Thursday, February 12, 2009

More Brief Notes

The Senate and House bills regarding the economic stimulus package supported by the new president have been reconciled by Senate and House members: the U.S. economic stimulus package now is budgeted at $789 billion, according to CBS News, the New York Times and other news sources (February 12, 2009). I suspect this legislation will form the foundation of Barack Obama's legacy. [Postscript: The Congressional Budget Office would revise the package's cost to $787 billion; and the president would sign the legislation into law on Monday, February 17, 2009.] (Feb. 12, 2009) has reported that Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius is being discussed to lead Health and Human Services for the president. She seems an interesting person and a strong candidate, smart and accessible, collaborative and independent, practical and progressive.

Finland is known as one of the best places to live on earth, but the Helsinki Times (Feb. 11) has disclosed that Finnish hate groups have made their presence known on Facebook, focusing on anti-Somali feeling, with the groups even suggesting that monies be raised to send immigrants back to their native Somali.

In his (Feb. 3) Butterflies and Wheels article “On Rights and Sexuality,” Alexander Park states, “The obsession with some on the left with the biological roots of homosexuality is, I think, a direct result of the Privacy Fallacy. Seeking to avoid a conflict over values, which are ‘private’ and ‘relative’ and therefore ‘uncontestable,’ the left has chosen to try to avoid the entire argument that must inevitably occur by hiding behind the possibility of removing homosexuality from a moral calculus via biological fate. But this move is merely delaying the inevitable, and avoiding important facts at hand.” I have found, often, that using nature to justify human behavior is questionable: it can be a justification for the lack of choice and freedom, and a support for prejudice, as much as an argument for individual rights and personal wholeness. What is unique about being human is the possibility of knowledge and choice.

The Notre Damn Philosophical Reviews site has new book reviews focused on texts exploring Kant, Spinoza, and Wittgenstein, as well as freedom, bioethics, and critical theory. San Francisco State University’s Tom Leddy discusses Yuriko Saito’s book Everyday Aesthetics, a 2007 Oxford University Press title: “One unique aspect of Saito's analysis is the stress she places on the moral dimension of everyday aesthetics. First, she stresses the social importance of everyday aesthetic choices. If people value the greenness of a lawn, there are environmental consequences. Second, she tells us about how aestheticization of certain phenomena can cause social harm: for example, the Japanese in the last century associated their native landscape with militarist nationalism. Third, she stresses the ways that people are judged both in moral and aesthetic terms. Only the last of these seems problematic to me. There are admirable people who are not committed to conventional middle-class values of neatness and order. Should they be judged aesthetically/morally in terms of those values? In this respect, it is surprising to find an avowed feminist sympathetic, as Saito seems to be, to Dickens' implicit criticism of Mrs. Jellyby in Bleak House as having allowed her house to become untidy because of her interest in social problems.”

Alexander Provan has an article on Kafka in The Nation, available online (Feb. 11).

In “Laughing Through the Tears: The Enduring Journey of Etta James,” (Feb. 12) excerpts Iain Ellis’s book Rebels with Attitude. (The piece might give some insight into James, whose responses, such as to Beyonce, can be contradictory, volatile.)