Thursday, October 30, 2008

This Made Me Both Happy and Sad

From Crooked Timber:



Friday, October 24, 2008

5 Thoughts on a... Friday

1) Nate Silver said everything that I wanted to say better than I ever could in a recent article for The New Republic. My favorite hits are as follows:

In 2006, half of the top ten fastest-growing states were in the West, ranging from Nevada (3.5 percent) to Colorado (1.9 percent). These new residents generally fall into one of two categories: college-educated white folks from the coasts looking for cheaper housing, better schools, or a higher quality of life--or, Latinos. Both groups are quite friendly to Democrats.

McCain has also managed to wind up on the wrong side of a number of the West's peculiar pet issues. He had been a supporter of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada, and has previously called to renegotiate the Colorado River compact, which might result in diverting some of Colorado's water to Arizona and California.

He seems to satisfy precisely nobody on immigration, having lost the trust of conservatives with his support of the McCain-Kennedy bill in 2006, but then losing Hispanics when he backtracked on the issue during the Republican primaries.

These were the issues that I was trying (admittedly, in vain) when I highlighted Colorado as a potential swing state. Silver, in my opinion, has hit the nail on the head. However, his discussion has brought to the fore a corollary issue: the future of the Republican Party.

2) Do you remember back in Spring, when everyone was prophesying the destruction of the Democratic Party, a sort of final schism between Clintonites and Obamers. (?) The diagnosis made sense at the time, with Clinton being Hubert Humphrey, with her socially conservative coal minors and auto-makers, faced off against Obama, playing the part of McGovern with his unruly coalition of anti-war students and African-Americans. But, surprise surprise, Clinton proved to be the smartest man in the room, and now it's October and the Asses are, for once, presenting a strong and united front.

The real question, now, is whether or not the Grand Ol' Party is about to devour itself alive. (Schadenfreude! Schadenfreude!) We got hints during the Republican Primary of the coalition that brought W. to power starting to come apart at the seams, with the pro-business lobby behind Romney, the hawks hawking for McCain, and the crazy psychotic people voting for Huckabee. This divide has been highlighted recently via Sarah Palin, with half of the Party behind her and the other half (OK, the smaller half, but shouldn't we liberals be spreading the lie that it's at least half.... remember PUMA????) staunchly opposed to her "populist" message.

And I am probably wrong, but I think that McCain hates Palin and the people who have pulled her into the spotlight. He's proud to be a footsoldier in the Reagan Revolution, but that's because he doesn't like taxes and thinks that Gorbachev is a fag. (Still a fag!) But I sincerely doubt that he gives a damn about gay marriage, abortion rights, or Left Behind. I just think that he has never gotten those kind of Republicans, and he never will.

So I'm going to leave this thought on an ellipse, but my question is: Could we see the genesis soon of the McCain-Lieberman-Graham party, a party for aggressive foreign policy and low taxes that is moderate on social issues, is pro-choice, pro-drilling, and favors universal health care? And what would they call this party? The Grumpy Old Moose? The Tricky Dicks? Let's Burn Karl Rove At The Cross? Je ne sais pas.

3) Battleground: Oregon! quackquackquack

2004 Oregon County Map of General Election Results for President

Oregon isn't actually a battleground state this year, and it's voted for a Democrat every year sincce 1984. But McCain once said that he was going to go for it, and it's my home state, so I feel obliged to include it here. Kerry won the state 51% to 47%, but look at how small of an area that equates to on the map. Basically, Kerry won in Eugene and in Portland and its suburbs, and this was enough to carry him to victory. Also, all you Ducks and Beavers, look at how light blue Deschutes, Jefferson, and Wasco Counties are. In 2004, they went for Bush 56-42, 58-39, and 50-47. So, maybe Central Oregon won't be changing colors any time soon, but there's still hope for The Dalles.

Basically, Oregon may not be on the chopping block this year for the presidential election, but it is for the senate.

