Thursday, March 27, 2008

Is Emo the New Punk?

When did emo become such a threat? There was a time when punks would get beat up for the clothes that they wore - now they are administering the punishment!? In recent weeks, a wave of emo bashings has swept across Mexico, several news agencies have reported, fuelled by punks, rockabillies, goths, metalheads and basically anyone who’s not emo. A link to video footage and the article here.

According to Daniel Hernandez, who’s been covering the anti-emo riots on his blog Intersections, the violence began March 7, when an estimated 800 young people poured into the Mexican city of Queretaro’s main plaza “hunting” for emo kids to pummel. Then the following weekend similar violence occurred in Mexico City at the Glorieta de Insurgents, a central gathering space for emos. Hernandez also reports that several anti-emo riots have now also spread to various other Mexican cities. Via the Austin American Statesmen, several postings on Mexican social-networking sites, primarily organising spot for these “emo hunts,” have been dug up and translated. One states: “I HATE EMOS!!! They are not even people, they are so stupid, they cry over meaningless things… My school is infested with them, I want to kill them all!”

UC Berkeley's Media Resources Center Launches Online Media Database

Want to see James Baldwin debate William F. Buckley? An interview with Angela Davis? A young Stephen Hawking presenting his ideas? An interview with Malcom X? The Watergate Tapes?

Check out UC Berkeley's Media Resource Center:

The Media Resources Center (MRC) is the UC Berkeley Library's primary collection of materials in electronic non-print (audio and visual) formats. These formats include: videocassettes, DVDs; compact audio discs; audiocassettes; and online (streamed) audio and video. The MRC collection is intended to support the broad range of study and research interests on campus. There are particularly strong holdings in humanities and social sciences materials, as well as a broad range of general interest materials in the fields of science and technology.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Terrorist Watch List to Near 1,000,000 Names by Summer 2008

In September 2007, the Inspector General of the Justice Department reported that the Terrorist Screening Center had over 700,000 names in its database as of April 2007 - and that the list was growing by an average of over 20,000 records per month. At that rate, the number of names in the database would exceed 1,000,000 names by the end of July, 2008.

Who gets included in the TSDB?

"Per HSPD-6, only individuals who are known or appropriately suspected to be or have been engaged in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to terrorism are included in the TSDB."

However, some unlikely people have shown up on the ever-growing list of suspects... like several deceased individuals

The ACLU has launched a new watch list counter showing the number of new names supposedly added each day to the list, as well as a number of well-known people who have been put on the list.

At this point you may logically ask yourself, "Can I find out if I am in the TSDB?"


"The TSC cannot reveal whether a particular person is in the TSDB. The TSDB remains an effective tool in the government’s counterterrorism efforts because its contents are not disclosed. If TSC revealed who was in the TSDB, terrorist organizations would be able to circumvent the purpose of the terrorist watchlist by determining in advance which of their members are likely to be questioned or detained."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

TAKE THAT, TORQUEMADA!: An Argument for the Superiority of Judaism over Christianity

Tomás de Torquemada (1420 - 1498) was a fifteenth century Spanish Dominican, first Inquisitor General of Spain, and confessor to Isabella of Spain. He is known for his campaign of persecution against the Jews and Muslims of Spain.

Dr. James J. Pearce, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Illinois Central College, has worked out a logical proof to show that "any way you look at it, it is better to be Jewish than Christian."

1. God is infallible. (Axiom 1, true by most traditional Western definitions of “God.”)

Commentary on Axiom 1: To say that “God is infallible” means that any beliefs held by God are true, and that any decisions or choices made by God are right. Hence, it is not possible for an infallible God to hold a false belief, nor is it possible for any choice or decision made by God to be wrong. Any God who holds false beliefs or makes bad decisions is clearly not an infallible God. It could be objected that God does not have beliefs. But if God is a “living God,” and if God is a “judging God,” then God has something like cognitive states capable of sustaining truth values. For simplicity’s sake, these states shall be referred to as “beliefs.”

