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.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Thanks, BBC!

This morning I was listening to the BBC World News. It's nice to hear what the rest of the world thinks about: a lot less about Michael Jackson and "Jon and Kate Plus Eight," a lot more about India, China, and, for that matter, Afghanistan.

Imagine how pleased I was that they picked Mark Muller to represent not just Missouri (where I lived a good part of my life) but the United States (where I've lived virtually all of my life, so far.) Mark is offering an AK-47 with every pickup he sells. I understand his desire to sell trucks, and this market can't be the best.

I was even more overjoyed that a broadcast that is heard from LA to Beijing, seems to be the best news available in virtually the entire continent of Africa, and a couple of other places, also took time to offer some of Mark's more trenchant analyses, not just in political theory, but in the very nature of human beings, at least the good ones. (It seemed clear from Mark's insights that "good ones" refers to a proper subset of Americans.)

In just a couple of minutes, the entire planet got these views, which no doubt are regarded as representative of all ("good") Americans. Or maybe just all Americans.

These are more or less direct quotes, but they are from memory so I eschewed quotation marks.

a) All Americans like guns. Period. "Except the commies."

b) Americans did not get their rights from men, but from God.

c) Americans can and will do anything they want.

I think, actually, Mark may well represent a not unpopular view. But there may be some interesting implications. For instance

a') God does not give rights to Commies.

b') God thinks it is a right to have an AK-47

c') Americans, when doing whatever they want, know their behavior is endorsed by God.

Mark only had a couple of minutes of airtime, but I don't wonder why people around the world are happy to wonder about Americans, given this is what we think. I can't decide whether the BBC owes equal time to those who might quibble with some of Mark's views, or whether some bright American TV producer should snap up the rights to the reality show starring Mark.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A little bit more from La Coultera

Popping by La Coultera's column, I see that this week she is mining one of her richest veins, and working the trope she uses with some frequency, contrasting "Liberals" with "Normal people." Normal people don't care about Sarah Palin, Liberals do. Normal people don't worry that someone who seems to be intellectually and ethically challenged, among other things, is frequently discussed as a serious candidate to become the most powerful person in the world.

I think it would be nice to ignore her, and focus on more important things, as La Coultera suggests, such as Michael Jackson.

But it is worth noting that La Coultera, hard-working researcher that she is, introduces a new fallacy this week, the argumentum ad verecundiam, or the appeal to authority. This fallacy infers from Person X being an expert and saying y that y must be true. (Its complement is the argumentum ad hominem.)

Sarah Palin says y. Therefore y is true. This strategy saves time and effort, allowing La Coultera to focus on more important things (like a normal person).

Thus her column takes at face value Palin's claim and simply repeats it. (Paraphrasing others is a good way to fill one's column without thinking too much.)

The problem? Palin's claim is apparently false. And, oddly enough, it doesn't become true when La Coultera repeats it.

The claim?

"That huge waste that we have seen with the countless, countless hours that state staff is spending on these frivolous ethics violations and the millions of dollars that Alaskans are spending, that money not going to things that are very important, like troopers and roads and teachers and fish research," Palin said this week.

La Coultera's incisive commentary on this claim?

With the left frenetically filing ethics complaint after ethics complaint against Palin, costing her state millions of dollars and her personally half a million dollars, citizens of Alaska must be asking, "Can we please have our state back?"

I'm not sure where La Coultera gets the half a million dollar figure from (although I can guess).

But, according to a number of Alaskan bloggers who looked at the figures, the number is vastly inflated due to double counting, astronomical billing rates, and counting fees that would be paid to government attorneys anyway. Picked up by the Anchorage Daily News, the claim should be rejected. Rather than taken at face value and then repeated. (It also turns out that the vast majority of the ethics charges came before Palin was chosen to be McCain's running mate, a time when most normal people, liberals, and "the left" outside of Alaska hadn't heard of her.)

Palin administration officials provided the Daily News with a breakdown of what it says are $1.9 million in costs. Most of it is a per-hour accounting of the time state employees, such as state attorneys, have spent working on public records requests, lawsuits, ethics complaints, and issues surrounding the Legislature's "Troopergate" investigation last summer of Palin.

"Is it a check that we wrote, no, but is it staff hours, yes," Sharon Leighow, spokeswoman for Palin, said of the expenses related to state employee work.

Those state employees would have been paid regardless.

I don't know if it is a Liberal thing or a normal person thing to worry about Presidential candidates who are unqualified. If Ann represents the normal person, though, I guess it is a normal person kind of thing either to lie, or to be too lazy to even consider checking some facts.