "The only bearded philosopher in a Safeway west of the Mississippi." (This, I admit, was not very helpful. JSTOR.) Wolfson asked, "How can you be bearded in a dangerous way?"

*I enjoyed the whole thing. It was great to see Paul Rutherford, and I'm really looking forward to his solo show at the Woodland Pattern tomorrow. Edward Wilkerson/Tatsu Aoki/Michael Zerang played a very grooving set, and the quartet of Rutherford, Peter Brötzmann, Kent Kessler, and Nasheet Waits was particularly good.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 04:36 PM | Comments (5)

Rock Stars

Before I started blogging, I think, there was a philosophy blog called Gavagai whose proprietor attended a talk by Harry Frankfurt and reported that Frankfurt was a rock star. But this is erroneous; the only major philosopher who is known to have been a rock star was Karl Popper. Popper was a Rolling Stone.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 04:14 PM | Comments (5)

June 16, 2005

This Can't Be Right

The Onion A.V. Club, in its battle of the cartoon bands, says that Alvin and the Chipmunks lose to the Nutty Squirrels. Who are the Nutty Squirrels, and how is there any possibility that they're one-tenth as cool as Alvin and the Chipmunks? Has the Onion ever heard the song where the Chipmunks visit Japan and look for bananas? Shouldn't I be listening to that song right now? I realize this is a public library, but still.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 12:00 PM | Comments (1)

June 14, 2005

Relationship Porn

[Off-topic but: I've been seeing an unusual amount of stereotypical bird behavior today. On the way to the Pick'n'Save I saw some sort of dove with a twig in its mouth, presumably for a nest. Just now there was a robin on my front lawn with a worm in its beak, looking unsure what to do next. I plan to avoid seagulls.]

The New Yorker's Briefly Noted review of Melissa Banks' latest novel or story collection or whatever described it as the latest installment of relationship porn. Perfect, I said. I've read every Marian Keyes novel and relationship porn sounds like just what I need to tide me over. (In case it's not clear: The sense of 'porn' at issue has nothing to do with sex; it's like decorating shows as 'lifestyle porn'. Sorry to insult your intelligence, dear reader, but put something on the Interweb and all these other people who might not get it read it too.)

So I obtained and read Banks' previous novel or story collection or whatever, The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing. Unfortunately, it was not Perfect. It was not even satisfactory, in ways I will describe below the fold. But even if it had been better as what it was, it still woudln't have been what I was looking for--too arty, with the prose deliberately stripped down rather than functional. Actually, I think I mean 'deliberately stripped down rather than funny'. In fact, that's exactly what I mean: We want funny!

So this aspired to be about relationships in a Serious way. And I want some recommendations for stuff that isn't. What She Saw was pretty decent. Are Helen Fielding's post-Bridget Jones novels any good? Surely someone out there can help me with this.

As for Girl's Guide; the first story I quite liked, but it was about the narrator as a teen, liking her brother's girlfriend better than her brother did. Not quite in genre. Then it got into some stuff about her foolish involvement with a dashing older editor. Except the Dashing Older Guy seemed to have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I mean, at one point Narrator says, "I don't want to just be a character in your made-up anecdotes," and DOG says "To be just," and then pimps it off to the idea that editors don't split infinitives.

What is this BS? Even Ben Wolfson doesn't mind split infinitives. Were I Banks' editor, I would have struck over this, as a slander on all editors everywhere--and I'm the kind of guy who starts a sentence with a totally affected subjunctive.

(The Last Word on split infinitives.)

Posted by Matt Weiner at 11:53 AM | Comments (10)

June 11, 2005

Howl's Moving Castle

by Diana Wynne Jones, which I quoted earlier, is online (probably not legal).

Perhaps the availability of the text will help any Welsh readers (or Welsh co-bloggers of readers, or something) answer me this question: What is the 'saucepan' song? I don't believe I'm spoiling much by revealing that it's Welsh. A line from it seems to be sung at the beginning of this chapter, but Googling it is no help (except in finding the online text of Howl's Moving Castle.

(Did I mention that Howl's Moving Castle is now a major motion picture?)

Posted by Matt Weiner at 01:43 PM | Comments (2)

June 10, 2005

A Case for Contextualism

In the comments to this post Brian W raises a general challenge to contextualist theories:

I think if contextualism were true there should be a ton of cases satisfying all the following constraints, but I don’t know of any.

