January 27, 2020

Cali The Cat

On Facebook, my dear friend Elaine Thompson posted this on her Timeline:

I'm asking people, all you cat lovers, to join the challenge of posting a picture of their cat. Only one photo, no description. The goal is to flood FB with positive cat pictures instead of negativity. Please copy the text into your status, post one photo of your cat and watch for some great photos! (Cat friends, jump right in.)

[No description: But that's my Cali, the cat.]


RIP, Kobe

What can one say that hasn't been said already?

RIP, Kobe Bryant, his 13-year old daughter Gianna, and the seven other people who died in a helicopter crash yesterday in the hills above Calabasas.

January 26, 2020

Song of the Day #1691

Song of the Day: 7 Rings features a host of writing credits, but the most important ones are Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, and Ariana Grande, who took this song to #1 in its first week of release on the Billboard Hot 100, where it spent eight non-consecutive weeks (her longest running #1 single to date). The song, featured on her 2019 album, "Thank U, Next," interpolates the classic "Sound of Music" song, "My Favorite Things." If for nothing else, I give kudos to Grande for truly standing on the shoulders of giants in crafting this mega-hit. I'm sure many of her fans don't even know who Rodgers and Hammerstein are (and the Rodgers and Hammerstein estates are getting 90% of the royalties for the song)! And yet, the song is currently the subject of a lawsuit. Rapper DOT (Josh Stone) claims the hook was stolen from his song "I Got It" [YouTube links]. However that turns out, I like the song! Check out the video single, a remixed version featuring rapper 2 Chainz, the Workout Remix and the DJ Linuxis Deep House Remix. The song is nominated for Record of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance at the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards, which takes place tonight. Tune in!

January 25, 2020

Holocaust Remembrance Day

I was chatting with my dear friend Ryan Neugebauer about "Holocaust Remembrance Day," which will be marked on January 27, 2020. In echoing the sentiment, "Never forget," I said in part:

"[T]here comes a point at which one must at least pause long enough to contemplate those grim films of bulldozers pushing thousands upon thousands, nay, millions, of skeletal-like nameless corpses into massive pits.
That is what should never be forgotten, regardless of whatever other lessons can be drawn from this particular day. We are marking the 75th anniversary, with each passing month, of the various monuments to statist horrors on a massive scale, just from World War II alone.
The state in all its forms---fascist, socialist, "liberal-democratic"---has been singularly responsible for hundreds of millions of deaths. The Third Reich's final solution stands alongside the Soviet gulags and the Maoist "cultural revolution" in the post-war period, not to mention the U.S. dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They are all reminders of how the human race, armed with modern forms of technology in the hands of legitimized institutions of coercion, can ultimately wipe itself out."

How to Shorten an Impeachment Trial

I have to admit that I've been watching the melodrama unfolding in Washington, D.C. aka the Impeachment Trial in the Senate of President Trump. Hours and hours and hours of blah, blah, blah from one side to be followed by hours and hours and hours of blah, blah, blah from the other side. And I think we all know what the outcome will be anyway.

The whole thing could be shortened dramatically if each side just took the approach of my cousin Vinny [YouTube link].

Postscript: So I post this frivolous comment on Facebook, and one person commented that "Yah, facts, law and trials are SO BORING." To which I responded:

Just trying to lighten up: If I personally thought it was boring I would not be watching the hours and hours and hours of facts, law, and trials. But most of us have a sense that in the end, what will it matter? I truly believe Trump will never be convicted, and if the Democrats lose their minds completely and nominate some far-left candidate, Trump may very well be re-elected in a landslide. And for the record: I've made it pretty clear over the last few years that I bear no great love for Trump, the GOP, the Democrats, or for that matter, the whole system! But sometimes, you just have to laugh at the farce of it all!
The system endures. Pass the popcorn.

The person further commented that the Democrats could only win with a far-left, "plain speaking" candidate, like, say Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), if she were old enough to run. "That is why Trump won." To which I responded:

I guess we'll see; a year from now, we'll be five days into the second Trump term or the first post-Trump term. But anytime the Democrats have nominated candidates with bona fide left-wing credentials (McGovern in 1969; Mondale in 1984), folks who were merely tagged as 'bleeding-heart liberals', they've lost in landslides to the Republican Party. I don't think voters are quite ready to vote for candidates who have taken to labeling themselves outright "progressive democratic socialists." Call it a hunch. Unfortunately, however, the "moderates" in the Democratic field aren't exactly the types who will go for the jugular, a tactic that Trump has mastered to the undying support of his base. So, we'll see.

