12/12/11

Four Months of Solar and Still Happy

It's been about 4 months since we installed a 5.59 kwh leased solar system from Solar City on our roof. The whole process was amazing and we've generated over 1600 kwh since then. We expect this system to cut our electric by about 72% a year (which is contractually guaranteed by the company) and perhaps more. No hassles, start to finish, and great customer service for every step.

Some photos from the initial installation.



11/21/11

Austin, TX: The Next "Placeless Place"?


I went to UT from 1990-97 and lived in Austin until 1999. I just visited and drove around town. I am probably a curmudgeon, but here are a couple things which unsettled me. Perhaps they're symbolic to you, perhaps not. They are to me.
(1) There's a Ferrari dealership in downtown, right near the luxury apartment skyscrapers.
(2) There's a Starbucks where Les Amis used to be.

(3) There's a Patagonia on Congress Avenue. [Michael Lind once named trends like this " Brazilization of the economy." Brazilization, Lind defines as "a high-tech feudal anarchy, featuring an archipelago of privileged whites in an ocean of white, black and brown poverty."]
Much, in fact, of the development I saw was of the expensive, upper middle class kind. Serving needs but in an anodyne and corporate way. Austin seems ineluctably moving from "weird" to "placeless."

The photo below is from....Cleveland. But it could just as easily have been Austin, in many places.


10/28/11

God, A.B.D.

God: A.B.D.

Sitcom. Premise: God's created the world and everything in it. In 6 days. But he cannot complete his dissertation. Tune in each week as God procrastinates, makes excuses, cultivates distracting hobbies, etc. all to avoid writing his dissertation.

10/27/11

Grading is like profiling: one must suppress their own ideas and instincts enough to inhabit someone else's (frequently twisted and errant) perspective, all the while not losing themselves in the process. I drape myself with incomplete sentences, half-baked vagaries, and listless quotations so I can discover--aha!--this person has neither understood nor, alas, tried to understand. And if I do this earnestly, it is called "engagement" by the people we've paid to stop teaching so they can exhort teachers to "teach better."

10/13/11

SAAP at Advancing Public Philosophy Conference in Washington DC


D. Hildebrand (SAAP Communications Director),  J. Kegley (SAAP President), K. Stikkers (SAAP President-elect)

SAAP was well-represented at a recent conference on “Advancing Publicly Engaged Philosophy” held in Washington, D.C. October 6-8, 2011. This conference, the first for the Public Philosophy Network, was a mix of formal and informal sessions on various issues in practical philosophy, including concrete projects and political problems as well as discussions of larger philosophical questions about how to engage in philosophical activity outside the academy. The conference was co-chaired by two people very active in American philosophy: Noelle McAfee, of Emory University and Andrew Light, a SAAP member from George Mason University and the Center for American Progress.

A SAAP sponsored panel was presented on “Pragmatism as a Publicly Engaged Philosophy.”  For this panel, President Elect Ken Stikkers (Southern Illinois University” talked about “John Dewey and the Public Responsibility of Philosophers,” focusing on Dewey’s  discussion of establishing a “public” and defining the meaning of “publics.”  David Hidebrand (University of Colorado, Denver) talked about “Journalism’s Destructive Addiction to Fake Objectivity” stressing a useful notion of “pragmatic objectivity as a better criteria for journalistic endeavors.  President Jackie Kegley (California State University, Bakersfield), discussed “Royce as a Public Philosopher,” focusing on his recommendations for building community through interpretation and she used the work of the Kegley Institute of Ethics as a concrete exemplification of this philosophy.

In addition, Paul Thompson from Michigan State University was on the Conference Committee and also chaired a workshop on “Philosophers Working in Collaborative Research Teams.”  Richard Hart, Bloomfield College, and John Shook (George Mason University) also chaired workshops- Richard on “Public Philosophy in Other Genres,” and John on “Philosophical Debate with Religion.  Judith Green, Fordham University, chaired a session on “Speech and Knowledge in Public Life.” Eric Weber (University of Mississippi who gave a paper on "Philosophical Influence on Culture," and Jonathan Moreno who led a workshop on Bioethics and Biopolitics.  SAAP members David Woods and Kathleen Wallace were also present at the meeting as discussants in workshop sessions.
The meeting ended with strong encouragement to spread the word about the network and to remain creatively engaged with the project of advancing philosophy into public arenas and problems.  Information for anyone interested can be found at http://Publicphilosophynetwork.com