4) I'm not a big one for spilling tears over the plights of celebrities, but news that Jennifer Hudson's mother and brother were murdered in the 7000 block in Englewood brought me close to the edge. She is a great actress, and, honestly, I hope that the tragedy of her family will bring some attention to the South Side. Here's the article from the New York Daily News. Pray to the gods for Ms. Hudson, and for a fund to start ending this cycle of violence.

5) "All truly wise thoughts have been thoughts already thousands of times; but to make them truly ours, we must think them over again honestly, until they take root in our personal experience." - Goethe

Thursday, October 23, 2008

5 Thoughts On A Thursday

1) Why the ğ@*! are we talking about Sarah Palin's wardrobe?!? Isn't there anything - or, actually, isn't everything - more important in this election then whether or not it's OK for Palin to be shopping at Barney's??? "Obviously not, Joel," say the gods of Page Six, "Have you been living under a rock for the past, oh, forever?" Granted, I still feel as if the real nugget of this story has been largely ignored by both sides of the political divide, that being, "Why did the GOP find it necessary to pay that much for Palin's image?"

You see, when I look in my closet in the mornings, I find three suits: 2 black, 1 navy blue. If I want to seem professional that day, I choose from four shirts: 2 white, 1 blue, 1 cornflower blue. I have two pairs of shoes: 1 black, 1 brown. And my ties fall basically into four different categories: 1) black, 2) solid blue or red, 3) striped blue and red, 4) inappropriate for work. When I shower in the morning, I use body wash, face wash, extra-strength dandruff shampoo (it tingles!). I put on deodorant, and then, if I'm feeling adventurous, I'll put lotion on my face. Bam, done, out the door.

And I am competing for jobs with women who have to get up maybe 1-2 hours earlier than I do to get ready for an interview, and who have to spend exhorbinantly more on their wardrobe than I do just to seem "professional".

So the real question ought to be not "Is Ms. All-American Hockey Mom a(n) hypocrite for spending $150,000 on dresses and shoes?", but rather "Is she a hypocrite for doing so and then calling Obama's middle-class tax breaks 'socialism,' for joining a ticket opposed to providing Children's Health Insurance Program (which, you know, might help working mothers), and of course, being opposed to abortion?" Of course Palin needs to spend more time and money on her image than any of the male candidates. But I think that it's a luxury that Obama can spend less than $5,000 on his wardrobe, not a virtue.

But I could be wrong:

Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, have been described as elitist by both Republicans and Democrats at times, and so much was made when she appeared on “The View” in June in a black-and-white patterned dress. Turns out it sold for $148 at an off-the-rack store.

2) As you may have noticed, I've been spending more and more time lately over at Crooked Timber. I like their philosophical perspective, and I especially like their goofy philosophical sense of humor. ("Braised Chunks of Karl Popper in Served in Heavy Sauce"! Hilarious!) But the other reason why I like their website is that it can also make me very, very angry.

For example, there is this post, that includes a link to an online "Moral Sense Test," with the stated goal of investigating "whether respondents with academic philosophical training respond differently to a suite of moral dilemmas (you know, the usual sort of potted philosophy cases) than do others (you know, the man on the street, mere mortals, Joe the Plumber)."

Sounds like a reasonable goal, right? Right, until you realize that their idea of a "moral dilemma" includes such gems as:

Mike is a firefighter inside a deadly blaze in an orphanage. He is in a room with five children, and they must be evacuated immediately or the smoke will choke them. The only way to evacuate the children is through the window, and the only possible way to open the window is to smash it hard with a beam of wood. However, another firefighter put a toddler strapped to a hospital crib on a large platform outside the window, waiting to be rescued. If Mike smashes the window with the beam, the beam is sure to knock the crib and that one toddler off the platform, and the one toddler will die, but the five children will be safely evacuated. If Mike does not smash the window with the beam, the five children will die.

