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Patrick S. O'Donnell
Adjunct Instructor, Department of Philosophy, Santa Barbara City College
Interests: philosophy of law and legal theory, philosophy of mind, ethics, political philosophy, philosophy of science, religious worldviews, psychoanalysis, psychology
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Among the definitions for “milk” in The New Shorter Oxford Dictionary (Clarendon Press, 1993) we find: “A milky juice [like many lexical definitions, circular in construction] or latex secreted by certain plants, e.g. coconut milk.” And among the figurative uses of the word, “milk” is “[s]omething pleasant and (supposedly) nourishing,” the parenthetical qualification no doubt appreciated by dairy lobbyists. Finally, our dictionary defines milk variously as a “culinary, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, or other preparation of herbs, drugs, etc., resembling milk” [emphasis added]. Within the category of phrases, our dictionary cites “almond milk” and “rice milk,” and among several terms with “milk” in them we discover “milk stout” (‘a kind of sweet stout made with lactose’) and “milk-tree” (‘any of several trees having a milky juice’). Not mentioned is “mother’s milk” in the sense of something “absolutely necessary or appropriate,” not to be confused with the milk of a particular child’s own... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Migrant workers harvest strawberries at a farm near Oxnard, California. Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images Two recent pieces discuss the probable agricultural effects of Trump’s proposed immigration and trade policies. “In the Central Valley, drought fears ease, but farmers contend with a new threat: Trump” By Robin Abcarian for the Los Angeles Times, February 15, 2017 [sans embedded hyperlinks] “It’s almost impossible to get a rise from my favorite farmer, Joe Del Bosque, who grows almonds, melons and asparagus here on the perpetually water-challenged west side of the San Joaquin Valley. After years of drought, suddenly everything is green. It’s raining like crazy, the infamous pumps of the Sacramento Delta are working overtime to fill reservoirs to the south and all over the state, dry fields have become muddy lakes. ‘So what are you Westside farmers whining about now?’ I asked Del Bosque when I visited him Monday in his office, a... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
I first learned of this from my Verso Radical Diary, although I’m not sure how they arrived at the precise date. Her essay was published in 1855 in an Ahmednagar journal, Dnyanodaya which, in addition to “disseminating information” on emerging scientific fields, also published pieces on morality and religion. The following is a snippet from “About the Griefs of the Mangs and the Mahars:” [….] “Now obviously, if the Vedas are only for the brahmins, they are absolutely not for us. Teach us, O Lord, thy true religion so that we can all lead our lives according to it. Let that religion, where only one person is privileged and the rest are deprived, perish from the earth and let it never enter our minds to be proud of such a religion. [….] O learned pandits, wind up the selfish prattle of your hollow wisdom and listen to what I have... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Although we do not know his actual birth date, today we celebrate the birthday of Frederick Douglass (né Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey — c. February 1818 - February 20, 1895) because that is the date he chose: Douglass “was an African-American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York, gaining note for his dazzling oratory and incisive antislavery writings. In his time, he was described by abolitionists as a living counter-example to slaveholders’ arguments that slaves lacked the intellectual capacity to function as independent American citizens.” THE CONSTITUTIONALITY OF SLAVERY The Constitution of the United States. — What is it? Who made it? For whom and for what was it made? Is it from heaven or from men? How, and in what light are we to understand it? If it be... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
I have one more paper that I’ve corrected and revised (including the title!): Natural Law “Externalism” v. Natural Law as “Moral Aspiration.” It is not about the well-worn legal positivist v. natural law debate but rather discusses how best to characterize natural law theory with regard to its intrinsic relation to justice and morality. The paper is in response to a contrary characterization of the natural law tradition made by Professor Thom Brooks so as to contrast that tradition with Hegel’s “internalist” theory of natural law. I argue that the natural law tradition is not properly described as “externalist” but is in fact “internalist,” even if not in the sense Brooks ascribes to Hegel. The revised paper is now available on my Academia page here. Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
This paper is divided into two parts: the first on analogy and the second on metaphor. I still think it holds up well after several years, at least by way of an introduction to the material. Law students may find the discussion of analogy and the doctrine of precedent (stare decisis) of particular interest. I’ve corrected some errors in the original draft and added a bit more spacing (with a few other formatting changes) to make it easier to read (and of course comments welcomed, provided they come with a spoonful of sugar!). It is available on my Academia page here. Continue reading
Posted Feb 12, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