My critics continued, asserting that "it has little or nothing to do with ideology. Rather, it has to do with rhetoric and a willingness to accept that contests for power are not mannerly. The American People aren't a Great and Nobel People, they are a rabble. They want a dogfight with no holds barred. The Republicans, since Nixon and his Dirty Tricks have know this and acted accordingly. The Democrats are just catching on. We'll see if they've learned their lesson."

I replied:

To be clearer: It has a lot to do with the rhetorical power of labeling your opponents something that most people seemingly won't accept. Labels like "fascist" and "socialist" seem to have precisely that rhetorical power, but since Washington, D. C. looks like a rabble unto itself, I'm not sure the Democrats are going to win this one: Not in the Impeachment Trial or in the 2020 election.
I just knew that posting something frivolous like this would lead to something less frivolous. In the end, I'm sorry to say, I don't see anything changing fundamentally now or at any point in the foreseeable future. I could be wrong. But it remains to be seen. In the meanwhile, I shall continue to subject myself to the hours and hours and hours of this trial and the debates and the primaries and election night... because I'm a glutton for punishment! :)

January 22, 2020

The Dialectics of Liberty Discussion Schedule Revealed!

For those who have expressed interest in "The Dialectics of Liberty" discussion group, we have now posted the schedule for the discussion, which will feature direct involvement among 18 of the 19 contributors to the volume and the members of the group.

First and foremost, we advise prospective members to get their hands on a copy of the book to enhance their reading experience, if not through retail outlets and libraries, then by ordering it from the Deep Discount Page.

For the benefit of those interested in joining the conversation (this is a private group), here is our four-month projected schedule for the discussion of this trailblazing anthology:

1. Introduction - Roger Bissell, Chris Matthew Sciabarra, Ed Younkins – February 16-22 (each of the co-editors will make a brief opening statement and then open the discussion to the larger group)

2. Chapter 1 - Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism: Chris Matthew Sciabarra – February 23-29

3. Chapter 2 - Freedom and Flourishing: Toward a Synthesis of Traditions and Disciplines: Ed Younkins – March 1-7

4. Chapter 5 - Dialogical Arguments for Libertarian Rights: Stephan Kinsella – March 8-14

5. Chapter 3 - The Unchained Dialectic and the Renewal of Libertarian Inquiry: John Welsh and ...
Chapter 4 - Whence Natural Rights?: Douglas Den Uyl and Douglas B. Rasmussen – March 15-21

6. Chapter 6 - Dialectical Psychology: The Road to Dépassement: Robert L Campbell – March 22-28

7. Chapter 18 - Aesthetics, Ritual, Property, and Fish: A Dialectical Approach to the Evolutionary Foundations of Property: Troy Camplin – March 29-April 4

8. Chapter 8 - Free Speech, Rhetoric, and a Free Economy: Deirdre McCloskey – April 5-11

9. Chapter 9 - Exploring the Interconnections of Politics, Economics, and Culture: Robert Higgs – April 12-18

10. Chapter 10 - Context Matters: Finding a Home for Labor-Managed Enterprise: Dave Prychitko – April 19-25

11. Chapter 11 - The Dialectic of Culture and Markets in Expanding Family Freedom: Steve Horwitz – April 26-May 2

12. Chapter 12 - Up from Oppression: Triumph and Tragedy in the Great American Songbook: Roger Bissell – May 3-9

13. Chapter 13 - Why Libertarians Should Be Social Justice Warriors: Roderick Tracy Long – May 10-16

14. Chapter 14 - Radical Liberalism and Social Liberation: Gary Chartier – May 17-23

15. Chapter 9 - Don Lavoie's DIalectical Liberalism: Nathan Goodman – May 24-30

16. Chapter 15 - Social Equality and Liberty: Billy Christmas – May 31-June 6

17. Douglas B. Rasmussen and Douglas Den Uyl return to chat about their chapter (see Chapter 4 above) – June 7-8

Finale: An Exchange on the Strategies for Change - Kevin Carson and Jason Lee Byas – June 9-20 (and beyond, if necessary):

18. Chapter 16 - Formal vs. Substantive Statism: A Matter of Context: Kevin Carson – June 9-14

19. Chapter 17 - The Political is Interpersonal: An Interpretation and Defense of Libertarian Immediatism: Jason Lee Byas – June 15-20

We certainly expect the conversation to continue... but this is the finalized schedule (barring any unforeseen circumstances) for the Dialectics and Liberty Group discussion. Check out the abstracts for the above articles here.

