A week in news

This week, people in Britain were concerned about the European Football Tournament; the economic instabilities and associated political instabilities in Greece but also elsewhere such as Egypt; the ‘Tax’ scandal of Comedian Jimmy Carr and to a lesser extent, the G20 summit addressing the environmental future of the world. The current political zeitgeist always will seem more important than the long term view, such is the nature of elected governments who seek a next term. There was an interesting set of revelations about Members of Parliament who were addressing their own mental health experiences, which brought a public discussion of the subject.

It is often said that human beings are not very good rational animals due to their disporportionate attention to the status quo over their continuation and long term circumstances. I find it disturbing. The international issues concerning the G20 are perhaps not as easily made relevant to the public because of how abstract the climate issues would seem to be. That said, Britain is continually experiencing unprecedented rainfall which has associated issues of flooding.I really wish I could say that the G20 summit in Rio took my attention and that I’d have something profound to say about it, but my lack of knowledge about it and the lack of exposure of news that I’ve had says enough. Instead, I’ll take this post to address the issue of taxation.

When it was announced that various famous people were involved in a scheme where their income was invested into a fund (which apparently supported emerging musical artists) to the effect of alleviating their tax obligations, it brought a media furore towards mainly one person: the comedian Jimmy Carr. While 3/4 of Take That were involved with the same scheme, there was no sense of hypocrisy or anger towards them, the notable thing about Carr is that much of his humour reflected an authentic disdain for the Con-Dem coalition. Carr’s humour in the ’10 O’Clock Live’ show had an appeal to a disenchanted young adult audience. Many people are part of the economic situation, where upward social mobility is a quaint myth and aspiration has a horrible taste to utter. Being the vocal piece for an audience is a very special thing. Carr’s jokes often involve hinting at, or explicitly addressing very horrible things, but often in a self-conscious way knowing that a mature audience will be disgusted by this, and in this way establishes a collusion with an audience that creates a comic moment (it’s funnier hearing it than describing it). The essence of the criticism lies on the fact that ‘banker bonuses’ and ‘tax havens’ were the subject of his jokes, and being part of a tax reducing scheme (although legal) shows a level of hypocrisy that not only undermines his reputation, but also the jokes originally said.

I’m a fan of Jimmy Carr’s bitter acerbic humour, not least because I’m a bitter acerbic person. It’s one thing to kick a public figure when they are down, or even when they are up, like ridiculing Footballer Rooney’s victory goal by pointing out that he has had hair surgery; but its another thing to kill a joke that once had potency. It is often complained about that there is a certain tired cynicism about a lack of sincerity about public figures and politics, things like this are the essence of such a worry. I cannot help but become cynical when a comedian points out a great unfairness while participating in similar. Carr has apologised and seems sincere about it, his reputation will probably recover, but the great jokes on tax havens and the priviledged rich are the greater victim. The comedic power of criticism is undermined.


A couple of observations

I think it is exceptionally creepy and say something about our present day that:

  1. Someone can be famous as a result of their sister experiencing an attempted rape and then they get a recording deal from this event.
  2. A deceased person’s twitter is being used to promote things (albeit charitable things) by her living father


The ‘fabulous’ James Randi

James Randi has come out as a gay man. Coming out as a homosexual in this contemporary social context is always an issue and while sexuality preconceptions have changed there are is still a battle in the social and legal domain for gay rights.

Randi is a tireless promoter of reason and secular values, and his sexuality has little to impact upon those values that he promotes. In a sense I can anticipate the opponents of the enlightenment liberal agenda to capitalise on such homosexuality as an appeal to backward preconceptions. I think that for a person in their early 80s living as a homosexual over the previous and less tolerant decades is a brave feat.

I must admit that it does come as a surprise, but that’s mainly from older homosexuals not being as represented in the public and media perception.

Good on you, JR

Some ‘did-you-know’s

1. Apparently Jung gave seminars on Kundalini yoga (presumably signifying some knowledge of Indian philosophy)
2. Some people (not myself) consider Idealism to have links with Vedic and Buddhist philosophy
3. Some x-phi philosophers (or x-phiers) have noted a significant difference in epistemic intuitions between undergraduates from China and UGs from the USA


The value of journalism

Can a journalist be an expert? The value of journalistic endeavour is not in the rigour or appeal to the nature of the reliability of qualitative or quantitative research, but in their unconventional methods of learning about a situation in a political or social climate.

To hide in a boot of a car in Zimbabwe; to find the man or representative transexual on the clapham omnibus, or just living in the social climate of Mumbai, is enough for one to get that feel of what it is like to live in the environs of where you are reporting, they are amateur ethnographers, or perhaps, they could be the best ethnographers you can get?


why is it that the superheroes that don’t have special powers tend to be billionaire industrialists who have a hobby of pounding the shit out of petty criminals instead of using their resources to solve major world problems like hunger or social oppression?

I guess building wells or tackling domestic abuse in policy initiatives wouldn’t be as cool whether or not it had a mask, cape, and/or stark industries iron man suit



Globalisation is seen as an evil word among some people. In my social science education, I have come to see it as a phenomenon, a neutral thing. It is almost irrelevant to say whether globalisation is a good or bad thing, the question is more: what is its extent?

