Tuesday, August 31, 2010

When will the GOP make up its mind about Barack Obama?

First, we were told to reject US President Barack Obama's policies as stemming from "socialism" --- such as his desire for health care reform -- and wider extreme leftwing beliefs.

Now we learn that a majority of US Republicans actually believe that Obama wants to impose Sharia Law on the US and abroad(!) (Note: seriously, readers, I wish I were making this up!)

I don't know anyone who thinks that somebody who has sympathies with leftwing politics (and not necessarily socialist politics) would want to impose Sharia Law. So last year Obama is a dangerous socialist and now a majority believe he holds perhaps more extreme conservative views than they do? Bizarre. Of course, it's even more bizarre given Obama's views on any number of social policies....and even more bizarre than that given he is instead a devout Christian.

So what explains why Republican Party members go from one extreme (and ill-informed) view of Barack Obama to the next without any sense of contradiction and completely ill-informed? Well, one reason might be that members want to scaremonger, but I suspect the reason is something worse . . .

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Everyone should use SSRN

Since December 2005, I have posted work up on "SSRN" (the Social Science Research Network). My work can be found here. The SSRN allows you to post your papers for free -- and it allows others to download them for free. You can add or remove papers at any time, as well as organize them by subject (law, philosophy, political science, etc.) or issues (ethics, jurisprudence, criminal law, etc.). Plus, the SSRN is not simply about "social science" despite its name, but also consists of work in the humanities.

The benefits of using SSRN are that it becomes very easy for others to find your work. The SSRN is the most accessed "open source" database around. A related benefit is that because your work will be easier to find (and the database is frequently used) it also becomes easier to get helpful comments on your work: I've received helpful advice on probably every paper I've ever posted on it. (There is a final benefit for navel gazers: the database records how often work is downloaded and notes its rank against all other papers all-time or in the past 12 months, as well as ranking authors. The benefit is knowing anyone really did at least download your essay.)

While I know a great many friends and colleagues are on SSRN, I thought it high time to encourage others to use it as well. It has proved an essential resource for me over the years and I think it could be of tremendous use to readers as well. Enjoy!

The "Tea Party" and racism

. . . from the New York Times here.

Friday, August 27, 2010

What will Republicans believe next?

While there are many who have not fallen for such traps, there remains a substantial number of Republicans adhering to almost bizarre distortions highlighted in "Building a Nation of Know-Nothings" by Tim Egan (found here). An excerpt:

"[. . . ] Remember the moment: a woman with matted hair and a shaky voice rose to express her doubts about Barack Obama. “I have read about him,” she said, “and he’s not — he’s an Arab.”
McCain was quick to knock down the lie. “No, ma’am,” he said, “he’s a decent family man, a citizen.”

That ill-informed woman — her head stuffed with fabrications that could be disproved by a pre-schooler — now makes up a representative third or more of the Republican party. It’s not just that 46 percent of Republicans believe the lie that Obama is a Muslim, or that 27 percent in the party doubt that the president of the United States is a citizen. But fully half of them believe falsely that the big bailout of banks and insurance companies under TARP was enacted by Obama, and not by President Bush.

Take a look at Tuesday night’s box score in the baseball game between New York and Toronto. The Yankees won, 11-5. Now look at the weather summary, showing a high of 71 for New York. The score and temperature are not subject to debate.

Yet a president’s birthday or whether he was even in the White House on the day TARP was passed are apparently open questions. A growing segment of the party poised to take control of Congress has bought into denial of the basic truths of Barack Obama’s life. What’s more, this astonishing level of willful ignorance has come about largely by design, and has been aided by a press afraid to call out the primary architects of the lies. [. . .]

[. . .] A few quick examples of the Limbaugh method:
“Tomorrow is Obama’s birthday — not that we’ve seen any proof of that,” he said on Aug. 3. “They tell us Aug. 4 is the birthday; we haven’t seen any proof of that.”

Of course, there is proof as clear as that baseball box score. Look here, www.factcheck.org, for starters, one of many places posting Obama’s Hawaiian birth certificate.

On the Muslim deception, Limbaugh has sprinkled lie dust all over the place. “Obama says he’s a Christian, but where’s the evidence?” he said on Aug. 19. He has repeatedly called the president “imam Obama,” and said, “I’m just throwing things out there, folks, because people are questioning his Christianity.”

You see how he works. He drops in suggestions, hints, notes that “people are questioning” things. The design is to make Obama un-American. Then he says it’s a tweak, a provocation. He says this as a preemptive way to keep the press from calling him out. [. . .]

[. . .] It would be nice to dismiss the stupid things that Americans believe as harmless, the price of having such a large, messy democracy. Plenty of hate-filled partisans swore that Abraham Lincoln was a Catholic and Franklin Roosevelt was a Jew. So what if one-in-five believe the sun revolves around the earth, or aren’t sure from which country the United States gained its independence?

But false belief in weapons of mass-destruction led the United States to a trillion-dollar war. And trust in rising home value as a truism as reliable as a sunrise was a major contributor to the catastrophic collapse of the economy. At its worst extreme, a culture of misinformation can produce something like Iran, which is run by a Holocaust denier.

It’s one thing to forget the past, with predictable consequences, as the favorite aphorism goes. But what about those who refuse to comprehend the present? [. . .]"

Monday, August 23, 2010

One-third of potential UK university students still without a place

. . . with up to 187,000 students possibly going without an offer to study at university this year. Details here.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Elena Kagan confirmed to become a US Supreme Court Justice

. . . the news can be found here. Let's hope Judge Diane Wood is confirmed for the next vacancy . . .

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Gideon Yaffe wins Berger Prize

The winner of the APA's Berger Prize is Gideon Yaffe for his article "Excusing Mistakes of Law" (found here and published by The Philosophers' Imprint). The Berger Prize is awarded by the APA's Committee on Philosophy and Law and goes to the best article or chapter in the field of legal philosophy over the last two years. As the Committee Chair, I can confirm that we received several strong submissions that led to some discussions between members in determining the winner, although we all agreed that this piece was the worthy winner. Many congrats, Gideon!