kurt's nightmare

Generally, I post once a week. Topics are randomly selected and depend mostly upon whether it's baseball season or not. Other topics will include sex, politics, old girlfriends, music, and whatever else pops into my little brain. If you'd like to read, or ignore, my blog about China: http://meidabizi.blogspot.com/

Location: Dayton, OH, Heard & McDonald Islands

I'm an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Dayton. I represent no one but myself, and barely do that. I'm here mostly by accident.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Grimm? Or Grim?

Once upon a time, there was a good but clueless King, known to his subjects as Herb the Hapless. Herb tried to follow in the footsteps of previous Kings, but rarely seemed to know where he was going or how to get there. When he was deposed by Jefferson the Lech, no one really seemed to mind.

Herb the Hapless had two sons, both of noble birth and breeding, and, as is often the case, the younger son Walker the Weakling had come by his name honestly. An indifferent student, Walker focused on having fun, apparently having a deep affection for dipping his beak in the King's caskets of ale.

As luck would have it, the Kingdom sought in vain for an heir to Jefferson the Lech, and thus a hue and cry went throughout the realm, seeking a just and righteous leader to follow him. Various suitors for the crown were examined and eliminated, through a variety of palace intrigues and whispering campaigns, and, ultimately, the only one left standing was Walker the Weakling. Pointing to his illustrous lineage, his outstanding academic degrees (albeit deflecting attention from the actual work involved), his success at business (which generally seemed to be the result of his father's friends giving him money), Walker declared himself King amid much pomp, and noted his popular acclaim from the masses. (In doing so, he tended to neglect his actual lack of popularity, and the nagging but substantial part of the people who regarded him as, at best, an idiot.)

Things went along in the kingdom, with Walker's mediocre rule reveling in its mediocrity, while making his friends and his father's friends very wealthy; in turn, his father's friends became his most trusted advisor's, from the chief advisor Warrior Dick the Mighty Hunter to the wily courtier James of the Deal, who was able to secure Walker the Weakling's original seat on the throne.

Then, one horrific day, the Kingdom was invaded. After a momentary--if predictable--moment of confusion, the King united his Kingdom against the evildoers. Having used his enormous army to pummel a weak and disorganized enemy, he then turned to invade another country. Explaining his reasoning, he stated, more or less, in his Victorian third-person, "We've invaded them because we could."

Sadly, those who had attacked the Kingdom became stronger, the Kingdom attacked became a charnel house for those who lived there and who had nothing to do with attacking the Kingdom of Walker the Weakling; a reign that began in mediocrity became bad, then worse.

Walker the Weakling, as he had so many times in the past, turned to his father Herbert the Hapless for help. "Father, I've made a bad mistake. I can't change it, I can't turn back, and I can't go forward. Please help."

And, as he had so many times in the past, Herbert the Hapless sent his most cunning, most clever courtier, James of the Deal, who had saved Walker so often in the past. Perhaps only James of the Deal could save Walker the Weakling from the popular demand for Walker to abdicate his throne, just as so often he had abdicated his responsibility.

Yet, on that somber and chilly day, James of the Deal came to Walker the Weakling with a sorrowful countenance. "I'm sorry, my liege, but I've looked in my bag of tricks, and it is empty. Thus I can offer no hope, and neither can your good father. They were all used up, to get you on the throne, and to keep you on the throne. I can't even find a trick to scare your subjects enough for them to ignore the plight you--and they--are in. Your highness, evidently the Lord has declared that, for once, you've been stubbborn or stupid enough to get yourself finally into a fix from which you must extract yourself. The real trick will, of course, be providing a solution to a problem that can't be solved."

With that, Walker the Weakling shook his head, mystified. After having Warrior Dick the Mighty Hunter explain to him what James of the Deal had said, Walker the Weakling paled, cried briefly, held his head in his hands, and thought very hard--harder than he had in many, many years.

Finally, he stood, inhaled deeply, and strode forthrightly to the phone. "Get me Karl the Marketer. Tell him I need his help on explaining to the Kingdom how we have won."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Times a wastin'

Well, it's that time of the semester that grading, my own course (the ever scintillating managerial accounting which, if forced to choose, I prefer to financial accounting; then again, I prefer being thrown off tall buildings to financial accounting), and lots of other stuff, means that I don't have time to write anything here. But for my reader, I wanted you to know I haven't forgotten you, and I hope to be back next week with a fairy tale about King George II.

I also will have details about the book all America is talking about, Necessity and Possibility: The Logical Strategy of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, which has been accepted by the Catholic University of America Press. I have to admit that the Catholics have been very good to me. God Bless 'em.

Finally: I think it is very cool that George Bush is finally going to make it to Viet Nam. I gather he thinks it is finally safe enough.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

We Are the Champignons!

This is the last entry before Tuesday's election. I don't have much to add to what is the torrent of information, disinformation, misinformation, and simply irrelevant nonsense already out there.

I would urge my readers to vote, but one isn't a citizen and the other, I think, isn't old enough.

I was wondering if someone stopped me and asked me why I was voting the way I am (pretty much a straight Democratic ticket), what my answer would be?

I guess it would be because they aren't Republicans. I think that's a good enough reason.