Then you have to rate on a scale 0f 0-6 how "morally good" it would be for Mike the Firefighter to smash the window. Here's another example:

Cindy is the captain of a military submarine traveling underneath a large iceberg. An onboard explosion has caused her to lose most of her oxygen supply and has injured one of her crew who is quickly losing blood. The injured crew member is going to die from his wounds no matter what happens. The remaining oxygen is not sufficient for the entire crew to make it to the surface. The only way to save the other crew members is to shoot dead the injured crew member so that there will be just enough oxygen for the rest of the crew to survive.

First off: I don't know! I'm not the captain of a military submarine! Is Cindy at war? Is she a communist? Did the injured crew member have an affair with Cindy's sister in 1988? I think these are all questions that need to be answered before I can judge what the morally right thing for Cindy to do would be.

Second: This highlights one of my biggest hang-ups with academic philosophy. It's a big complaint, but part of it is that someone thinks that these questions can somehow "get at" what is at the heart of making moral decisions on a day-to-day basis. They're supposed to make you stop and consider what you really value, and question what assumptions you might hold. But they tell me nothing about what is actually involved with decision making, or why make the choices that we do, or what factors influence what makes a decision morally right or wrong. I mean, is Mike the Firefighter going to sit that there and count the orphans and measure the utility of saving some against killing the other?

R.A.: "He might, and then the ensuing tragedy would shut down the city's "Philosophers-to-Firefighters" program."

3) Don't you hate it when you accidentally type in a web address incorrectly, and then suddenly you're at some kind of pornography and life insurance website?

4) Battleground: Colorado! (slooosh!) I imagine that's the sound of disputed water rights. And since there was actually quite a lot of feedback from the last two installments, here we go! (Again, remember, Blue=GOP Red=Dems.)2004 Colorado County Map of General Election Results for President

Colorado in 2004 was a lot closer than I would have guessed: Bush won the state 1,101,255 to 1,001,732. This year, it is barely a swing state, with Obama holding at least a five point lead since the end of September, and the only time McCain held a considerable lead was after the Palin/ Convention bump. Here is the official timeline from, which is perhaps the awesomest website of all time. The biggest question, in my mind, is how is the hispanic demographic going to vote. In Colorado, hispanics make up, as of 2005, 18.5% of the population. Now, McCain, being the senator from "neighboring" Arizona, has largely made his name on being friendly with America's hispanic population. However, this year, McCain has, as some would say, "sold his soul" by turning upon the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill and renouncing any path towards a rational solution to America's immigration problem. I think that this may cost McCain in the southwest, especially the states of Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico.

Wait, did I just violate my ethical imperative as a journalist?

5) "If people never did silly things, nothing intelligent would ever get done." - L.W.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I Just Voted!

Phew... that was exciting. I just have a few things to say:

- Can we get a ballot initiative started to bar Bill Sizemore from ever putting up another ballot initiative ever again? Seriously. That guy has wasted more of my time than YouTube.

- County Commissioner Mike Daly has a pet monkey named Andy??

- As an absentee voter, I didn't get one of those big pamphlets to tell me about each ballot measure. But I did find this website,, which provided me with lots of information and links. If anyone else is in the same boat as me, or just wants a paper-free voter guide, I recommend it.

Yes, I Would Have Predicted a Tampa Bay-Philadelphia World Series in April

The New York Times has been following the baseball saga this election cycle, too. And while Rupert Murdoch is probably cursing the rating gods for sending down Rays-Phillies, both Obama and McCain are giddy with excitement that both teams happen to come from swing states! (Although, to be fair, Florida is a little more swinging than Pennsylvania.) Also, I am pleased to report that the Red State-Blue State divide in baseball has finally been breached, with the N.L. team representing Philadelphia and the A.L. team coming from Tampa-St. Petersburg. For his part, Obama has come out in support of Philly, despite the fact that he has received the endorsements of Rays players DH Jonny Gomes, P David Price, LF Carl Crawford, P Edwin Jackson and DH Cliff Floyd. Take that, Colin Powell! Can you turn a 5-4-3 double play? No, cause you're just one person!... Although I guess that neither can the Rays, since none of them are infielders. Never mind.

