larvatus: (rock)
As of today, citizens of California no longer need any more of an excuse to be licensed to carry a gun than to be licensed to drive a car.

Plaintiffs in Richards v. Prieto had argued that Yolo County’s Sheriff’s policy, in light of the California regulatory regime as a whole, abridges the Second Amendment right to bear arms because its definition of “good cause” prevents a responsible, law-abiding citizen from carrying a handgun in public for the lawful purpose of self-defense. Yolo County’s policy provided that “self protection and protection of family (without credible threats of violence)” are “invalid reasons” for requesting a concealed handgun carry permit. The district court concluded that Yolo County’s policy did not infringe Richards’ Second Amendment rights and denied Richard’s motion for summary judgment while granting the MSJ of Sheriff Ed Prieto. Today, Justice Diarmid O'Scannlain reversed and remanded this ruling on behalf of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Thus the court granted the plaintiffs’s demands:
  1. Declaratory relief that the “good moral character” and “good cause” provisions of California Penal Code § 12050 are unconstitutional either on their face and/or as applied to bar applicants who are otherwise legally qualified to possess firearms and who assert self-defense as their “good cause” for seeking a handgun carry permit; and
  2. An order permanently enjoining Defendants, their officers, agents, servants, employees, and all persons in active concert or anticipation with them who receive actual notice of the injunction, from enforcing the “good moral character” and “good cause” requirements of California Penal Code § 12050 against handgun carry permit applicants who seek the permit for self-defense and are otherwise qualified to obtain a handgun carry permit under that section.
It’s all over for hoplophobes, but for the shouting.
larvatus: (rock)
“A man is known by the company he keeps, and also by the company from which he is kept out.”
—Grover Cleveland

Following in the footsteps of his daughterfucking partner Min Zhu, Subrah Iyar credits his daughters Leena and Nikhita with inspiring his current business venture. Five years ago, Iyar vowed not to waste any time getting to know his daughters better now that his workflow has leveled off. Which brings us to the question: How much “better” did Subrah get to know his daughters before pumping up his workflow? We shall surely find out the next time I pay him a visit.


Dig the now avatar of Ganesha. Because daughterfuckers are known by the company they keep, and also by the company from which they are kept out.

On 2 May 2005 I banished Min Zhu from his company and my country. Start packing, Iyar.
larvatus: (MZ)
Das Ziel des Rechts ist der Friede, das Mittel dazu der Kampf. So lange das Recht sich auf den Angriff von Seiten des Unrechts gefasst halten muss–und dies wird dauern, so lange die Welt steht–wird ihm der Kampf nicht erspart bleiben. Das Leben des Rechts ist Kampf, ein Kampf der Völker–der Staatsgewalt–der Stände–der Individuen.
    Alles Recht in der Welt ist erstritten worden, jeder wichtige Rechtssatz hat erst denen, die sich ihm widersetzten, abgerungen werden müssen, und jedes Recht, sowohl das Recht eines Volkes wie das eines Einzelnen, setzt die stetige Bereitschaft zu seiner Behauptung voraus. Das Recht ist nicht blosser Gedanke, sondern lebendige Kraft. Darum führt die Gerechtigkeit, die in der einen Hand die Wagschale hält, mit der sie das Recht abwägt, in der andern das Schwert, mit dem sie es behauptet. Das Schwert ohne die Wage ist die nackte Gewalt, die Wage ohne das Schwert die Ohnmacht des Rechts. Beide gehören zusammen, und ein vollkommener Rechtszustand herrscht nur da, wo die Kraft, mit der die Gerechtigkeit das Schwert führt, der Geschicklichkeit gleichkommt, mit der sie die Wage handhabt.
    Recht ist unausgesetzte Arbeit und zwar nicht etwa bloss der Staatsgewalt, sondern des ganzen Volkes. Das gesammte Leben des Rechts, mit einem Blicke überschaut, vergegenwärtigt uns dasselbe Schauspiel rastlosen Ringens und Arbeitens einer ganzen Nation, das ihre Thätigkeit auf dem Gebiete der ökonomischen und geistigen Produktion gewährt. Jeder Einzelne, der in die Lage kommt, sein Recht behaupten zu müssen, übernimmt an dieser nationalen Arbeit seinen Antheil, trägt sein Scherflein bei zur Verwirklichung der Rechtsidee auf Erden.
    Freilich nicht an Alle tritt diese Anforderung gleichmässig heran. Unangefochten und ohne Anstoss verläuft das Leben von Tausenden von Individuen in den geregelten Bahnen des Rechts, und würden wir ihnen sagen: Das Recht ist Kampf – sie würden uns nicht verstehen, denn sie kennen dasselbe nur als Zustand des Friedens und der Ordnung. Und vom Standpunkt ihrer eigenen Erfahrung haben sie vollkommen Recht, ganz so wie der reiche Erbe, dem mühelos die Frucht fremder Arbeit in den Schoos gefallen ist, wenn er den Satz: Eigenthum ist Arbeit, in Abrede stellt. Die Täuschung Beider hat ihren Grund darin, dass die zwei Seiten, welche sowohl das Eigenthum wie das Recht in sich schliessen, subjectiv in der Weise auseinanderfallen können, dass dem Einen der Genuss und der Friede, dem Andern die Arbeit und der Kampf zu Theil wird.
    Das Eigenthum wie das Recht ist eben ein Januskopf mit einem Doppelantlitz; Einigen kehrt er bloss die eine Seite, Andern bloss die andere Seite zu, daher die völlige Verschiedenheit des Bildes, das beide von ihm empfangen. In Bezug auf das Recht gilt dies wie von einzelnen Individuen, so auch von ganzen Zeitaltern. Das Leben des einen ist Krieg, das Leben des andern Friede, und die Völker sind durch diese Verschiedenheit der subjectiven Vertheilung beider ganz derselben Täuschung ausgesetzt, wie die Individuen. Eine lange Periode des Friedens – und der Glaube an den ewigen Frieden steht in üppigster Blüthe, bis der erste Kanonenschuss den schönen Traum verscheucht, und an die Stelle eines Geschlechts, das mühelos den Frieden genossen hat, ein anderes tritt, welches sich ihn durch die harte Arbeit des Krieges erst wieder verdienen muss. So vertheilt sich beim Eigenthum wie beim Recht Arbeit und Genuss, aber für den Einen, der geniesst und im Frieden dahinlebt, hat ein Anderer arbeiten und kämpfen müssen. Der Frieden ohne Kampf, der Genuss ohne Arbeit gehören der Zeit des Paradieses an, die Geschichte kennt beide nur als Resultate unablässiger, mühseliger Anstrengung.
    Diesen Gedanken, dass der Kampf die Arbeit des Rechts ist und in Bezug auf seine praktische Nothwendigkeit sowohl wie seine ethische Würdigung auf dieselbe Linie mit der Arbeit beim Eigenthum zu stellen ist, gedenke ich im Folgenden weiter auszuführen. Ich glaube damit kein überflüssiges Werk zu thun, im Gegentheil eine Unterlassungssünde gut zu machen, die sich unsere Theorie (ich meine nicht bloss die Rechtsphilosophie, sondern auch die positive Jurisprudenz) hat zu Schulden kommen lassen. Man merkt es unserer Theorie nur zu deutlich an, dass sie sich mehr mit der Wage als mit dem Schwert der Gerechtigkeit zu beschäftigen hat; die Einseitigkeit des rein wissenschaftlichen Standpunktes, von dem aus sie das Recht betrachtet, und der sich kurz dahin zusammenfassen lässt, dass er ihr das Recht weniger von seiner realistischen Seite als Machtbegriff, als vielmehr von seiner logischen Seite als System abstracter Rechtssätze vor Augen führt, hat meines Erachtens ihre ganze Auffassung vom Recht in einer Weise beeinflusst, wie sie zu der rauhen Wirklichkeit des Rechts gar wenig stimmt – ein Vorwurf, für den der Verlauf meiner Darstellung es an Belegen nicht fehlen lassen wird.
    –Rudolph von Jhering, Der Kampf um's Recht, 1884
The end of the law is peace. The means to that end is war. So long as the law is compelled to hold itself in readiness to resist the attacks of wrong—and this it will be compelled to do until the end of time—it cannot dispense with war. The life of the law is a struggle,—a struggle of nations, of the state power, of classes, of individuals.
    All the law in the world has been obtained by strife. Every principle of law which obtains had first to be wrung by force from those who denied it; and every legal right—the legal rights of a whole nation as well as those of individuals—supposes a continual readiness to assert it and defend it. The law is not mere theory, but living force. And hence it is that Justice which, in one hand, holds the scales, in which she weighs the right, carries in the other the sword with which she executes it. The sword without the scales is brute force, the scales without the sword is the impotence of law. The scales and the sword belong together, and the state of the law is perfect only where the power with which Justice carries the sword is equalled by the skill with which she holds the scales.
    Law is an uninterrupted labor, and not of the state power only, but of the entire people. The entire life of the law, embraced in one glance, presents us with the same spectacle of restless striving and working of a whole nation, afforded by its activity in the domain of economic and intellectual production. Every individual placed in a position in which he is compelled to defend his legal rights, takes part in this work of the nation, and contributes his mite towards the realization of the idea of law on earth.
    Doubtless, this duty is not incumbent on all to the same extent. Undisturbed by strife and without offense, the life of thousands of individuals passes away, within the limits imposed by the law to human action; and if we were to tell them: The law is a warfare, they would not understand us, for they know it only as a condition of peace and of order. And from the point of view of their own experience they are entirely right, just as is the rich heir into whose lap the fruit of the labor of others has fallen, without any toil to him, when he questions the principle: property is labor. The cause of the illusion of both is that the two sides of the ideas of property and of law may be subjectively separated from each other in such a manner that enjoyment and peace become the part of one, and labor and strife of the other. If we were to address ourselves to the latter, he would give us an entirely opposite answer.
    And, indeed, property, like the law, is a Janus-head with a double face. To some it turns only one side, to others only the other; and hence the difference of the picture of it obtained by the two. This, in relation to the law, applies to whole generations as well as to single individuals. The life of one generation is war, of another peace; and nations, in consequence of this difference of subjective division, are subject to the same illusion precisely as individuals. A long period of peace, and, as a consequence thereof, faith in eternal peace, is richly enjoyed, until the first gun dispels the pleasant dream, and another generation takes the place of the one which had enjoyed peace without having had to toil for it, another generation which is forced to earn it again by the hard work of war. Thus in property and law do we find labor and enjoyment distributed. But the fact that they belong together does not suffer any prejudice in consequence. One person has been obliged to battle and to labor for another who enjoys and lives in peace. Peace without strife, and enjoyment without work, belong to the days of Paradise. History knows both only as the result of painful, uninterrupted effort.
    That, to struggle, is, in the domain of law, what to labor, is, in that of economy, and, that, in what concerns its practical necessity as well as its moral value, that struggle is to be placed on an equal footing with labor in the case of property, is the idea which I propose to develop further below. I think that in so doing I shall be performing no work of supererogation, but, on the contrary, that I shall be making amends for a sin of omission which may rightly be laid at the door of our theory of law; and not simply at the door of our philosophy of law, but of our positive jurisprudence also. Our theory of law, it is only too easy to perceive, is busied much more with the scales than with the sword of Justice. The one-sidedness of the purely scientific standpoint from which it considers the law, looking at it not so much as it really is, as an idea of force, but as it is logically, a system of abstract legal principles, has, in my opinion, impressed on its whole way of viewing the law, a character not in harmony with the bitter reality. This I intend to prove.
    –Rudolph von Jhering, The Struggle for Law, translated by John J. Lalor, 1915
larvatus: (rock)

