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.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Minor Slip? Or Precursor?

Palin defends McCain over comment

Sep 17, 6:58 PM (ET)

WASHINGTON (AP) - Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin said Wednesday that Democrats were out of bounds for criticizing John McCain when he said the fundamentals of the economy are strong.

In an interview with Fox News Channel, Palin said: "It was an unfair attack on the verbiage that Sen. McCain chose to use because the fundamentals, as he was having to explain afterwards, he means our work force, he means the ingenuity of the American people. And of course, that is strong and that is the foundation of our economy."




Language which is very complicated and which contains a lot of unnecessary words:

“His explanation was wrapped up in so much technical verbiage that I simply couldn't understand it.”
Cambridge OnLine Dictionary

My guess is that her quote speaks for itself. I'm not sure I'm ready for four years of this. On the other hand, Ms. Palin is often lauded for her candor. I assume that includes her recent reference to the "Palin-McCain" ticket, and the above insight about "verbiage."

For my anonymous Clinton supporter and reader: I'm not sure if this qualifies as "criticism," "bashing," both, or neither.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Book

Yes, indeed, the book is now out. Given how lazy I am (confirmed on a regular basis by my children), this thing looks like it took a lot of work.

While all my readers will no doubt rush to the stores to snap up any remaining copies, before the real deluge after my upcoming appearance on Oprah, I would recommend, rather, asking your local library to buy it. Most will if asked; a lot of academic libraries will buy it anyway, but it doesn't hurt to ask. Many public libraries will, again if asked. So ask.

The info they would want?

ISBN 978-0-8132-1532-7
Catholic University of America Press

Sometimes they will want to know how you heard of it. Creative lying, while my usual strategy, might not be called for. You can tell them you know the author.

Of course, I wouldn't dissuade anyone from buying his or her own copy. Most authors are willing to sign, personally, such copies. I'm more likely to hug you and/or buy you a beer. Chances are much better finding it on the Internet ("use the Google!") than in any bookstore I've ever been in.

As far as its content, it is a philosophy book. Harder than some, easier than many. For those with an interest in Kant, and who have some familiarity with the approach and results of the Critique of Pure Reason, this is a walk in the park. Others might have to read it more slowly than, say, the most recent Tom Clancy novel or Zippy the Pinhead comic strip.

If anyone buys it, or reads somebody else's copy, or checks it out from the library, and then actually reads the thing? I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Mencken Lives?

I've been thinking a lot recently about Sarah Palin, the McCain campaign, and such things. I find myself mostly confused, not a condition to which I'm unaccustomed, but it does seem to generate a certain reaction.

McCain cannot win, supposedly, by just winning "the base." Democratic registrations outnumber those of Republicans, and many of those in "the base" are a bit lukewarm about him to begin with. I understand the idea of getting "the base" enthusiastic about the McCain ticket by naming someone "the base" loves—for reasons to be considered—but it seems that the others McCain needs should tend to be turned off by Palin.

Imagine I'm an Independent. From what I understand, I may believe in a lot of things, but some things are fairly clear. The economy is facing some substantial issues, in terms of the housing market, debt and deficit, looming health care costs, and other structural costs that shall arise with the increasing pace of retiring baby boomers. I want to be able to build equity in my house, send my kids to college after receiving as good an education as I can provide for them, not be devastated by illness, and retire at a reasonable age. I want those same kids to live in a sustainable environment, and have their constitutional rights protected. This doesn't seem to be a lot to ask.

McCain used to appeal to me. He was, after all, a "maverick." He had experience with immigration, and thus developed an approach to immigration reform that was comprehensive, nuanced, and actually seemed to regard undocumented workers as human beings. He saw promise in embryonic stem cell research. He was certainly against abortion rights, but saw that reasonable people could—do—disagree, and adopted the view that included some legitimate exceptions to a "no abortions" rule. He recognized that the role of money in politics often resulted in a situation that those with the most money, or access to those with the most money, had significant advantages in elections, and thus sponsored an attempt to respond to this situation, seeming to think that the best ideas aren't necessarily held by those with the most dough. This was the 2000 McCain. This was the McCain who lost to George W. Bush, for, among other reasons, some extraordinarily nasty campaigning, including racist push-polling in the crucial South Carolina primary.