January 21, 2020

Derek Jeter: Hall of Fame Yankee Captain

The great Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter, the 1996 Rookie of the Year, who went on to a storied career in the Bronx, has been elected one vote shy of unanimously to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

As Notablog readers surely know, Jeter was among my all-time favorite Yankees. His 20-year Yankee career was marked by some of the most iconic moments in baseball history from "the flip" and his dive into the stands to his "Mr. November" home-run, 3000th hit in a 5 for 5 game and remarkable final game at Yankee Stadium [YouTube links]. As Wikipedia reminds us:

A five-time World Series champion, Jeter is regarded as one of the primary contributors to the Yankees' success of the late 1990s and early 2000s for his hitting, baserunning, fielding, and leadership. He is the Yankees' all-time career leader in hits (3,465), doubles (544), games played (2,747), stolen bases (358), times on base (4,716), plate appearances (12,602) and at bats (11,195). His accolades include 14 All-Star selections, five Gold Glove Awards, five Silver Slugger Awards, two Hank Aaron Awards, and a Roberto Clemente Award. Jeter was the 28th player to reach 3,000 hits and finished his career ranked sixth in MLB history in career hits and first among shortstops. In 2017, the Yankees retired his uniform number 2.

Jeter got 396 out of 397 votes to qualify for the Hall of Fame (Yankee great closer, Mariano Rivera, remains the only unanimous inductee into the Hall). Yeah, it makes you wonder what baseball writer was the spiteful one... but he's still a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He joins a legion of great Yankees who have been elected into the Hall of Fame.

Joining Jeter is Larry Walker from the Colorado Rockies. The Hall of Fame Induction ceremony is set for July 26, 2020. Congratulations, Derek!

January 13, 2020

"The Dialectics of Liberty" Discount Delight: The Paperback is On The Way!

Are you tired of the state of the world? Do you feel as if you have clowns to the left of you and jokers to the right, and that your proclivities for human freedom might as well be tossed aside because you're doomed to live forever in a filled-to-capacity statist madhouse [YouTube link]?

Have no fear! The Dialecticians of Liberty are here!

And you can find a wide variety of them in The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom, co-edited by Roger E. Bissell, Edward W. Younkins, and me, published by Lexington Books as a hardcover in June 2019. It is forthcoming very soon (between late February and mid-March) in an affordable, quality softcover edition!

We are happy to announce that we have a very limited supply of paperback copies of this trailblazing anthology, which has been deeply discounted. Check out the details here. Pre-order while supplies last!

And that’s not all!

We have also set up a moderated Facebook discussion group in which the authors featured in this provocative volume will interact in a structured and constructive way with all those who are eager to learn about the powerful potential inherent in a dialectical-libertarian approach to social theory and social action. This is no mere research project but one that unleashes a multitude of strategies for changing the state of the world in which we live. Indeed, as the cover of the book suggests, you have nothing to lose but your chains.


Come join the party!

January 10, 2020

Neil Peart, RIP

I just learned from my friend Irfan Khawaja that Neil Peart, drummer and primary lyricist for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band, Rush, passed away on January 7, 2020 at the age of 67.

I once wrote a Fall 2002 Journal of Ayn Rand Studies article, "Rand, Rush, and Rock" that spawned a Fall 2003 JARS symposium on "Ayn Rand and Progressive Rock," featuring contributions from Durrell Bowman, Steven Horwitz, Ed Macan, Bill Martin, Robert M. Price, Peter Saint-Andre, and Thomas Welsh, with a rejoinder by me. It was a lively symposium, indeed, but it would never have been possible without the contributions of Neil Peart---whose Randian phase ultimately provoked my original essay.

RIP, Neil Peart.

Ed.: As I added to a Facebook thread by my friend Steve Horwitz:

And you're right, Steve: I have no words either [to express my sadness over this loss] ... but plenty of lyrics and music to remember him by. ❤️

January 02, 2020

Don Larsen, RIP

Don Larsen, the only pitcher in the history of Major League Baseball to throw a perfect game in a World Series, died yesterday at the age of 90. The Yankee pitcher, who didn't have a particularly noteworthy career (he went 81-91 in a career that spanned from 1953 to 1967, pitching for seven different major league teams) was perhaps the least likely candidate to pitch the first---and only---no-hit perfect game in a World Series. It took place on October 8, 1956, Game 5 of the 1956 World Series, in which Larsen threw 97 pitches, 70 of them for strikes [YouTube link].