—for Carlo Ginzburg

1.

In his comparison of poetry to history, Aristotle points out that their difference is not one between verse and prose. After all, the writings of Herodotus would be a species of history with meter no less than without it. The real difference that distinguishes them is between telling what might be and what has been. Notoriously, the Stagirite takes this distinction for the reason why poetry is more scientific [philosophôteron] and more serious [spoudaioteron] than history. For poetry tells of general truths, which is the sort of thing that a certain type of man will do or say either probably or necessarily [to eikos ê to anankaion]. By contrast, history tells of particular facts such as what Alcibiades did or suffered [epraxen ê ti epathen].[i]

Yet as Aristotle inaugurates philosophy with his account of general truths pertaining to the words and deeds of a certain type of man, his teacher Plato by these lights counts for no less of a poet without meter, than he might have appeared with it. Let us bear in mind Aristotle’s contrast in the following exploration of two poetic archetypes, Socrates and Gorgias, in their dramatic debate about the virtues of rhetoric. Their wrangle recorded in Plato’s Gorgias, and the techniques of Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, will ground this inquiry into the relation of rhetoric to reason.

2.

Myles Burnyeat summarized his account of Aristotle on the rationality of rhetoric in the form of question and answer: “We would like to know under what conditions it is appropriate for a speaker to advance, and for the audience to accept, a sign argument that is deductively invalid? The only answer we get from the Rhetoric is: when it is convincing.”[ii] For Socrates, this answer will not do. Nothing short of certainty will satisfy him. He engages in arguments by alternating between the roles of the speaker and his audience. He aims to reveal hitherto unrecognized errors to his interlocutors, by guiding them to infer contradictions from their theses or to deduce their antitheses. He has no use for conviction unwarranted by indisputable demonstration. In Socratic dialectic, only valid arguments are worth being advanced and accepted, and their advancement and acceptance are warranted only in the pursuit of just ends. Socrates conveys his dialectic reasoning through a technique of maieutics, his service to his interlocutors’ ideas being a counterpart to a midwife assisting childbirth. He coaxes conscious understanding from latent ideas in the course of a dialogue conducted as a series of pointed questions and brief answers. The progress of this dialogue depends on achieving unshakeable consensus on each successive point. This elenctic protocol allows discovery through reconciling or choosing between competing viewpoints. By following it, Socrates aims to achieve mutual understanding through stepwise accrual of agreement. In the ideal case, a mathematical proof ensures absolute certainty.[iii]

In his historical conduct, Gorgias the sophist neither restricted his means of persuasion to demonstrative, geometric reasoning, nor imposed moral constraints on its aims.[iv] Although in his Apology, Plato has Socrates name Gorgias of Leontini alongside Prodicus of Ceos and Hippias of Eos as sophists, or commercial purveyors of wisdom, the eponymous character in Gorgias modestly identifies himself as a rhetorician, in setting out to praise the role of rhetoric in society.[v] Associating his trade with liberty and power in a democracy, he defines rhetoric as an art of speeches [logoi] that aim to produce persuasion regarding the just and unjust.[vi] Rhetorical speeches are about the greatest and the best human affairs, which is the cause of freedom for men and the basis of rule over others in their city. They are equally fit to persuade judges in a law court, senators in the Council chamber, assemblymen in the Assembly, and the multitude in common political gatherings.[vii]

In fact, rhetorical ability counted for a great deal in the functioning of Athenian democracy. Most men active in politics sought training, and vied for recognition, as orators. In the best public venues, rhetoric was recognized as the discipline most suited for directing human affairs.[viii] But high demand inspired suspicion. By stressing the nature of rhetoric as an instrument of persuasion, Gorgias lays himself open to the charge that rhetoric aims at belief without knowledge. His examples of Themistocles and Pericles aggravate this weakness. The Long Walls were built to link Athens securely to its harbors at Piraeus and Phalerum. The passage they secured ensured that the city could not be encircled by an invading army and besieged by land alone. After the Persian Wars reduced them to rubble, Sparta pressed Athens to stop rebuilding her walls, lest they create a base for another Persian invasion. But advocacy by Themistocles and Pericles eventually caused their reconstruction.[ix] These politicians employed their rhetorical powers to advise Athenians on building their walls; yet they were neither architects nor stonemasons.[x] Thus Socrates turns Gorgias’ example against its maker, who had disclaimed orators’ need to know how things really stand with things themselves, requiring them only to discover some trick of persuasion, so as to appear to the unknowing to know more than those who know.[xi] Rebutting this claim, Socrates suggests that in employing their rhetorical powers, these politicians aimed only at accommodating people’s appetites [epithumiai]. He neglects to point out that in promoting public works, Themistocles had to argue against distributing their budget among the people. Nonetheless, he succeeds in establishing that in the long term Pericles was impelled by agenda to ratify and satisfy the desires of his constituents rather than guide them towards moral improvement.[xii]

In regard of this moral concern, Gorgias volunteers a critical concession, that rhetoric should not be used indiscriminately against any target, any more so than the fighting arts should be used against friend and foe alike.[xiii] Nevertheless, he goes on to claim that his universal art allows him to surpass experts in their disciplines, that he can persuade the average man to take a stand in any area of knowledge, and that he can do all that without having to learn anything of particular substance.[xiv] Arguing against this thesis, Socrates compels the rhetorician to concede that he both knows the nature of the good and bad, the fine and the shameful, the just and unjust, and places himself in the right regarding each moral distinciton.[xv] At this point Gorgias has committed himself to a fatal contradiction. His admissions imply that the rhetorician must know and respect all moral qualities, while falling short of the capacity to teach them to his students. He shares the philosopher’s knowledge, but not his ability to communicate it. The historical Gorgias was credited with proving three remarkable propositions: that nothing exists; that even if it does exist, it is incomprehensible to man; and that, even if it is comprehensible to anyone, it is not communicable to anyone else.[xvi] A sophist of this caliber would not have been embarrassed by having to profess non-communicable knowledge. But the dignified rhetorician respectfully portrayed within Plato’s dialogue concedes the game for want of sophistical shamelessness, entitling Socrates to conclude that the rhetorician is a manufacturer of groundless belief, and condemn oratory as no art [technê], but a mere knack, a species of flattery altogether lacking in dignity.[xvii]

3.

