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 29, 2009


The local city "alternative" (right) paper solicited articles for new columnists. I tried. The guy at the paper couldn't open one attachment, then a different kind of attachment, or (apparently) didn't like the version I sent as an e-mail. Indeed, he never really even responded. So here was my audition, for what it is worth.


The debate over Swine Flu/AH1N1 brings with it what may well be three ideas essential to American political history. Oddly enough, it isn't entirely clear that those three ideas can be reconciled. But it is always fun to see people try.

First of all, Americans don't like to be pushed around. Americans especially don't like to get pushed around by their own government. From Christopher Gadsen's iconic "Don't Tread on Me" flag, all the way to Ron Paul's quixotic Presidential campaign, there is a strong libertarian streak running through American history. We don't want to be told what to do, where we can do it, or (with some exceptions) who we can do it with.

Second, there is the legitimate expectation that some things will be taken care of. We expect an ambulance to come when we need it, or someone to show up to help out if we discover that our house is on fire. Even most libertarians recognize that some kind of apparatus needs to be in place to ensure that contracts are enforced, citizens are protected against fraud and violence, and that national boundaries remain sacrosanct.

Third, we expect—or hope—that whatever decisions we feel comfortable with the government making, they will be made by experts. In short, important policy decisions should be made by those with the best training and the best information, coming to conclusions that lead to the best possible results for all involved.

So the government wants Americans to get themselves vaccinated against this current strain of flu. The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology has offered a number of policy recommendations, including increasing the availability of the supply of vaccine. They've also recommend people wash their hands more, and that employers adopt an approach to absenteeism that will make their workers more likely to stay home if they exhibit flu symptoms.

This hasn't prevented some of the teabaggers, and those who live in the alternate reality sometimes known as "GlennBeckistan," from warning of "Mandatory Swine Flu Vaccinations This Fall." Internationalists (Socialists), in league with the World Health Organization (Socialists), abetted by the Executive Branch (Socialists), are putting in place their program to force Americans to endure risky and untested vaccines, as part of a program either to control their minds, or bodies, or perhaps just to distract us from recognizing the imminent Socialist takeover. At least for those unable to distinguish between Kim Jong-Il and Barack (Hussein) Obama.

The government announcing, on the basis of "experts," a policy of mandatory vaccinations, would indeed be pushing us around. That this isn't the case might be a factor to consider. We also confront here an idea already mentioned: sometimes we do want government to take care of us. Minimizing the amount of rat excrement in our hamburger rarely evokes panicky cries of an impending Nanny State.

As usual in such debates, it often depends on who, or what, is being pushed. The state, determining that you may not marry your life partner, is for some being pushed around by an intrusive government, while for others it is the sacred duty of the state to maintain a specific "tradition" of marriage. The state, being able to identify, arrest, try, convict, and imprison or execute even its own citizens is for some a legitimate responsibility of the government, while others might make (ineffectual) gestures of the violations of both civil and common law involved.

Fundamentally, what we should expect of the government in its response to the flu pandemic (as declared by the WHO) is to determine the threat involved, and if the response is proportional. While some talk as if AH1N1 is indistinguishable from Ebola, others seem to regard it as no threat whatsoever; unsurprisingly, the truth seems to lie somewhere in between. As of September 5, there were 593 deaths attributed to H1N1 in the U.S., 2,837 in the world. Given its contagion vector, these numbers will go up, although how far seems to be a matter of conjecture. As one might expect, those at risk of succumbing to this virus are the very young, the very old, and those with compromised immune systems.

In Ohio, students are required to be inoculated against a variety of diseases, including diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, and the scary-sounding Haemophilus influenzae; exemptions based on religious or other grounds are available.

Rather than scurrying to find "experts" who confirm our hopes (or fears), perhaps it makes more sense to see what the threat is, and with the best information available, respond accordingly. AH1N1 isn't polio, but is a threat sufficient to recommend vigilance. Offering some degree of limited liability, encouraging practices that minimize its spread, and avoiding exaggerating or minimizing the dangers, is precisely the kind of sensible approach the Obama Administration is encouraging. But that's a difficult position around which to energize knee-jerk reactions.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Productive Summer? Maybe

Ok, I was supposed to read Hegel. Or was it Middlemarch? I can't remember: both too long to capture my attention. So I watched some movies, I read a bunch. Some of both have been forgotten, but I'd love to hear my reader's (or readers') thought (or thoughts) about anything below that sounds familiar.


