Monday, January 9, 2017

I Don't Hesitate To Say Of The Dead What I Would Say About Them In Life

In my first blog post I took a swipe at Nat Hentoff who died the day before yesterday.  I don't regret that now, more than ten years later that he has, as all 91-year-olds eventually do, died.  Many die far younger, and sometimes with his help, as I'll point out below.   I didn't much like Hentoff who I thought was obnoxious and self-promoting whether writing about jazz or writing about politics or civil liberties.  I thought he was a man who enjoyed his straight-male privilege as he posed as a liberal and also enjoyed other things unavailable to other people whose equal rights were certainly not his first priority.

I held him to be a pseudo-liberal for much of his life.  It didn't surprise me much when, after the Village Voice discontinued his regular employment, he went to work at the corporate-fascist false front of the Cato Institute.  It didn't surprise me when he endorsed the idiot-Republican Rand Paul for president or the illegal, disastrous invasion of Iraq.  In the taunting notice I got of his death daring me to diss him now that, as we all must, he's died, I didn't see any mention of the hundreds of thousands of entirely innocent lives taken, not by natural death but by avoidable violence in that invasion which he supported, sold with lies .  I always assumed that it was on behalf of Israel, for which he had no problem with lying, distorting, twisting words and ideas and even violating his patented civil libertarian pose.

Rather tellingly, I thought, for a guy whose side did so much to enable the most repressive of pornographers, the atheist, Hentoff, was an opponent of women being able to obtain legal abortions. And I will put the emphasis on the GUY in that sentence.  According to what I've read he claimed he never thought much about the issue until 1984, which would have made him 59 before he thought about it.

And with typical Hentoffian fact twisting, he claimed the case that got him on an anti-choice tare wasn't even, in his telling, about abortion but infanticide.    Reading that brings up one of the things that I found most obnoxious about him, his twisting things to suit his own ends.   No matter whether or not he is honestly characterizing what people HE KNEW were saying about the case in question, it was not and was never a case of abortion.

"They were saying, 'What's the big fuss about? If the parents had known she was going to come in this way, they would have had an abortion. So why don't youconsider it a late abortion and go on to something else?'

"Here were liberals, decent people, fully convinced themselves that they were for individual rights and liberties but willing to send into eternity these infants because they were imperfect, inconvenient, costly. I saw the same attitude on the part of the same kinds of people toward abortion, and I thought it was pretty horrifying."

And before someone snarks about me linking to something written in the repulsive Washington Times, he wrote for them as well as the Village Voice.

The central issue in the debate about legalized abortion is whether or not the state has the right to compel a woman to carry a pregnancy to term, a legitimate interest to regulate what a woman does with her own body.   I hold that the state's legitimate right to make that decision for an individual ends at the skin if not considerably before that.  

You can argue whether or not that is the case, but if you give the state the right to compel a woman to be pregnant but, then, reject far, far less intrusive restrictions on aspects of personal integrity, ownership of your own body and regulation of your conduct you give yourself a huge problem of hypocrisy.  Especially if you make such arguments while entirely safe from ever being pregant.

It makes little sense to then say a democratic government has a legitimate interest in forcing a woman to carry a pregnancy to term but no legitimate interest in keeping someone from lying or promoting discrimination and the inequality of people.  To deny that egalitarian democratic government  has an interest in protecting the blessings of egalitarian democracy from its enemies but then claim that it does have an interest in whether or not a woman remains pregnant is grotesquely hypocritical.

A woman having control of her own body is of far less impact on other people or society at large or the nation as a whole as compared to fascists, Nazis, Klansmen or others with a history of mass murder and violence being allowed to promote and advocate their programs of inequality, discrimination and murder.  The body count of those groups runs into the tens of millions.  Even the limited obnoxiousness of the funeral disruption stunts of the Phelps cult has far more of an impact on other people , denying rights of privacy and a right to be unharassed and unwillingly being roped into being the center of the publicity stunts of hate groups, than a woman deciding what to do with her own body.

I think his positions on those things were a key to the hypocrisy of, not only Nat Hentoff but his entire theory of civil liberty.  I think, in the end, the results of it is the empowerment of the already privileged, the entrenched privileged, the majority race, etc.  It has certainly empowered the billionaires and the racists and enemies of democracy.

And that was only one aspect of Nat Hentoff's act as The Greatest Civil Libertarian In The World which I found repulsive.

I think even before that it was his eternal repetition of his role in producing that TV show with Billie Holiday that first put me off him.  I remember about the fourth time I read him repeating it I asked if he wanted people to figure he'd put every note she sang in her mouth.  I never could stand critics much and he could be one of the most annoying of them.

