She Fights the Law and She Wins

Joyce Phipps, Esq. is the founder and director of Casa de Esperanza–a non-profit legal aid and social service organization in Bound Brook, New Jersey, created to serve immigrants and refugees. I met her last February at the vigil for immigrant detainees I described in an earlier post.

We met more or less by chance: lost in thought, I wandered away from the vigil to prowl around the perimeter of the facility, and poke at its edges; Joyce, who was doing the same thing, noticed me, and struck up a conversation. It took just a few minutes of conversation to convince me to invite her to Felician to talk about her work defending the rights of immigrants and refugees. It took less time for her to accept. Continue reading

Deportations with Benefits

I invited two agents from  ICE’s Newark, New Jersey Field Office to speak to my cross-listed Philosophy/Criminal Justice class today. The topic? “Enforcement and Removal Operations 101,” or less euphemistically put, “Deporting People in the Name of the Law: An Introduction.”

The two agents more or less made the arguments you would expect agents from ICE to make: ICE is empowered to search, seize, detain, and deport those who violate the nation’s immigration laws; some or many of these illegals are bad actors, whether of a criminal or terrorist variety; and though the media like to focus on the most problematic or controversial actions that ICE undertakes, media coverage doesn’t adequately explain the legal rationale or ICE’s enforcement/deportation operations, or give a balanced account of what it is that the average ICE agent does on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Continue reading

“Little Drummer Girl”: The Lowdown

I spent a fair bit of my Thanksgiving holiday watching the “Little Drummer Girl” mini-series on BBC/AMC, apparently the second film version of the John LeCarre novel of that name. Whether you’ve seen it or not, I’ve done the hard work in this post of distilling everything about it that you need to know.

On the plus side:

  • Yes, the cinematography is as lush and captivating as everyone is saying.
  • Yes, Florence Pugh is hot, and does a great job portraying her character, Charlie.
  • Yes, Alexander Skarsgard is hot, and does a great job portraying his character, Gadi.
  • Yes, they have good chemistry.
  • Yes, Michael Shannon is credible as a Mossad agent, or at least as credible as he needs to be to an audience consisting primarily of non-Mossad agents.
  • Yes, the series is worth watching, even with all of its flaws and at 6 hours’ showing time, and yes, it whets your appetite for the book (which I haven’t read).

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“Bohemian Rhapsody”: A Rhapsody

The year is 1977–maybe late October or November. I’m eight years old, having dinner in a pizzeria with my immigrant family in Blairstown, New Jersey–Dominick’s, I think it was. Suddenly, the stereo system at Dominick’s pipes out the unforgettable bass-snare drum beat of the latest hit on the radio:

BOOM BOOM Clap

BOOM BOOM Clap

BOOM BOOM Clap

BOOM BOOM Clap

Buddy you’re a boy make a big noise
Playin’ in the street gonna be a big man some day
You got
Mud on yo’ face
Big disgrace
Kickin’ your can all over the place

Everyone in Dominick’s but us–maybe two dozen Warren County rednecks–starts stomping their feet and clapping their hands in time to the music. Somebody yells out, “Fuckin Yankees!” (The Yankees had won the World Series that year.) And then, two dozen voices in unison, between bites of Jersey Neapolitan pizza, sing in commemoration of the Yankees’ victory over the Dodgers, and anything else that comes to mind:

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No Easy Road: Easements and Occupation in the West Bank

Anyone who’s spent time in libertarian circles has probably encountered the notorious debate over easements. Here’s an interesting iteration of the debate from about a decade ago, involving Walter Block, Stephan Kinsella, and Roderick Long. Roderick’s position nicely summarizes the basic issue involved:

I’ve long argued that one property owner cannot legitimately buy up all the land around another’s property and thereby either keep the latter prisoner (if she was on the property at the time) or bar the latter from her own home (if she was away) – since one cannot legitimately use one’s own property to interfere with the liberty and property of others.

I read the debate with intense interest when it came out, but never quite settled on a position, in part because I found the thought-experiments involved too distant from anything I could think about with any degree of confidence. Also because I wasn’t sure I agreed with the underlying assumptions that got the debate off the ground. Continue reading

Dewey and Boydstun on Pure Mathematics

In my paper on Dewey’s 1915 book on German philosophy and WWI, I had quoted a general epistemological viewpoint maintained by Dewey: There are in truth “no such things as pure ideas or pure reason. Every living thought represents a gesture made toward the world, an attitude taken to some practical situation in which we are implicated.”

Irfan questioned whether I thought that correct when it comes to mathematics.

“Maybe it’s true of some parts of mathematics, but is it true of all of mathematics? Do professors of mathematics, or even college math majors, go into mathematics because it represents ‘an attitude taken to some practical situation in which we are implicated’”? Irfan inclined to think Dewey’s general position either implausible or as involving a very odd conception of “practical situation in which we are implicated.” He rather thought that math-folk got on with it due to an enjoyment of math-thought and perhaps, contra Dewey, a desire to escape from practical concerns. In any event, “it’s hard to make out what Dewey is trying to say.”

Continue reading

Estlund (and Brennan) on inherently fair procedure

Procedures can be fair, but not due to tending to produce results that are fair.  If two reasonable people are not agreed on who should get the last turkey sandwich, it would be fair to flip a coin to decide who gets the sandwich.  But this would not be because there is some “fair owner” of the sandwich that coin-flipping tends to get right. Similarly, it seems that democratic procedure is an inherently fair way to decide issues of state governance.

Continue reading

Hey, PoPo–Leave Those Kids Alone

Is the behavior described in this story immoral? Yes. Stupid? Yes. Punishment-worthy? Maybe. But the appropriate subject of a police investigation? No.

We’re all justifiably outraged when someone calls the cops on black people engaged in some innocuous activity–be it barbecuing, babysitting, or whatever. But calling the cops to “assist” in a school investigation into fascist speech is no better than that, and fundamentally, no different. It’s a misuse of the powers of the police, and yet another illegitimate broadening of the scope of their activities. Continue reading

My Mom Chose Life

I was having lunch yesterday in the university cafeteria with a priest who teaches a course on ethics. Predictably, the priest was doing what we all do, namely, complaining about his students–complaining, in particular, about their susceptibility to pro-choice propaganda. “You know,” he said in dismay, “I asked them when human life begins, and they all think it begins when the child exits the womb!” Not everybody at the table knew quite how to respond to this, but I told the priest I sympathized with his dismay. Obviously, I said, human life doesn’t begin when the child exits the womb. It begins when the child exits the house.

I somehow feel like I learned this lesson from Judith Jarvis Thomson, but I’m probably misremembering her argument.

John Dewey, Philosophy, and the German Aggression

(This is a paper I wrote in 2013. It has accumulated about 1650 reads at Objectivism Online, where I posted it. I imagine readers come across it there by the link to it and other articles of mine in “About Me” in my Profile there. // Irfan saw the link to it I posted on FB today, a century after WWI Armistice, and thought it might find interested readers here. So here I’ll try to post it now.)

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Dewey and Peikoff on Kant’s Responsibility

Part 1 – Transcendental Idealism v. Experimental Pragmatism

John Dewey delivered three lectures in February 1915 that were published later that year under the title German Philosophy and Politics (GPP). Dewey attempted in this work to trace the contribution of some abstract philosophical ideas to the currents of German thinking that had contributed to bringing the world to its present situation. The Great War had been on for seven months. Hundreds of thousands had died already. Eight and a half million would die, and twenty-one million would be wounded, by the end of the war. Continue reading