I learned from the indefatigable and brilliant Jennifer Taub in a FB post this morning that Congress has “the power to request Donald [Trump’s] tax returns. The Internal Revenue Code says so. Specifically 26 U.S.C. § 6103(f)(1). This provision allows the Chair of three different Committees to each ask the Treasury Secretary to furnish any tax returns. Importantly, only one Committee vote is needed not a full vote of Congress. Also, although language seems to preclude sharing the returns with the public, this can happen. Quoting Reuters: ‘The three committees do not need permission from Congress as a whole to review tax records behind closed doors, according to tax experts and congressional aides. However, they face a higher barrier if they want to make that information public. “There has to be a legitimate purpose for that disclosure. It has to be in the public interest,” said George Yin, a former... Continue reading
Posted Feb 12, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
There is an excellent—because informative, incisive and concise—op-ed in today’s Los Angeles Times by Barbara Miner, “a Milwaukee-based reporter and the author of Lessons from the Heartland: A Turbulent Half-Century of Public Education in an Iconic American City (The New Press, 2013). Here is a snippet from her piece, “If you care about our public schools and our democracy, beware of Betsy DeVos and her vouchers:” [….] “Because they are defined as ‘private,’ voucher schools operate by separate rules, with minimal public oversight or transparency. They can sidestep basic constitutional protections such as freedom of speech. They do not have to provide the same level of second-language or special-education services. They can suspend or expel students without legal due process. They can ignore the state’s requirements for open meetings and records. They can disregard state law prohibiting discrimination against students on grounds of sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, or marital or... Continue reading
Posted Feb 12, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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On February 11, 1990, Nelson Mandela was released from prison. His final period of imprisonment was in stark contrast to the 18 years he spent on Robben Island and at Pollsmoor Prison in Tokai, Cape Town from 1982-1988: “[I]n December 1988 Mandela was moved to Victor Verster Prison near Paarl. He was housed in the relative comfort of a warder’s house with a personal cook, and used the time to complete his LLB degree. While there, he was permitted many visitors and organised secret communications with exiled ANC leader Oliver Tambo.” * * * “Mandela and South Africa are not … unique in the role prison played in the political development of nation and individual; rather, they point to the role of prison in the political processes of many peoples and struggles. Imprisonment preceded national office for leaders ranging from Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah and Cuba’s Fidel Castro in anticolonial struggles... Continue reading
Posted Feb 11, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
I have recently edited (including the correction of numerous errors!) a few blog posts from several years ago at both Ratio Juris and Religious Left Law, revising them into essays that are now available on my Academia page: “Socio-Political Conflict Resolution and Nonviolence: An Historical Exemplum and Select Bibliography,” and “Toward an Understanding of Traditional—or better— Classical Chinese Medicine (TCM/CCM).” Continue reading
Posted Feb 9, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Please Note: I’m re-posting this from the archives because I noticed numerous errors (now corrected) in the original and sufficient time has elapsed for me to imagine there may be a few fresh readers who might be interested in the subject, if only because of the urgent and passionate attention being devoted to the theory and praxis of protest, resistance, and opposition in the U.S. today. Preface What follows is by way of an introduction to whet your appetite for the subject matter covered in one of our compilations in the Online Research Bibliographies series: Socio-Political Conflict and Nonviolence. I had originally intended to post this bibliography and essay in honor and celebration of May Day, as “the exemplum” outlines the nonviolent theory and praxis exemplified by KOR, the Workers’ Defense Committee (later: Komitet Samoobrony Społecznej KOR/Social Self-Defense Committee, KSS-‘KOR’) in Poland that played a direct “service” role in the... Continue reading
Posted Feb 8, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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“Manifestations of the efficiency of reliance on rules are all around us, but we may fail to recognize them precisely because of the role that rules play. It is just because reliance on rules eliminates the necessity of making some kinds of investigations and calculations that often we do not consider the kinds of investigations that would otherwise have been required. Our lives proceed more efficiently because by relying on posted speed limits we spend less time calculating how fast to drive, in the same way that the observant Jew is relieved by the rules of kashrut from having to train herself as a biologist just to know which foods to eat and which to avoid. And in cultures [or schools!] in which a particular style of dress is mandatory … a common argument for those rules is precisely that they eliminate the calculations, the anguish, and the expenditures that... Continue reading
Posted Feb 7, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Bill Whitfield of the Black Panther chapter in Kansas City serves free breakfast to children before they go to school, April 16, 1969. (Photograph by William P. Straeter, AP) This post (along with three – of six – of my prior posts this month) is motivated, in part, by the fact that February is Black History Month. The scope of some of this material goes beyond African Americans, strictly speaking. A Basic Bibliography: Alkon, Alison Hope. Black, White, and Green: Farmers Markets, Race, and the Green Economy. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2012. Alkon, Alison Hope and Julian Agyeman, eds. Cultivating Food Justice: Race, Class, and Sustainability. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011. Allen, Will. The Good Food Revolution: Growing Healthy Food, People, and Communities. New York: Gotham Books/Penguin, 2012. Bhopal, Raj S. Ethnicity, Race, and Health in Multicultural Societies: Foundations for Better Epidemiology, Public Health, and Health Care. New... Continue reading