Update:  I have no problem with people opposed to abortion advocating to women, in general or those who seek their opinion, that they not have an abortion.  That is if they honestly represent that as their intention from the start.   I have no problem with people arguing that in general.  I have a huge problem with people advocating that abortion be made illegal and unavailable.  Not least because it is an absolutely guaranteed result of making a safe abortion illegal, unsafe illegal abortions in large numbers with many injured, traumatized and dead women will be one result.  Making abortion illegal does not end abortions, it merely makes them dangerous in the black market that will develop or in the equally dangerous attempts to self-induce or, perhaps most dangerous of all, involuntary boy-friend-husband induced miscarriage, which is, as well, a violation of womens' ownership of their bodies.

That is an entirely different thing from infanticide of a child who is not contained in the mother's body.  Once born, the issue of a mother's ownership of her own body is not part of the decision.

Update 2:  Someone has objected to my criticism of Peter Singer in the comments.  Peter Singer is not a liberal, he's a philosophy prof on the make who knows he can get big appointments on the basis of being hot and someone like him gets hot by making outlandish and offensive statements, especially those that promote the objectification of powerless and relatively powerless people in a way pleasing to such people as publish his stuff.  The kind of people who choose who to publish in the New York Times.

NO ONE WHO CALLS FOR KILLING PEOPLE ON THE BASIS OF HIS PREFERRED SCHEME OF VALUATION OF THEIR LIVES IS A LIBERAL.   His preferred scheme of valuation is whatever cult of utilitarianism he's pushing at the time.  From what I understand what is called "preference utilitarianism" gave him his preferred scheme for most of his career, now in the last couple of years, he's declared that it's now "hedonistic utilitarianism".  I will leave it to you to go see if you can tease out the differences between them.    My question would be if he can change something like that, what's the consequence for the reliability of his work up to that point?  What's the implication of it for what he's written after that change?  And why should actual lives be put into question on the basis of anything he says?

I would ask Singer if someone who came up with a scheme of utilitarian valuation of lives that resulted in them figuring that more people would be happy if they offed Peter Singer and his loved ones if he thought that would be a good idea.  I'm sure someone might be able to come up with some contorted figure of pseudo-algebraic stuff that could be made to come out that way, it's what he does.  Then he insists that his preferred scheme is to be the way that the problem is looked at. At academic departments of philosophy at major universities, I believe his is still Princeton these days, that is what will get you the big bucks and the attention and buzz.  Which is one of the reasons I agree with whoever it was who said that these days it's a lot more interesting to read theology.  Academic philosophy has pretty much gone down a rabbit hole into wonderland.  It's sad but that's their choice. Fields do go through their decadent phases.

It's kind of interesting that a guy famous for being a vegetarian serves up the amount of tripe Singer does.  Hitler was a vegetarian, I point out as someone who's been one for longer than Singer has been. I think it's really weird how he gets points for being a vegetarian as he blithly advocates killing people and it's completely OK and even swell with the academic establishment because he does so while being an academic.  It's like the mass slaughter of the 20th century, especially the enormous numbers killed with excuses of social and economic efficiency - though though they were  often designated as benevolence, taking advantage of the prejudices in matters such as disability - but in academia, it's as if those never happened.

I don't see Peter Singers' schemes of determining who isn't fit to live on the basis of his current sect of utilitarianism is much better than any other one that comes up with their list of people who are candidates for being offed.  I think that it's done in English at American and other English speaking universities doesn't put it in a different category than if it's done in North Korea in Korean today or in Germany in German in the 1940s or in Tasmania in English in the 19th century.    Though, when I have tried to read through Peter Singer going through his pseudo-mathematical means of coming up with who can be killed and why, I don't really see much of a difference from how Rudolph Hoess talked about his methods of doing the same.  From what I read, Singer aspires to come up with some kind of Darwinian based ethical system, which, after my long study of Darwinism and its actual relationship with eugenics, English and German, doesn't surprise me.  Scratch a Darwinist and you'll often find someone who wants to rank people in terms of valuation and, at times, propose killing them or sterilizing them.  Though the one can turn into the other with the change of a law or two.

Perhaps I don't see eye to eye with him because my father was severely disabled.  If he'd been born with his disability, Singer would say it was OK to kill him before he was old enough to object.


  1. Someone I know offered his disapproval of a recent execution in the state of Texas, being opposed to capital punishment, I explained that if he supported the death penalty, he supported the right of the state to kill one of its citizens. The circumstances are entirely secondary, as the slope is slippery and progress almost always expansive.