We now have 2008 McCain. He rarely mentions immigration reform, campaign finance reform, any responsibility corporations—including oil companies—have to anyone other than stockholders (if any), abortion, stem cell research, health care, torture, warrantless wiretapping, extreme rendition, or countless other things. Indeed, at the recent Republican convention, his speech was remarkably lacking in content, and certainly didn't refer to anything that actually provided support for his credentials as a maverick. He is now giving this speech, abridged my friends, on the campaign trail. It has even less content, and thus even less support for his insistence that he is a reformer, that he wants "change," or that he is a maverick.

His speech can be summarized pretty easily. "My friends, I fought in Viet Nam and was taken prisoner. 40 years ago I showed great courage. I'm for change. I'm for reform. I'm a maverick."

What has me scratching my head is that this, currently, seems to be working. Palin has generated, additionally, great enthusiasm. I've heard her described as a "model candidate" and as a politician with an "outstanding record of legislation." Republicans, particularly those at the convention, seem absolutely to adore her; I would really like to have heard those who were so enthusiastic about her nomination be interviewed in terms of what she stands for. I can't spend too much time thinking about an audience absolutely enraptured by a speaker, hanging on her every word and breaking into frequent frenzies of applause, making fun of another candidate for having audiences hang on every word who break into frequent frenzies of applause.

Sarah Palin has lied about the "Bridge to Nowhere." She thinks schools should "teach the controversy" about creationism, which is standard language for the "wedge" strategy to treat evolutionary theory as genuinely in serious scientific competition with creationism and intelligent design. She believes that no exceptions should be made for prohibiting abortions. She garnered a vast amount of earmarks, as a mentee of Ted Stevens, for her small town in a state that is already the most subsidized of the 50 states. I don't know a whole lot more about her positions, although I believe she is against civil unions—a fortiori marriage—for gays and lesbians and seems to think that the war in Iraq is almost won. I imagine she has most of the kinds of views held by those who love her the most: evangelical conservative Christians who believe the market solves all problems, we are all on a level playing field, and that our culture is going to hell in a handbasket, mostly because of the "liberal media." I'm happy to plead ignorance about many of her positions. I'm confused by those who love her with such remarkable passion, because I don't think they are much more familiar with her positions than I am.

Imagine, again, that I'm an Independent. I'm told that the candidate designed to convince me to vote for John McCain believes that a woman who has been raped by her father must carry that child to term, even if her physician has reason to believe it will kill her. This candidate believes that the solution to the energy problems facing the US have nothing to do with its consumption of 25% of the world's energy, and everything to do with an unwillingness to drill for oil, regardless of where that oil might be. The candidate believes that Genesis provides a plausible scenario upon which one can teach biology. The candidate is willing to lie, and even when those lies are exposed, repeatedly, she continues to lie. She thinks that gays and lesbians don't deserve civil rights, rights evidently reserved for heterosexuals. She believes that the war in Iraq is close to being won, and, from what I've heard, that this means the war on terror is at least closer to being won, in spite of the fact that the latter is probably not something that can be won, and certainly neither McCain nor Palin has indicated what criteria are being satisfied if it can be.

If I'm that Independent, the only thing I can think is that McCain 2008 has lost virtually all of the features that once attracted people like me. He is willing to abandon, or at least ignore, all of his principles in his desire to become President. He is willing also to ignore simple actuarial statistics, and as a 72 year old who has had cancer, nominate as Vice President someone who is at best a cipher, and at worst an ideologue who shows little respect for either honesty or information, and is happy to repeat talking points and insults, regardless of their merit.

I guess if I were that Independent, I would be insulted. Mencken is famous for having said "no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public." I don't think this has as much to do with intelligence as self-respect. If we have the problems—in economics, in foreign policy, in education, in health care, in culture—I think we do, McCain has offered nothing in response. He has added insult to injury by nominating someone who is divisive, inexperienced, and at best disingenuous. If I have any self-respect, should I vote for someone who thinks I'm willing to vote on the basis of a 40-year old biographical event and a set of slogans?


CORRECTION: I seem to have misstated Ms. Palin’s views on abortion. She indicates that the “only exception for abortion is if mother's life would end.”

On the Issues

I don’t know if she would distinguish, as I would, and more importantly as a physician would [might?], between “would end” and “might end.”

Maybe someone will ask her during one of her many, many interviews.