A says S knows that p.
B says S knows that p.
It’s clear to A, B and everyone in their audiences that p is true. All of those people uncontroversially know that p.
It’s clear that neither A nor B are using 'know' to mean mere information possession [approx. mere true belief, I think--MW], nor knowledge by Unger-sceptical-standards.
Intuitively, what A says is true, and what B says is false.

I think it helps a lot to go into the past tense--"S knew" rather than "S knows." And I think there's a good reason the past tense is necessary. So first a try at a past-tense case. With lots of detail.

Three months ago, Joey Mumbles visited First National Bank on a Saturday and found it open.

Last Friday, Joey's next door neighbors, Louie and Lola, were thinking about depositing their paychecks. They went to the bank, stood in a long line, didn't have a great time, and were sort of annoyed when they left to read the bank's hours on the wall and see that it was open Saturday. It wouldn't have been so bad if they'd gone Saturday, found it closed, and had to come back Monday.

Also last Friday, Joey's associates Heshel and Hyman were thinking of doing a job on the bank on Saturday--they had to set the plans in motion right then if the plan would go into action. If they tried to do the job and the bank wasn't open, things would have gone very poorly indeed. Joey would've been at Heshel and Hyman's meeting, but the cops have been hassling Joey lately so he's laying low a little bit. On Saturday, Heshel and Hyman went by the bank (unarmed!) and saw that it was, indeed, open.

Now it's Sunday. Louie and Lola are eating bagels and lox and talking about how the last two days went. Heshel and Hyman are also--somewhere else--eating bagels and lox and talking about how the last two days went.

Louie says, "That was a real pain at the bank Friday. And we could've avoided it if we'd just found someone who knew that the bank was open Saturday. I bet Joey Mumbles knew that the bank was open Saturday. We should've asked him before we went."
Lola says, "Are you sure Joey knew? Joey isn't always the most reliable guy."
Louie says, "Yeah, I bet he knew. In fact, I think he says he uses that bank himself sometimes. In the last few months, I bet he's been there on Saturday at least once. We would've been in perfectly good shape if we'd asked him. He knew that the bank was open Saturday."

Meanwhile, Heshel says, "The bank was open Saturday after all. We could've pulled the job off. If only Joey had been able to make the meeting. He'd have told us the bank was open Saturday."
Hyman says, "Do you think it would've been safe, really? I mean, do you think it would've been smart to go in on Joey's word alone? Do you think Joey knew the bank was open Saturday?"
Heshel says, "Sure, Joey knew the bank was open Saturday. Why wouldn't he know?"

I think it's pretty intuitive that Louie speaks the truth when he says that Joey knew the bank was open Saturday, and I think it's pretty intuitive that Heshel speaks falsely when he says the same thing.* At least, these cases are as intuitive as the usual Bank Cases that support contextualism.

And the case fulfills the rest of Brian's desiderata. On Sunday, when the conversations take place, Louie, Lola, Heshel, and Hyman all know perfectly well that the bank was open Saturday. Nobody's using an Unger-skeptical standard, and I don't think anyone's using a standard by which mere information possession is enough. Louie and Lola want to know whether Joey had pretty good evidence that the bank was open Saturday, which he did; so that it would've been reasonable for them to rely on his word, if they'd had it. Heshel and Hyman also want to know whether it would've been reasonable to rely on Joey's word alone. But--since they don't know Joey's evidence was three months old--it wouldn't have been.

Why is it important that this be in the past tense? In this case, everyone's talking about whether Joey would have been a good informant for they themselves. So the purpose of the conversation, in each case, concerns the aims and projects of the people making the knowledge ascriptions. If they had known before what they know now, they would've been able to carry out their projects. The debate concerns whether Joey, as an informant, would've given them strong enough evidence that it would've made sense to act on what he said. And, since they're reviewing what they might have done, we can give them knowledge of what Joey would have said without making it completely pointless to have used Joey as an informant.

When you do present tense cases it'll be very hard to satisfy all Brian's conditions and make the standards dependent on the ascriber's aims and projects rather than the subjects. The ascriber knows that p--that's a condition. The ascriber is talking about whether the subject knows that p. Why? Not because they want to find out whether the subject has the information that p--that's another condition. They must be talking about whether the subject has good evidence that p. But not because the subject is a potential informant--the ascriber already knows that p and doesn't need an informant.

So the conversation probably concerns whether the subject is acting rationally, or something like that. And that means that what counts as good evidence is going to be measured by the subject's standards. It's just hard to construct a context in the present tense in which all of Brian's conditions are satisfied and it's the ascriber's standards rather than the subject's that matter.

