Archive | June 27, 2007

Veblen on Iceland

[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]

A friendly Icelander Check out Thorstein Veblen on Icelandic anarchy; conical hat tip to Joel Schlosberg, who sent it to me with the following note:

Here’s an interesting passage from Thorstein Veblen’s 1917 book An Inquiry Into The Nature Of Peace And The Terms Of Its Perpetuation, chapter 1, pp. 9-14 (available at Project Gutenberg at <> – in fact, I came across this passage while proofing the book for PG at Distributed Proofreaders). Even though he’s hostile to it and sees it as a failure, he describes it pretty clearly – just to prove that Icelandic anarchy wasn’t the wishful thinking of modern anarcho-capitalists.

Pantes Anthrōpoi Tou Eidenai Oregontai Phusei

Aristotle I’ve long been a fan of Margaret Doody’s 1978 mystery novel Aristotle Detective, which as you’d guess from the title features my favourite philosopher as a sleuth in ancient Athens. (The psychological insights Aristotle employs seem drawn primarily from the Rhetoric; the book also offers an engaging portrait of Athenian law and society.)

I’m also a fan of some of Doody’s nonfiction; her article “‘How shall we sing the Lord’s song upon an alien soil?’: The New Episcopalian Liturgy” (in Christopher Ricks and Leonard Michaels, eds., The State of the Language) is absolutely terrific – even if you think you don’t care about the New Episcopalian Liturgy. Trust me, you will.

But I’ve only just discovered that she’s written a bunch more Aristotle mysteries. Apparently a couple of them (Aristotle and the Fatal Javelin and Aristotle and the Ring of Bronze) are thus far available only in Italian, for some reason; but four others – Aristotle and Poetic Justice, Aristotle and the Mystery of Life (also titled Aristotle and the Secrets of Life or just The Secrets of Life), Poison in Athens, and Mysteries of Eleusis – are all available in English, and have now found their way to my desk. Just what I needed – another diversion for my idle hours. Wait – what idle hours?

Legislator Cheney

[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]

Dick Cheney’s claim that he is not part of the executive branch is silly, but his argument for that conclusion is worth addressing.

Dick Cheney Cheney claims that the Vice-Presidency is unique in embodying both executive and legislative functions (the latter being his Presidency of the Senate with the right to cast tie-breaking votes), thus belonging strictly to neither branch.

What’s wrong with this argument is that there’s nothing unique about the Vice-Presidency in this respect. The President, for example, has the right to veto legislation; why doesn’t that count as his likewise exercising a legislative function? The President also appoints the members of the Supreme Court; does this mean he exercises judicial functions too? Of course the Senate can nix the President’s judicial appointments (thus likewise exercising judicial functions?), as well as nixing, e.g., his Cabinet appointments (thus taking over executive functions?). Congress can also impeach the President (thereby intruding into both the executive and judicial spheres?). The Supreme Court for its part can strike down unconstitutional legislation (thus exercising a legislative function?). And so on. If the Vice-President is not part of the executive branch, then by the same logic the President is not part of the executive, Congress is not part of the legislative, and the Supreme Court is not part of the judicial. Which seems rather a reductio ad absurdum.

The point of all these overlapping exercises of powers is checks and balances, a concept with which Cheney is evidently unfamiliar. Each branch of government is given some voice in the operation of the other two, in order to prevent any one branch from exercising unchecked power. While the Constitution’s version of checks and balances is of course inferior to that found under anarchy, it’s still preferable to complete consolidation. Cheney is trying to use his particular example of overlap to frustrate checks and balances, thus turning it to the opposite of its actual function.

Cthulhu Sings!

If you’re familiar with the writings of H. P. Lovecraft and with the musical Fiddler on the Roof, then you should enjoy this delightfully insane musical, Shoggoth on the Roof, which sets characters and situations from the former to the music of the latter. (If you’re unfamiliar with either or both, you’ll be somewhat baffled ….)

Cthulhu wants you Here, for example, is an excerpt, to the tune “Sunrise, Sunset”:

Arkham, Dunwich, Arkham, Dunwich
filled with haunting fears
neighbors who hide up in the attics
inbreeding happily for years

Or this, to the tune of “If I Were A Rich Man”:

If I were a Deep One
blub blub blub blub, blub blub blub blub
blub blub blub blub, blub blub blub
all day long I’d swim beneath the sea
if I were a Dee-eep One
terrify the tourists
blub blub blub blub, blub blub blub blub
blub blub blub blub, blub blub blub
if I were an icky icky fish
scaly slippery frog-eyed kind of man

But my very favourite is this adaptation of “To Life”:

To life! to life I’ll bring them
I’ll bring all these dead men to life
and if that life has no quality
still there’s the quantity
I will bring them to life!

To life, to life I brought him
I brought Dr. Halsey to life
of course I first had to kill the man
with some ingenious plan
(He just shot him!)
Okay, it’s true, I shot him
I shot him but brought him to life ….

The sound is very professional, and the voices are excellent.

When I tried to buy the CD from the website the link wasn’t working, so I bought it from Froogle instead. But the official site seems to be working again now. (And you can listen to audio samples.) So buy your copy now! Otherwise, unspeakable horror awaits you ….

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