Unlike the characters of Plato’s dialogue, Aristotle identifies the technical nature of his subject matter in the Rhetoric as the counterpart of dialectic. The Aristotelian speaker advances his argument through a process of proof. He presents considerations regarding his subject, drawing upon all available premisses to reach the desired conclusion, whilst anticipating the objections of his audience. He strives to compel his audience into accepting a convincing argument to bear on its future decisions. Although rhetoric and dialectic both deal with matters that concern all human understanding, they differ in their means of demonstration. A rhetorical argument proceeds from received opinions [endoxa], leaving plenty of wiggle room for filling the gaps in their demonstration. In contrast to rhetoricians, dialecticians’ reasoning proceeds from premisses accepted by their respondents via arguments that their respondents recognize as logically valid. Socratic arguments require reasoned discussion with no room for objection. But whereas the dialectic technique of maieutics only allows a proceeding after a consensus is made, each rhetorical debate remains open to challenge at every step, ruling out conclusive arguments in perpetuity.

Aristotle blames his predecessors for saying nothing about enthymemes that belong to the body of proof, but chiefly devoting their attention to matters outside the subject; for the arousing of prejudice, compassion, anger, and similar emotions having no connexion with the matter in hand, but directed only to the dicast charged with deciding their case. Thus in his account of rhetoric Aristotle avoids both the Gorgian praise and the Socratic condemnation. Though his technique aims to convince through the motion of affects, proofs comprise its only aspect that comes within the province of art, everything else being merely an accessory. Enthymemes are the body of proof.[xviii] Accordingly, in order to understand the nature of proof, we must pin down the nature of enthymemes.

An enthymeme is a sort of argument [sullogismos tis] used in a rhetorical speech.[xix] Its material is derived from four sources, likelihood [eikos], example [paradeigma], necessary sign [tekmêrion], and sign [sêmeion]. Only enthymemes based on necessary signs [tekmêria], can lead to conclusions that are beyond refutation.[xx] But in the general case, these is no need to preempt the possibility of refutation. The rhetorician aims instead to establish his case to the best of his ability, proving it to the satisfaction of an audience [pistis].[xxi] Thus, besides enthymemes, amplifications and examples are admissible techniques for proof:

Speaking generally, of the topics common to all rhetorical arguments, amplification is most suitable for epideictic speakers, whose subject is actions which are not disputed, so that all that remains to be done is to attribute beauty and importance to them. Examples are most suitable for deliberative speakers, for it is by examination of the past that we divine and judge the future. Enthymemes are most suitable for forensic speakers, because the past, by reason of its obscurity, above all lends itself to investigation of causes and to demonstrative proof.[xxii]

It is clear that the aim of Aristotelian rhetoric far exceeds the exiguous means of geometrical demonstration. Thus hyperbole has a place in declamations that take bare facts as undisputed. Likewise, examples that support the contested proposition inductively can be taken as the basis for sustaining it as a probable generalization from particular instances. In practice, such proof succeeds whenever it can sway the audience into making its decisions on the most probable ground. But probability will vary depending on the circumstances. And in cases that fall short of certainty, the rhetorician can only hope and pray that his audience includes no rational detectors of error capable of deriving a contradiction from his thesis or formulating the proof of its antithesis.

By Aristotle’s lights, Socrates’ reasoning in his debate with Gorgias may be faulted for a gratuitous dichotomy, an unwarranted division of a whole into two mutually exclusive parts. Socrates presents to Gorgias with two mutually exclusive choices, implicitly ruling out any unstated alternatives. On the one side stand philosophers and physicians, teachers and artisans. On the other side congregate flatterers and suckers, demagogical politicians and ignorant multitudes. As Socrates claims his place among the former honest and forthright folk, he classifies Gorgias among the latter ilk, purveyors and consumers of baseless belief and unsound fodder. However, must every politician only aim towards gratifying his constituents? Surely Themistocles and Pericles did not have to instruct Athenians in the art of masonry in order to convince them of the importance of building the wall. Their proposals legitimately relied on division of labor that ensured full participation of builders in public debates. Freed thereby from technical concerns, the politicians were right to focus on ensuring security for their constituents. Likewise, as an expert in persuasion, Gorgias should have been able to team up with experts in any discipline related to its subject matter in any particular instance. But even in his modest purview of Plato’s dialogue, the rhetorician is not modest enough to disclaim self-sufficiency. This failure needlessly foredooms his confrontation with the philosopher.

4.

Within the historical perspective, Aristotelian criticism on Socrates and Gorgias finds a basis in Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War. Paul Shorey aptly characterized Thucydides as “a hard-headed […] rationalist who was contemptuous of all teleological and providential interpretations of history and explained everything by natural causes and unchanging human nature—the psychology, motives, and the conflicting interests of men.”[xxiii] Tradition contrasts this portrayal of Thucydides with the received image of Herodotus via a backhanded compliment. Herodotus, simultaneously anointed as the father of history and disparaged as the father of lies, lays himself open to criticism as a casual entertainer, if not outright denunciation as an irresponsible fantasist.[xxiv] Whereas the paternity of scientific history allotted to Thycydides in recognition of his analytical rigor, contains in its technical qualification the gloomy image of a mechanistic skeleton propelled by spasms of cynicism through a morass of tedium. Nonetheless, it would be wrong to withhold credit for Thucydides anticipating the Aristotelian treatment of proof, albeit in a way that conflated probable proof [sêmeion] with necessary proof [tekmêrion].[xxv] This conflation addressed his concern and indicated the way he sought to resolve:

For though the events of remote antiquity, and even those that more immediately precede the war, could not from lapse of time be clearly ascertained, yet the evidences which an inquiry carried as far back as was practicable leads me to trust, all point to the conclusion that there was nothing on a great scale, either in war or in other matters.[xxvi]

Even when the historical facts are obscured by the passage of time, available evidence is the key to inferring their contours. However, in composing his account, Thucydides structures all particular evidence in accordance with the dictates of general principle. Thus the rhetorical arguments in the speeches that Thucydides incorporated in his account of the Peloponnesian war anticipate Aristotle’s idea of rhetorical proof, in being based on the most reputable signs and connecting with the concerns of its audience. Although the composition of each speech is grounded in specific evidence from each individual event, its first allegiance is to the intrinsic logic of their makers’ circumstances:

With reference to the speeches in this history, some were delivered before the war began, others while it was going on; some I heard myself, others I got from various quarters; it was in all cases difficult to carry them word for word in one’s memory, so my habit has been to make the speakers say what was in my opinion demanded of them by the various occasions, of course adhering as closely as possible to the general sense of what they really said.[xxvii]
Thucydides amassed and dispensed historical knowledge not for its own sake, but as a conduit to understanding. Far from resting content in accounts of particular facts such as what men did or what was done to them, he aimed to uncover and convey general truths about human action. Beyond establishing the patterns of masses in turmoil and plots of demagogues clinging to power, his history aimed at dissecting the nature of social upheavals and unmasking demagoguery, indeed at penetrating political power itself. In accounting for moral and political issues, his main device was the speech. The purpose of the ensuing historical writing is to guide its readers toward an understanding of actions and events as determined by the energies that impel human agents and forces that constrain them. Its allegiance to conclusions borne out by factual evidence checked this speculative urge. Thus Thucydides would punctuate factually grounded interpretation, rendered more plausible by his impersonal tone, with spells of invention that attributed discourses to his characters.[xxviii]

The Mytilene debate in Book III is an example of proof presented through the twin means of impersonal narrative and revealing speeches, which are equally embedded into their context.[xxix] The debate takes place on the day following the order for total extermination of the Mytilene men and enslavement of their women and children, agreed upon by the Athenian assembly and dispatched to Mytilene. Thucydides introduces it by noting repentance and reflection on the cruelty of a decree that condemned a whole city to the fate merited only by the guilty, which caused a second assembly to be summoned.[xxx] Both of the following speeches present their makers’ arguments with proofs that illustrate possible consequences and anticipate the audience’ thoughts so as to guide it towards a decision. Cleon argues for executing the original order. He intends this extreme course of action to seal the Athenian victory and forestall future conflicts by deterring other cities from revolt. Mytilene should not have had a chance to build up their arrogance for attack. The right response to their revolt must deter all remaining allies from breaking faith with Athens. Athenians should not let themselves be swayed by clever speeches or large bribes. The penalty for rebellion is death[xxxi] In his response, Diodotus argues from the opposite position, advocating execution only for the leaders of the rebels. He disclaims any motive in regard to the Mytilenians, besides the reasons of state: “Though I prove them ever so guilty, I shall not, therefore, advise their death, unless it be expedient; nor though they should have claims to indulgence, shall I recommend it, unless it be clearly for the good of the country.”[xxxii] He stresses that the discussion should concern the present rather than the future. Athenians should think how Mytilene could be most useful to their polis. Their death would not deter others from breaking laws. On the contrary, it would inspire any future rebels to rule out surrender and fight to the death. A harsh penalty would increase future losses. In dealing with free people, Athens should favor timely prevention over belated punishment, taking tremendous care of them to forestall the mere idea of their revolt.[xxxiii]

