Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Is McCain Stupid, A Liar, or Just Extremely Forgetful?

Harking back to my last blog, I ask whether it would be politically incorrect to discuss John McCain's age. The answer is probably, "Yes," though age per se doesn't tell us anything substantive about a candidate for President. Claims that someone is too young or too old to be President presupposes a truly idiotic use of statistics -- a claim to the effect that the average 35/72 year old male is too X to be President doesn't entail that any specific person aged 35/72 is too X to be President.

However, let's not let McCain off the hook this easily. Though I don't recall the issue ever being brought up before but whether or not a person's cognitive health and cognitive capacity and his stamina are sufficient to allow him to be a successful President is of very great importance. IMO, both Obama and McCain should be vetted by one or more panels of appropriate medical experts who are competent to diagnose how senile a 72 year old is or how much stamina he has. McCain's campaign might benefit greatly by a positive result. I know that my memory is not as good as it used to be and I am too years younger than McCain.

Perhaps the example or Reagan, who either was already in the clutches of Alzheimer's or engaged in selective memory (= some combination of lying and memory failures) when he testified under oath during a deposition in regard to Iran Contra shortly after his Presidency. The charitable view is that his brain was already damaged. I have a close relative (not a blood relative) who suffers from Alzheimer's (she's in her latish 80's) and the experience of visiting her terrifies me as to a possible fate for me or my wife or anyone else I know or any of you or McCain. She has a wonderful personality but can't remember much of anything, including especially things she has just said.

My concern about McCain derives from the extraordinary errors he is making. Any Presidential candidate who is worried about the situation on the Iraq-Pakistan border should immediately withdraw himself from the race. McCain has made clear that he is not Internet savvy, itself a troubling fact, and does not realize I think that everyone in the world with Internet access can fact check what he says, including contradictory claims made within a short period of time. Check out the contradictions on this YouTube bit, slices of real life on the John McCain Crooked Talk Express.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Political Correctness Gone Crazy

It seems that a British borough council banned use of the phrase "brain storm." I want you to try to figure out why they might have chosen to do that. I am betting you can't.

It seems that these highly empathetic people, not burdened by the strictures of a Second Amendment, were worried about the harm that hearing or reading this phrase might do to the psyches of those who suffer from, well, brain storms, as this term was used in the late 1890's until the contemporary use began to be used in the 1940's.

Interestingly, even after a group of epileptics, when polled, said they found nothing offensive about the phrase, the doughty councilors have resolved to stand their ground. The irony in all of this is, of course, that in deciding to protect epileptics from unfeeling people who like to call their brain storming "brain storming" they have managed to brand epileptics as damaged or defective in some way that I suspect epileptics will find offensive.

Our deep thinking councilors have come up with the alternative language "thought shower." It is just what one might have expected from them. Let me add that this phrase is inadequate to the purpose of describing an interactive group's efforts to solve some problem collectively. A brain storm, as I understand the phrase, suggests people throwing out ideas they bounce off each other either to be shot down or developed further. A thought shower does not suggest an interactive process at all. In rain showers, the rain typically falls straight down.

I think that people would do well to wait until some aggrieved group, such as epileptics, complain about a linguistic practice before they take action. Before seeing this story the idea that "brain storm" was at all connected to epilepsy had never occurred to me. I suspect epileptics would be more concerned with being treated badly in the work place.

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Mental Retardation -- Political Correctness

State and local agencies in Ohio that work with those suffering from "mentally retardation" seem to be worried about the impact that language might have on perceptions of their clients and those who haven't changed the name to some permutation of "developmental disability" will soon vote on doing so. The older term reflects a time when clearly identifying persons was the only consideration in coming up with language. But now we must consider what I have called the "significance" of a term, as well as its literal meaning in my blog on "The Meaning of Meaning."

One difficulty of the adjective "mentally retarded" and the noun form "mental retardation" is that they implicate some force acting on them that is holding them back. Some clear cases of terms that have this meaning and significance would be "we retarded the growth of invasive plants by ..." or "we retarded the destructive effects of acid rain on stone statues by ..." In the case of mental retardation there is no force acting on those afflicted with this problem that holds them back. They appear to have some condition that is genetic or caused by poor nutrition or an injury or whatever might cause mental disabilities. The term "mental disability" is therefore more accurate than "mental retardation." That is reason enough to change the term.

Notice that if one takes the term "mental retardation" seriously one would do research on the problem by looking at causes of retardation and make efforts to lessen the forces that are doing the retarding. So, there could be a cure for this by lessening or stopping the effects of these forces. In the case of "mental disability" the focus of research would be on efforts to assist those afflicted to learn. Moreover, this more accurate term suggests that one should also focus on research on types of disabilities and this could lead to differential means of dealing with their disabilities.

I have no expertise in this field so please take my comments to apply just to what the language suggests.

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