Jacquelyn Kegley, President, SAAP

10/11/11

Philip Kitcher on John Dewey: Most important philosopher of 20th century




"Reconstruction in Philosophy is the title of a book by John Dewey whom I take to be the most important philosopher of the twentieth century."
[Philip Kitcher, "Philosophy Inside Out," Metaphilosophy, Vol. 42, No. 3, April 2011]

9/6/11

Regarding Jonathan Chait's What the Left Doesn’t Understand About Obama


Regarding Jonathan Chait's What the Left Doesn’t Understand About Obama
By JONATHAN CHAIT, NYT, Published: September 2, 2011

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/04/magazine/what-the-left-doesnt-understand-about-obama.html

The author's disdain for the left is clear when he writes: "The most common hallmark of the left’s magical thinking is a failure to recognize that Congress is a separate, coequal branch of government consisting of members whose goals may differ from the president’s." That's downright patronizing. I think many on the left are smart enough to understand politics as the art of the possible (duh), but we also understand that negotiating involves the creation of a "reality bubble," if you will. I.e., if you don't push for something, you don't get it. Why push for something you can't get? Two reasons: (a) you stand a better chance of pushing the ball further down the field, while (b) you define what you stand for to everyone. (Read Marshall Ganz's Feb. 2, 2011 account in The Nation of how the Obama administration intentionally abandoned the youth vote which helped elect them. Then, the disastrous 2010 election happens. Hmm.)

For me, Obama's primary failure as President has been to define what it means to be a Democrat, i.e., to advance a public and persuasive rhetorical account of what the Democratic Party stands for. By missing the opportunity to define what Democrats stand for, Obama has failed as the party's leader. The long-term damage includes (a) public cynicism, an increased sense among the public that "all politicians are alike (in the pocket of the powerful)" and (b) further destruction of the Democrat's identity, i.e., the public (and liberal's) perception that Democrat's don't really stand for anything truly different. They're a too-faint variation of the GOP: corporation-friendly, Wall Street-beholden, opponent of the middle and working classes. As far as I can tell, Obama has done nothing to show that what the Democrats stand for, at least, is a principled opposition to a return to the Gilded Age.

9/2/11

Did John Dewey attend William James' Pragmatism Lectures at Columbia in 1907?


For those interested in James' book/lecture series *Pragmatism*, it turns out that Dewey was in the audience for the third lecture at Columbia (at Teacher's College). From a letter (1907.02.01): William James to Alice Howe Gibbens James:


Wm. James: "Yesterday [31 January], my third lecture was read to an audience hardly diminished.1  Certainly well over 900, & sounded well--to me.  We, i.e. Cattell, Dewey, Miller, Woodbridge, Strong, Marshall, and others beside myself adjourned to the Faculty Club and had a hot & heavy and (I think) in-||structive pragmatism discussion with dinner at 8, until ½ nine, when I left & came to bed."
NOTE: 1. Possibly at Harvard Club, 27 W. 44th St., New York.


Richardson has some nice details on this, too: here.


Thanks to Larry Hickman of the Dewey center for pointing this out.

7/20/11

Harry Potter 2: DONE


Saw Harry Potter 2 yesterday. It was good, in the way that decent nachos dripping with orange velveeta, salsa, and black beans are good. I anticipated it hungrily, consumed a lot of it, felt sated and slightly compromised by the experience. Woke up not remembering much of it.

6/26/11

Wonderful letter lamenting demise of Perk Hill Coffee Shop in Denver


http://greaterparkhillcommunity.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1807:letter-to-the-editors&catid=1:news&Itemid=7


LETTER TO THE EDITORS
Perk Hill Lament

I would like to lament the eviction of Perk Hill by proprietor Darren Spreeuw’s landlord, Eric Alstad. This has removed a community gathering place not duplicated nor replaced in the neighborhood by any other establishment.

Legal niceties and personality differences aside, it seems the kernel of their dispute was the placement of playground equipment or picnic tables in front of Perk Hill. The ongoing dispute included Eric dressing up with his employees in bird masks one evening last November and throwing Perk Hill’s picnic tables into a truck.