Both discourses urge their audience to resist emotions that might sway their rational judgment. Cleon speaks of Mytilenians who had forfeited their right to be pitied by the Athenians in virtue of having rebelled against them. Men should extend their sympathy to friends, not to enemies. He warns the audience against falling prey to their own pleasure in considering the opposite view. Diodotus opens his response by identifying “the two things most opposed to good counsel [as] haste and passion; haste usually goes hand in hand with folly, passion with coarseness and narrowness of mind.”[xxxiv] Thus he responds to the bias towards anger at the Mytilenes’ revolt that would incline his audience to agree with the policy of total extermination and enslavement. Diodotus directs his audience toward their interests in the situation. In this regard, Thucydides’ construction of proof anticipates the rhetoric of Aristotle. His speakers appear to forgo emotional appeals to their audience, concentrating instead on their interests. In the terms of Aristotle’s contrast in the Poetics, they argue as poets, not as historians. But surely this title belongs to the author, in his capacity of the puppetmaster of his characters.

5.

Thus historical arguments depend on uncertainty of actions and events, involving probability as a necessary quality in proof and leaving room for doubt in all future discussions. But there remains a Socratic tradition that seeks geometrical certainty in all matters. Between 1274 and 1305, Ramón Llull envisioned his Ars Magna as a system of mechanical means capable of drawing upon the totality of concepts so as to exhaust all combinatorial alternatives of their logical aggregation. Three and a half centuries later, in the first part of his 1655 treatise De Corpore, entitled “Computatio sive Logica” and intended as an introduction to his entire philosophical system, Thomas Hobbes speculated that the first truths “were arbitrarily made by those that first of all imposed Names upon Things, or received them from the imposition of others.” By this conventionalist approach to the necessary truths of mathematics, Hobbes distinguished Euclid’s axioms from the laws of physics, which are not made by arbitrary definitions. But even as he placed himself outside of its Platonist purview, Hobbes continued the project of Llull by treating human thought as reducible to the manipulation of signs, as a species of calculation.

In 1666, inspired by the analysis of Hobbes, 19-year old Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz wrote his Dissertatio de Arte Combinatoria, envisioning the characteristica universalis, a method for precise resolution of all human disagreements. He speculated elsewhere that if we had it, we should be able to reason in metaphysics and morals in much the same way as in Geometry and Analysis, because the Symbols would clarify our thoughts that are too vague and too flighty in these matters, where imagination does not help us, if it would not do so through symbols:

Quo facto, quando orientur controversiae, non magis disputatione opus erit inter duos philosophos, quam inter duos Computistas. Sufficiet enim calamos in manus sumere sedereque ad abacos, et sibi mutuo (accito si placet amico) dicere: calculemus.
If controversies were to arise, there would be no more need of disputation between two philosophers than between two accountants. For it would suffice to take their pencils in their hands, and say to each other (with a friend as witness, if they liked): Let us calculate.
Leibniz had no illusions about philosophical reasoning attaining the cogency of mathematical demonstration. There are no Euclidists and Archimedians in mathematics, as there are Aristotelians and Platonists in philosophy. Philosophers lack recourse to mathematical means of discovering possible mistakes. To that end, they require symbols and rules to formalize their thought and make it fit subject for calculation. The outcome of this procedure would endure in perpetuity, just as a mathematical truth, once understood, is never rejected.

Nonetheless, Leibniz acknowledged the limitations of his characteristica universalis. Its means could never suffice for deducing an individual statement like “Caesar was murdered on the ides of March”, because any such statement involves an infinity of causes and each of its constituent individual notions like Caesar comprises an infinity of elements. Nearly twenty years after inaugurating his program, Leibniz became even more skeptical about its prospects, observing that there are people who even reject indisputable arguments.[xxxv]

Leibniz’s empiricist foil John Locke approached the relationship between geometric demonstration and forensic persuasion from the opposite perspective:

As Demonstration is the shewing the Agreement, or Disagreement of two Ideas, by the intervention of one or more Proofs, which have a constant, immutable, and visible connexion one with another: so Probability is nothing but the appearance of such an Agreement, or Disagreement, by the intervention of Proofs, whose connexion is not constant and immutable, or at least is not perceived to be so, but is, or appears for the most part to be so, and is enough to induce the Mind to judge the Proposition to be true, or false, rather than the contrary. For example: In the demonstration of it, a Man perceives the certain, immutable connexion there is of Equality, between the three Angles of a Triangle, and those intermediate ones, which are made use of to shew their Equality to two right ones: and so, by an intuitive Knowledge of the Agreement, or Disagreement of the intermediate Ideas in each step of the progress, the whole Series is continued with an evidence, which clearly shews the Agreement, or Disagreement, of those three Angles, in equality to two right ones: And thus he has certain Knowledge that it is so. But another Man, who never took the pains to observe the Demonstration, hearing a Mathematician, a Man of credit, affirm the three Angles of a Triangle to be equal to two right ones, assents to it; i.e. receives it for true. In which case, the foundation of his Assent is the Probability of the thing, the Proof being such, as for the most part carries Truth with it: The Man, on whose Testimony he receives it, not being wont to affirm any thing contrary to, or besides his Knowledge, especially in matters of this kind. So that that which causes his Assent to this Proposition, that the three Angles of a triangle are equal to two right ones, that which makes him take these Ideas to agree, without knowing them to do so, is the wonted Veracity of the Speaker in other cases, or his supposed Veracity in this.[xxxvi]
Locke’s distinction suggests that appeal to probability differs from demonstrative reasoning in the fit to its audience. The speaker’s discretion is not only in following the injunction laid down near the beginning of Nicomachean Ethics, to achieve that amount of precision, which belongs to its subject matter,[xxxvii] but also in establishing the degree of certainty in proof that his audience requires and appreciates. Some of the most vital political matters that confront the American electorate today admit neither the utmost amount of precision nor the greatest degree of certainty. Mark Bowden articulates a case in point by recommending that torture should be banned but also quietly practiced:

In other words, when the ban is lifted, there is no restraining lazy, incompetent, or sadistic interrogators. As long as it remains illegal to torture, the interrogator who employs coercion must accept the risk. He must be prepared to stand up in court, if necessary, and defend his actions. Interrogators will still use coercion because in some cases they will deem it worth the consequences. This does not mean they will necessarily be punished. In any nation the decision to prosecute a crime is an executive one. A prosecutor, a grand jury, or a judge must decide to press charges, and the chances that an interrogator in a genuine ticking-bomb case would be prosecuted, much less convicted, is very small.[xxxviii]

The availability of the affirmative defense of necessity under common law defines the boundaries of precision and certainty in Anglo-American administration of criminal justice.[xxxix] It suggests that in the extreme circumstances, the best proof we can hope for in forensic arguments is the finding of reasonable doubt by a jury of our peers. Likewise our history has to content itself with provisional verdicts beyond reasonable doubt. As long as this state of affairs endures, the rationalist historian cannot hope to limit his demonstrations to valid arguments proceeding from true premisses.

6.

[…]

7.

As Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel admitted in concluding the preface to his Philosophy of Right, philosophy always comes on the scene too late to give instruction as to what the world ought to be: “the owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk.” But the historian that follows Thucydides in poiesis, takes his cue from a different bird.

The cock of Apollo crows at dawn.[xli]

—Michael Zeleny, 14 December 2007—5 June 2013


[i] Aristotle, Poetics 1451a36-b11. I cite Aristotle by Bekker’s and Plato by Stephanus’ pagination. Whenever possible, I follow the Loeb editions and translations of classical texts, as available online at the Perseus Project. I thank Chien-Ling Liu for indispensable assistance with historical research and analysis.

[ii] See M.F. Burnyeat, “Enthymeme: Aristotle on the Rationality of Rhetoric”, Essays on Aristotle’s Rhetoric, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1996, p.109.

[iii] See Socrates’ dialogue with the slave boy in Meno at 82b-85c.

[iv] See the historical background recounted in W.K.C. Guthrie, A History of Greek Philosophy, Volume 3, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969, pp. 192-200, 269-274; Jonathan Barnes, The Presocratic Philosophers, London: Routledge, 1982, pp. 171-175, 182-3, 470-471, 524-530; Renato Barilli, Rhetoric, translated by Juliana Menozzi, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989, pp. 5-6, 8-9; Brian Vickers, In Defense of Rhetoric, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989, pp. 6-7; contrast the disavowal by E.L. Harrison in “Was Gorgias a Sophist?”, Phoenix, Vol. 18, No. 3 (Autumn, 1964), pp. 183-192.