Eastern Promises
The Last Seduction
The Aristocrats
M. Butterfly
Killer's Kiss
The Departed
The Contract
Blood Simple
Leningrad Cowboys: Total Balalaika Show
The Man Without a Past
The Last King of Scotland
The Devil and Daniel Johnston
Not One Less
Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior
Hester Street
The Yakuza Papers: Disc 1
Singin' in the Rain
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
Walk the Line
Once Upon a Time in America
GoodFellas: Special Edition
Miller's Crossing
The Freshman
The Godfather: Part II
The Godfather
White Heat
The Public Enemy
Little Caesar


Good ol' Kurt Wallander. I'm hoping the remaining two books (in
Swedish) get translated soon!

The Pyramid Kurt Wallander 1999
Faceless Killers Kurt Wallander 1991
The Dogs of Riga Kurt Wallander 1992
The White Lioness Kurt Wallander 1993
The Man Who Smiled Kurt Wallander 1994
Sidetracked Kurt Wallander 1995
The Fifth Woman Kurt Wallander 1996
One Step Behind Kurt Wallander 1997
Firewall Kurt Wallander 1998
The Return of the Dancing Master Stefan Lindman 2000
Before the Frost Linda Wallander 2002

Some politics, lots o' baseball

Dexter Filkins, The Forever War
Charles Alexander, John McGraw
Harold Seymour, Baseball: The Early Years
Harold Seymour, Baseball: The Golden Age
Lawrence Ritter, The Glory of Their Times
Mike Sowell, The Pitch That Killed
David L. Fleitz , Shoeless: The Life and Times of Joe Jackson
John Heidenry, The Gas House Gang
Al Stump, Cobb
Fred Leib, Baseball As I Have Known It
Buzz Bissinger, Three Nights In August
Peter Golenbeck, The Spirit of St. Louis
Honus Wagner, On His Life and Baseball (ed. W. Cobb)

One shout-out: most of these were pretty great, I thought. But Ritter's The Glory of Their Times is still, for my money (and the money of many others!) the single best baseball book ever written. Cannot possibly recommend it too highly.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Guns. Queers. And Both.

In contrast to what a number of conservatives believe, liberals (or "liberals") aren't out to get your guns. There will be murmurs about fully automatic weapons in the hands of junior high students being a bad idea without a waiting period, or "cop killer" ammunition being available in vending machines in bars also being, well, not a great idea. But for the most part, the "liberals" (and especially the Democrats) have given up on this issue. Repeat after me: they really don't want my gun(s).

They might make it somewhat more difficult to check out of an insane asylum and buy an AK-47 at a drive-thru on the way home (or to the victim's home), but that's about the only obstacle you'll see from the "liberal" party.

Indeed, we really never seem to hear much about murder, guns, violence and other things, as if they pose a problem we might want to solve, or at least address. Odd: was it Eldridge Cleaver who said that violence is as American as apple pie? The conservative wings of both parties respond, well, that's right and that's the way we are going to keep it. There are no solutions to violence in America, except to make sure you are better armed--in church, at school, wherever--than your potential adversary.

So the Democrats seem to have given up on guns as an issue.

Is it possible the Republicans may give up on gay marriage as an issue? A couple of recent news items, one a poll (from the "Values Voters" [which means, for me, "people who don't have your values," not that they have values and I don't]) that indicates gay marriage is way way behind abortion rights as an issue; it came in third. A second, polling (I think) Iowa Republicans, indicates that >90% said gay marriage changed nothing in their lives.

Wow. A truism that comes true.

I suggest the first question every minister, priest, rabbi, imam, lawyer, and psychotherapist ask a couple (a heterosexual couple) whose marriage is in trouble is this: is it because of gay marriage?

Then we can get some good, hard data.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I'm coming back . . . .

In spite of rumors, and all of those prayers, I am returning soon.
With blogs on summer reading, brain death, AH1N1, and, as usual,
whatever pops into my little brain.

This is all contingent upon Obama not successfully instituting his
Socialist Revolution before I get the chance. It could be tight!