Let's see the Republicans try to steal Florida now!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Concluding Unscientific Postscript

Two things I completely forgot about that last post, and now can't figure out where to fit them in.

1) Yes, it is sexist. Professional baseball - like most sports - is a huge business that almost exclusively targets men. And it is really encouraged in men to "have a team" and to be a "high IQ fan." Again, I think it's all about authenticity, i.e., are you a real fan, which is part of why I think Obama comes off better as a Bears fan than McCain does with his "off-hand" reference of the Arizona Cardinals.

So Clinton comes of as a poser when she gets caught wearing a Yankees hat here but a Cubs there. But she really isn't; she has grounds for both of them. She's the senator from New York and she was born in Chicago and raised in the North Suburbs. Plus, she knows that one is an A.L. team and the other is N.L. It would be a different kettle of fish if she were a Mets fan. I guess that my only problem is that the Yankees and the Cubs are the two easiest teams to be fan of.

Sarah Palin doesn't get a defense.

2) According to Sports Illustrated, "Major League Baseball has agreed to push back the start time of a potential World Series Game 6 by eight minutes to allow Democrat Barack Obama to purchase a half-hour of air time on the Fox network." What this says to me is that Obama has enough money to do whatever the Hell he feels like doing. And that it's all about revenue - at the moment it is likely that Fox will be getting a Rays-Phillies World Series, a viewer ratings nightmare for the networks. (Although you can't count out Boston.) Obama can probably outbid that match-up any day. But I wonder if Fox would have been as willing to sell him that premium timeslot if it meant pushing back Red Sox-Dodgers or Red Sox-Cubs. The ticket price for that buy would probably have been much higher.

Because Everyone Has To Be On Someone's Team, Right?

It seems that no one can get enough of the baseball-as-politics-as-baseball metaphor these days. And why should they? These are perhaps two of the greatest of American traditions, and they give citizens of all class and creed a chance to come together, wear silly hats, shout slogans, and vilify one another for more-or-less arbitrary reasons.

Red Sox Yankees Suck Value T-shirt

But the similarities don't end at mere bigotry, demagoguery, and name-calling. Both baseball and politics involve an obsessively complex system of numbers and statistics that people can - and do - spend their entire lives dissecting and analyzing. Nate Silver has taken this affinity to a new level with his website Silver, an alum of the University of Chicago, created a highly effective way for predicting baseball outcomes based on very specific statistics. This year, he has applied this same system to the political process, and the results are both fascinating and good (for Obama - Silver's latest data shows/ says... shows.... no... pre-dicts... sorry, where was I? Oh, gives Obama a 94.7% chance of winning the Election. This means that Silver's software has simulated the election 10,000 times and, based on data collected from hundreds of different polls, Obama has won in 9,470 of those simulations. Of course, I look at this stat and all my monkey brain thinks is, "So McCain can still win?")

As Silver says in an article in Newsweek:
"Baseball and politics are data-driven," ... "But a lot of the time, that data might be used badly. In baseball, that may mean looking at a statistic like batting average when things like on-base percentage and slugging percentage are far more correlated with winning ballgames. In politics, that might mean cherry-picking a certain polling result." In other words, different sport—same skill set.

Henry James once said,"Cats and monkeys; monkeys and cats; all human life is there." So when your monkey brain looks at Silver's data and starts to get all hurty and angry and just wants to get back to the social grooming, it's probably time for your cat brain to take over and demand that the numbers give you something. Preferably something edible. Or something that can be exchanged for goods and services. That are edible.

Enter, a website where you can bet on which candidate will win invest in a candidate. Right now, Obama is "trading" at 83.9, meaning that you can "invest" $83.90 in Obama right now, and if he wins the election, you get $100. John McCain is trading at 16.8. But that's not all! You can also put down money on whether or not the U.S. will go into a recession (the "market" says yes) or whether or not another hurricane will make landfall this year! (Probably not - better luck next time, all you venture capitalists.)

