Friday, February 25, 2005

Anglican Schism

BBC NEWS | UK | Analysis: Anglican schism nears reality

To Liberal Episcopal Clergy:

OK, jackasses, I bet you didn't expect this 15 or so years ago when you decided that it was time to teach us, the laity, the proper enlightened views about sexuality.

Everything had gone so well in your project to educate us until then. First you shoved that stinking piece of shit, the 1979 Prayer Book, down our throats. Then you pushed through women's ordination (which I enthusiastically supported). You thought you had the routine down pat--it was just a matter of Using Psychology: workshops with relating games and small group sessions, politicking to get the vote through--then a little sympathy and pastoral smarm for the disgruntled, putting out small fires here and there and waiting it out until the we got used to the latest innovation so that you could move on to the next project.

You arrogant, patronizing jerks just never got the idea that you weren't the lettered gentlemen of your parishes and dioceses, the intelligencia surrounded by a lay peasantry. It never even occurred to you that any of us could have principled objections to your views or rationally considered objections to your policies--you were firmly convinced that any dissatisfaction on our part was merely a result of prejudice or irrational resistance to change, which you could overcome through group dynamics techniques, wheedling and manipulation. Surprise!

Of course it won't make a bit of difference if there is some sort of schism in the Anglican Communion. The Episcopal Church will continue on its slow but inexorable decline--no slower or faster than it would otherwise have done--churches will waddle through that stinking shit liturgy every week and the Church Pension Fund will remain solvent so I doubt that you'll be losing any sleep over it.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

My Day Job

Sometimes I take a break from blogging and do philosophy. Currently my big research interest is preference--my agenda is defending a version of preferentism that I've contrived. I hold that a person's well-being is a function of his Sen-Capability of satisfying actual and nearby possible-preferences. I'm developing a little number on this. An agent's capabilty set and his preference set are both fuzzy sets: the extent to which an item is included in either corresponds to the "distance" of the possible worlds at which the agent gets it and wants it respectively where things are gotten and wanted to degrees between 0 and 1. Can get to the highest degree is what I actually get and can want to the highest degree is what I actually want so getting what I actually want, preference satisfaction, maxes out. However, being able to get what I might, but don't actually want, also contributes to my well-being. Every person has a two-dimensional transworld preference-satisfaction profile and his well-being at any world comes from values of that profile at the world in question.

That is the gist of what I'm working out but I won't say any more because it could turn out to be complete garbage. I'm not afraid someone will "steal my ideas." When I worked in publishing wannabe authors were always afraid of this, as if "ideas" were worth anything. They aren't. What matters is the technical details, the engineering--ideas are a dime a dozen.

But why preference for me as the fundamental ethical idea? I suppose because for me the moral universe revolves around being constrained, being chronically frustrated, fighting to get what I wanted and to avoid being forced into places I didn't want to be am I was constrained, accumulating security and bargaining chips to avoid being locked into a situation where I'm constrained, can't get what I want and am forced to do what I don't want. For me it's all about having possibilities, real options: being able to do what I want to do, go where I want to go and not being locked into a confined space, being forced to do drudge work or punch a clock and make the busy work last until it was time to punch out.

I have a visceral aversion to "virtue ethics" and all high-flown notions of the good life. Virtue ethics is fundamenally aristocratic: Athenian gentlemen living on the proceeds of their estates with slaves to do for them never worried about being constrained, getting stuck with drudge work or punching the clock: they could afford to concern themselves with cultivating virtue. What appalling, hypocritical snobbery--the elite cultivating a luxury good that only they could afford and then condemning the masses for not managing it. Deontological ethics aren't much better: when they aren't in the business of exhorting everyone to do the duties of the station to which God has called them they have nothing to say about the viciousness of constraint. Neither of them account for the full horribleness of the lives most people live or the injustice of it. Leave aside the worst cases, the people in the developing world who are sick and starving: in the US if you have the shitty luck to be born female and working class unless you fight for all you're worth you will be trapped for most of your day doing drudge work, punching the clock, being confined, and then you will go home and cook and clean and fall asleep.

Don't give me this crap about virtue or duty, all very well for the privileged few who don't have to worry about accumulating the bargaining chips to be safe from those lives of drudgery and constraint. I fought with all I had to get into a situation where I was safe from having to work at jobs like that and live that kind of life--don't give me that high-falluting crap.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Military Privatization

The New York Times > Washington > Bush Unveils Budget That Favors Security Over Social Spending

WASHINGTON, Feb. 7 - President Bush sent Congress a 2006 budget of just under $2.6 trillion today, laying out a politically ambitious blueprint for slashing many domestic programs while raising spending on the military and homeland security.

It looks like Dubya has gotten it ass-backwards again. The vision is to pump public money into military and security programs while privitizing social spending. Why not vice versa?