    You might imagine infanticide something that can't happen here, but that era is almost inevitably followed with the "I can't believe it's happening," which leads to "Who could have thought this could happen?" There are numerous advocates for such procedures, including Princeton faculty like Pete Singer.

    I'm reminded of Walker Percy's thorny observation that "present-day liberals favor abortion, just as the Nazis did years ago. The only difference is that the Nazis favored it for theoretical reasons (eugenics, racial purity), while present-day liberals favor it for consumer needs (unwanted, inconvenient)."

    Look into the Ariel and Deborah Levy case if you think Dr. Percy was mistaken. Brave new world, indeed. No pun intended, there.

    1. I wouldn't call Peter Singer a liberal. Some might, I wouldn't. I think he's a muddle-headed utilitarian, utilitarianism isn't a liberal position, it's more like a perversion of morality on the basis of materialism. No advocate for designating a class of human beings as not having rights is a real liberal. Certainly not on the basis of their disability or their infancy. I'm in a bad mood so I would probably call them undeveloped fascists or near-Nazis, they are certainly not liberals in the American meaning of the term.

      Abortion was restricted in the Third Reich for "Aryan women" to instances where the life of the mother was in danger or the fetus was deemed to be "defective". I believe they made providing an elective abortion to an "Aryan" a capital crime in other instances. They, of course, didn't care much about other people. It was under the Communist regime in East Germany that elective abortion became widely available legally.

      I think in view of the experience where abortion is made illegal, that illegal abortions and a trade in them will flourish and a lot of women will die, anyone who wants to stop abortions should come up with a strategy of preventing unwanted pregnancies as a more effective means of preventing abortions. An illegal abortion is as much an abortion as a legal one, if someone really believes it's wrong they shouldn't ignore that fact. As I said, I don't have anything against people trying to talk women, in general, out of having abortions as long as its not deceptively entered into when a woman doesn't want to hear it foisted on her as an individual. The choice must be the woman's. I am opposed to women being targeted at health clinics by abortion opponents who often don't want to prevent abortions by realistic means. There is too much of a history of violence and abuse in that scenario.

      I am, of course, opposed to the context in which someone would feel compelled to have an abortion for economic reasons. Though it would seem few opponents are really opposed to those economic conditions that do lead women to have abortions they would not otherwise choose. A society that doesn't support families with infants and young children is a dysfunctional society, the United States is an increasingly dysfunctional society, largely at the behest of politicians and activists who oppose legal abortion and universally available birth control. They apparently do, in fact, favor illegal abortion since that is the known and inevitable result of their stands.

  2. Being a "present day liberal," I don't favor abortions. I just think they should be allowed, for the same reasons we don't punish masturbation or charge people to bury the product of a spontaneous abortion (or even hold a funeral for it. I've known women to miscarry; I've never known one to have a funeral for the product of the miscarriage).

    But I don't "favor" abortions. I bow to reality. Having met women who were patients at abortion clinics, I know they don't act frivolously, casually, or with no interest in being pregnant and aborting the fetus. They don't "favor" abortions; they choose them from necessity. Perhaps the conditions of human existence or modern society should be changed, but it's easier to punish the women by misrepresenting the situation. Much as I admire Walker Percy, I don't always agree with him.

    So it goes.

    As for utilitarianism, it's still the basis for modern economic theory, and economics started out as a moral philosophy, so utilitarianism was seen as a moral philosophy. It is, by any reasonable definition of "moral," anything but. It is so akin to Darwinism, when expressed as a moral philosophy ("social Darwinism"), that one could call the latter utilitarian without a problem.

    It is also, as many have pointed out, including Dostoevsky and LeGuin, brutally amoral, at best. And yes, many a modern theologian has dissected utilitarianism, implicitly if not explicitly. But then, theology these days is far more interesting than philosophy; except for the philosophers worth reading, who are all Continentalists, and most philosophers of religion.

    Funny, that.

    1. Noam Chomsky has said that in France philsophy has a tendency to turn into fashion as in France philosophers are treated roughly the same way movie stars are. I think in Britain they have a tendency to turn into bulwarks of the class system, even those who officially are supposed to oppose it. Being mostly rather deficient in reading other languages and being attached to the weird habit of American academics to value things British more than things American, American philosophers follow that. And all of them having been sold the bill of goods that Darwin is - it's science, don't you know - that will be the articulation of the British class system they articulate.

      I had an Australian philosopher, John Wilkins, ban me from his blog because in response to his claim that Darwin wasn't racist I was able to produce some flamingly racist quotes from his scientific work and his correspondence. It seemed he didn't really want the evidence of reality, he just wanted the story line repeated.

