The Republican Party Platform is at least as objectionable as Trump

With the media choosing to pay so much attention to Donald Trump, relatively little attention has been paid to the 2016 Republican Party platform. This is in line with the tedious and reprehensible reduction of political discourse to horse race punditry. But it is a pity, since the prospect of this platform being enacted is every bit as worrying as the prospect of a narcissistic ignoramus like Trump becoming president.

An unbeatable deal–the national parks of America

by Emrys Westacott What's the best deal in the world? My vote would be for the $80 annual pass that gives you access to all of America's national parks along with many other recreational areas such as national monuments and national forests that are managed by the federal government. (Actually, there's an even better deal:…

Why should I respect your stupid opinion?

by Emrys Westacott You have been called for jury service. The trial is complex and much hangs on the relative credibility of different witnesses, particularly those offering expert testimony regarding whether a certain medicine is likely to produce aggressive behavior as one of its side effects. A professional psychiatrist called by the defense testifies that…

Against terrorism, let’s try idealism

by Emrys Westacott When terrorist atrocities are visited on civilian populations, the immediate emotional response is a combination of shock, sadness, and anger. That is natural and understandable. But the anger people feel fuels the thought that “something must be done; ” and political leaders, acutely aware of what is expected of them, immediately proceed…

Why do we read literary biographies?

by Emrys Westacott I have just finished reading Curtis Cate's 2005 biography of Nietzsche. At close to six hundred pages one would expect it to be exhaustive, the kind that is routinely described in the back cover blurb as “definitive.” After all, Nietzsche's life, apart from his thoughts and subjective experiences, was not especially eventful…

How not to accuse someone of prejudice

by Emrys Westacott A colleague recently responded to a memo I circulated by telling me they considered it unintentionally heterosexist. I didn't agree. After a brief exchange of e-mails that served only to sandpaper each other's sore spots, my colleague called my attention to the following passage in Allen Johnson's book Privilege, Power, and Difference:…

What problems in education can technology help solve?

by Emrys Westacott The computer revolution has transformed education over the past quarter century. PowerPoint, greatly improved graphical and multi-media capabilities, e-books, Wikis, online student collaboration, flipped classrooms, clicker quizzes, open-access online courses (MOOCs), and the inexhaustible wealth of material available on the internet have opened up all sorts of interesting possibilities. (At the same…

American politics as the clash of symbols

by Emrys Westacott My Facebook profile describes my political views as “very liberal.” In the US this is a shorthand way of indicating that I support gay rights, government-run health care, stricter gun laws, abortion rights for women, abolition of the death penalty, reduced military spending, environmental protection, campaign finance reform, the United Nations, Charles…

How elite soccer illustrates an ancient paradox and a current problem

by Emrys Westacott The market is efficient. The market knows best. This belief underlies much contemporary theory and practice, especially in the realm of government policy. It is has been used, for instance, to justify privatizing the railways and the post office in the UK, and it forms a central plank in the arguments of…

The nostalgic appeal of simplicity

by Emrys Westacott Nostalgia is a fascinating and remarkably common phenomenon. We have all heard older people comparing the present unfavorably with the past in spite of–or even because of–obvious material improvements in the standard of living. Most of us over the age of twenty-five have probably done this ourselves. Often the fond remembrance involves…