[v] See Apology 19e; compare the more attenuated characterization of Gorgias submitting himself to questioning by all comers on all subjects, including virtue, while disclaiming an ability to teach it, reported in Meno 70b, 71c-d, 73c, 76b-c, 79e, 95c, and 96d.

[vi] See Gorgias, 456a-457b, 449d, 454b.

[vii] See Gorgias 451d, 452d, 452e.

[viii] See W.K.C. Guthrie, op. cit., pp. 50-54, 125, 178-181; Renato Barilli, op. cit, pp. 11-12, 35-36, 45-46, 71.

[ix] See Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, I.89-93; Plutarch, Life of Pericles 33; David M. Lewis, John Boardman, J. K. Davies, and M. Ostwald, editors, The Cambridge Ancient History, Second Edition, Volume 5: The Fifth Century B.C., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992, pp. 63, 97.

[x] See Gorgias 454e, 455e.

[xi] See Gorgias 458e, 459c.

[xii] See History of the Peloponnesian War I, 90; compare the claims in History of the Peloponnesian War II, 65. I am indebted for this point to the commentary in Plato, Gorgias, translated with notes by Terence Irwin, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979, p. 237.

[xiii] See Gorgias 456c-d.

[xiv] See Gorgias 459c.

[xv] See Gorgias 460c.

[xvi] See Sextus Empiricus, Adversus Mathematicos, VII, 65-87; W.K.C. Guthrie, op. cit., 193-194; Jonathan Barnes, op. cit., pp. 173-174.

[xvii] See Gorgias 465c-466a, 502a-c.

[xviii] See Rhetoric 1354a1-3.

[xix] See Rhetoric 1355a4-7, 1400b37. I am equally indebted to the previously cited account of M.F. Burnyeat and its incisive criticism by Carlo Ginzburg in “Aristotle and History, Once More”, in History, Rhetoric, and Proof, Brandeis University Press, 1999, pp. 38-53. My understanding of enthymeme agrees with the traditional definition of an abbreviated syllogism, repudiated by Burnyeat and reinstated by Ginzburg.

[xx] See Rhetoric 1402b8-1403a14; compare Carlo Ginzburg, op. cit., p. 40.

[xxi] See M.F. Burnyeat, op. cit., p. 93.

[xxii] See Rhetoric 1368a27-34.

[xxiii] See Charles Norris Cochrane, Thucydides and the Science of History, Oxford University Press 1929, and its review by Paul Shorey in Classical Philology, Vol. 25, No. 3 (July, 1930), pp. 290-292.

[xxiv] See Cicero, De Legibus I.5, where Herodotus, acknowledged as the father of history, “pater historiae” is said to purvey find fables scarcely less numerous than those, which appear in the works of the poets; cf. the English translation by Francis Barham. Also see the discussion of the Herodotean and the Thucydidean traditions by Arnaldo Momigliano in The Classical Foundations of Modern Historiography, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990, pp. 29-53, especially pp. 36-39 and 42-44.

[xxv] See e.g. his inference from persisting local customs to hypothetical past usage spread everywhere, in History of the Peloponnesian War I.6, and other examples cited by Carlo Ginzburg in op. cit., pp. 44-45.

[xxvi] See History of the Peloponnesian War I, 1.

[xxvii] See History of the Peloponnesian War I, 22.

[xxviii] I follow Moses Finley’s comments in the introduction to Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, translated by Rex Warner, NY: Penguin Classics, 1954, pp. 24-25.

[xxix] See the discussion by A. Andrewes, “The Mytilene Debate: Thucydides 3.36-49”, Phoenix, Vol. 16, No. 2 (Summer, 1962), pp. 64-85

[xxx] See History of the Peloponnesian War III, 36.

[xxxi] See History of the Peloponnesian War III, 37-40.

[xxxii] See History of the Peloponnesian War III, 44.

[xxxiii] See History of the Peloponnesian War III, 41-48.

[xxxiv] See History of the Peloponnesian War III, 42.

[xxxv] “Car si nous l’avions telle que je la conçois, nous pourrions raisonner en metaphysique et en morale à peu près comme en Geometrie et en Analyse, parce que les Caracteres fixeroient nos pensées trop vagues et trop volatiles en ces matieres, où l’imagination ne nous aide point, si ce ne seroit par le moyen de caracteres.” In Die philosophischen Schriften von Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, edited by C.I. Gerhardt, Volume VII, Berlin: Weidmann, 1890, pp. 21, 200. For the background see W. Kneale and M. Kneale, The Development of Logic, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1962. pp. 241, 311, and 325-328; Bertrand Russell, A Critical Exposition of the Philosophy of Leibniz, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1900, pp. 169-170; George MacDonald Ross, “Leibniz’s Debt to Hobbes”, Leibniz and the English-Speaking World, Liverpool, 3–6 September 2003; Herbert Breger, “God and Mathematics in Leibniz’s Thought”, in T. Koetsier, L. Bergmans, editors, Mathematics and the Divine: A Historical Study, Elsevier, 2004, pp 485-498, at pp. 487-488. Regrettably, I am unable to do justice in this paper to the erudite and profound account of Roger Berkowitz in The Gift of Science: Leibniz and the Modern Legal Tradition, Harvard University Press, 2005.

[xxxvi] See John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding IV.xv.1, edited by Peter H. Nidditch, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975, p.654; David Owen, “Locke on Judgment”, in Lex Newman, editor, The Cambridge Companion to Locke’s “Essay Concerning Human Understanding”, Cambridge University Press, 2007, pp. 406-435.

[xxxvii] See Nicomachean Ethics 1094b12-14.

[xxxviii] See Mark Bowden, “The Dark Art of Interrogation”, Atlantic Monthly, October 2003.

[xxxix] See A.W.B. Simpson, Cannibalism and the Common Law: The Story of the Tragic Last Voyage of the Mignonette and the Strange Legal Proceedings to Which It Gave Rise, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984. The text of the judgment in the criminal case Regina v. Dudley and Stephens ([1884] 14 QBD 273 DC), establishing the precedent for the defense of necessity against criminal charges. Also see the hypothetical case described by Lon L. Fuller in “The Case of the Speluncean Explorers”, Harvard Law Review, Vol. 62, No. 4, February 1949.

[…]

[xli] See Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts, 1821, Vorrede: “die Eule der Minerva beginnt erst mit der einbrechenden Dämmerung ihren Flug.” The cock, Alektôr, an apotropaic Averter of Evil, is a sun bird traditionally represented as sitting on Apollo’s arm, shoulder, or head. See Plutarch, De Pythiae oraculis 400C; Grace H. Macurdy, “The Derivation and Significance of the Greek Word for ‘Cock’”, Classical Philology, Vol. 13, No. 3. (Jul., 1918), pp. 310-311; Miroslav Marcovich, “Pythagoras as Cock”, The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 97, No. 4. (Winter, 1976), pp. 331-335.


larvatus: (rock)
Charles Simic asseverates, without adducing a shred of evidence or articulating a scintilla of argument, that the chief mission of NRA and other gun lobbies is “to drum up business for the 1,200 gun makers in this country”. Let’s see how his claim holds up.

In 2012, according to an analysis by business research firm Hoovers, the gun and ammunition industry in the U.S. generated an estimated $6 billion in revenue. In comparison, Exxon Mobil alone generated $482 billion, with WalMart coming in at $469 billion. Outside of the oil and gas and retail industries, we find Apple at $156 billion, closely followed by General Motors, General Electric, and Berkshire Hathaway at $150, $147, and $144 billion. In the general scheme of things, the aggregate revenue of the U.S. gun industry would place it around relative pipsqueaks on the order of Hershey and Kodak.

If the strength of the gun lobby is owed to the industrial base of its suppliers, why don’t we hear about the politics of chocolate bars or film stock unfairly dominating American lunch counters and movie theaters? Could it be that NRA, in deriving nearly half of its revenues from individual membership dues, functions as a legitimate conduit of public interest, no less so than the Supreme Court of the United States, in affirming the individual right to keep and bear small arms that are commonly used for self-defense and appropriate for service in the militia, including Simic’s bugaboos, “not only hunting rifles but also military-style murder weapons and even hollow-point rounds that are banned in warfare”? Is it possible that Simic bemoans this publicly disclosed and thoroughly litigated state of affairs for want of journalistic integrity that begins with accounting for the financial data and studying the legal rulings of our court of last resort?