For 20 years I frequented Eric’s other establishment, St. Mark’s Coffee Shop, in its two different locations, but stopped after I overheard Eric discussing “Darrenville” in a disparaging manner with a guy in a leisure suit who I assumed to be his lawyer.

Multiple Park Hill denizens signed a petition to the city to allow the playground equipment to remain, as there was a consensus of community benefit. We voted with our feet as Perk Hill thrived from the various AM coffee crowds and the throngs of families there for ice cream. Perk Hill has always been a frequent donor to local fundraising events and Bike Depot activities. My husband, who teaches chess club at Park Hill Elementary, had a free, weekly chess society event at Perk Hill last summer.

From the article in the last issue of the Greater Park Hill News it seems there may have been objection from other businesses about use of this public right-of-way. I assume there was objection about the competition from the “non-coffee shop” Cake Crumbs. Those businesses can now enjoy the open parking spaces.

Having grown up in Park Hill and seen “Charlie Brown’s Summer Vacation”’ at the movie theater on Kearney and 22nd, and bought many an ill-fated goldfish at Girl Scout fundraisers in the space which is now Dardano’s studio, my personal view is that Perk Hill was a part of the resurgence in the economic viability of a street which had had many down-and-out years. I also found it offensive that the day after Perk Hill had vacated the space there were signs up on the inside of Perk Hill’s former windows directing that coffee was available down the street at Cake Crumbs and that “espresso was coming soon.”

Here’s to all the good memories and community. I write this on a beautiful Sunday morning musing over my homemade latte (nuke the milk in a Mason jar and then shake it really hard), which could save me about $1,000/year, yet taking hope in the mention in the article that resurrection of Perk Hill is possible.

Thanks,
Inger Fedde

6/24/11

Memory vs. Novelty


As summer unfolds, so do memories of summers past, many from childhood. These snippets seem to suggest, "This summer will be like those were." But no summer can be like those were. Powerful expectations, based on real memories as provoked by deeply familiar seasonal changes, are just as powerfully turned back. Not sure if "poignant" is the right word for this; there's something concrete and finite about it, though.

6/17/11

Wittgenstein is Sean Penn; Sean Penn is Wittgenstein


Was it Wittgenstein or Jeff Spiccoli who once said, "Well Stu I'll tell you, surfing's not a sport, it's a way of life, you know, a hobby. It's a way of looking at that wave and saying, "Hey bud, let's party!"

6/9/11

Angry Birds or Bergman?




Getting 3 stars on a particular level of Angry Birds stands in humiliating contrast with my fascination with the Bergman film, Wild Strawberries. I cannot fully choose to be a better person, and I feel bad about that. This act of documenting my shame induces me to further shame, though now it is a shame of my own narcissism. That last sentence has caused me to feel shame at my willingness to confess this all on Facebook. So, to add it up: shame at: lack of self improvement, lack of good second order choices, confession, narcissism, and exhibitionism. Now, back to Angry Birds.

4/17/11

Journalists: please ask Paul Ryan whether he thinks it was right for Ayn Rand to take government assistance while decrying others who took it?


Will journalists please ask Paul Ryan whether he thinks it was right for Ayn Rand to take government assistance while decrying others who took it?

In an interview, Evva Pryror, a social worker and consultant to Miss Rand's law firm said, "Doctors cost a lot more money than books earn and she could be totally wiped out" without the aid of these two government programs. Ayn took the bail out even though Ayn "despised government interference and felt that people should and could live independently... She didn't feel that an individual should take help."

SOURCE: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-ford/ayn-rand-and-the-vip-dipe_b_792184.html

Rand received Social Security and Medicare payments under the name of Ann O'Connor (husband Frank O'Connor).

Meanwhile,

"Representative Paul Ryan, also of Wisconsin, requires staffers to read Atlas Shrugged, describes Obama’s economic policies as “something right out of an Ayn Rand novel,” and calls Rand “the reason I got involved in public service.”

SOURCE: http://www.tnr.com/blog/jonathan-chait/80552/paul-ryan-and-ayn-rand

4/1/11

Haikus of Breakfast and Pity


Haikus of Breakfast and Pity

I crunched my half sour / without equanimity -- / no change for the tip.
Your half baked muffin/softly whispered "rescue me"/to passing strangers.
Raisins in the bread/cinnamon and butter spread/sugar rush my head
Coffee devotees / with napkins under their cups / trembling, ecstatic
Room for cream, she asked/Sure, how 'bout you, I reply/Coffee in my face
The philosopher / eagerly demonstrated / his reprobation.
To be so fallen/lacrimosity unbound/pity festival
O noble bagel / scion of the house of lox / for cream cheese i sing

3/19/11

Pun of the Week

Coach at kid's soccer: ok, I want every to say their name and also their favorite number.

