Saturday, 3 February 2007


Here is a column about the 2008 presidential campaign. I predict that the 2008 election will be the nastiest ever. Progressives simply will not accept defeat for a third consecutive time. They think they have a God-given right (oops! a right) to govern. They won’t be fooled (or robbed) again. Expect mud to fly. Actually, “mud” is too mild. Expect shit to fly. Expect vicious personal attacks. Expect violence. Look at what has been happening on college campuses, which are supposed to be sites of intellectual give and take. Conservative speakers have been shouted down, insulted, assaulted, and even battered. This is not good.


Howard Zinn makes a case for impeachment of President Bush. Note that he makes only a couple of fleeting references to the fact that we are at war. What would he do about the threats we face? Nothing?

Twenty Years Ago

2-3-87 Tuesday. Whenever I think of [four-year-old] Kendra, Mark’s girl, I laugh, because she referred to me constantly during the holidays as “the kid.” “You’re a kid,” she would say, a gleam in her eye. Once she told Mom that “the kid’s out there (in the family room) reading.” [I replaced brackets with parentheses to avoid confusion.] Even after talking to her about it, I never got clear on her conception of kidhood. “Is your daddy a kid?” I would ask. “No,” she said. “But I’m older than your daddy,” I explained. “I know,” she said; “but you’re still a kid.” This tells me that kidhood, to her, isn’t simply a function of age. Mom’s theory is that I seemed to have no spouse or kids of my own, so she classified me as a kid—someone like her. But I was bigger, so I was a “big kid.” Mom later suggested that she called me “kid” because I did kidlike things with her. I played games with her, laughed with her, asked her questions, and in general treated her as an equal. Isn’t that hilarious? I miss you, Kendra.

We discussed wrongful life in Joel Feinberg’s [Philosophy of Law] seminar this evening. In the fall of 1984, when I took Joel’s previous seminar, we discussed the same subject. Joel’s position at the time (expressed in Harm to Others) was that one cannot be harmed by acts that occur before one is born. Why not? Because in order to be harmed, one must be put in a worse condition than one would have been had the act not occurred. If one does not exist, then there is no basis for comparison. But now Joel thinks otherwise. He recently published an article entitled “Wrongful Life and the Counterfactual Element in Harming.” [Joel Feinberg, “Wrongful Life and the Counterfactual Element in Harming,” Social Philosophy & Policy 4 (autumn 1986): 145-78.] In this article, he extends the concept of harm to include what he calls a “preferability condition.” If nonlife (not having been born) is rationally preferable to one’s present life (say, in a severely retarded state), then it makes sense to say that the individual has been harmed, even though when the act occurred the individual did not exist. Tonight we discussed this change in Joel’s views.

In what will sound like the height of immodesty, I argued for almost the same position in the previous seminar. It occurred to me that it made perfectly good sense to speak of a “life not worth living,” and if it did, then it made sense to say that one whose life is not worth living has been harmed by an action which caused one to be in that condition. I pulled out my notebook of essays and, sure enough, there was my argument. I even used some of the same terminology that Joel now uses, although he didn’t give me credit in the article. It’s nice to think that I may have had some influence on him. So Joel has finally come around to my position on this. I’m impressed by the fact that he would retract a position so quickly after publishing it, but that’s the kind of person he is. He’s more concerned to be right than consistent. The students were lively tonight, and rightfully so. It’s a fascinating topic, one that raises linguistic, conceptual, and metaphysical questions as well as straightforwardly moral and theoretical ones.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

My eyes almost popped out when I read the headline of your editorial “Bullying Iran.”

Here is a state that is responsible for unbelievable violations of diplomatic immunity, numerous acts of terrorism, probable violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty; that calls for wiping a neighboring country off the map; that interferes in the internal politics of its neighbors; that ends official assemblies, political and religious, with chants of “Death to America!” and that, you have reported, may be facilitating the killing of American soldiers.

When President Bush declares that the agents of such a state who strike us should expect to be struck back at, you call this “bullying,” as if Iran were an innocent youngster in the schoolyard. Yours is a policy of appeasement.

Kevin S. Fogarty
Cincinnati, Feb. 1, 2007

Note from KBJ: This is not a joke. This letter appeared in The New York Times.

Lincoln Allison on Autonomy

Fully rounded, fully human, people can mature only in a social system in which they can exercise a collective control of the conditions governing their own lives. In those societies (that is, most societies) in which people do not freely and collectively participate in the institutions which govern their lives, they can be said to be stunted in growth.

(Lincoln Allison, Right Principles: A Conservative Philosophy of Politics [Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1984], 160)

A Year Ago


From the Mailbag

Hillary promises to end the war if elected. Does it take a special talent? “Hey guys, come home.” End of war. It is true, never over-estimate the intelligence of the American people. And of course I’m biased, but jeez, each clip of her gives me the willies. Is it that “look”? That voice? The pantsuit of the day? The forced chuckle? The condescension? The cloying innocence? The completely staged/orchestrated appearances? Or . . . those steely eyes glaring far and wide over her barely suppressed curled lip? Or . . . her anger. Or . . . her 6 o’clock shadow? Yes, I can just imagine Bill hankering to bed her. And you wonder why he had interns crawling around under his desk? There. I feel better. Once again, we’ll have half the country hating their president as she takes office.You gotta be egomaniacal to run for president. And have skin as thick and hard as a day old cow turd in July.