“The Settlers”: Voices from the Holy Land Film Salon

I’m pleased to announce that this Sunday, Nov. 13th at 3 pm ET, Voices from the Holy Land, in conjunction with Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago and Tzedek-Chicago, will be hosting a salon-style discussion of the documentary film “The Settlers.” It’s a public event, but requires free registration. The idea is to watch the film on one’s own time prior to the event, and then attend the discussion, featuring two veteran commentators, filmmaker Shimon Dotan and Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro, with moderator Lara Friedman. Here’s a link to the meeting registration, as well as to the film.

THE SETTLERS is the first comprehensive look at Israel’s continued construction of settlements in the West Bank, which is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Radicals, idealists, messianic fanatics, true believers and political opportunists, living on the fault lines of an age-old conflict, come face-to-face with history. Today, the settlers threaten to destroy what little peace remains in the Middle East.

Continue reading

Davenport on Guns: The “Endless Arms Race”

John Davenport has a piece on gun violence and gun regulation in Salon, “An endless arms race: How to fight the NRA’s absurd solution to mass shootings.”

As we celebrated Independence Day, there was no independence from the scourge of gun violence and the toll it is taking on the American psyche. The shooter who attacked a parade in Highland Park, Illinois, killing six people and wounding at least 38 others, used a “high-powered rifle,” according to authorities. Survivors report a rain of bullets at the height of the attack.

This attack is bound to renew calls for more “red flag” laws that would help identify and disarm emotionally or mentally unstable persons who are making threats of gun violence or praising mass murderers. But would the Highland Park shooter’s online record of participating in “death fetish” culture sites and making art featuring mass killing have been enough for a judge to order seizure of his guns?

In the Wake of Dobbs

For whatever reason, PoT has not, in the eight years of its existence, focused much on abortion or related issues. But we’ve run a few relevant posts, all written by yours truly. Most, I suppose, nibble at the edges of relatively peripheral issues; few are directly relevant to the recent overturning of Roe vs. Wade through Dobbs vs. Jackson. Still, for whatever it’s worth, I thought I’d dig a few out of the vaults. 

In 2015, in the wake of the mass shooting at an abortion clinic in Colorado Springs, I wrote a pair of posts on whether opponents of abortion were logically or morally obliged to engage in vigilante violence in order to oppose abortion. Jason Brennan had argued that they were; I argued that they weren’t. Continue reading

The Right to Boycott

As many readers of this blog will remember, earlier this year, we had a months-long discussion of the pros and cons of “cancellation” and related topics, initiated in part by this long post of mine in December, and this long rejoinder by David Potts a few weeks later. Feel free to click the “cancel culture” tag to follow some of the preceding and subsequent discussion, which eventually petered out (at least on my end) less through any dearth of topics left to discuss, or desire to discuss them, than from the lack of time to pursue the discussion to a proper conclusion. That said, I thought that the discussion was a useful airing-out of some contentious issues.    Continue reading

I Am the Law: Hart and Self-Legislation

According to H.L.A. Hart, law is a union of primary and secondary rules. A rule is a codified directive to someone. Primary rules are primary because they give directives directly to, or impose obligations directly on, those governed by the rule. Secondary rules are rules about the primary ones, specifying “the ways in which the primary rules may be conclusively ascertained, introduced, eliminated, varied, and the fact of their violation conclusively determined” (Hart, Concept of Law,  p. 94). Among the secondary rules is a “rule of recognition,” which specifies “some feature or features possession of which by a suggested rule is taken as a conclusive affirmative indication that it is a rule of the group to be supported by the social pressure it exerts” (Hart, Concept of Law, p. 94). Continue reading

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Avatar of Liberalism and Academic Freedom

The new proposed University of Austin is being founded to promote liberalism and academic freedom:

There is a gaping chasm between the promise and the reality of higher education. Yale’s motto is Lux et Veritas, light and truth. Harvard proclaims: Veritas. Young men and women of Stanford are told Die Luft der Freiheit weht: The wind of freedom blows.

These are soaring words. But in these top schools, and in so many others, can we actually claim that the pursuit of truth—once the central purpose of a university—remains the highest virtue? Do we honestly believe that the crucial means to that end—freedom of inquiry and civil discourse—prevail when illiberalism has become a pervasive feature of campus life?

The numbers tell the story as well as any anecdote you’ve read in the headlines or heard within your own circles. Nearly a quarter of American academics in the social sciences or humanities endorse ousting a colleague for having a wrong opinion about hot-button issues such as immigration or gender differences. Over a third of conservative academics and PhD students say they had been threatened with disciplinary action for their views. Four out of five American PhD students are willing to discriminate against right-leaning scholars, according to a report by the Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology.

They’ve decided to hire Ayaan Hirsi Ali to teach there. Here is Hirsi Ali’s view of academic freedom, as captured in a famous 2007 interview with Reason magazine. I encourage you to read the whole thing. But this bit strikes me as particularly relevant. Continue reading

Cancel Culture and the Arc of the Moral Universe

I’ve heard so many whining, incoherent complaints about the evils of “cancel culture” over the past few years, usually from the same old suspects saying the same damn thing over and over. I wouldn’t offer a blanket endorsement of every cancellation or every cancellation-oriented group or movement. But I’m curious (once again) to hear what anti-cancel-culture warriors have to say about Trafficking Hub’s campaign to cancel human trafficking in porn.

Either the pressure exerted on MasterCard (and other vendors) was an instance of “cancel culture,” or it wasn’t. If not, why not?

Suppose it was. Was there anything wrong with it? Were the aims unjust, or the means immoral?

If there’s nothing wrong with the Trafficking Hub campaign, what’s the rationale for the blanket attack on “cancel culture”? Why don’t cases like this prove that if we’re to use the phrase at all, “cancel culture” has both legitimate and illegitimate instances?

Continue reading