As witness Dan Baum interpreting the politics of guns in terms of “the power of the individual in relation to the collective, and the extent to which each of us needs to live by the permission of the rest”, an American liberal need not be a nanny statist. Likewise Seventh Circuit Judge Richard A. Posner, self-identified as a “pragmatic classical liberal”, who invalidated under the Second Amendment an Illinois law, the last in the land to forbid most people, though not politicians, from carrying a loaded gun in public. Simic’s demagogical legerdemain is far more plausibly attributable to intellectual dishonesty than political convictions.

Crossposted to [info]larvatus and [info]guns.
larvatus: (MZ)
If the NRA today seems fixated on the notion that the left is out to confiscate Americans’ legally acquired firearms, that’s because 15 years ago, advocates wanted to do exactly that.

Let’s try rephrasing this ideologically laden statement under alternative assumptions about the way whereby public appearances reveal the underlying political reality:

If the NRA today understands that the left is out to confiscate Americans’ legally acquired firearms in the long run, that’s because 15 years ago, advocates were candid about wanting to do exactly that.

It beggars belief to suppose that the immediate goals of advocacy exhaust the long term agenda of the advocates. Why should anyone take formerly avowed banners at their word insisting that henceforth they will be content with limited regulation?
larvatus: (rock)
Barack Obama was against gay marriage before he became all for it. Wayne La Pierre was in favor of legislation mandating background checks for private party gun sales before he became all against it. When the facts changed, they changed their minds. What do you do, ma’am?

Joining the NRA in defending a system in which it is perfectly legal for someone to buy a dozen assault rifles and then sell them with no background checks in a parking lot, is a cinch in view of the eternal recurrence of gun ban proposals complemented by the gun ownership records produced by the proposed background checks. Democrat dreams of gun confiscation are a gift that keeps on giving to the advocates of gun rights.

The main fact that has changed in the fourteen years since Wayne LaPierre spoke in favor of mandatory background checks for private firearm sales, is the recognition by the SCOTUS of the right to keep and bear arms as fundamental and Constitutionally protected. The prevailing understanding of the Second Amendment is that it protects an individual right to keep and bear those, and only those small arms that are commonly used for self-defense and appropriate for service in the militia. This is consistent with gun control, e.g. through licensing concealed carry of handguns or registering the ownership of machine guns. But outright bans on ownership and carry have been off the table since Heller and McDonald. Nonetheless, we are witnessing renewed, if foredoomed, attempts to ban certain kinds of guns, including the AR15 platform, which in the wake of the 1994 AWB became America’s most popular rifle, i.e. the epitome of an arm subject to protection under the Second Amendment. As a self-anointed Constitutional expert, our POTUS saw himself fit to rescind the enforcement of DOMA well in advance of a SCOTUS ruling on its constitutionality; whereas in the instant matter he sees himself fit to push for legislation that expressly conflicts with its existing rulings. Under the circumstances, making every firearms transfer subject to Federal supervision, would create a database apt to be exploited in further attempts to infringe the right to keep and bear arms.

Despite all that, as a resident of California long compelled to submit my gun transfers to scrutiny by Big Brother, I could see myself compromising on this matter — but only if I got something in return. Reviving the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011, passed by the House of Representatives in November of 2011, only to be killed in the Senate, would be a good starting point. Time and again, poll after poll has shown that Americans want politicians in Washington to compromise. Where is their compromise on gun rights?
larvatus: (rock)
Omer Bartov, one of the world’s leading authorities on the subject of genocide, recounts its lessons to Salon:
Just imagine the Jews of Germany exercising the right to bear arms and fighting the SA, SS and the Wehrmacht. The [Russian] Red Army lost 7 million men fighting the Wehrmacht, despite its tanks and planes and artillery. The Jews with pistols and shotguns would have done better?
As a matter of fact, though nowise limited to pistols and shotguns, my Jewish father and his brother did a lot better inflicting disproportionate casualties upon the Wehrmacht on behalf of the Red Army. By contrast, owing to the Soviet policy of victim disarmament, they were unable to resist the emissaries of their triumphant State, dispatched to convey them to the GULag after the closing of international hostilities.

Is Professor Bartov making the point that in so far as my family and my kind are powerless to resist la raison d’État on our own, we might as well put our trust in our democratically elected princes, and learn to relax and enjoy their periodic infringements of our fundamental rights? Or is his reference to having been a combat soldier and officer in the Israeli Defense Forces, and knowing “what these assault rifles can do” meant to suggest to the contrary, that we Jews ought to arm ourselves with the deadliest small arms available, in consideration of two millennia of oppression and genocide visited upon our ancestors?

Arms, kept and borne individually or institutionally, aren’t a panacea. Thus France was heavily armed, but quickly succumbed to the Nazis, whereupon she used her arms to round up French Jews for extermination on their behalf. Would I and my likes be morally, physiologically, or economically better off armed or disarmed on the occasion, or in the anticipation, of the next Vel d’Hiv roundup?
larvatus: (rock)
Was there ever a police state power not beloved by The New York Times? Oh yeah, you can blabber about the raison d’État all you want, but not prepare to resist it in earnest.
larvatus: (rock)
Yes, but I understand the loyalty of Obamites. If I had bought an adorable puppy that grew into a cur who eats up what he shits all over the place each time he takes a break from shoving his muzzle up my friends’ crotches, I, too, might have tried to explain away his evolution as lovable and forthright learning and reacting.