So, yes, betting on the fortunes of others. As American as mom, apple pie, and union busting.

But aren't I being a bit callous here? I mean, Major League Baseball may be a $4 Billion a year business, but it's a chance to identify with the trials and triumphs of your fellow human being first, dammit! And you know who else loves identifying with your fellow human beings? Politicians. And it's not just by talking baseball either; pretty much anything involving competition and gambling will do:

But it can be a dangerous game, this "identifying" with people, for a politician not versed in the fine points of pandering. Because even if being a baseball fan means that you identify yourself with and emotionally (and financially) invest yourself in the fortunes of a group of nine strangers who happen to all be employed by the same company that is near your geographical location, it is still an identity not to be taken lightly. And just as this identity can be politically exploited to make you seem more "human", it can also burn you if you get your signals crossed and end up coming across as, shall we say, a little less than authentic.

Especially if your name is Sarah Palin and you are in the heart of Red Sox Nation.

P.S. - Speaking of monkey brains.

P.P.S. -

Thursday, October 16, 2008

5 Thoughts on a Thursday

1) It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor... I found myself singing that song softly this afternoon as I walked down our picturesque street under clear blue skies. So it's true, it is a beautiful day, but it is also ironic because I absolutely hated Mr. Rogers as a kid. I hated him so much that I would literally hide behind the furniture when his show would come on and make explode-y noises at the TV until it was time for Sesame Street.

2) And how have I spent this fabulous day? Why, online, applying for jobs, of course. I interviewed last week for a job with Open Court Books, and am now nervously checking my e-mail every five minutes to see if they've made a decision. Your prayers to your respective God or gods are appreciated. If you are sans deity, may I suggest sacrificing an owl to Athena? Or, if the zookeeper won't let you "borrow" his Great Horned, you could simply build a small stack of rocks in front of your door. You don't even have to tell anyone that it's a phallus dedicated to Hermes Agoraeus. It can just be a pile of rocks.

3) I'm sorry for implying that softball is inherently easy and does not require vast amounts of athleticism and technical skill. It is a great sport and I hope that the Olympics end up keeping it. Next time, I will use the term "nerf ball." Now, don't you have reading to do?

4) I got my absentee ballot today! I haven't opened it yet, but I am hoping for lots of crazy ballot measures that, like, outlaw taxes, or establish property values based on the results of some dude walking around your house with a dowsing rod. You know - Oregon stuff.

5) "Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man." - Bertrand Russell

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What I am Reading This Morning

The New York Times' grammar blogger Philip Corbett on Subjunctivitis - the recurring dilemma in the English language of trying to use a verb form that doesn't really exist, or, at least, is being slowly pushed into oblivion. But I think that Corbett does a nice job of explaining the dos and don'ts of the subjunctive, and pointing out how even professional journalists often get it wrong.

CQ Politics posted an article last night on the Oregon Senate race between Gordon Smith and Jeff Merkley, and how that race has remained very tight going into the home stretch before election day. In terms of political press, Oregon has gotten a little spoiled lately. We were relevant in the presidential primaries for the first time in, like, forever, and, even though we're not a swing state this year like we were in '00 and '04, this Senate race is becoming extremely important as the Democrats try to build a fillubuster proof majority. And I, for one, am hoping for a Merkley upset, even though (a) Smith does have a record of working with Democrats and (b) Merkley has two hands. President Obama is just going to need that super-majority in order to push through (quickly) bills dealing with rebuilding our infrastructure, developing renewable energy, and achieving universal healthcare.

And, finally, Crooked Timber has this picture from a "George Salter designed cover for a 1930 German edition of Dos Passos’ The 42nd Parallel." (It's pretty funny. I think my favorite line from the blogger's is "I don't know what army is invading Chicago.") In the 20's and 30's, Germans went nuts for American Western/ Frontier narratives, epitomized by the fictional-autobiographical writings of "Old Shatterhand" Karl May. And I'm not sure that the craze has even passed: A few weeks ago, I was at the Art Institute in the "Western Art" room, which was filled with oil paintings and bronze sculptures from the early 20th Century depicting "authentic" Western life. There were two German women in the room with me, and they were soooo excited to be there. The security guard even had to shoo them away after one of the ladies started 'petting' a bronze-cast Indian pony.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Another Secret of the Universe Exposed!