Surely one may say that its a bad thing that everyone speaks english to the pain of the loss of culture of native nations, but we might say that not everywhere is becoming a global community. This can be expressed in many ways:

1. We may identify the disconnectedness that opposes the notion of the global
2. We may identify the local that opposes the notion of the global
3. We may identify the interconnectedness that expounds within the local by virtue of the global technologies.

Upon hearing about the notion of the geographical web, I immediately thought that the internet has come full circle. Instead of conflating the boundaries of space and time, namely, how it is easy to see an image from Australia from a monitor on Peru; or how quickly one may communicate with another through increasingly quicker ways: instead of snail mail, we phone, and instead of analogue technologies we move to digital communication, we are now rejuvinating the local, it seems.

It seems to be coming along so quickly that one almost doesn’t have a choice not to; what if one wishes to seek a privacy away from this interconnected world. It is almost becoming as brute an invitation or pressure to join this world wide web of surveillance as : all the cool kids are doing it!


Inconsistent preferences

Those who seem to think that the majority opine or the loudest voice seems to be rule, forget the inconsistency of our own preferential sets.

Sentimentality can easily overcome such things as consistent preferences. The neutrality of the BBC is considered in not broadcasting an appeal for the Gaza victims. Here are some reasons why:

i. This issue is inherently partisan political – against the BBC remit
ii. The victims are implicitly Palestinian
iii. The audience to which it is broadcast is not cultivated enough to see the nuances of a political situation beyond its most horrific casualties, or to state this in a single word, sentimentality is an improper tool of convincing one to the appeal, one which is inherently political, compared to a natural disaster.

In all fairness this is perhaps not the best front to address the futility of a majority populism, as one does not himself approve of these acts. It is good however, that other channels in the UK did broadcast, so that they did have a chance to see the appeal, and are informed enough to donate. Also note that those channels such as ITV do not have an international viewership, such to be sensitive to the body of its viewers beyond th UK.

Majority rule in popularity contests shall be our next address of pursuit


Rhetorical devices

Lately I have been thinking of argumentative devices that can sometimes be used to rhetorical effect; of course, when I say ‘argumentative devies’, that is not necessarily to give such strategies credence. Here are some once that have been going through my head of late:

Appeal to ‘defining terms’

This one is actually not terribly bad, but it is all too often used as a rhetorical, or a delaying device. The longer you can delay someone in a discussion, the more you may distract them from a point that you are afraid they may raise. Distract someone and you might get away with a criticism that you deserve.

One good way to do this is by appeal to definition. We might say, for instance:

i. But this depends on our terms
ii. It all depends on how we define x

Actually I don’t think that this is too bad, making definitions, clarifications and distinctions are very important so as to ensure that one is addressing the same concept, operator or referent. It is, however, an interesting strategy for use by a rhetorician towards one who may be afraid of expanding notions or addressing definitions. Some people try to give the iceburg illusion to others, that there is more depth towards what they might say, as a way to provoke or suggest the embarassment of the other, as if to suggest ‘I know more than you, don’t even try it’; it may be an interesting intimidation strategy, but is pretty bad to use in a bullying way.

That said, the ‘iceburg’ analogy can also ve very useful; simplify ideas for an audience, and do not let on everything either because it is unnecessary, too long, or simply, to provoke others to do their own independent research. Now to consider another rhetorical device…

Appeal to vocabulary (unnecessary jargon)

In a way, this is a twin principle to the first appeal to definition. If you throw in words without defining them, that is worthy of invoking an appeal to definition (this, I say, is a very legitimate use of such an appeal). Examples:

1. The problem with the current economy situation is the general problem of the subject becoming and object unto himself and others and engaging in the commodity fetishism of the capitalist economy (Marxism)

2. It is because of feminine values that women are discriminated; masculine values permeate the workplace (appeal to patriarchy)

If you impose terminology, we may impute it without assent to agreement; who is to say that these terms we may accept, who is to say that the vocabulary is properly defined, or if it is relevant? it is for this reason that in the presentation of an argument or any such case, definitions and initial terms beyond the common language, and even (nay, especially) terms of common language which have a very technical meaning (objective, representation, ‘if’-terms, ‘is’-terms) must be addressed.


“Barbarous Nations”

One of Hume’s arguments concerning miracles involves a claim that miracle testimonies come from people who are from ‘barbarous nations’. Is this claim true?

The first caveat to make is to establish some interpretations of the claim:

1. Miracle testimonies come from primitive, non-industrial, people (the stupid people appeal)
2. Miracle testimonies come from non-European nations (the Eurocentric appeal)
3. Miracle testimonies come from poorly educated people (the poorly educated appeal)
4. Miracle testimonies do not come from civilised persons (the converse claim)

I would like to be informed if there are any empirical studies on the social stratification of miracle claims; this could clear up issues of:

1. Whether miracle claims originate from certain religious stratifications (Christian, Muslim etc.)
2. Whether miracle claims originate from non-Europeans
3. The educational status of miracle claimants: possible underlying questions about the social background of such persons

I am willing to believe (on my own anecdotal tesimonies from persons I know) that there are intelligent, European descendent (this includes white Africans; Antipodeans; North Americans etc.), but anecdotal evidence shouldn’t be admissable for this kind of argument in any answer to the question: do people believe in miracles, where there is no question of ‘barbarity’ to raise?