Noah (6 years old): I'm Noah and my favorite number is Pi.

Nick: I'm Nick and my favorite number is "donut."

-- David

3/18/11

Letter to Journalists on Diane Rehm Show regarding NPR and Government Support

On the Diane Rehm Show on Friday, March 18th, a caller questioned why the GOP was targeting NPR and CPB, among others. It was then reported the GOP/Tea Party argument that "the government just shouldn't be in the business of supporting media."

It would be nice to hear reporters bring some pretty well established historical facts to bear on this, namely that it was part of our founding to ensure that there be a healthy press--particularly a press aiming to report on matters of import to the people when the basis for "what matters" is not simply up to ratings and corporate profits.

The history on this is pretty clear. In their recent book, Robert McChesney and John Nichols write,

"The founders regarded the establishment of a press system, the Fourth Estate, as the first duty of the state. Jefferson and Madison devoted considerable energy to explaining the necessity of the press to a vibrant democracy. The government implemented extraordinary postal subsidies for the distribution of newspapers. It also instituted massive newspaper subsidies through printing contracts and the paid publication of government notices, all with the intent of expanding the number and variety of newspapers. When Tocqueville visited the United States in the 1830s he was struck by the quantity and quality of newspapers and periodicals compared with France, Canada and Britain. It was not an accident. It had little to do with "free markets." It was the result of public policy."

(Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols, The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media Revolution that Will Begin the World Again.) WEB SOURCE: http://sustainablejournalism.org/uncategorized/mcchesney-nichols-advocate-government-help-to-save-journalism

Why mention this? Because I am politely requesting that this history be brought to bear by reporters discussing the issue today. It is not "objective" of journalists to treat stories a-historically, as if the claims made in them had no context. That is how the opponents of public media want to frame the issue--as a story with no backstory--but that a-historical argument is being presented as if it was "the American way of doing things." Mentioning the history of government support for media would be a way of making the story more accurate by adding in more context.

I hope you see my point. Journalism is extremely important for democracy, and to the degree that you exclude historical context (in the service of seeming "fair") you actually undermine the role journalism plays in educating citizens---and ensuring that the press remain an indispensable democratic ingredient, as Jefferson and Madison believed it was.

3/7/11

Why relativism fails


Why relativism fails:

The universe in which every opinion is as good as every other is a universe without argument. A universe without argument, without reason, is not (contra Aristotle, Spinoza) absurd. It is not self contradictory to conceive such a state of affairs. But such a universe is without firm assertion, without contrast, without interest. Such a universe is blah, ennui, boredom per se. One can exist in such a universe, but not live. Thus, a relativistic stance is not only practically impossible (because we *have* to take stands in the tussle of life) but it is also existentially impossible. We couldn't bear such a place. We'd kill ourselves or kill someone else rather than let the status quo stand. Schopenhauer's conclusion, if not his premises.

3/5/11

Who is a Facebook user with hundreds or thousands of friends?


Here's the interesting issue (to me) about having a lot of FB friends: Who *is* the person with 2000 friends? I mean, when I post on FB, I have some reasonable sense of who might be reading it. This is important, because it allows me to be fairly candid and then get responses from people whose perspective I can gauge, somewhat. This is why I don't "friend" students or relative strangers. So how does someone with, say, 500 or 1000 or more friends remain candid on FB? It would seem that they either just post relatively anodyne things or they manufacture a false kind of candidness. Both such forms of expression seem rather self-alienating to me.

This is not to say one cannot talk to different groups at different times, but my point is that in those circumstances where one just feels like throwing out a "general" post (i.e., one not targeting anyone in particular) then a larger group of friends makes such posting either totally missing the audience--or, if one wants to avoid miscommunication--making the posts so general that they begin to lack "candid-ness."

When I listen to "the new generations" (as some call them) talk, it often takes a lot of back and forth to get them to be precise enough to make their point so that I and others IN THEIR PEER GROUP understand what they are saying. This is, I think, evidence of language habit uses which are more mis-communicative than "new" or "generationally innovative." Put another way, they're inarticulate.