Then again, dogs don’t boss us around.
“I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street. They’re still puzzled why is it that people are mad at the banks. Well, let’s see. You guys are drawing down $10, $20 million bonuses after America went through the worst economic year that it’s gone through in—in decades, and you guys caused the problem. And we’ve got 10% unemployment.”
—Barack Hussein Obama, 12 December 2009
“I know both those guys [JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. CEO Lloyd Blankfein]; they are very savvy businessmen. I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free-market system.”
—Barack Hussein Obama, 9 February 2010
“What that means then is that as we try to resuscitate this notion that we’re all in this thing together, leave nobody behind, we do have to be innovative and thinking what are the delivery systems that are actually effective and meet people where they live. And my suggestion, I guess would be that the trick, and this is one of the few areas where I think there are technical issues that have to be dealt with as opposed to just political issues. I think the trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure everybody’s got a shot.
—Barack Hussein Obama, 19 October 1998
“My attitude is that if the economy’s good for folks from the bottom up, it’s gonna be good for everybody. If you’ve got a plumbing business, you’re gonna be better off if you’re gonna be better off if you’ve got a whole bunch of customers who can afford to hire you, and right now everybody’s so pinched that business is bad for everybody and I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”
—Barack Hussein Obama, 11 October 2008
“I’m gonna cut taxes a little bit more for the folks who are most in need and for the 5 percent of the folks who are doing very well—even though they’ve been working hard and I appreciate that—I just want to make sure they’re paying a little bit more in order to pay for those other tax cuts.”
—Barack Hussein Obama, 9 February 2010
“So these investments—in things like education and research and health care—they haven’t been made as some grand scheme to redistribute wealth from one group to another. This is not some socialist dream.
—Barack Hussein Obama, 10 April 2012
“I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.”
—Barack Hussein Obama, 15 February 1996
“Well, what I believe, in my faith, is that a man and a woman, when they get married, are performing something before God, and it’s not simply the two persons who are meeting.. But that doesn’t mean that that necessarily translates into a position on public policy or with respect to civil unions. What it does mean is that we have a set of traditions in place that, I think, need to be preserved, but I also think we have to make sure that gays and lesbians have the same set of basic rights that are in place. And I was glad to see, for example, that the president today apparently stated that he was in favor of civil unions. This may be a reversal of his position but I think it’s a healthy one. I think, on this, President Bush and I disagree, apparently, with Mr. Keyes on this, because I think that that kind of basic ethic of regard towards all people, regardless of sexual orientation, is a valuable thing.”
—Barack Hussein Obama, 26 October 2004
“With respect to the issue of whether gays and lesbians should be able to get married, I’ve spoken about this recently. As I’ve said, my feelings about this are constantly evolving. I struggle with this. I have friends, I have people who work for me, who are in powerful, strong, long-lasting gay or lesbian unions. And they are extraordinary people, and this is something that means a lot to them and they care deeply about.
    At this point, what I’ve said is, is that my baseline is a strong civil union that provides them the protections and the legal rights that married couples have. And I think—and I think that’s the right thing to do. But I recognize that from their perspective it is not enough, and I think is something that we’re going to continue to debate and I personally am going to continue to wrestle with going forward.”
—Barack Hussein Obama, 22 December 2010
“After careful consideration, including a review of my recommendation,the President has concluded that given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination, classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a more heightened standard of scrutiny. The President has also concluded that Section 3 of DOMA, as applied to legally married same-sex couples, fails to meet that standard and is therefore unconstitutional. Given that conclusion, the President has instructed the Department not to defend the statute in such cases. I fully concur with the President’s determination.”
—U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, 23 February 2011
“I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors, when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together; when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.”
—Barack Hussein Obama, 9 May 2012
“What I’m not going to be doing is using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue simply because I want folks to be investigating violent crimes and potential terrorism. We’ve got a lot of things for our law enforcement officers to deal with.”
—Barack Hussein Obama, 23 March 2008
“What I specifically said was that we were not going to prioritize prosecutions of persons who are using medical marijuana. I never made a commitment that somehow we were going to give carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana – and the reason is, because it’s against federal law. I can’t nullify congressional law. I can’t ask the Justice Department to say, ‘Ignore completely a federal law that’s on the books.’ What I can say is, ‘Use your prosecutorial discretion and properly prioritize your resources to go after things that are really doing folks damage.’ As a consequence, there haven’t been prosecutions of users of marijuana for medical purposes.”
—Barack Hussein Obama, 9 April 2012
larvatus: (Default)
The best reason not to have sex in public is to avoid exposure to well-meaning second-guessers. Thus the late Robert Hughes ably illustrated the stupidity of judicial censure of sexual deviance:
Why so few [sodomy] convictions? Ernest Augustus Slade, who had been superintendent of the convict barracks at Hyde Park in Sydney from 1833 to 1834 (his resignation was forced by sexual scandal, though over a woman), testified that “among [the lower] class of convicts sodomy is as common as any other crime.” It was an ineradicable part of jail culture. But only about one case in thirty could be proven. Molested youths lodged complaints but then prevaricated in court; and other evidence tended to be vague, since “shirtlifters” were rarely caught in the act of buggery. “If you had it proved” Slade told the Molesworth Committee in 1838, “that men were found with their breeches down in secluded spots, and they stated that they had gone there to ease themselves, and upon examination it was found that they had not done so, what could have occurred?” But no jury would convict on such grounds. Out in the bush, the dreaded act became more obscure still, as there was nobody to watch the assigned convicts. Bishop Ullathorne believed that sodomy was less frequent among the shepherds, who tended to live alone, than among stockmen, “a much more dissolute set” who practiced “a great deal of that crime” and even taught it to the formerly innocent Aborigines. And if the Man from Snowy River’s convict forebear was not content with the brusque embraces of Jacky-Jacky, there were always sheep. “As a juryman,” one witness told the committee, ”I have had opportunities of hearing many trials for unnatural offences, with animals particularly. … I think they are much more common than in any other country inhabited by the English.” “That is, among the convicts?” interjected one committee member. “Yes,” said the witness, dispelling the thought of the colonial gentry practicing abominations on their own merinos.
—Robert Hughes, The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia’s Founding, Vintage Books, 1988, p. 267
Would that the indicters of WikiLeaking condoms took heed of rapidly dwindling chances of securing a jury conviction of Julian Assange.
larvatus: (Default)
As is well known, Holmes’s theory of liability rested on two interlocking principles. First, the primary purpose of the law is to ‘induce external conformity to rule’, [The Common Law, (M. DeW. Howe edn., 1963), p. 42.] and second, personal moral blameworthiness is not generally an ingredient of liability. [Ibid., pp. 42-3.] I turn first to consider how Holmes applied these central principles to the case of contract. Naturally enough we find many of the same themes as in his theories of liability in the criminal law and in tort. There is, for a start, Holmes’s hostility to the role of morals, expressed in extraordinarily vehement language in ‘The Path of the Law’. [Holmes complained that his own way of looking at the law of contracts ‘stinks to the nostrils of those who think it advantageous to get as much ethics into the law as they can.’ 10 Harv. L. Rev. 457, at p. 462 (1897).] Morality helps put the cart before the horse and makes people think that it is morally wrong to break a contract, and that there is a duty to perform a contract. Not so, says Holmes. The duty to perform a contract is imaginary, and the right to the other party’s performance is even more imaginary. A contracting party has a choice—to perform or to pay damages for not performing. To enter into a contract is not to assume any duty to perform, and is thus analogous to committing a tort. Holmes thus presents his marvellous apothegm: committing a contract is more or less the same thing as committing a tort, except that in the former case liability is conditional on non-performance. [See Pollock-Holmes Letters (ed. M. DeW. Howe, 1941, published in America under the title, Holmes-Pollock Letters), vol. i, at p. 177, vol. ii, at pp. 199-200, 233.] A contract is, in effect, a way of allocating a risk, the risk of non-performance or non-occurrence of an event. [The Common Law, pp. 324-6.] This, in Holmes’s words, frees the subject from the ‘superfluous theory that contract is a qualified subjection of one will to another, a kind of limited slavery’. [Ibid., p. 235.] Many of us today would share Holmes’s satisfaction at the dissolution of that quasi-metaphysical nonsense in his cynical acid. Holmes’s theory of the nature of contractual liability also leads to the conclusion that damages should be limited to those that can reasonably be regarded as part of the risks assumed by the defendant. So punitive damages can be ruled out, the contract-breaker’s motives become immaterial, and perhaps, more generally, damages should be kept on the low side. 
    Lastly, Holmes’s thoughts on contract focus on the external standards of liability and the unimportance of actual internal intention. Mistake, fraud, and the like affect the validity of contract not by reason of a deficiency in the will of the contracting parties, or a failure of assent, but for other, more external reasons. [Ibid., pp. 245-6, 253.] Such external reasons might include the fact that ‘there is no second party, or the two parties say different things, or essential terms seemingly consistent are really inconsistent as used’. [Ibid., p. 246.] Holmes even made the remarkable assertion that the ‘true ground’ of decision in the famous case of Raffles v. Wichelhaus, [(1864) 2 H. and C. 906.] involving the steamship Peerless, was ‘not that each party meant a different thing . . . but that each said a different thing’. [The Common Law, p. 242.] As Grant Gilmore said, this was, ‘even for Holmes an extraordinary tour de force’. [The Death of Contract (1974), p. 41.]
    —P.S. Atiyah, Essays on Contract, Oxford University Press, 1986, pp. 57-58
larvatus: (MZ)
Subrah Iyar lives on a gated estate at 15292 Kennedy Rd, Los Gatos, CA 95032.

On June 29 I paid him a visit:




I brought along some visiting cards.

Subrah’s bodyguards called for reinforcements:




Overseen by the unblinking eye of Bragmardo, I assumed my Pedobear watch:




Meanwhile, Subrah’s neighbors sped by:




It was my pleasure and privilege to keep them safe from Subrah’s child raping pals:



larvatus: (Default)
Fraudulent fucking is now a tort in Idaho.
So much for all being fair in love and war.


The prudent among us would henceforth discourage an understanding of fidelity on the part of their lovers.
DSK has it down pat. Not so Sarko.
larvatus: (Default)
“The Constitution as interpreted by the Court these past decades allows the federal government to put your taxes up and use the proceeds to send you a weekly box of broccoli.” This putatively commonsensical observation by Clive Crook is meant to support a transparent non sequitur: “If Washington instructed you to choose your own basket of fruit and vegetables or else pay a penalty, that would be a smaller infringement of your freedom than the Constitution already allows.” The logically warranted conclusion from the premiss at hand is that if a federal government’s individual mandate instructed me to choose my own basket of fruit and vegetables or else pay a penalty, that would be a smaller infringement of my freedom than recent Constitutional interpretation has tended to allow. The Constitution is an enduring factual body of principle that underlies the vagaries and wambles of its judicial interpretation. Let the trends change as long as the fundamental facts endure.

Yes, Mr Crook, our Constitution is a quasi-religious document, whose constancy is an inviolable national myth. But the constancy of our Constitution is also thoroughly attested, in extent and limitation, by its amendments. When changing it falls to the Court and is done by stealth, it becomes and remains liable to equally stealthy judicial reversals. That is what the Roberts Supreme Court seems to be poised to inflict upon Obamacare. Back in the realm of horticulture, American farmers have long received lavish subsidies from the government, enabling them to grow lots of things I don’t want to eat. So I am always already being forced to “buy” broccoli via the power of taxation. Likewise, the federal government could — and bloody well should — use its power of taxation to pay for government-administered universal health insurance. What it cannot and shouldn’t do is create a boondoggle for its favorite industries by compelling its citizens to transact with private vendors, be it for health insurance or fresh vegetables.