Posted Feb 6, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Participants in Project Growth help plant turnip seed. Photo by Jonah Vitale-Wolff. “Radical Farmers Use Fresh Food to Fight Racial Injustice and the New Jim Crow” If we are to create a society that values black life, we cannot ignore the role of food and land. Leah Penniman, Yes! Magazine (Sept. 05, 2015) In August, five young men showed up at Soul Fire Farm, a sustainable farm near Albany, New York, where I work as educator and food justice coordinator. It was the first day of a new restorative justice program, in partnership with the county’s Department of Law. The teens had been convicted of theft, and, as an alternative to incarceration, chose this opportunity to earn money to pay back their victims while gaining farm skills. They looked wary and unprepared, with gleaming sneakers and averted eyes. “I basically expected it to be like slavery, but it would be... Continue reading
Posted Feb 5, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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James Baldwin in 1965. Sadat Pakay Any real change implies the breakup of the world as one has always known it, the loss of all that gave one an identity, the end of safety. And at such a moment, unable to see and not daring to imagine what the future will now bring forth, one clings to what one knew, or thought one knew; to what one possessed or dreamed that one possessed. Yet, it is only when a man is able, without bitterness or self-pity, to surrender a dream he has long cherished or a privilege he has long possessed that he is set free—he has set himself free—for higher dreams, for greater privileges. All men have gone through this, go through it, each according to his degree, throughout their lives. It is one of the irreducible facts of life. — From the first paragraph of Baldwin’s essay, “Faulkner... Continue reading
Posted Feb 3, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
First, from Slate: “In a press release from Oct. 17, Trump pledged to ‘drain the swamp in Washington, D.C.’ He then tweeted: ‘I will Make Our Government Honest Again — believe me. But first, I’m going to have to #DrainTheSwamp.’ [….] At its bottom, drain the swamp is a metaphor: If you drain the swamp, you eliminate the mosquitoes (or snakes and alligators, in other iterations) that breed disease. But, ironically, the original disease the expression referred to was the very thing Trump has built his campaign on: big business.” And now, from Reuters (February 3, 2017): By Ayesha Rascoe and Sarah N. Lynch “U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday will fire the opening salvo in his campaign to scale back major regulations that resulted from the financial crisis, directing a review of the Dodd-Frank Act and putting the brakes on a retirement advice rule. The executive order Trump will... Continue reading
Posted Feb 3, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President and infamous for her recent “alternative facts” locution (a term, Robert Hockett reminds us, that can have a perfectly proper descriptive semantic referent), has now provided us with another illustrious example of the Trump administration’s appalling penchant for resort to such falsehoods: “Speaking to Chris Matthews on MSNBC on Thursday night, Conway said: ‘I bet it’s brand-new information to people that President Obama had a six-month ban on the Iraqi refugee program after two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized and were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre. Most people don’t know that because it didn’t get covered.’” This is “brand-new information” alright, because it’s a complete fabrication: there never was such a “massacre:” As Ed Mazza explains at The Huffington Post, “Conway … appears to be referring to an incident in 2011 when two Iraqi refugees were arrested in Bowling... Continue reading
Posted Feb 3, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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“ … Trump’s wall is part of a growing trend of nations fencing off their neighbors — even those they call friends.” A rather intriguing and timely piece in the Los Angeles Times (January 31, 2017) by Ann M. Simmons: [….] “Barriers for military defense are anomalies now, said Elisabeth Vallet, an adjunct professor of geography at the University of Quebec at Montreal and an expert on international border barriers. ‘Most of them are between countries at peace. It’s fencing ourselves in rather than keeping an enemy state out.’ [….] There were very few barriers between nations at the end of World War II and just 15 in 1990, said Reece Jones, an associate professor of geography at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and author of Violent Borders: Refugees and the Right to Move, which explores how borders are formed and policed. But in the last five years, 25... Continue reading
Posted Feb 2, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Today marks the inauguration of Black History Month. It is also, fortuitously, the birthday of the African American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist, Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967). Our trifecta is complete with a link to a new paper (posted today!) by Alfred Brophy on SSRN: “Black Power in a Prison Library.” As I Grew Older It was a long time ago. I have almost forgotten my dream. But it was there then, In front of me, Bright like a sun— My dream. And then the wall rose, Rose slowly, Slowly, Between me and my dream. Rose until it touched the sky— The wall. Shadow. I am black. I lie down in the shadow. No longer the light of my dream before me, Above me. Only the thick wall. Only the shadow. My hands! My dark hands! Break through the wall! Find my dream!... Continue reading