2. If an infallible God chooses a belief or a set of beliefs, it is necessary that the choice is right and the beliefs are true. (Corollary of Line 1.)

3. Either Jesus is God or Jesus is not God. (Axiom 2, law of excluded middle.)

Commentary on Axiom 3: This axiom means exactly what it says, and neither entails nor implies any more than it says. Either Jesus is God (as most Christians believe), or Jesus is not God (as most non-Christians believe). Note that Axiom 2 is a formal tautology, and is therefore logically (i.e., necessarily) true.

4. If a person is born of a Jewish mother, that person is Jewish. I.e., the property of “being Jewish” is matrilineal, hence, all people born of Jewish mothers are Jews. (Traditional tenet of Jewish ethnicity.)

5. God chose that Jesus would be born of a Jewish mother. (Matt. 1:20-21; Luke 1:28-33.)

6. In choosing that Jesus would be born of a Jewish mother, God chose that Jesus would be Jewish. (Lines 4, 5.)

7. Suppose that Jesus is God. (Postulate, from line 3.)

8. If Jesus is God, then, in choosing that Jesus would be Jewish, God chose to be Jewish. (Lines 6, 7.)

9. If God is infallible and God chose to be Jewish, then God’s choice is right and God’s beliefs are true. (Lines 1, 2, 8.)

10. If God’s choice (to be Jewish) was right, and God’s (Jewish) beliefs are true, then Judaism is true. (Lines 2, 9.)

Commentary on Axiom 10. This claim cannot be contradicted by asserting that God’s covenant made with the Jews through Abraham is cancelled or nullified by the covenant made with the gentiles through Jesus, because on at least four occasions (Gen. 17: 7-19) God asserts that the Jewish covenant is “everlasting”; if the Jewish covenant is cancelled or nullified for any reason, then God is a liar.

11. If Judaism is true, then any beliefs which contradict the beliefs of Judaism are false. (The Law of Contradiction.)

12. It is better to hold true beliefs than false beliefs, and it is better to hold beliefs which are possibly true than beliefs which are certainly false. (Postulate.)

13. It is better to hold the beliefs of Judaism than to hold any set of beliefs which contradict those of Judaism. (Lines 10, 11, 12.)

14. Christian beliefs frequently contradict Jewish beliefs. (Common knowledge, but consider, e.g., the Jewish rejection of the entire New Testament.)

15. It is better to hold Jewish beliefs than Christian beliefs. (Lines 13, 14.)

16. But, suppose that Jesus is not God. (Postulate, from line 3.)

17. If Jesus is not God, then it does not follow that, in choosing that Jesus would be Jewish, God chose to be Jewish. (Lines 8, 16.)

18. If God him/herself is not Jewish, then God’s infallibility does not entail anything regarding the truth of Judaism. (Lines 1, 2, 17.)

19. If God’s infallibility does not entail the truth of Judaism, then Judaism is possibly but not certainly true. (Lines 17, 18.)

20. Most forms of Christianity affirm the divinity of Jesus. (Common knowledge, but cf. e.g., Mark 9:2-8.)

Commentary on Axiom 20. Forms of Christianity that do not affirm the divinity of Jesus – for example, Unitarian Universalism – are immune to this argument.

21. If Jesus is not God, then most forms of Christianity are certainly false. (Lines 16, 20.)

22. If Jesus is not God, then most forms of Christianity are certainly false, but Judaism is possibly true. (Lines 16-21.)

23. It is better to hold beliefs which are possibly true than beliefs which are certainly false. (Corollary of Line 12.)

24. It is better to hold Jewish beliefs than Christian beliefs. (Lines 22, 23.)

25. If Jesus is God, it is better to be Jewish than Christian. (Lines 7-15.)

26. If Jesus is not God, it is better to be Jewish than Christian. (Lines 16-24.)

27. Any way you look at it, it is better to be Jewish than Christian. (Lines 25, 26. Q.E.D.)

28. Conversion information is available from your local Rabbi.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Tips for the Top: How To Be a Philosopher by Brook Sadler

Technique 1

Begin by making a spurious distinction. Befuddle the reader with your analytic wizardry. The reader will enter a logical trance, from which she will be unable to recall the initial spurious distinction and will feel strangely compelled to accept your conclusions.