He was named the Most Valuable Player of the 1956 World Series, which the New York Yankees won over the Brooklyn Dodgers in seven games. I wasn't even a gleam in my parents' eyes back in 1956, but the great Vin Scully's classic call of the end of that game, in which Yogi Berra jumped into the arms of Larsen, is branded in my memory of greatest television sports moments [YouTube link].

My fondest memory of Don Larsen was when he showed up on Yogi Berra Day at Yankee Stadium on July 18, 1999, and threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Yogi. What followed was almost surreal. Yankee pitcher David Cone, as if anointed by the presence of two blessed Yankees, went on to throw a regular season perfect game [YouTube link], only the 16th perfect game in MLB history at that time, out of a total of 23---21 of these in the modern era, which began in 1900.

RIP, Don Larsen.

January 01, 2020

Song of the Day #1690

Song of the Day: Happy New Year, words and music by Gordon Jenkins, is featured on the 1957 studio album, "Alone," by Judy Garland. It has a certain sadness to it, but given the recent resurgence of interest in Judy (see the 2019 film with Rene Zellweger), I thought it was a poignant way of bringing in the new year [YouTube link]. To better days in 2020, filled with love, health, and happiness!

December 25, 2019

Song of the Day #1689

Song of the Day: What Will Santa Claus Say (When He Finds Everybody Swingin')?, written and recorded in 1936 by Louis Prima, is a fun and jazzy song that encompasses the joy of the holiday season, and its message of peace on earth, goodwill to all. Cali (below) and the Sciabarra family wish folks a very Merry Christmas. As you can see, we have to create a large space for her under the tree, and in front of the creche and the village, because she demands to be the center of attention! But she's trying not to be naughty... and is tracking Santa on NORAD, awaiting her gifts! Check out this holiday favorite [YouTube link]!



December 23, 2019

Gaslighting? Watch the Films Today on TCM --- From Which That Word Derives

For years, I have heard lots of folks use the phrase "gaslighting," especially in a political context, which describes, as Stephanie Sarkis observes, "a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. It works much better than you may think. Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn't realize how much they've been brainwashed." Wikipedia tells us:

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, making them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, gaslighting involves attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim's beliefs. ...
The term originated from the 1938 Patrick Hamilton play Gas Light and its 1940 and 1944 film adaptations (both titled Gaslight), in which a character tries to make his wife believe that she has gone insane to cover his criminal activities.

Now, I don't own shares of stock in Turner Classic Movies, but for those of you who have never seen the 1940 or 1944 film adaptations of the Hamilton play, especially the latter, for which the great Ingrid Bergman won an Oscar for Best Actress---please turn on your televisions today (or, if you have a DVR, set it up to record!). TCM is showing both films back-to-back in its monthly feature, shining a spotlight on the original and remade versions of films over the years.

The 1940 British version is on at 1 pm (ET) and the 1944 remake is on at 2:30 pm (ET). You owe it to yourself to discover the original context from which this common political term derives. And you'll be entertained twice as much.


December 22, 2019

Ayn Rand and the Dialectics of Liberty

I was asked on Facebook about my thoughts concerning the novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand, about whom I wrote a book (now in its second edition) called Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical. I replied:

In brief let me at least answer the questions you ask: Yes, Ayn Rand was a philosopher and a novelist, and I think there is much value in her writings. I do not agree with everything Rand ever wrote; I do not consider myself an Objectivist. But I do believe that she offers a model for interpreting and critiquing the social, cultural, and political context in which we live, providing a more full-bodied defense of freedom than one strictly centered on the "political" and the "economic" to the exclusion of the personal and cultural factors that are both preconditions and effects of the political and economic structures predominating in any particular society.
Now Rand was not an academic philosopher and did not present her ideas with the rigor of a typical academic philosopher. As I argue in my book, her work emerged from a particular time and place and should be understood within that context. I go to considerable lengths in Part One of that book (and its three appendices in the second edition) in spelling out the context within which her ideas emerged (the Russian Silver Age) and I spend a lot of time analyzing the ideas that were current at that time---ideas that shaped how she looked at the world. I also spend a bit of time analyzing the ideas and methods that she was exposed to in her college education---and my book remains the only book available that provides a detailed discussion of every course she took, as well as the professors with whom she most likely studied and the texts she most likely read.
In essence, I argue that she rejected much of the substance of Russian thought (in both its Marxist and non-Marxist varieties), while embracing the dialectical methods endemic to it. By "dialectical method," I mean that she thought in grand, systemic terms, analyzing every social problem as part of the larger context in which it was embedded, and as it related to every other social problem. My book focuses more attention on Rand as a social theorist (in Part Three), rather than as strictly a philosopher---even though it presents (in Part Two) an overview of her take on the various branches of philosophy.
But I should add that my book on Rand is part of a trilogy that sought to reclaim dialectical method (properly understood) as an analytical tool that can be used to mount a better understanding and defense of the larger context upon which the achievement of human freedom depends. That trilogy began with Marx, Hayek, and Utopia (Act I, if you will), followed by the book on Rand (Act II), and Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism as the finale (Act III).
Here is a link to a brief essay, written on the tenth anniversary of the completion of my trilogy (2005) and published in The Freeman: "Dialectics and Liberty" [pdf format]. Some of that essay is reproduced in The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom, which I co-edited with Roger Bissell and Ed Younkins. The essay should give you a better idea of what I find of value in Rand's thought (and the thought of others in the libertarian tradition).
Ultimately, I think one must approach Rand's work with a scalpel and not with a sledgehammer (something that she often didn't do with regard to her views of other thinkers). One must have the courage to give credit where credit is due, and to criticize those aspects of her approach that were problematic, in some instances, highly problematic. One must also be careful to distinguish between those ideas of hers that were "essential" to her approach from those views that were expressions of her personal aesthetic or even sexual tastes (views that I don't believe were "essential" to Objectivism, and were sometimes in conflict with her broader commitment to the integrity of individual or "agent-relative" judgment, so essential to human flourishing).

