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.

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