3/3/11

How's that "Balance" Treating you Now?


All these years PBS, NPR, et al. have bent over backwards to be "fair" to conservative voices, even allowing them half the debate when it comes to things like global warming. Now, that same group of folks are going to thank PBS, NPR et al. by radically cutting or eliminating their funding.

2/25/11

Tighten *Our* Belts? How about Wall Street Titans Tighten Theirs?


Colorado's economy is in very difficult straits and the Governor is being forced to pass huge budget cuts onto our educators and our children. Many in the media decide to look at the budget problems as if they started yesterday, and there's only a moral question of "whether we should reign in government" or "whether we should tighten our belts."

Recently, the New York Comptroller’s office released numbers showing that the same executives who sold junk mortgages and crashed the economy gave themselves obscene bonuses and compensation in 2010--to the tune over over 20 billion dollars.

The wrong question is being posed in Colorado. The question is not, "Should Coloradans reign in government or tighten their belts." The question is why should the budgets and services of state governments march to the dreary tune called by Wall Street lobbyists and the politicians they've bought in Washington? The question is, when are we going to "reign in Wall St. and demand that financial titans tighten their belts?" That's the real question.

1/29/11

Laura Meckler's sloppy thinking

The latest News Roundup contained some extraordinarily sloppy
thinking and false equivalences from WSJ's Laura Meckler. On the
show, Diane read a quotation from Professor Stephen Gillers that
Justice Thomas's recent tax problems did not constitute a
miscalculation but were, in fact ommissions about his wife's earnings
from 6 tax returns, and that it could not have been an oversight.
Gillers claimed that it could not have been an oversight. We don't
know why he said this, but presumably he has some evidence (perhaps
the tax forms require you to intentionally check a box to state you
have nothing else to declare). Gillers, presumably, has some
expertise--he holds a chair in Legal Ethics at NYU. Nevertheless,
Laura Meckler felt comfortable simply waving off his comment, as if
it was merely something said by a politician running for office or a
media pundit. This strikes me as fairly irresponsible of Meckler, who
should have at least acknowledged that she didn't know why Professor
Gillers made his claim.

Nevertheless, though she did not possess actual facts to the
contrary, Meckler felt free to speculate that this was an issue we
could *never* know the answer to because we cannot know what was in
Justice Thomas's head. She then brought up Treasury Secretary
Geithner as an example of "both sides do it" as if Geithner's
survival of scrutiny somehow exonerates Thomas.

Meckler is operating in a typical journalist mode here, namely the
"both sides do it" mode. But this implies a false equivalence between
Thomas and Geithner and it implies that two overlooked wrongs make a
right. These are both mistakes. First, there's a huge difference
between Thomas and Geithner, which Meckler glides over. Thomas is a
justice in the highest court in the land, and must be held to the
highest possible legal and ethical standards. He is qualitatively
different than Geithner in that respect. Also, many people are
prosecuted for such omissions by the IRS. Just because it's
politically not feasible to prosecute some people doesn't make what
they did legal. Yet time and time again, the public sees Washington
officials walk away from significant wrongdoing with either no
penalty or a slap on the wrist. Or a pardon. Meckler's comments play
an enabling role for such a lawless environment.

1/19/11

On the absurdity of the "guns don't kill people" argument

Regarding the debate about ammunition clip limits on guns, the following argument (of those against limits) seems to apply: Nuclear weapons don't kill people, people kill people. Therefore, we should oppose anyone attempting to limit the rights of individual Americans who wish to arm themselves with a nuclear weapon.

Why does this argument fail? Because there are no qualifications on the initial argument. In other words, of course people kill people--that's too simple. The logic behind limitations has to do whether the technologies available to killers too easily accelerate, magnify and multiply their intentions. Of course they do.

The NRA style argument which rests on the overly simple "people kill people" premise neglects these complicating factors. If the NRA style argument is willing to rest its case on a too-simple premise, then they must also be willing to accept the implication that a nuclear weapon, too, should be acceptable.

So, in the end, the NRA logic implies the acceptability of nuclear weapons--a clearly unacceptable conclusion. Thus, their premise must be flawed, and so there's good reason to suppose that some limits on clips is acceptable.

1/12/11