The Republicans, or at least those who appear to be in power and driving policy, seem to stand for some positions I find worrisome (for some, I just offer shorthand):

  • We are in a war on terror. Which may last forever
  • Checks and balances are a luxury--in a war on terror
  • Torture, or an indistinguishable subsitute, is permissible--during such a war the President can identify enemy combatants (alien or citizen) and deny them access to legal representation without any appeal outside of his own branch of government
  • Global warming is sufficiently confusing that we shouldn't worry about it
  • Katrina victims in New Orleans are a bunch of whiners and often colored
  • Evolution is sufficiently confusing that we should also teach untestable, unfalsfiable claims that provide virtually nothing in the way of a research program as comparably scientific
  • Christians have access to truth that others fail to
  • Israel must be defended at all costs and at all times, except the End Times, when Israeli Jews must either convert to Christianity (suitably interpreted) or die
  • Iraq
  • Iran
  • North Korea
  • Pakistan
  • Sudan
  • Burma/Myanmar
  • Afghanistan
  • Chechnya
  • Homosexuals don't deserve equal rights
  • A President who lies about a consensual sexual relationship in a deposition for a case that is thrown out deserves to be impeached and removed from office
  • A President who authorizes torture, violates international law, and eliminates habeas corpus for those he identifies as appropriate, should be immune from investigation, censure, or any other penalities
  • Health care
  • No Child Left Behind
  • Conservative principles that include ignoring deficit spending, embrace Military Keynesianism, and send mixed and confused signals about immigration
  • If something is "good for business" (appropriately interpreted), it is unimportant that it conflicts with one's principles, or damages more people than it benefits
  • The environment
In short, a vote for Republicans in this election seems to say this (unless, perhaps, one is either a single issue voter and can identify a single issue worthy of voting them back in, or one who, in some sense, benefits from the points above):

please keep treating me as if I'm stupid, cannot possibly understand complexity, and will vote for you because you have made me afraid.

There's a country song where the complaint is registered that one's object of affection treats the narrator as a mushroom: "You keep me in the dark, and feed me ______________" [scatological reference deleted].

I don't like being treated that way, and even if I weren't a Yellow Dog Democrat (for the most part), I would vote against the Republicans for having done so.

That's a good enough reason, this time around.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Coup sans grace

As a number of my readers (both) know, I have, for several years, been a very active participant in the chatroom that is linked to Ann Coulter's site (anncoulter.com). On its first version, I had approximately 11,000 posts; the second version, a few over 5,000. (I quit for a couple of months at exactly 5,000, but rejoined when the events to be described occurred. I had planned on returning Nov. 8 for what should be obvious reasons.)

The board is pretty fun. While there are one or two "liberals" (also known as "libtards," "communists, "socialists," "leftists," and "comlibs," usually without much differentiation), for the most part I'm on my own, against sometimes a hundred people who disagree with me on virtually every point. I go there to annoy, argue, and learn, usually in that order. I also got a couple of academic papers out it and a classroom exercise, generated by this basic idea: we think and argue better if we have smart, informed people to disagree with. So, rather than using the Web only to find people who agree with us, it is intellectually stimulating and salubrious to find people with whom we disagree.

Anyway, I logged in a few days ago, to discover that the main moderator of the board, as well as a number of other moderators and frequent posters, were gone, replaced by others whose name I didn't recognize. A prank by some hacker at the Democratic Underground? A trick by someone at Halloween?

Nope. It turns out (to the extent that I've got this right; the details are a bit controversial) that someone hipped La Coultera that something wasn't right at her board. She, or more likely some minion, dumped the staff that ran it (which takes a lot of work, and was done on a whollly voluntary basis) and replaced it. The moderators and their supporters were banned, some immediately, others (such as myself) a bit later. So I got to see some of what the old board was up to.

The old board had a thread explaining things, called "There's a new Sheriff in town." So I posted on the site a couple of questions, including "How's that Sheriff thing working out?," and included a lovely picture of Deputy Barney Fife (for you youngsters, from The Andy Griffith Show; if you still don't know, never mind [although you should know]). I also sent a "private message" to one of the new moderators, who had always treated me fairly and who is pretty sharp, saying "Let me know when or if this board gets its sense of humor back." The next time I logged in, I had been banned.

The great part is that those who had been dismissed started a new board, and got 150+ to register in just a few days. Many of them are old friends from the old board, and, naturally, there has been a good bit of discussion about the behavior of La Coultera and her representatives.

La Coultera has mostly gotten a pass, although a standard line is "She's a bitch but probably has nothing to do with it," "She owes the old moderators an apology," "I don't like her but still like her writing."

What is interesting is that there was no discussion about this move. The owner of the site dismissed a bunch of people without investigation, ignores any questions about such behavior, and is now represented on her board by those who ban anyone who praises the former moderators or dares even to ask questions about possible unfairness (these folks then come over to the new site, and tell us their particular version of what is almost always the same story.) In short, La Coultera behaved precisely like a Nazi.

She likes to say those who disagree with her (aka "traitors" and/or Democrats and/or "liberals") always resort to name-calling (although, of course, she does it herself all the time--on the basis of an accusation, she loves to refer to Bill Clinton as a "rapist." For more specifics, see Brainless: The Lies and Lunacy of Ann Coulter by Joe Maguire). But when you act like a Nazi, and provide evidence of that behavior, it isn't "name calling"; it is a description or characterization. Maybe the shoe fits? Given her standards of evidence, if Bill Clinton is a rapist, Joe McCarthy a hero, and anyone who votes for a Democrat a traitor, what are we to think of La Coultera, on the basis of evidence considerably stronger than that which she marshalls?