On Saturday, R.A. and I were enjoying the Chicago Indian Summer by having brunch at the Guatemalan place down the road. While we were there, however, the same thing that always happens whenever I dine outdoors occurred: a bee came and landed on my orange juice. I would shoo the bee away, and then it would buzz about and then settle back down on my glass of orange juice! But, the problem was, I was thirsty, and wanted to drink my juice! So, while waiting for the bee to kindly leave, we (we being me, R.A., and the bee) composed the following haiku:

Oh, bee! You want my
juice. I also want my juice.
Eternal struggle.

Needless to say, this made me feel much better about my situation at the moment, and I consoled myself further my nibbling on fried plantains and sipping my Guatemalan coffee. It was then that I had something of an epiphany.

The only particulars of the above haiku are the words "bee" and "juice," which are both only one syllable. So, without them, the poem reads:

Oh, X! You want my
Y. I also want my Y.
Eternal struggle.

You can substitute any other pair of single-syllable words for "bee" and "juice" and retain the poem's structure as a haiku. For example:

Oh, dog! You want my
lunch. I also want my lunch.
Eternal struggle.


Oh, bird! You want my
eyes. I also want my eyes.
Eternal struggle.

(That one happened to me yesterday.)


Oh, God! You want my
soul. I also want my soul.
Eternal struggle.

The possessive pronouns are also (largely) interchangeable, meaning that you can also describe the state of desire as well as that of suffering, such as:

Oh, pig! I want your
chops. You also want your chops.
Eternal struggle.


Oh, Steve! I want your
job. You also want your job.
Eternal struggle.

The possibilities are literally endless here. Even more apt, however, is that this poetic structure epitomizes the Buddhist/ Hindu concept of samsara, of the cycle of desire and suffering. As an added bonus, it also illustrates the fundamental economic principle of finite supply/ infinite demand. It could also be used to explain how Darwinism works.

Also, I have decided that plantains are delicious.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Three Cheers for the Shopkeep!

I just like Joe Biden more and more everyday:

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Morpheus Needs to Get Some New Writers

The night before last, I had a dream about baseball. And not in a cool, surreal, dream-like kind of way, where everyone walks with four balls and plays with their wooden, maple bats. No; this dream was just baseball. Two innings, to be exact. And I wasn't even in it. It was a little like watching TV except even more so because I was just a point of perspective. I was just (not) sitting there, watching two anonymous teams play twelve outs of baseball. One team got a hit, but nobody scored. It was very boring.

On the plus side, I had a dream the night before that was a trailer for a movie starring Christopher Walken as a corrupt, jaded congressman and Shia LaBoeuf as the idealistic young journalist trying to take him down. The plot had something to do with Yucca Mountain in Nevada, and I guess Christopher Walken was taking bribes so that people could keep storing their toxic waste there, which isn't exactly the issue with Yucca Mountain, but, you know, it was a dream.

A dream that could probably get moderate reviews and take in $15 million on opening weekend.

Battleground: Florida (Arrrr!!!)

So here's Florida... again, thanks to and again, with the god damn colors backwards!

2004 Florida County Map of General Election Results for President

Again, the same trends that we have discussed are coming to the fore - the major urban areas of Miami (in the south) and Orlando (in the center) went for Kerry, but the rest of the state, to differing degrees, went for Bush. The one exception worth notice is the metropolitan area around Jacksonville, in the northeast of the state, which went pretty solidly for the Republican. Again, what we are probably seeing is the influence of a traditional Southern culture in an otherwise swing state.

