Monday, 29 January 2007

Turn Up the Radio

They don’t make music like this anymore. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or my favorite song of all time.

Best of the Web Today


YouTube Silliness

See here.

Google Book Search

This New Yorker essay by Jeffrey Toobin is fascinating. I hope one day that everything ever published is at my fingertips, ready to be read, downloaded, or printed. Much of it already is, at least to those of us who work for universities. I love books, mind you, and don’t want them to disappear, but having books online allows me to determine whether they’re worth acquiring in tangible form. It also facilitates research. Sometimes I don’t want to read an entire book; I just want to skim it, browse it, or read a portion of it. By the way, I wonder how Google manages to scan so many books—and do it well. I scan various items, such as book chapters and periodical essays. It’s a laborious, time-consuming process. My arms get tired from holding the items on the scanner glass. Perhaps Google has automated the process. I’d love to see how it’s done. Wouldn’t you?

Richard Mervyn Hare (1919-2002)

R. M. Hare, the British moral philosopher who invented universal prescriptivism, died five years ago today. Not many moral philosophers think as carefully or write as crisply as Hare did, which is why so many of us have learned so much from him for so long. (This is not to say that everyone agrees with him!) Hare did important work in all three branches of ethics: metaethics, normative ethical theory, and practical ethics. Here is my annotated bibliography (a work in progress). Here is Hare’s philosophical self-portrait. Here is a website that contains many writings by and about Hare. If you’d like to read something by Hare, I recommend “Abortion and the Golden Rule.” Philosophy must be read slowly and carefully, so take your time. If you can, you should read it twice: the first time to see the “forest,” the second time to examine the “trees.”

Retronym Alert

First, there was utilitarianism; then there was rule-utilitarianism; and now there is act-utilitarianism.


The editorial board of The New York Times is not happy about the length of presidential campaigns. What’s the problem? Nobody has to pay attention to politics. In fact, most people probably don’t. Nobody has to start running for president two years out. Those of us who enjoy politics don’t mind the length of campaigns. It gives us something to read, think, talk, and write about. There’s another reason why long campaigns aren’t objectionable: They allow us to get to know the candidates. Some, such as Hillary Clinton, are already well known. Others, such as Barack Obama, are virtually unknown. We need to get to know him, to see how he handles himself under various conditions. The last thing we want is a president who falls to pieces under stress. The Times makes it seem as though all of us are holding our breath until the election. If that were so, then yes, the campaign would be too long. But we’re not holding our breath. We’re living our lives. Let the campaign begin!

Crying Wolf

Everyone knows the story of the little boy who cried wolf. By crying wolf when no wolf was around, he lost his credibility among the townsfolk. One day, there really was a wolf. He cried out, but nobody came. Writers should take this parable to heart. If you emphasize too many words, you lose your credibility. The reader comes to doubt that any particular emphasis is important, so that, when you do need to emphasize something, the reader fails to take note. Use emphasis judiciously. It enhances, or at least preserves, your credibility.

Hadley Arkes on the Heartbreak of the Courts

By this stage of our experience, it is time to speak a plain and painful truth: The unending disappointments in the courts cannot be laid entirely on the conservative judges, for they do what conservative judges ever do. They try to work under a stern discipline, with decisions precisely and narrowly framed, without deciding more than they need to decide, without grasping more power than they need, and leaving power in hands other than their own. The heartbreak of the courts is a reflection, rather, of a political class that has backed away from the work distinctly its own. It has left that work to be done by someone else, in decisions strung out, in painful increments, never reaching a resolution.

(Hadley Arkes, “The Kennedy Court,” First Things [January 2007]: 11-3, at 13)

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

You write that the greatest risk of the administration’s proposal is that small and medium businesses might stop providing health coverage.

As a small-business owner, I can tell you that this is true and it’s not necessarily bad.

The health insurance my company offers is a good plan, but it does not offer the best fit for each employee, and its expense prevents us from offering any retirement benefits.

Putting the burden of selecting and paying for health benefits on employees would increase their cost sensitivity, allow better tailored coverage and allow small and medium-size employers to provide other benefits that are every bit as critical to the future of our nation.

Saul J. Stahl
Brooklyn, Jan. 26, 2007

A Year Ago