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Showing posts from November 23, 2014

A metaphysical education

When we had our parent-teacher conference last week, I was surprised by the fact that, on the sheet of paper that gives categories for “grading” our child, one of them was: “distinguishes self from others.” Somehow, I had not thought to run into a major philosophy problem when conferencing about whether it is time to wean Adam from his pacifier. And yet there it puzzlingly was. He did not have a mark in the category, which, his teacher explained to us, was because, being the age he was, no mark could be given. We quickly passed on to other categories, but I remained puzzled. I never supposed, I never naively supposed, that education in America also looks to the metaphysical development of the pupil. Surely this is a little early to be imposing a lifelong task, that of distinguishing self from others, that I have never been able to perform to my own satisfaction, always stumbling over fuzzy boundaries and finding that those opinions and ideas that I thought were the self-born product

don't believe the prosecutor: a comparison of Michael Brown's murder with Patricia Cook's

McCullach, the prosecutor in Ferguson, said, in his press conference, that it was almost impossible to convict a police officer with the laws as they are now. This was, of course, the most ragged of excuses to throw over his pantomime performance and he led the grand jury to the conclusion he wanted: no trial for Darren Wilson.  That he wanted not to prosecute Darren Wilson has become glaringly obvious from all we know about grand juries and his behavior at this one: “It looks like he wanted to create the appearance that there had been a public trial when in fact there hadn’t been,” Noah Feldman, who teaches constitutional law at Harvard, said by telephone on Tuesday. The impression that was left, Mr. Feldman added, “was that the prosecutor didn’t want an indictment — and didn’t want to blamed for not getting one.” However, his excuse has been picked up by various liberal commentors, who tell us, more in sorrow than anger, that the grand jury was never going to indict a police of

on ferguson: the culture of impunity for cops

According to the organization that runs the KilledbyPolice facebook page, At least 996 people have been killed by U.S. police since January 1, 2014. At least 1750 have been killed since May 1, 2013. Taking that 1,000 per year total, we have at least 13,000 Americans killed by the police since 2001. According to the US Military, 6,802 troops have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. This means that roughly twice as many Americans have died by cop in the last thirteen years as  have died by the hands of the Taliban or the insurgents in Iraq. Of course, if you throw in the contractors, the number of American deaths is higher – but nobody has really kept tabs on the number of American contractors killed. Even if it is as high as 6,000, we are still talking about a situation in which more Americans are killed by cop than by America’s enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan. The KilledbyPolice organization operates by counting up stories about police-caused death that appear in the media. It depends

income inequality and the politics of raising taxes

I am ultra sympathetic to the liberal position that we can do something about inequality by raising taxes on the highest tax bracket, but ultimately, I think that it is a huge economic and political mistake to identify the entire inequality issue with the tax issue. I think, in particular, that this obscures and allows many of the structural changes that have accompanied the rise in inequality – and that, if not causing it, have provided the supportive context in which it happened. The 2008-2009 period is frustrating for a number of reasons, one of which was that the solution to the Great Recession in the US and elsewhere was, at best, a mitigated form of Keynesian demand management. It was not the spark to kick off the examination of the fundamental changes that occurred in the 70s and 80s that made the financial sector both immeasurably bigger and immeasurably more important to the “productive” parts of the economy.  That examination would mean redoing or undoing all the "refor