Philosophizing about something called “Moral Facts”

I know philosophers get very exercised about this, but I just can’t see it being more than the old adage: the hobgoblin of little minds is consistency.

Indeed, in the world beyond grade school, where adults must exercise their moral knowledge and reasoning to conduct themselves in the society, the stakes are greater. There, consistency demands that we acknowledge the existence of moral facts. If it’s not true that it’s wrong to murder a cartoonist with whom one disagrees, then how can we be outraged? If there are no truths about what is good or valuable or right, how can we prosecute people for crimes against humanity? If it’s not true that all humans are created equal, then why vote for any political system that doesn’t benefit you over others?

I do not have to “acknowledge the existence of moral facts” to be consistent… or even to not murder!  How do I know this?  Because for 52 years I have not murdered anyone, and I’ve been remarkably consistent in my outrage at the murder of cartoonists, my zeal to prosecute crimes against humanity, and my willingness to vote for egalitarian political processes and outcomes as if I were behind a veil of ignorance. The hard job of moral philosophy, it seems to me, is explaining why people like me, who see no need to use a language of “moral facts” can nevertheless have exactly the same outcomes and behaviors and thoughts as people who do… or maybe even better ones (more beautiful because messy like an abstract expressionist, rather than tidily consistent like a Mondrian).

via Why Our Children Don’t Think There Are Moral Facts – NYTimes.com.

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Great science fiction short story about anthropologists and “primitive culture”: Maureen McHugh’s “The Cost to be Wise”

I really liked Maureen McHugh’s “The Cost to be Wise,” and would assign to a class if I were teaching a fieldwork oriented anthropology class.  It made me think of Doomsday Book, but told from the point of view of one of the “primitives.”A nice review is here.  Apparently expanded and published as a novel called Mission Child.

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Yes, when it comes to Oscars, I am a hater

It always surprises me how on week days I run with an inequality-outraged, save-the-planet crowd, who the on weekends rush off to “Oscar parties” to unreflexively participate in… something.  That’s the thing: for me, the something is an envy-unhappiness-inducing corporate calm-the-masses soporific. All the values that you might hold dear are crassly and ostentatiously revealed to be, well, irrelevant.  Like my current favorite joke: How many vegans does it take to change a light bulb? None. Vegans can’t change anything.  The joke is all in how you intonate “change,” Obama-style or Romney-style.  So I stayed at home, graded, did some housework with my kids.  Yup, a true killjoy.  And if we all did that, what a much better world.

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Out running on Guadalupe trail, guess who Sukie and I saw? @sliccardo

Mayor Sam Liccardo, and boy was he cooking…. So now I’ve seen him out “on the streets” twice this week.  Nice that he is not always in the back of an SUV limo.

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Saturday night and you shold be enjoying Neutral Milk Hotel too

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Now I really can go bankrupt in style

Henry Kevane’s (my brother!) firm announced that he has become a fellow of the American College of Bankruptcy. He will be inducted on March 13, 2015 in Washington DC.  From the American College of Bankruptcy website:

Fellows are extended an invitation to join based on a record of achievement in the insolvency process by professionals who have distinguished themselves in their practice and in their contribution to the insolvency field. The College now has approximately 650 Fellows, each selected by a Board of Regents from among recommendations of the Circuit Admissions Council in each federal judicial circuit and specially appointed Committees for Judicial and International Fellows.

Criteria for selection include: the highest standard of professionalism, ethics, character, integrity, professional expertise and leadership in contributing to the enhancement of bankruptcy and insolvency processes; sustained evidence of scholarship, teaching, lecturing or writing on bankruptcy or insolvency; and commitment to elevate knowledge and understanding of the profession and public respect for the practice.

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Burkina Faso finally makes the FCPA… a smallish but possibly typical corruption case

WADS is a subsidiary of a Texas company called Layne Christensen Company and it’s MinEx division, that does well-drilling and exploration.  Details are here in the SEC ruling.  Irregular payment to custom’s clearing agent, who presumably passed on to custom’s officials, was on order of $100,000.   This seems not to have made the news in Burkina Faso… would be nice for the clearing agent and custom;s officials involved to be named and shamed.

Burkina Faso’s customs authority conducted an audit of WADS in June 2010. The auditors found that WADS had failed to comply with customs regulations relating to the importation of certain goods and to pay sufficient customs duties on these items. As a result, the customs authority assessed WADS nearly $2 million in unpaid duties and penalties. Although WADS had retained a new customs clearing agent prior to receiving this assessment, it engaged its former customs agent purportedly to negotiate a reduction in the assessment. The former agent had cleared the disputed items but WADS terminated it in or about May 2009 due, in part, to poor performance. Nevertheless, WADS reengaged its former agent in June 2010 because the agent’s owner was well – connected with customs authorities in Burkina Faso. In an email to the MinEx CFO, the WADS Finance Manager described the agent as someone who is “well known in the game.” In addition, he informed the MinEx CFO that WADS retained the agent on a success fee basis and would pay the agent 10% of the difference between the original assessment and the final assessment. On August 1, 2009, the MinEx CFO also told the MinEx President and another senior employee that WADS had retained a third – party agent to negotiate a settlement of the customs audit and the assessed customs duties were reduced from nearly $2 million to less than $300,000. The MinEx CFO recommended that WADS accept this settlement and he sought the approval of the MinEx President to send $300,000 to pay the customs fees and penalties as well as $100,000 for the agent’s commission. Without questioning the identity of the agent, the nature of the services provided, or the size of the commission, the MinEx President approved the payments. The MinEx CFO initiated cash calls to fund the payments and Layne transferred funds from a U.S. bank account to WADS on August 4 and August 28, 2010. Between August 4 and 20, 2010, WADS paid the agent a total of approximately $138,000, including one cash payment. WADS falsely recorded the payments to the agent as legitimate consultant fees in its books and records

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