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Preserve the Body

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Why I mention "Filmer" now and then

A word about Robert Filmer. His name makes an occasional appearance in this blog, mostly in contexts in which I'm warning about abuse of, or excessive claims for, supreme executive power.

I noticed years ago that many libertarians invoke Thomas Hobbes in contexts like that. The dangerous proposed new regulation or evidentiary privilege is "Hobbesian," gasps the writer. I generally agreed that it -- whatever had provoked this outburst on a given day -- is a bad thing, but I grew tired of the ritual invocations of Hobbes there, especially where they didn't fit all that well.

After all, Hobbes was a very secular thinker. He was wary of religion because in his own lifetime he had seen religious fervor lead to an open challenge to the sovereign, and he had seen THAT challenge lead to a civil war that must have looked a bit like a war of "all against all" to him.  He was a member of the Church of England, but he clearly explained that he was so because his sover…

Books Noticed

Four recent or forthcoming books that may deserve the attention of some of the readers of this blog, below.

1. AFRICA, EMPIRE, AND FLEET STREET, by Jonathan Derrick. Published by Oxford University Press, this is the story of Albert Cartwright, an anti-colonialist, and the newspaper he ran for decades, the London based WEST AFRICA MAGAZINE.

2. WHITE SHOE, by John Oller, published by Dutton. This one is forthcoming -- March 2019. It tells the story of the Wall Street lawyers of the end of the 19th century and the early 20th who created what are still considered the establishment (or "white shoe") law firms in that vicinity to this day.

3. CONSCIOUSNESS AND PHYSICALISM, by Andreas Elpidorou and Guy Dove. Published by Routledge. "Physicalism" in the philosophy of mind is roughly what used to be known as "materialism." These authors think it should be regarded not as a dogma but as a research program, and that it is a sensible program. A reviewer in the Notre…

Whitey Bulger RIP

Whitey Bulger died on October 30, 2018, bringing us all a spate of stories reminding us of his notoriety, five years after his conviction, just as he had begun to be forgotten -- as the passage of time had consigned him to the role of just another nameless inmate in vastness of the US prison system.

Bulger's case is worth remembering, because it may remind us how regularly government is the cause or at the very least the partner of the woes from which it poses as our protector.

Bulger, the brother of the influential Massachusetts politico William Bulger (who was at his own career peak President of the state Senate), became notorious as the head of the feared Winter Hill Gang in Boston through the '80s. How did he become that? Because in February 1979 federal prosecutors indicted various members of that Gang, including its boss Howie Winter, having noticed that they were fixing horse races. Bulger and his bud Stephen Flemmi were originally going to be named in the indictment, …

Quality Checking the Academic Ghostwriters

Ah, a subject about which I could get nostalgic. Well, I can get nostalgic about facing a due paper's deadline and wondering about a shortcut....

Of course, when I was a denizen of higher education, one found "ghost writers" through word of mouth, corkboards, and the classified ads. We didn't have this internet thingy going for us in the late 1970s and early 80s.

And, no, I never succumbed to the temptation.

Anyway, here is a link to the quality-checking piece that has me so nostalgic:

Midterm elections, a brief comment

Tuesday night's excitement has passed. A brief restatement of the results (for those coming in late). I'll list four in broad brush terms, then I'll focus for a bit on the fourth.

1. The Republicans have retained control of the Senate. Generally speaking the seat turnarounds that the Dems thought in their giddiest moments they might get, they did not get. They did not, for example, topple Ted Cruz. That photo is of Cruz opponent, Beto O'Rourke (D), whose 15 minutes may now have passed.

2. The Democrats have taken control of the House of Representatives. This likely means that Nancy Pelosi will be back as Speaker (though that is not a certainty). What is certain is that the new management of the House will change the dynamics considerably over the next two years, although any impact it might have upon such matters as judicial confirmations will have to be indirect.  There was a fair amount of moaning before the vote about how the national Dem Party had failed to come u…