Technique 2

Think of a matter of great importance to life. Reduce it unequivocally to three concepts. Enumerate them. Analyze each concept by distinguishing two independent notions in each. Continue with further analysis (preferably speculative) until you have developed a maze of distinctions that bear no resemblance to any topic of any importance to life at all. The use of logical notation at this point will evoke deep feelings of insecurity and uncertainty in the reader - use this to your advantage. Use the word reductio at least once. Conclude by congratulating yourself on having advanced our collective human understanding of a topic of great importance by making it completely unrecognisable as such.

Technique 3 (Advanced)

Sit in front of a computer. Have a thesaurus nearby. Smoke up. Proceed to pronounce on anything that happens to come to mind. Use a tone that is urgent and highfalutin. Avoid the use of punctuation and use periods as infrequently as possible. French and German phrases should appear with regularity. When in doubt, make hasty references to Foucault, Heidegger, or Derrida. Take great pains not to explain what you mean. Abandon all reason.

Technique 4

Single-handedly develop your own jargon. It should include an exceedingly hard-to-follow extended metaphor of dubious relation to the topic under discussion. Persist in using the metaphor to ground your arguments. Stick to it at all costs, even if it seems to run your argument into blatant dead-ends or outrageous contradictions. To give the appearance of profundity, insert paragraph breaks at random. Then number every paragraph. (The reader will simply divine the appropriate relations between paragraphs, sub-paragraphs, and sub-sub-paragraphs.)

Technique 5

Think of a famous example from a twentieth-century philosopher. Think of a pun based on that example. (e.g., What is it like to be a rat? zit? phat?) Use the pun to develop a catchy new example of your own. Explain your example at length. Say nothing of genuine importance. By all means, do not advance philosophical discussion one iota. Conclude with more puns.

Technique 6

Respond to an article or book that you have not read. Be relentless.

Technique 7

Read an enormous mass of empirical data. Cite all of it and conclude that it is right. Overlook statistical ambiguities and incongruities. By all means, do not deign to interpret the data. Continue on like this for as long as you can (it may require stamina). The goal is to bore the reader into submission before the flood of facts. Try not to problematise anything (that only makes it harder).

Technique 8

Do some serious research. Do not rest until you have found a really obscure text. Reject this text. Continue to search until you find something truly obscure and completely unknown. In your first paragraph, state something of interest that you have discovered from reading this obscure text. Go on for many, many pages detailing the seemingly trivial and inconsequential insights of the obscure text. Repeatedly affirm what you said was interesting in the first paragraph, taking care not to expand upon what you said there. Conclude by reminding the reader that the point is so terribly obscure and so minimally interesting that if you had not written about it, no one would have.

Technique 9

Discuss a controversial and extremely interesting topic. Show great skill in handling the complexities of the topic, treating the arguments with care and subtle attention to important details and distinctions. Carefully trace out the implications of the different positions. But (and this is the hard part) refuse to be identified with any of the available philosophical positions. In fact, it is best never to let on that you have an opinion of your own. Always seek to evade the possibility that someone might reference your argument as your actual view. Use the elusive phrase 'One might argue' as often as possible to escape detection as a philosopher who is committed to something ... to anything.

Technique 10

Spend some time - one or two seconds - concocting the most outrageous ethical conundrum possible. It should involve Nazis in some way. For example: What should person B do if confronted by person A, disguised as a Nazi, but not really currently a Nazi, but who used to be a Nazi, and who is threatening to kill B, who does not know whether A is or ever was a Nazi, and who is known as having a penchant for torturing small children, though only Nazi children, just for fun, but who has a special relationship with A's child, who is not a Nazi, but who will enlist in the Nazi party if A harms B in any way or if B lies about his/her penchant for torturing Nazi children? Just when you think that the conundrum is complete, add in the possibility of saving one's wife from a dire predicament, just to throw off the reader's intuitions.