(I also note that in the comment quoted above Brian remarks that much of the data supporting contextualism can be explained by the principle "plausibly you shouldn’t say S knows that p when you shouldn’t say p." But this principle runs into the hedging problem.)

*And if you've just been reading Insensitive Semantics, you may think what I just said makes no sense whatsoever for a contextualist about the word 'knows'. That's OK, because I'm not really a contextualist. I have a theory about why similar locutions can be OK for contextualists, when uttered in contexts where you're discussing the semantics of the context-dependent terms, like this one. But that's another paper (in draft form--e-mail me if you wanna see it).

Posted by Matt Weiner at 04:18 PM | Comments (3)

Some Questions

Why isn't 'whomself' a word?

Wouldn't "we were discussing who threw whomself at whom" be a great sentence, if 'whomself' were a word?

Or should it be 'whomselves'?

Is there a language in which 'whomself' is a word?

Can I start speaking that language instead?

Is the reflexive of singular 'they' 'themself' or 'themselves', anyway?

Posted by Matt Weiner at 01:41 PM | Comments (8)

Two Observations

1. Amnesty International is probably doing more for the human rights situation in any given country than you are, unless you've actually won the Nobel Peace Prize. Complaining that they are also paying attention to some other human rights abuse just makes you look bad. (Pretending that the other human rights abuse doesn't exist, or that we don't know it exists, makes you look worse, but that's another lesson.)

2. You're not in much of a position to criticize Amnesty International's careless use of the word 'gulag' if your own bloody site is called samizdata.

(link via fortuna, who has a good point.)

Posted by Matt Weiner at 09:13 AM | Comments (5)

June 08, 2005

Bob and Carol and Howl and Alice

I thought of a somewhat PG-rated (for adult situations) example to illustrate one of my arguments against the knowledge account of assertion, and then I found something similar in Diana Wynne Jones' Howl's Moving Castle--now a major (G-rated, I trust) motion picture. Examples from common talk are nice, but I'm going to start with my version.

Suppose Alice, Carol, and Ted are talking about Alice's husband Bob. Alice says, "He sings 'We Suck Young Blood' in the shower in the mornings." Carol says,

(1) He does.

(i.e., Bob does sing "We Suck Young Blood" in the shower in the mornings.)

This, I think, would tend to stop conversation.

Why? Because Carol's assertion of (1) suggests that she has firsthand knowledge of what Bob sings in his morning shower. And Carol ought not to have firsthand knowledge of what Alice's husband sings in his morning shower.

Carol's assertion of (1) is improper no matter how you slice it. If she does have firsthand knowledge of Bob's shower songs, it's very rude for her to let Alice know like this. If she doesn't have firsthand knowledge, then it's even ruder--and she can be held to the charge of BSing. But the assertion of (1) wouldn't be problematic at all if it didn't represent Carol as having firsthand knowledge. (For the rest of this discussion, suppose Carol doesn't have firsthand knowledge.)

That's important, because Carol does know that (1) is true. Alice just said so, and she's in a position to know, etc. So the knowledge account of assertion in itself can't account for why Carol's assertion of (1) in the absence of firsthand knowledge is improper. If an assertion only represented the speaker as knowing what she asserted, then the dread implicature that Carol's knowledge was firsthand wouldn't arise; and it wouldn't be rude for Carol to assert (1).

Here the epistemic impropriety of Carol's assertion may get tangled up with all the other sorts of impropriety. So let's try and remove those other sorts. Suppose that Alice says, "He sings 'We Suck Young Blood' in the shower in the mornings," and then is called away to perform delicate heart surgery. Then Carol utters (1).

Suppose further that Ted has no particular loyalties to Alice or Bob, so it wouldn't be particularly rude for Carol to let him know that she'd been sleeping with Bob, were such the case. And let's suppose there's no general norm against lashon harah; wasn't it Timothy Williamson himself who said "gossiping is a way of caring about people"? (Though maybe he didn't mean this kind of gossip--anyway it's one of life's great pleasures, and I won't hear a word against it.)

Still, if Carol does not in fact have firsthand knowledge, Ted has the right to criticize her for asserting (1). He can't say, "He doesn't," because Bob does; he can't say "You don't know that," because Carol does (from what Alice said). There may be no concise way to express his complaint; closest perhaps is "You led me to believe that you knew yourself." In any case, the fact that Carol knew that (1) was true won't get her off the epistemic hook.

