07 April 2007
06 April 2007
05 April 2007
Paris - A French auto magazine has caught the cars of leading presidential candidates breaking the speed limit, raising doubts about their credentials as good citizens in the final straight of the race for France's top job.
To me what is so surprising about this story is the willingness of the French press to delve into what might have in the past be considered the "private" lives of French politicians. While that has been common enough in the U.S. over the past few decades, it is as far as I know a much newer trend in France.
I've become enamored with some aspects of the work of Leo Strauss. Not that I am a Straussian - I think a lot of what he had to offer was complete crap. However, one aspect of his thinking that I really buy into - at least for now - is his effort to differentiate between the philosopher and the partisan. Put rather crudely the philosopher is not committed to a particular political group, etc., whereas the partisan is and it seems to me that focusing on current events leads to the latter.
Why do I find any resonance in this distinction? I suppose it is because of my own blogging experiences. Being a partisan shuts out opposing viewpoints, which, even if they are not completely convincing in themselves, are likely as powerful as the views one does ascribe to. Of course I realize that there are certain weakness in the sort of thinking I'm adopting, in fact they are so easy to point out that I won't name them here. I also realize that I do not take this approach across the board - in other words I'm not going to give "equal time" to the claims of intelligent design advocates. Nevertheless, when it comes to a certain set of what one might call "big questions" partisanship seems at best inappropriate.
Out of that grows the general truth that the individual is the sole and best placed judge of his own private concerns and society has the right to control his actions only when it feels such actions cause it damage or needs to seek the cooperation of the individual.
-- Alexis De Tocqueville, Democracy in America, pg. 78, (Penguin: 2003) (trans. Gerald Bevan)
This is really a description of what Tocqueville thought that he found in the U.S. It was not something that he necessarily recommended. Indeed while Tocqueville feared what one might call a Jacobin, centralized state, he also was uncomfortable with the extreme individuation he thought that he had found in America.
04 April 2007
Put in a different way, is it better to have a reformed monarchy or should we dismantle the institutions of a society in order to create them anew? I'll put my cards on the table and state that I am fairly skeptical about the latter of these two options.
Whether a paper this old (it was published in 1973) reflects the current state of psychiatry, etc. I can't say. I do wonder whether a similar experiment produced today would bring about the same result? I think that it is likely that it would. Anyone have any evidence for a conclusion opposite this one?
(Angus Reid Global Monitor) - Nicolas Sarkozy remains the most popular contender in France’s presidential race, according to a poll by Louis-Harris released by RMC. 29 per cent of respondents would support the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP)candidate in this month’s ballot.
For a while there it looked like Bayrou might upset one of the two main contenders (Sarkozy or Royal) but his support in the polls has flagged in recent weeks. Also - as one would expect - the campaigning for the April 22 first round vote has become more intense over that same time period.
Does it matter who wins the Presidential election in France? Perhaps not. Indeed it may be that it doesn't matter who ends up residing at Élysée Palace since no victor will have significant of room for manuevre. Then again no politician is ever completely completely mastered by the historical tides.
03 April 2007
STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Metallica may work as a name for a heavy metal band, but a Swedish couple is struggling to convince authorities it’s also suitable for a baby girl.Apparently the Swedish government has some authority over what one may name a child - at least with regards to their legal name. One has to ask why any population would grant a government agency this sort of authority? I can think of rationales associated with issues like identity theft and the like but they hardly seem to justify this sort of interference in the lives of citizens.
Addendum: Oh and I pulled the title of this post from Shakespeare's Othello:
O thou invisible spirit of wine, if thou hast no name to be known by, let us call thee devil!
That's the question one of the attorneys (Robert A. Levy) involved in Parker v. District of Columbia is asking. Note that if the Supreme Court were to uphold the Circuit's opinion in Parker it could do so on grounds which specifically recognize the individual right to bear arms.
Sounds like that was a fun ride. Still, it is much slower than the trains that have been proposed to cross the Atlantic.
More on the TGV here.
02 April 2007
One of the videos Ken Ham has produced to defend the account of creation in Genesis has been critiqued here.
Of the things I've read of Ken Ham's his "Were You There?" article is probably the piece that has provoked the most thought.
My initial reaction to the article is this. Say I wake up some morning and I look outside and there is snow on the ground. Well, I didn't actually see the snow fall, just as I have never witnessed the billions of years of stellar, biological, etc. evolution, however, I have seen snow fall in the past, just as scientists have witnessed various acts of geological, etc. change since the 19th century. So, why would I assume this particular snowfall was any different in its creation than past snowfalls I've witnessed? This prompts an allied question - why would the way that snow is created long ago be different than that it is today? And of course why would the geological, etc. processes we see today be different in the past?
So yeah, I wasn't there. But the clues that exist in current patterns of change in combination with the historical record (e.g., rock strata, the genome of a particular animal, fossils, etc.) allow us to make powerful and convincing inferences based on that data.
Addendum: In the critique of Ham's video I found the bit about the advent of nylon metabolism to be a major "wow" point. Namely that nylon did not exist prior to 1935 and yet bacteria which eat nylon have come into existance. Sounds like evolution to me.
In the grey olive-grove a small brown bird
Had built her nest and waited for the spring.
But who could tell the happy thought that came.
To lodge beneath my scarlet tunic's fold?
All day long now is the green earth renewed
With the bright sea-wind and the yellow blossoms.
From the cool shade I hear the silver plash.
Of the blown fountain at the garden's end.
Sappho, XV (trans. Bliss Carman)
This is the old fashioned way to render Sappho's work. More recent translations are far less amorphous in tone.