Technique 11

Using a style that is lively and congenial, make a promissory note. Say a bit. Make another promissory note. Say a bit more. Make another promissory note. Say a bit less. (You should be getting tired about now.) Say something - anything at all. Don't worry about relevance - that's overrated. Make a point about something wholly beside the point. Promise to return to the initial topic. Do not fulfill any of the promissory notes. End with a promise to take up another topic in a future paper. (An existent unpublished paper will do at a pinch.)

Technique 12

Set out not to solve any problems. Do this in spades.


Naturally, these techniques are not recommended for amateur use and should not be attempted without the supervision of a full professor. These philosophical techniques are for use only by professional philosophers who have had years of specialised training. The author is not responsible for any non-sequiturs, invalid arguments, fallacies, digressions, existential malaise, mid-life crises, or career changes that may result from the use of these techniques. Anyone who feels chest pain, constriction in the throat, reddening of the face, or clenching of the fists upon reading these techniques should be treated immediately for anautoscopsis (an inability to laugh at oneself), a potentially lethal condition.


by Hanno

What constitutes 'punk rock?' I ask because having seen 'The Filth and the Fury' (great documentary, btw), I was struck by the crowds and the Sex Pistols were in now way stereo typically punk at least prior to Sid Viscous' arrival. No Mohawks. No spikes. No died hair (other than JR's.) No dressing up for the show in any way. Without JR's lyrics, voice and concert style, little in the band is a classic punk sound, and that voice and style are not classic punk either, just sneering and weird. The music is aggressive, rough with a strong rhythm, but not so different than the Stooges or the Ramones. It seems clear that the Pistols may generate the genre, and epitomize the attitude, but were not a part of it. I have a good feel for the sound I would call punk, and the Pistols aint it, oddly enough.

I still find this fact extraordinary: At one concert in 1976, where only 42 people attended, the audience included many who would later form bands including theBuzzcocks, Anthony H. Wilson (founder of Factory Records), Bernard Sumner, Ian Curtis and Peter Hook (Joy Division), Mark E. Smith (The Fall), Adam Ant, Morrissey, and Mick Hucknall (simply Red), Billy Idol, Siouxsie Sioux (of Siouxsie and the Banshees), and members of the Clash. Clearly, the influence is deep.

Should only stereotypical punk bands be called punk? Is it punk if it leaves out the pistols? Is it more of an attitude? A scene? or a true genre?

Australian ecofeminist philosopher Val Plumwood dies

Feminist and environmental activist Val Plumwood, who survived a horrific crocodile attack more than 20 years ago, has died from an apparent snake bite, a friend said Monday. She was 68 years old.

Plumwood wrote “Feminism and the Mastery of Nature” in 1993 and “Environmental Culture: the Ecological Crisis of Reason” in 2002, and had been a leading campaigner against the logging of Australia's native forests and for the preservation of biodiversity since the 1960s.

See the full article here

Monday, March 3, 2008

I Hate Pink Floyd

by Hanno

So said Johnny Rotten's T-shirt as he was asked to join the Sex Pistols, way back in 1975. I hate Pink Floyd. To be sure, the shirt is dated, harking back to a time when Pink Floyd ruled the 'progressive rock' genre, creating the album that would sell more than any other in history, and that genre ruled the more sophisticatedly audiences of rock 'n roll . While that dominance has faded, more than a few young people today still revel in 'Dark Side of the Moon' and 'The Wall,' and more than a few will understand how striking such a statement is. More than an statement of taste, the T-shirt it is deliberately shocking to the world of the mid-70's, offensive, even. The two questions I want to ask are: What is there to hate in Pink Floyd? and Is there virtue in being offensive?

I will address the second one later. What is (was) there to hate in Pink Floyd? Well, first, let us address the obvious. Pink Floyd was a brilliant band, full of excellent creativity and musical talent. Lyrics were thought provoking, sometimes even radical. While being technically advanced, the music was catchy enough to still provoke a groove in the heart of today's 11 year olds, no small task. And like all advanced art, the music repays closer attention. They more you look, the more you find.