Your fellow countryman John Lanchester patiently explains this for you in the latest issue of the London Review of Books:
If there were ever going to be a serious and sustained theoretical challenge to the hegemony of capitalism inside economics — a serious and sustained challenge subsequent to the one provided by what used to be called ‘actually existing socialisms’ — you’d have thought one would have come along since the near terminal meltdown of the global economic system in 2008. But all we’ve seen are suggestions for ameliorative tweaking of the existing system to make it a little less risky. We have at the moment this monstrous hybrid, state capitalism — a term which used to be a favourite of the Socialist Workers Party in describing the Soviet Union, and which only a few weeks ago was on the cover of the Economist to describe the current economic condition of most of the world. This is a parody of economic order, in which the general public bears all the risks and the financial sector takes all the rewards — an extraordinarily pure form of what used to be called ‘socialism for the rich’. But ‘socialism for the rich’ was supposed to be a joke. The truth is that it is now genuinely the way the global economy is working.
Obamacare is socialism for insurance companies. If and when our society agrees that health care is a public good, let us socialize its administration. Empowering our government to bring the health insurance industry 32 million new customers is crony capitalism at its sleaziest. And it stinks.
larvatus: (Default)
First they came for Gilbert Gottfried
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a shrill comedian
Then they came for Catullus
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Latin poet
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me

minitrue

Feb. 28th, 2012 05:39 pm
larvatus: (Default)
War is Peace.
Freedom is Slavery.
Ignorance is Strength.
Whistleblowing is Espionage.
larvatus: (Default)
Let me spell it out for you. We are a nation of laws. We are also a charitable nation. If you want our goods and our words within the scope of our foreign aid, ask for it. But as a foreign national, you have no say in our laws. If you are lucky, you have a say over your own goods and words, under your own laws, in your own country, in your own language. Then make and share your own goods and words, under your own laws, or change them to suit. In the meantime, if you break our laws, in our jurisdiction, we will prosecute you to their fullest extent.

Got it?
larvatus: (MZ)
Man with semi-automatic weapon protests at hotel

With due respect to Buffalo Springfield, there’s a man with a gun over there, and what he wants ain’t exactly clear.
    “There” is a corner of Sand Hill Road at the entrance to the Rosewood Sand Hill hotel near Interstate 280 in Menlo Park. The man with the gun said he is Los Angeles resident Michael Zeleny, who showed up there on Thursday (Feb. 9).
    He’s wearing a surplus military uniform complete with combat helmet and bullet-proof vest. He’s carrying a semi-automatic M14 military rifle that he says is unloaded, and a long-lens camera.
    Police arrived, questioned the man, but made no arrest. [And so on, with photos and comments.]
By Dave Boyce
Almanac Staff Writer




UPDATE: To clarify, here is my comment, partially redacted by the Almanac because “[their] forum is not the place to make allegations of criminal wrongdoing”:
Thanks to Dave Boyce for this fair and balanced report.

In regard of my demands, the hotel complex at which I am holding my protest also houses New Enterprise Associates (NEA), self-described in their court filings in connection with this matter as our world’s wealthiest and most important venture capital firm, with over $11 billion under management. It is also the firm that funded its protégé Min Zhu, the founder of WebEx Communications, right after my outing of him as a rapist of his 14-year old daughter at the 2005 WebEx user conference in San Francisco caused Min to resign from his job and flee the United States. The public deserves to learn the lesson Min had taught me, that a violent incestuous paedophile will treat his business partners like family.

I might have overlooked this matter even after receiving independently witnessed death threats against me and my family, made in the names and on the behalves of Min Zhu and WebEx, in the course of our $70 million business dispute. I went public with my story only after my father Isaak, plaintiff in a related lawsuit, died from injuries sustained in an apartment fire of suspicious causes and origins. As the poet said, there is some shit I will not eat. An apology from all responsible parties is in order.

You can find my story along with links to supporting documentation at subrah.com.
larvatus: (MZ)
Mass Means Mail Michael Zeleny <michael@massmeans.com>

Re: Resumption of Public Protests at Rosewood Sand Hill Compound

Michael Zeleny <michael@massmeans.com> Wed, Feb 8, 2012 at 8:37 PM
To: sandhill@rosewoodhotels.com, policechief@menlopark.org, wadixon@menlopark.org, grojas@menlopark.org, sakaufman@menlopark.org, wlm@jsmf.com, danielprimack@gmail.com
Cc: Subrah Iyar <Subrah.Iyar@webex.com>, jchambers@cisco.com, john.chambers@cisco.com, "David W. Affeld" <dwa@agzlaw.com>, Ajay Vashee <avashee@nea.com>, Ali Behbahani <abehbahani@nea.com>, Amita Shukla <ashukla@nea.com>, Arno Penzias <apenzias@nea.com>, Brooke Seawell <bseawell@nea.com>, Chip Linehan <clinehan@nea.com>, Chuck Newhall <cnewhall@nea.com>, David Mott <dmott@nea.com>, Dick Kramlich <dkramlich@nea.com>, Ed Mathers <emathers@nea.com>, Forest Baskett <fbaskett@nea.com>, Frank Torti <ftorti@nea.com>, George Stamas <gstamas@nea.com>, Harry Weller <hweller@nea.com>, Hugh Panero <hpanero@nea.com>, Jake Nunn <jnunn@nea.com>, James Barrett <jbarrett@nea.com>, Jay Graf <jgraf@nea.com>, Jimmy Treybig <jtreybig@nea.com>, John Nehra <jnehra@nea.com>, Jon Sakoda <jsakoda@nea.com>, Josh Makower <jmakower@nea.com>, Justin Klein <jklein@nea.com>, Krishna 'Kittu' Kolluri <kkolluri@nea.com>, Louis Citron <lcitron@nea.com>, Mark Perry <mperry@nea.com>, Mike O'Dell <modell@nea.com>, Mike Ramsay <mramsay@nea.com>, Mohamad Makhzoumi <mmakhzoumi@nea.com>, Nitin Sharma <nsharma@nea.com>, Patrick Chung <pchung@nea.com>, Patrick Kerins <pkerins@nea.com>, Paul Hsiao <phsiao@nea.com>, Paul Walker <pwalker@nea.com>, Peter Barris <pbarris@nea.com>, Peter Behrendt <pbehrendt@nea.com>, Peter Morris <pmorris@nea.com>, Peter Sonsini <psonsini@nea.com>, PM Pai <ppai@nea.com>, Ralph Snyderman <rsnyderman@nea.com>, Ravi Viswanathan <rviswanathan@nea.com>, Richard Whitney <rwhitney@nea.com>, Rick Yang <ryang@nea.com>, Robert Croce <rcroce@nea.com>, Robert Garland <rgarland@nea.com>, Rohini Chakravarthy <rchakravarthy@nea.com>, Ryan Drant <rdrant@nea.com>, Sara Nayeem <snayeem@nea.com>, Scott Gottlieb <sgottlieb@nea.com>, Scott Sandell <ssandell@nea.com>, Sigrid Van Bladel <svanbladel@nea.com>, Sujay Jaswa <sjaswa@nea.com>, Suzanne King <sking@nea.com>, Tim Schaller <tschaller@nea.com>, Tom Grossi <tgrossi@nea.com>, Tony Florence <tflorence@nea.com>, "Michael D. Pinnisi" <mpinnisi@pinnisianderson.com>, "Hawk, Robert B." <robert.hawk@hoganlovells.com>
Dear NEA and associates,

Please be advised that our hitherto postponed protest will begin tomorrow and continue indefinitely, according to the terms previously announced in the email copied below.

I am attaching an image of a bumper sticker that we have created for your benefit, licensed under the terms of Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported (CC BY-ND 3.0). Please feel free to use it in advertising your investment practices.

--
Michael@massmeans.com ---- http://larvatus.livejournal.com/ ---- http://www.subrah.com
Zeleny@post.harvard.edu | 7576 Willow Glen Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90046 | 213.290.4699
Wronged by the high and mighty? Cut them down to size with legally safe and
ethically sound degradation of unworthy moguls and scrofulous celebrities.

On Fri, Sep 23, 2011 at 4:53 PM, Michael Zeleny <zeleny@post.harvard.edu> wrote:
Dear NEA,

I share your relief at settling our dispute regarding my access to your private property. As you know, I will no longer appear in front of your office. I am equally relieved that your single claim challenged only my "conduct in repeatedly trespassing on private property, leaving [me] free to express [myself] as [I desire], at any lawful place and time, with the sole exception that [I] cannot make unauthorized entry onto the NEA office complex." You objected to the location of my protest but did not dispute its content.

Starting on 31 October 2011 and continuing indefinitely, I shall resume my protest against your abhorrent investment practices. I shall do so on the public easement near the entrance to your complex. I shall also protest against anyone who would do business with you, based on their implicit endorsement of your immoral practices. I shall take photos and record videos of everyone entering your complex, post the images online and distribute them on bills posted throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, and offer rewards for the first correct identification of names and addresses of everyone who does business with your child rape sponsoring enterprise. I shall display signs and banners illustrating the purpose of my protests. As before, I shall be armed with legal counterparts of U.S. military rifles and pistols, in full compliance with all applicable federal, state, and local ordinances. As before, I invite you to comment on my plans, should you have any legitimate objection to the time, place, or manner of my expression of my Constitutionally protected message.

--
Michael@massmeans.com | Zeleny@post.harvard.edu | 7576 Willow Glen Road, Los Angeles, CA 90046 | 323.363.1860 | http://www.subrah.com
http://larvatus.livejournal.com | "All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better." -- Samuel Beckett




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