About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Michael’s Picks, special post-election edition

By Michael De Dora
* After retaking the House, Republicans are mapping out their agenda of less spending. The Tea Party and economists both disagree with the GOP’s plan. Tea Partiers say it’s not enough; economists say it makes no sense.
* Perhaps people were correct to expect a civil war between Republicans and Tea Partiers. And it’s not just about economic policy, it’s about power: Republicans think the Tea Party cost them control of the Senate.
* William Saletan argues that Democrats didn’t lose the battle of 2010. He says they won it – by passing the health insurance reform package.
* The Pew Forum has a voting breakdown based on religious affiliations. One interesting observation: the religiously unaffiliated voted overwhelmingly for Democrats (66-32), while white Protestants went the other way (69-29) for Republicans.
* On that note, maybe Democrats can partially blame their Congressional losses on a lack of outreach to America’s faith-based community.
* Derek Araujo writes that state court judges are the overlooked causalities of the 2010 elections, (more on this issue here and here). Which leads to an obvious question: why are judges up for election in the first place?
* Chris Wilson asks: could mathematicians do a better job redrawing Congressional districts than could legislators?
* A Web site spells out what Obama has done so far (fair warning: the site’s name includes a curse word).


  1. Regarding the last item. Gasp! how could you post such a thing, don't you realize there are children reading this blog!

    Michael, do you read Glenn Greenwald? I thought he had an interesting argument about which Democrats lost and which retained their seats. Basically Blue Dogs lost, while 95% of the Progressive Caucus didn't. This post and subsequent ones.


  2. Nice. I knew the abortions were in there somewhere. Congrats De Dora, you have your secular Moshiach.

  3. Harry, where is the abortion reference (aside from your own)? And who cares if Michael is focused on that issue? Clearly, you are (presumably, from the opposing side) - not that there's necessarily anything wrong with that.

  4. jcm

    Here: A Web site spells out what Obama has done so far (fair warning: the site’s name includes a curse word).

    Go through it a ways and you'll see.

    I'm focused on it only in so far as I think abortion's ethicality isn't universal. It's liberal supporters, do the 'it's a human but not a social human' shuffle and leave a serious issue undiscussed.

    Per how I respond to him? It's more shtick than anything.

  5. Harry,

    I assume that you mean by "liberals" those who assume a "pro-choice" stance on the abortion issue. [Note: Although I find these labels misleading, they are what we've got.] If so, then that is a political stance, whose interest is served (strategically speaking) by treating the matter as largely settled by Roe v. Wade. Of course, if one assumes the "pro-life" stance, then one's interest is better served by treating it as live and open-for-debate.

    In the ivory tower of academic philosophy, there is more room for debate (particularly at the margins), but of course leaving one's politics at the door is easier said than done.

    And, in an informal setting like this one, even though it's centered on philosophy, it just gets tiresome to reopen the debate every time a new opponent comes along.

  6. I know a post of links is pretty much an open thread, but I think HCP's first comment is a perfect example of what an internet troll is. Many people mistakenly think anybody strongly disagreeing with a post, especially if it involves a partisan attack of the other side, is trollish. Rather the key criteria is not how strongly a comment disagrees, but how much the comment is intended to distract the thread from discussing any content from the post. Mentioning one slide of many from one link, and abortion at that, is classically trollish. The correct response is ignore it.

  7. There are many examples of concluding the right answer for the wrong reasons, but Saletan is unique in his ability to conclude the wrong answer from the right reasons.

    On redistricting, I'm glad the Slate article finally got around to a good solution, the Hirsh Plan, even if it has been around for a while without going anywhere. Fancy math has a snowball's chance to be a political solution. While the article raves about algorithms, (way to go out on a limb, Slate), the most important part of the Hirsh Plan is iterations. You start with not a blank slate, but today's districts. A proposal is made, and if it scores higher on the set criteria, then it is preferred. Then another proposal can be made, etc. If political parties, bodies of legislatures, governors, commissions of judges or the public, etc. all take part, especially if all groups submit a plan for the chance to be the first iteration, letting the best plan win should satisfy all interested groups - including the public - and produce "good" districts to boot.

    Now, of course, setting the criteria would be the devil in the details, but again the Hirsh Plan is on the right track: following county lines as the first criteria is not only sensible, but real-world workable.

  8. jcm,

    Thanks for your response. I didn't use the term 'liberals,' and I can see by your use of 'new opponent' that you think I want to overturn Roe v. Wade or think abortion should be abolished. That's not the case.

  9. "Rather the key criteria is not how strongly a comment disagrees, but how much the comment is intended to distract the thread from discussing any content from the post." - Norwegian Shooter

    You mean like changing the subject from abortion to internet etiquette? There is little so trollish as calling someone a troll, particularly on such flimsy evidence - his comment wasn't significantly off-topic. This trend of shutting down conversation by calling "troll" got old about a decade ago. It was cute then, but now its just rude, disruptive, and generally more than a little arrogant. If you think the proper response to a comment is to ignore something, my advice is to ignore it.

  10. US judges are up for ELECTION? How did I not know this?

    More importantly, how did anyone come up with such an imbecile idea? What an absurd fetishization of democracy.

  11. "Sorry dude." - Norwegian Shooter

    It's fine. It's a pet peeve of mine - of which I have far too many.

  12. ianpollock: "US judges are up for ELECTION? ...More importantly, how did anyone come up with such an imbecile idea? What an absurd fetishization of democracy."

    Ian, federal judges aren't, but many state ones are.

    Much of US government is structurally nonsensical. Sometimes I wonder if the only reason we became "#1" for so long was because it just so happened that the rest of the developed world largely destroyed its industry during WWII just while we happened to be mobilizing our factors of production to reach full capacity for the first time - in which case, all we've ever had is luck and not-terrible government, and there's never been anything particularly special about us.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.