The explanation of how Carol's assertion implicates that she has firsthand knowledge is simple. Alice has just said that Bob sings 'We Suck Young Blood' in the shower, so all participants to the conversation can be assumed to know it. In fact, they have as good reason to believe it as can be got from Alice's testimony. For Carol's assertion not to be completely pointless, she must have something new to add. This will in general be another source of evidence than that provided by Alice's testimony; and that, most plausibly, will be firsthand observation. There are other ways that Carol might be adding to the conversation (she could say, "He does, Alice has often told me so"), but this is the most obvious; and the natural conclusion to draw is that Carol is adding the most obvious thing that she could be adding.

Note that it's perfectly OK for Carol to assert "Bob sings 'We Suck Young Blood' in the shower" to someone who wasn't involved in the conversation with Alice. They can't be presumed to already possess the evidence given by Alice's testimony; so Carol can add something new to this conversation even if she's merely passing along what Alice said.

(This argument parallels my explanation in "Must We Know What We Say?" of why you can't tell someone "Your lottery ticket didn't win" if you haven't heard the results of the drawing. What you assert is most likely true. But if you're basing it merely on the odds against the ticket winning, those are presumably grounds the lottery ticket owner already has. The ticket owner has the right to assume you're adding something new, and the most obvious thing you might be adding is that you've actually heard what the results of the lottery were.

Incidentally, that's the final version of "Must We Mean What We Say?" which I just now posted.)

Here's the example from Howl's Moving Castle:

"Are you sure your Lettie was telling the truth about Howl?" [Sophie] asked anxiously.
"Positive," said Michael. "I know when she's lying. She stops twiddling her thumbs."
"She does too!" said Sophie, chuckling.
"How do you know?" asked Michael in surprise. (p. 68)

Sophie wouldn't be able to get away with saying, "Because you just told me." She's got to have some sort of knowledge that isn't what Michael has already contributed. (But I wouldn't want to put too much weight on this, because I'm not sure what 'too' does in this context; and because I'm not exactly sure what kind of speech act Sophie's utterance is. It seems like assertion, but it doesn't seem like testimony.)

Posted by Matt Weiner at 02:45 PM | Comments (4)

Equal Protection of the Laws

if you're not black. Mark Kleiman has details about a disgusting case from Linden, Texas (from the Chicago Tribune).

Billy Ray Johnson is in a nursing home, and the men who beat him and abandoned him on a fire ant hill are beyond the power of the criminal law now that they've served their 30 or 60 days (unless a federal civil rights case can be brought). But I hope some enterprising trial lawyer figures out a way to make sure that every cent of their future earnings goes to Mr. Johnson.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 12:48 PM | Comments (0)

June 03, 2005


Business Week, the liberal business magazine, has a nice commentary by Patricia O'Connell on whistleblowers in the wake of the revelation that Mark Felt was Deep Throat. There can be complicated issues of personal loyalty here, but overall whistleblowing is heroic and undervalued; and, as O'Connell points out, lonely, difficult, and dangerous. We shouldn't underestimate the pressures to go along with evil and keep quiet about it; we owe a great debt to those who speak out.

The Nixon Administration hacks and GOP hacks who are attacking Felt ought to be ashamed of themselves, if they can remember what shame is.

(I'd like to remind you that Joseph Darby, the Abu Ghraib whistleblower, for at least a time was in protective custody. Bravo to the Kennedy foundation for giving him a Profile in Courage award; the government should recognize him as well.)

Posted by Matt Weiner at 12:10 PM | Comments (0)

June 02, 2005


The FEW was great. Met Gillian Russell, Kenny Easwaran, Jonah Schupbach, and some people who do not blog, saw a lot of great talks, and maybe began to understand a bit of what it feels like to run a marathon--I missed the first two talks and the entire last day, skipped a couple of talks one afternoon to rest (and shop for records), and still saw 21 sesssions and drank a fair amount of beer. For me most of the conference was in the category Brian Skyrms told Gillian about, that there are subjects and tools you might want to investigate them even if you don't understand them yet. But that's what I expected to happen.

I also went to Lubbock, which was hit by at least one of the Biblical plagues while I was there, and arranged to rent what seems like a nice house convenient to campus and near many other members of the philosophy department, who presumably waited till I left town to put their own houses on the market. And now I'm back in Milwaukee. Regular failure to post will resume shortly.

[UPDATE: Changed plague link to something that doesn't require registration, I think.]

Posted by Matt Weiner at 01:57 PM | Comments (0)