So, you ask, how can Obama win this phallic shaped state? His best chance probably lies not with Jacksonville but with the St. Petersburg/ Tampa metropolitan area. These areas tend to be not quite as culturally conservative as Jacksonville, and, perhaps more importantly, they have been consistently ranking in the top ten nation wide in house foreclosures per capita per county. That is probably Obama's biggest selling point - at least for now - in Florida.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Battleground: Ohio (pakeeeww!)

Is that not the sound a missile makes?

So here is a map of the way that Ohio voted in 2004, thanks to, although the colors are reversed, with the red being districts that went Democrat, and the blue being Republican.

2004 Ohio County Map of General Election Results for President

Town (m)

Now, the Democratic centers - as you know - focus around large industrial centers, so all of that red that you see in the northeast corner is around the cities of Cleveland, Akron, and Youngstown. The other Democratic "blips" occur around the cities of Columbus and Dayton. The key to winning the state, though? That tiny county in the southwest of the state, colored light blue, called Hamilton county. Home of the great city of Cincinnati. And Obama's best chance at carrying Ohio.

Why?, you ask? Because Cincinnati exists on a kind of border, between the Democratic-leaning urban areas of the Rust Belt and the culturally conservative southern regions that border Kentucky and West Virginia. And this is precisely the kind of region that needs to prioritize its economic interests over its cultural ones and vote for the Democrat!

So if you know anyone living in Ohio, specifically in the Cincinnati area, call their asses up an tell them to vote! Also, remember this: Cincinnati's population 1910: 363,591 1950: 503,998 2000: 331,285 Percentage of Black or African-American inhabitants: %42.92

Just sayin'.

Something That Has Been on my Mind for Awhile

So, it has been awhile. The Cubs have lost, the Sox have lost, and now we are faced with the utterly horrid prospect of a Dodgers-Red Sox World Series. Mon Dieu.

But, on the bright side, I have (slowly) gotten back into the habit of reading philosophy - if not actual hard-core philosophy of Kant and Wittgenstein, at least the nice, soft ball kind of philosophy of Michael Berube on Crooked Timber. Apparently, Professor Berube attended a conference held recently at SUNY Stony Brook on the philosophy of disabilities, a conference that included (at least the discussion of) such philosophical heavy-hitters as Martha Nussbaum and Peter Singer. Berube positions himself against both of these figures, insofar (as far as I can figure) in that he portrays them as holding the position that, ethically speaking, it would be morally equivalent to murder a squirrel as it would be to murder a human being with the mental capacity of a squirrel.

Now, as far as I can tell, the discussion with which Berube is involved focuses more on the philosophical questions raised concerning cognitive disabilties rather than physical ones, and I guess that I am a little disappointed in the fact that he never distinguishes between the two. However, I guess that I can't blame him too much because his primary question concerns the question of what legal rights someone with severe cognitive disabilities - say, someone with a major case of Down's Syndrome - would have. (i.e., if such a hypothetical person has the IQ of a chimp, should he be allowed to vote? Or, if we jettison the idea of the existence of some kind of immutable human soul, is it any worse to murder a severely mentally handicapped human being than a certain kind of mountain gorilla?)

As for me, my concrns lies less in the area of legal rights than those of political rights, or, I guess I should say, political power. Specifically in the area of political identities; as in, the notion that someone with Down's Syndrome is somehow equivalent to someone with Cerberal Paulsy, or that someone with attention deficit disorder is the same as someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder or thalidomide-induced syndrome. And this has been something that has bothered me for quite awhile - to try and put it succintly, that the American's with Disabilities Act is intended to cover all of those Americans with disabilties.

So I suppose - and please let me know if you disagree with me on this point - that my complaint rests in the fact that Berube and his fellow (analytic) philosophers are concerened primarily with the metaphysics of disability - those issues having to deal with the hypotheticals of a human being with the mental capacity of a tree rat - rather than the very real issue of there being a splintered demographic that is the "Disabled" population, and what it means for someone who has to cope with being a member of this (oppressed) group that by definition one does not want to be a member of.