We could cut the deficit by privatizing the military and homeland security, freeing up more public money for social programs and so run a welfare state without wimping out on world domination. By cutting taxes that now go to finance the military, citizens would have the resources to raise private armies to promote their agendas. If conservatives are right, private enterprise armies would be cheaper and more efficient than any traditional government run military--and since, on my proposal, state funded social programs would be expanded, they would not need to offer generous education benefits to recruits: higher education would be guaranteed to all qualified applicants so working class students would not need to join the military to get money for college.

In addition, private armies could focus on their freely chosen goals without fudging to sell their agendas to the wider American public. Faith-based groups could send crusaders to convert infidels by the sword; entrepreneurs interested in plunder could raise armies of mercenaries to rape and pillage. Under this scheme we would probably have even more warfare than we currently have and get a bigger bang for the buck.

As for homeland security, we have already gone quite a ways toward privatization already, with gated communities and private security guards. With tax money that would have gone to Homeland Security available to citizens to use as they saw fit, individuals could form vigilante committees, buy high-tech weapons and build fortresses for themselves and their retainers.

It could work. Feudalism, after all, had quite a run. On the current scheme however the majority of the population would not be impoverished serfs but prosperous, productive citizens enjoying the benefits of a welfare state while warlords and their private armies went on foreign adventures with embedded reporters providing TV entertainment for the citizenry at home.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Question Time

American Prospect Online - ViewWeb

The emotional power of the Bush doctrine...almost eclipsed the president's pitch to privatize Social Security. Nothing about the pitch was surprising -- not his claim that the system was “headed toward bankruptcy,” not his dwelling on private accounts rather then the cutbacks in Social Security payments, not his emphasis on previous Democratic proposals to alter the system. What surprised, and delighted, were the cries of “no!” from the Democratic side of the aisle as Bush predicted the system's coming insolvency. For a moment, Congress sounded like Parliament; for a moment, the Democrats sounded like an opposition party.

Back when the matchless Margaret Thatcher was PM we used to watch Question Time regularly. Tony can't, or won't, shout as loudly, and doesn't have what my voice teacher called cut but it's still a good show, with sagging MPs lolling on the green leather benches, rousing themselves to grunt approbation or shout, "hear, hear!"

I wonder why we don't do it that way. It isn't that our politicians put on a show for the benefit of their constituencies--the Brits put on a show too, but one that's intended to appeal to different tastes. So the question is why the difference in tastes? We don't expect politicians to make sense or even to simulate making sense. We expect rhetorical muzak from politicians who are groomed, trained and scripted--and look groomed, trained and scripted. Could a Dubya, or a Schwartzenegger, be elected to high political office in the UK, or India--or Afghanistan?

Maybe we put up with it because of our cynicism about the role of government and the political process. We expect candidates to be appropriately branded and packaged. We expect the standard slogans: we don't pay any attention to them but it would be jarring if they weren't there. We don't seriously believe there are any real differences amongst the various products.

Pray, bretheren, that Democratic politicians have finally figured out that consumer research, focus groups and improved packaging won't boost their market share and that they are prepared to start behaving like like an opposition party.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005


Pure trivial speculation while walking the dog...

How come the primary adjectival forms of (what as a rank amateur I'd guess to be) Anglo-Saxon nouns are Latin--and in addition there are Anglo-Saxon adjectival forms that are colored or metaphorical? The pattern seems systematic for some of the most common nouns: hand-manual-handy; smell-olefactory-smelly.Sometimes one Anglo-Saxon noun picks up more than one highly colored adjective in addition to the primary, colorless Latin adjective: home-domestic-homey, homely, homelike; taste-gustatory-tastey, tasteful.

Maybe it was like this: there was a good, solid homey Anglo-Saxon noun and its corresponding adjective. Over the years the adjectival form picked up color and metaphorical meanings, sometimes even to the point where the original meaning was obliterated. "Homey" didn't just mean pertaining to the home any more and "homely" didn't mean pertaining to the home at all. So those Latin adjectives, like "domestic" got pulled in to fill the gap, to be colorless adjectival forms.

Maybe it went the other way around too. The Latin adjectives, because they were initially unfamiliar, were perceived as colorless. They didn't have the color for native Anglo-Saxon speakers that they would have had for native Latin or French speakers. So when they came into the language, the freed up the original adjectival forms for other jobs.

If I had to invent a language it wouldn't have been English, with minimal grammar and maximal vocabulary, nuance and idiom to compensate for it, unsystematic and impossible to spell. I would have invented Spanish (Is Spanish authentically an "easy language" or is it just easy for native English-speakers and, presumably, speakers of Romance languages?) Good thing English is my mother tongue--I could never have learnt it.