There was, of course, discussion of this post, and I made a few other remarks, which I reproduce here for Notablog readers:

Well, whatever her ideas were on "masculinity" and "femininity" (which i regard as personal views, rather than ideas essential to her philosophical system of thought), it is also the case that she forged a path in which she was the main bread-winner of her own home, and she provided us with many strong female protagonists, including Dagny Taggart in Atlas Shrugged---who has inspired more than a few feminists along the way. Excuse this commercial break, but if you've never read the remarkably diverse anthology featuring many Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand---check it out. It is a part of the Penn State Press "Re-reading the Canon" series, co-edited by Mimi R. Gladstein and myself.

And then there was a Facebook reader who claimed that Rand was financially dependent on her husband to gain success, a so-called "boss babe"... I replied:

Rand came to America in 1926, and found employment as a waitress, and then made her way to the Studio Club, where she stuffed envelopes, and later sold newspaper subscriptions, living on about thirty cents a day. She married Frank O'Connor, who was also struggling financially, in 1929.
Ironically, the one thing that Rand depended on her husband for above all other things was her U.S. citizenship. She met him on the set of Cecil B. DeMIlle's "The King of Kings" (in fact they are both "extras" in the crowd scenes of that classic epic), and was married to him just in time to avoid deportation. But she was soon working in the RKO wardrobe department, and within six months, according to Barbara Branden's biography The Passion of Ayn Rand, she was head of the department, making about $45 a week. This job solved the financial problems that both Frank and Ayn were having. So, if anything, Rand established herself quite early as the bread-winner. The Depression hit, but by 1932, Rand had sold her original screen story, "Red Pawn", to Universal, for $1,500. She would then go on to write a play that debuted on Broadway in September 1935 as "Night of January 16th"---and it gave her substantial royalties, even before she published her first novel (We the Living) in 1936, and her first best seller (The Fountainhead) in 1943 (a work for which she also wrote the screenplay for its 1949 adaptation with Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal). She wrote other screenplays, including one for "Love Letters" in 1945, a film which received four Oscar nominations, including a Best Actress Oscar nomination for Jennifer Jones. So she was no boss babe, imho.
Her family certainly helped her get to America, but by the time she left Russia, her father's pharmacy had been confiscated by the Bolsheviks, and the family was reduced to poverty. She got help from extended family members in America, but she did work hard to succeed.

And someone else questioned her attitudes toward conservatives; I replied:

I know nothing about Rand being bisexual, but she was an atheist, and though many conservatives have liked her support of free markets, she was extremely critical of conservatism---its ties to religion, institutional racism, and its support of wars in Korea and Vietnam, wars that she opposed. She voted for neither Carter nor Reagan---and opposed Reagan for, among other things, his stance on abortion. Rand said that she was trying to appeal to those on both the left and the right: "the 'non-totalitarian liberals' and the 'non-traditional conservatives'."
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Welcome to Notablog.net:  The Blog of Chris Matthew Sciabarra

Information on email notification, comments policy, and the meaning of "Notablog" or write to me at: chris DOT sciabarra AT nyu DOT edu. Thanks to Don Hamerman for this poignant photograph from 1999.


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