Posted Feb 1, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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To those who imbibed the toxic cocktail of denial, self-deception, and wishful thinking in the last presidential election, there’s still hope for a full recovery. Your fears, anger and insecurities are ill-served by a fascist populist and his would-be kleptocratic cronies whose narcissistic megalomania and Midas complex glorify the conspicuous vices of contemporary capitalism in a manner that seeks to trump democratic institutions, values and principles as it eviscerates the triune virtues of liberté, égalité, and fraternité. It is still possible to awaken your potential to exercise the tenacity and courage needed to break through the authoritarian character armor sub-consciously constructed out of the fragile and feeble fabric provided by the more regressive and perverse socio-cultural materials found in this country’s history: conformism, homophobia, (white and ‘Christian’) ethno-nationalism, militarism, parochialism, racism, sexism, conspicuous consumption and acquisitiveness, unbridled ambition, celebrity worship and fame-seeking, the will to dominate others, in short, the... Continue reading
Posted Jan 30, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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First, a few salient facts: “There have been zero fatal terror attacks on U.S. soil since 1975 by immigrants from the seven Muslim-majority countries President Donald Trump targeted with immigration bans on Friday, further highlighting the needlessness and cruelty of the president’s executive order. [….] The order, at the end of Trump’s first week as president, is an extension of a presidential campaign in which Trump routinely stirred fears and peddled misinformation about Muslims in America. It also partially fulfills Trump’s 2015 call to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S.” [….] Christopher Mathias in The Huffington Post. * * * From David Cole’s post, “We’ll See You in Court: Why Trump’s Executive Order on Refugees Violates the Establishment Clause,” at the Just Security blog (sans embedded links): “According to the Supreme Court, ‘the clearest command of the Establishment Clause is that one religious denomination cannot be officially preferred over... Continue reading
Posted Jan 29, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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“President Donald Trump wants to bring back waterboarding, an illegal practice widely condemned as torture and a failed George W. Bush-era policy. Trump made the comments in an interview with ABC News that’s scheduled to be broadcast later Wednesday, saying ‘absolutely’ he believes torture works and would help because ‘we’re not playing on an even field.’ ‘When ISIS is doing things that no one has ever heard of, since medieval times, would I feel strongly about waterboarding?’ Trump said. ‘As far as I’m concerned, we have to fight fire with fire.’ ‘But do I feel it works?’ He asked, then answered his own question: ‘Absolutely, I feel it works.’ The president indicated his ultimate decision would be determined by his Cabinet, primarily CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis.” The rest of this short article at Huffington Post is here. Comment: First, there is no convincing evidence that... Continue reading
Posted Jan 26, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Photograph by Oliver Contreras/Washington Post At Teen Vogue, there is a poem titled “Where were you?” penned “by civil rights activist and the co-founder of Campaign Zero, Johnetta Elzie,” only parts of which I will quote from below: Where were you when your ancestors set out to steal my ancestors from our homes? When they raped African women then refused to acknowledge their own children, who were born as a result? When Harriet was on the run, fighting for freedom? Where were you? Where were you when Claudette decided not to get up out of her seat on that bus? When Rosa did the same? When they told us to sit in the “Colored” section, and beat us when we disobeyed? Where were you? Where were you when we wanted the right to vote, too? When we had to care for our families AND yours? Serving you dinner, while struggling... Continue reading
Posted Jan 24, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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The first members of a team of Cuban doctors and health workers unload boxes of medicines and medical material at the Freetown airport. Sierra Leone: October 2, 2014 (Photograph by Florian Plaucheur/AFP/Getty). At the moment I cannot post anything substantive on this material, but I thought some readers of this blog might be interested in a few items (see the suggested reading below) I recently came across, prompted in the first place by an intriguing (if not provocative) article in the New Left Review, 102 (Nov/Dec 2016): “Ebola’s Ecologies: Agro-Economics and Epidemiology in West Africa,” by Rob Wallace and Rodrick Wallace. Unfortunately, the piece is available only to subscribers (or by purchase), but I highly recommend it in any case. The following three paragraphs—sans notes—are from the introduction to the article: “Disease epidemics are as much markers of modern civilization as they are threats to it. What successfully evolves and... Continue reading
Posted Jan 21, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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My latest compilation is on South African liberation struggles. The two images respectively above and below are paintings by the South African artist John Koenakeefe Mohl. The first, “Miners carrying their working tools, near Springs, South Africa” (oil on board), the second, “Caught on the way to the house of worship” (oil on canvas). Continue reading
Posted Jan 17, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com