      I wish I'd spent more time reading theology in my younger years. There is so much I passed by on the say-so of people like Bertrand Russell.

    2. Any human endeavor benefits, in the long run, from not being popular. That's a gross generalization, but there is a purifying practice in not being all things to all people. On the other hand, lack of contact with the run of humanity makes things strange and odd and exclusive, and exclusion is not always a good thing. I can see where Chomsky would dismiss French (i.e., Continental) philosophy, especially since he has such an Anglo-American philosopher himself. Still, fair point. But the most interesting work right now is among the Continental philosophers and some theologians, mostly because they don't dismiss science, but they don't take it as the be-all and end-all of human existence.

      Because, believe it or not, philosophy and human existence didn't reach their apotheosis with British empiricism. Now there's a system of thought which has been corrupted by it's widespread acceptance.

    3. Sperm will never become a human without an egg to fertilize. To compare them to a fertilized egg is false equivalency, but I see where's you are going with that. Funny, when I tell women who have miscarriage that they didn't "lose a baby" because it wasn't a human I get a lot of flak. Liberals are nothing if not inconsistent.

      "They don't 'favor' abortions; they choose them from necessity." I've found there's a wonderful elasticity to language that allows for "necessity" for one to mean exactly what Dr. Percy meant - "unwanted" and "inconvenient." I know two women personally who had abortion. It was "necessary" that they terminate their pregnancy if they wished to continue living the life they were accustomed to. When I consider that 90% of all prenatal screenings for Down syndrome end in abortion I'm just further convinced we're just slaves to convenience.

      It also explains why Trump got elected.

      [Note: I don't favor laws making abortions illegal, but nor do I live in a fantasyland where all the procedures are the product of circumstances beyond the control of the participants. I'm a librarian, and I'm used to everyone having an excuse, so pardon my skepticism.]

  3. Re: Hentoff's straight male privilege: I don't think straight male privilege would have done much to save his relatives in Nazi Germany.

    And every time you use "straight" as an insult, I'm gonna tell you to go fuck your bigoted self.

    To wit: go fuck your bigoted self.

    1. You say that as if no women and LGBT people had relatives killed by in Nazi Germany. We've been through your dismissal of the importance of anyone else murdered by the Nazis except Jews so I'm not going to go into that. I will say that, as much as I dislike Hentoff and as much as he was a jerk, he wasn't the same kind of jerk you are.

      "Straight" is an adjective, it describes straight people as much as those you've used as insults against me, "Irish" "Catholic" "Christian" When talking about Hentoff's part in enabling pornographers and his parallel opposition to womens' rights to control their reproductive systems and bodies and his championing of the rights of racists and fascists to spread their racism and fascism, the fact that he was a straight-white-male is inescapable in a criticism of it. I would say that any STRAIGHT MALE professional journalist living when he did who, by his own claim, didn't even think about abortion until he was 59 was displaying about as much male privilege as could be imagined.

      As critical as I've been of Katha Pollitt on other issues, the column she did in response to Hentoff's anti-choice position in which she advocated that all straight males, if not all males, who were opposed to abortion should be surgically disabled from fathering unwanted children if not required to practice total chastity made more sense than what Hentoff said on the subject. I mean, the guy purposely and dishonestly conflated infanticide practiced against a born child with abortion. If I were a woman I wouldn't trust my reproductive system to someone so dishonest as he was.

  4. I notice that in reference to Hentoff -- who was Jewish -- you conspicuously refrained from using your preferred phrase, i.e. straight WHITE male privilege.

    Thank you for finally conceding that us Red Sea Pedestrians aren't actually white.

    1. Some Jews are not white, many are white. You and Hentoff are white. I doubt either of you would walk down any street anywhere in the world without people who didn't know who you are taking you as white. You are both beneficiaries of the privileges accorded to white people because you both were and are white. Just as you share the benefits of being male.

      You know, Simps, when an Irish guy is as big an asshole as you are, I don't want them speaking for me or claiming to represent me. I can't speak for Jews but I would imagine none of them wants to put their worst ass forward, either.

  5. The larger culture doesn't consider Jews white, Sparky. Just ask those Trump supporters who were yelling JEW S A!

    In any case, what you know about Jews could fit in a thimble with room left over.

    1. That's the best you can come up with, Simps? The neo-Nazi supporters of Trump? Yeah, you can see how influential they are even within the Trumpzi movement by his appointment of Jared Kushner as presidential advisor.

      You really think Trump would have anything other than a white son-in-law?

