Friday, 26 January 2007


I take back all the bad things I’ve said about soccer.

Twenty Years Ago

1-26-87 Monday. I dreamt last night that I won the [Arizona] state lottery, but lost or mislaid the winning ticket before collecting the money. Now that’s a nightmare! But I wonder what the dream represented, if anything. A naive Freudian, I think that dreams reveal genuine fears. Perhaps it means that I fear failure—working hard to achieve something and then faltering. Or perhaps it signifies a fear of death. The winning lottery ticket probably represented success, or life, or satisfaction. By losing it, I got to react in advance to the loss of one of these goods. If that’s the case, then I didn’t react well. I searched all over for the ticket and even panicked when I couldn’t find it. Why do I have such terrible dreams? Why can’t I dream of soft pastures, bright sunshine, and baseball—nice things? [Maybe the lottery ticket represented . . . a lottery ticket.]

The high temperature in Tucson was eighty degrees [Fahrenheit], only two degrees below the all-time record for this date. The normal or average temperature is sixty-five degrees. Already students are beginning to congregate on the mall area. Many of the males had their shirts off. But it’s still too early for shorts and flipflops, mainly because it’s so cold in the morning. Last night the mercury dipped to thirty-eight degrees, which means that it rose forty-two degrees in just a handful of hours.  Tucson weather is weird.  I’ve been wearing suit jackets over my shirts in order to stay warm in the mornings, and even that doesn’t help much.

With my [preliminary-exam] reading list approved, I added the pages of all the books and articles that it contains. There are 5517 pages to be read. I’ve read many of them already, so I have 4841 to go. With ninety-five days remaining before the end of April, I have to read and outline an average of 50.95 pages per day in order to get everything done. It doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Today I read about seventy-five pages, but didn’t outline anything. I much prefer reading and thinking to outlining. But it must be done, and there’s no time to waste. The point of making the calculation was to impress upon me the importance of regularity. I don’t want to fall behind in my reading, for that would mean even more work later. Now’s the time to get ahead.

President [Ronald] Reagan’s state of the union address begins at seven o’clock tomorrow evening, just when Joel Feinberg’s [Philosophy of Law] seminar meets. Damn! I love hearing Reagan misdescribe American history and paint a false, rosy picture of the country. In fact, things are not so good. The budget deficit grows by leaps and bounds every day and many people still have no homes or jobs. I don’t expect government to provide for everyone, mind you, but it could do more than it’s presently doing. We’ve got our collective priorities out of whack. Perhaps Terry Mallory will give me a synopsis of the address next time I see him. [Yikes! I sounded like Paul Krugman!]


Here is an interesting story out of Australia. (Thanks to Carlos Serda for the link.)

Addendum: How many of you believe the man? How many the woman? Do you think it mattered that the judge was a woman?


Read this and you’ll see why I admire Ralph Nader. He’s his own person, beholden to nobody. Of how many people in American politics is that true?


I shouldn’t be so hard on those who like hockey. If you live in Canada, which is a frozen wasteland governed by and for women, what else is there to do but skate around chasing a little black object?


If you’re a political junkie, as I am, you’ll enjoy this. (Thanks to Michelle Malkin for the link.)

Addendum: It occurred to me just now why I love politics. It combines mud-wrestling, chess, hucksterism, and suicide, each of which has added immeasurably to civilization.


Three questions. First, what is leadership? Second, does leadership vary by context? In other words, is the leadership of which we speak in politics the same as that of which we speak in the military? Third, which president was the best leader, and why?


I mentioned to one of my colleagues that I’m about to buy a new Honda Accord. He sent this. Damn you, Lewis! How can I buy an Accord now that I’ve seen what else Honda has available?

Behaving Badly

No reasonable person can deny that progressives have behaved badly—in many cases very badly—since the election of George W. Bush in 2000. The election appears to have driven people insane, as manifested by the bizarre behavior we have witnessed for the past half-dozen years, behavior that includes (1) blaming President Bush for every conceivable social ill; (2) calling him names (e.g., “Chimpy W. Hitler”); (3) imputing the worst motives to him; (4) impugning his honesty, courage, intelligence, patriotism, and integrity; and (5) misrepresenting his beliefs, values, principles, policies, and actions. There really does seem to be a Bush Derangement Syndrome, even though Charles Krauthammer probably meant for it to be taken facetiously when he described it in December 2003. What I wonder is this. Suppose the United States Supreme Court had ruled in favor of Al Gore rather than George W. Bush. Would conservatives have behaved as badly as progressives? I mean for this to be a serious question, so please support whatever answer you give.

Addendum: James Taranto, to whom I sent a link to this post, replied with a link to this Wall Street Journal column, in which Al Hunt argues that conservatives would have behaved worse than progressives had Al Gore been elected. I wonder whether Hunt still believes that. His column was published in December 2001, just 11 months after President Bush took office. We now know just how badly progressives have behaved.


Here is Peggy Noonan’s latest column. Here is Peg Kaplan’s latest post.


Talk about synchronicity! First, I’m teaching Ethics this semester (and enjoying the hell out of it, I might add). Second, I watched my first episode of 24 this past Monday. Third, the Wall Street Journal just published a column in which the author claims that 24 is a primer on moral philosophy. Maybe I should require that my students watch it. What do you think?


Here is a Wall Street Journal column about law school. I have two comments. First, the author is wrong that economics or mathematics is the best preparation for a career in law. Philosophy is the best preparation. By far. I explain why here. Second, law school did little or nothing to prepare me for law practice. It’s almost ludicrous how little the two activities overlapped. This doesn’t mean I regret going to law school, because I ended up in academia rather than in the legal profession. (Law school is good preparation for being a professor.) But if I had remained in law, I would have considered my law-school years a waste of time and money.

Best of the Web Today


Reverse Discrimination

Read this. What part of “It’s unacceptable to take a person’s race into account in university admissions” do college administrators not understand? They appear to be circumventing the expressed will of the people by coming up with “proxies” for race, such as residence in Detroit or having overcome “prejudice.” Remember the so-called Intelligent Design case out of Dover, Pennsylvania? Progressives screamed that “Intelligent Design” is nothing more than creationism with a new name. Aren’t the new admissions policies of universities nothing more than race-based preferences with a new name? Why is there pretext in one case but not in the other? Oops. I forgot. Progressives aren’t opposed to pretexts; they’re opposed to certain pretexts. Don’t let progressives fool you into thinking they’re principled. They’re outcome-oriented. In their view, the end—imposing their egalitarian vision on society—justifies the means.


One of the most frequently asked questions by my students is what they’re responsible for on the exams. Sometimes the question is more specific: “Are we responsible for this?” The question puzzles me, because I tell the students very clearly on the syllabus—as well as orally, on the first day of class—that they’re responsible for all the readings, all the handouts, all the lectures, and even classroom discussions. Still, they ask me. Never in my life would I have the effrontery to ask such a question of a professor. Indeed, such a question never occurred to me. Isn’t it obvious that students are responsible for everything? Why would some material be exempt from examination? I wonder whether the students who ask me this question also ask it of their physics, chemistry, and biology professors. Somehow, I doubt it. But why would that be? Is it because they have less respect for philosophy than they do other academic disciplines? Surely philosophy isn’t any harder than physics, chemistry, or biology, even though it’s hard. Surely it doesn’t require greater memory or attention to detail, even though it makes great demands in these areas. Any ideas as to why I get this question so often? Is there something going on of which I’m unaware?