But by the mid 70's, Pink Floyd and the other rock stars of the era were towering figures, separated from their audience. They were no longer people like you and me, nor did they live like it. Unapproachable. And you could not really dream of being like them, as their musical talent so far out stripped yours or anyone you know that becoming part of the scene was beyond contemplation. Sure, you could pay 10 bucks (50 today) and see distant ants playing the music, but that would be about as close as you can get.

And behind that is both power and powerlessness. The rock stars have a monopoly on cool, and all you can do is imitate it, and pathetically at that. They choose everything, from how to dress, how to live, how to party... and they rope in by the thousands the sheep which follow, and pay to follow. On the other end of the spectrum are the working class dolts of England in the 70's. Theirs is a world of powerlessness. No money. No education. No future. A culture facing extremely high unemployment, slow or no economic growth, remembering the days of old when England was the center of the world. A culture which looks at its peasant class and dismisses it, giving up on it. And if you realize they are giving up on you, giving up on your future early on, with the crappy education they give you, walking away from your misery, you might get pissed.

And behind that power was the music industry, promoting and dominating culture, too. They didnt care about the music, no, that is part of what makes it an industry. They chose which bands got radio play, which bands became icons, etc. They put the fluff out there, and the good stuff, too. And as much as Pink Floyd poked sarcasm at that world, and even hatred ('have a cigar, you're gonna go far, by the way, which one's Pink?'), they were a part of it, the whole of it, they were it. PF made the industry what it is, and made the industry look for more bands like PF.

But the powerless do have one recourse. When denied power, the powerless seek power any way they can. Johnny Rotten's way was to offend. To use an extremely sharp wit and contempt to shock. He would make you pay attention to him. And if you hate it, good. He already hates those who don't get it, the powerful, the people gave up on him. Being offensive is a power, and he used it. And the people who loved him (is that the right word? Probably not. The people who admired him, the people who were amused by him, the people who understood) were just the same, people who were outcasts, and so had no love of the world order, who were dying to ridicule, even through the clothes they wore, or the hair styles they had, the mores of contemporary society. They are like the people who hate frats, cast out of even the possibility of being in the in crowd, turn on it with glee, and insist, I hate everything about you. True, part of that person might have wanted to be in the in-crowd. Indeed, the pain of being excluded is part of the rage. But now having been excluded from day one, and seeing the kinds of crap the in crowd is in to, one is free to turn on it with a vengeance, mock and destroy.

I think Pink Floyd hated Pink Floyd, too.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

God or Blind Nature? Philosophers Debate the Evidence

A solicitation for questions from Keith Augustine at

Last summer a series of philosophical debates titled "God or Blind
Nature?" was launched on the Secular Web. All four of the exchanges have now been published. Within the broader question of whether naturalism or theism is more likely to be true, eight issues are considered: the nature of the mind and its relationship to the brain; the irreducibility of consciousness and freedom of the will; the extent of apparently needless suffering in the world; whether reliable cognitive faculties could evolve purely by natural selection; whether there is room for anything external to the universe in an explanation of its existence; whether the universe is fine-tuned for life; whether the existence of nonresistant nonbelief entails the nonexistence of a loving God; and whether one ought to accept the existence of God simply because of the worldy benefits to happiness and longevity it purportedly produces.


Contributors include Alvin Plantinga, Quentin Smith, John Schellenberg, Andrew Melnyk, Paul Draper, Stewart Goetz, Charles Taliaferro, Robin Collins, and Jeffrey Jordan.

We are currently soliciting questions to pass on to any of these contributors about the issues they engage in these debates. We would greatly appreciate it if the subscribers to this list would pass this information on to their colleagues, and especially on to their students, as we would like average readers to have a unique opportunity to query these prominent philosophers and, if their questions are selected for publication, have these questions answered:

Since we anticipate publishing Q&A sessions in the Spring or Summer of this year, any assistance in getting a last-chance questions in as soon as possible would be greatly appreciated.