      The economic rise of Jews in America, just like the economic rise of the Irish would have been impossible if they weren't considered white by a majority of Americans. You should read, "How the Irish Became White" only you should learn to read first.

  6. Ah yes, remember back in the 30s? When the German American Bund held rallies at Madison Square Garden to denounce the influence of the Irish?

    Good times, people!

    1. Yeah, that German American Bund really took off and swamped the country, didn't it. Forced Louis Brandeis right off the court, where he'd been placed in 1916 by one of the most racist of the presidents in the 20th century.

      There were plenty of crimes committed against the Irish, that doesn't make me any less white than I am. What I am not is a deluded liar, like you.

      Face it, white boy, you're white, just like Hentoff was.

  7. "You really think Trump would have anything other than a white son-in-law?"

    He has a black HUD secretary, so why not?

    1. You really think he knows who he's nominated for HUD secretary? I bet if you asked him cold he wouldn't even know what HUD meant.

      Yeah, you can tell how unwhite being Jewish makes you in the United States by Trump bragging that his daughter converted when she married into the Kushner crime family.

  8. Trump thinks Jews only wear yarmulkes and count money.

    1. Some people practice revisionist history, liars like you practice revisionist present.

      Jews, unless they have dark skin or are taken as Latino or Arab, are white in the United States. You're no more non-white than I am due to the number of people with African-Irish heritage and an Irish surname. Both of us are advantaged by being white and male, only in my case that's mitigated by my being gay. Yours is mitigated mostly by people getting to know you and realizing you're a flaming asshole.

  9. Remember all the Irish stereotypes in the 4th STAR WARS movie?

    Oh wait -- those aliens all had big hook noses and loved money.

    1. I think you're mistaking Star Wars for the United States. It's probably a professional hazard for someone like you who spent their alleged working life writing about the ass end of pop kulcher.

      I wonder what Steven Spielberg would say about the guy who came up with the idea for Raiders of the Lost Arc as an antisemite.

      It doesn't surprise me that a guy who discounts the importance of the Nazis' murders of everyone but Jews wouldn't know about the history of anti-Irish discrimination and stereotypes in the United States. Granted, compared to the Nazi's intentions to obliterate Poles and other slavic ethnic groups what was done to the Irish in the United States was small potatoes, but, then, I've admitted they benefited from the privilege granted to them as white people, you're the one who is making believe on that count.

  10. Meanwhile, in Greeley, CO somebody just left huge anti-Irish symbols in the snow.

    1. And you figure that makes you, what, "colored"? Does the far more frequent and blatant hatred of women mean they're not white either? How about LGBT folks? I don't think the ubiquitous anti-gay incidents renders me not-white. Hey, and all those anti-Catholic incidents that you probably don't even notice when they're in the news.

      No, dopey, that means that anti-semites don't like Jews because the Hebrew tradition has everything in it they hate, egalitarianism, care for the disabled, the poor, the widow and the foreigner living among us... What a lot of atheists really hate about Jews, as well. I would say that the majority of real hatred against Jews I've read casually flung about and casually accepted by alleged liberals is done by atheists, often using that most Jewish of practices, circumcision as a proxy. The most flagrant instance of academic antisemitism that was accepted in science in recent decades first came to my attention through Richard Dawkins promoting it, the obvious and primitive antisemitism of Kevin MacDonald, something he got away with in polite academic social science for years and years as he was given faculty appointments, the editorship of professional journals, high profile publications, the entire program of academic acceptance. That was until he stupidly agreed to be David Irving's star witness in his lame-brained lawsuit against Deborah Lipstadt.

      Even those flaming racists Ernst Haeckel and Charles Darwin classified Jews as white people, even as they promoted the idea of murdering people based on disability, like Peter Singer does, which, of course, led up to the murders on the basis of ethnicity and other identities by the Nazis. I never get tired of pointing that out. Advocacy for murdering the disabled is the Nazi crime you can advocate with complete impunity and with widespread acceptance, today. Especially if it's done as infanticide.

  11. Discrimination against the Irish continues to be a huge problem in the United States to this very day.

    That's why Neo-Nazis are making a comeback, obviously.

    1. Neo-Nazis are making a comeback because asses like Nat Hentoff, the members of the ACLU and morons on the Supreme Court, living in upper-class enclaves like New York where they are shielded from reality have enabled them to. They did so at the request of and on behalf of the corporate media, granting them the permission to tell any lie with impunity and without any obligations of social responsibility or the requirement to not damage egalitarian democracy.

      As usual, you're doing the Simels two-step because you, as always, got nuthin'.