Wednesday, 21 February 2007


If you think the Clintons are going to compete fairly for the Democrat presidential nomination, you haven’t been keeping up. Hillary thinks her time has come. She’s paid her dues to the party; she suppressed her ambitions to allow Al Gore and John Kerry to run; she’s raised money; she’s schmoozed, stroked, and sucked up; and, unlike four years ago, there’s no incumbent in the 2008 race. If she’s going to be president, it has to be now—and her aim is to be president. Barack Obama may be the golden boy of the Democrat Party, but he’s in her way. He will be sliced and diced by the Clinton machine. It’s going to be a great show for those of us in the conservative ranks. See here. By the way, when I said “the Clintons,” I meant it.  It’s the Bill and Hillary show. You may not see him at her side every day, but he’s running the campaign. He is desperate to get back to the White House. We’ll see whether Americans are smart enough to keep him out.


I know what the term “scare quotes” means, but I don’t know its origin. Does anyone know?

Addendum: Michael Dummett uses the expression “sneer quotes” to refer to the use of quotation marks (either single or double) to distance oneself from another person’s terminology (Michael Dummett, Grammar and Style for Examination Candidates and Others [London: Duckworth, 1993], 85). This makes sense, since the person using the sneer quotes is sneering at the other.  But “scare quotes”? What’s that all about? Who’s being scared, and why?

Snortin’ Whiskey

Here is John Fund’s column about George Washington, who, if he were president today, would be known as “George Dubya,” “The G-Man,” or, in honor of A-Rod, J-Lo, and K-Fed, “G-Wash.”

Best of the Web Today


The Punitive Times

The editorial board of The New York Times wants to use the tort system, which is part of civil law, to punish those it dislikes, even though punishment is the function of criminal law. See here. Can you say “abuse of process”? Oops! The Times doesn’t care about process. It cares about results. The end—punishing corporations—justifies the means.

The Perfect Is the Enemy of the Good

Why can’t all op-ed columns be as cogently argued and as beautifully written as this one by University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey R. Stone? Notice how much he does in 750 words: He describes the problem, explains why it’s urgent, provides historical background, distinguishes between two versions (one absolute, the other qualified) of the journalistic privilege, gives examples of how the two versions operate, sketches the arguments for and against each version, and makes a case for a qualified privilege. Well done, professor!


Here is the New York Times story about Stage 2 of the Tour of California.

Thomas Nagel on Liberalism

Liberalism is the conjunction of two ideals. The first is that of individual liberty: liberty of thought, speech, religion, and political action; freedom from government interference with privacy, personal life, and the exercise of individual inclination. The second ideal is that of a democratic society controlled by its citizens and serving their needs, in which inequalities of political and economic power and social position are not excessive. Means of promoting the second ideal include progressive taxation, public provision of a social minimum, and insulation of political affairs from the excessive influence of private wealth. To approach either of these ideals is very difficult. To pursue both of them inevitably results in serious dilemmas. In such cases liberalism tends to give priority to the respect for certain personal rights, even at substantial cost in the realization of other goods such as efficiency, equality, and social stability.

The most formidable challenge to liberalism, both intellectually and politically, is from the left. It is argued that strong safeguards of individual liberty are too great a hindrance to the achievement of economic and social equality, rapid economic progress from underdevelopment, and political stability. A majority of the people in the world are governed on this assumption. Perhaps the most difficult issue is posed by economic power and the political inequality it can create. The criticism from the left is that harmful concentrations of economic power cannot be attacked—or prevented from forming—unless individual actions are more closely restricted than is permitted by the liberal ideal of personal freedom. Radical redistribution is unlikely in a liberal democracy where private wealth controls the political process. A defense against this criticism must either challenge the factual claim or argue that the importance of freedom outweighs these disadvantages.

Liberalism is also under attack from the right. The most conspicuous attacks are not theoretical: the right in its more prominent political manifestations is not particularly attached to individual liberty when that liberty threatens the unequal distribution of wealth and power. But there is also a theoretical challenge from the right, called libertarianism, and while it does not present as serious a moral issue for liberals as does the attack from the left, the two are in some ways symmetrical. Libertarianism, like leftism, fastens on one of the two elements of the liberal ideal and asks why its realization should be inhibited by the demands of the other. Instead of embracing the ideal of equality and the general welfare, libertarianism exalts the claim of individual freedom of action, and asks why state power should be permitted even the interference represented by progressive taxation and public provision of health care, education, and a minimum standard of living.

(Thomas Nagel, “Libertarianism Without Foundations,” review of Anarchy, State, and Utopia, by Robert Nozick, The Yale Law Journal 85 [November 1975]: 136-49, at 136-7)

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

In the last election, the Democrats claimed that they weren’t running on a “cut and run” platform, yet they have just set the tone for exactly that.

It is a black day when Congress undermines troops on the field of battle. We can win this war with resolve.

Oversight does not mean pulling the rug out from under the troops on the battlefield. You cannot support the troops unless you support the mission.

It is interesting to see you demand that Congress force the Iraqi government to do something (editorial, Feb. 17). This is just another attempt to engage in diplomacy, the constitutional prerogative of the president.

We cannot have 535 secretaries of state, nor can we have 535 commanders of the military. It is bad enough that the president has been forced to reveal the troop increase and tactic to clear Baghdad of the enemy, thereby giving it a chance to leave.

H. Michael Sarkisian
Sacramento, Feb. 17, 2007

Hall of Fame?

Bret Saberhagen. (For an explanation of this feature, see here.)


A moron and another guy are watching a Gene Autry movie. The other guy says, “I’ll bet you ten dollars that when Autry gets on his horse, he hits a branch and falls off.” The moron takes the bet. Sure enough, Autry hits the branch and falls off. The moron reaches for his wallet, at which point the other guy says, “Aw, I can’t take your money; I’ve seen that movie.” The moron replies, “So have I, but I didn’t think Autry would be dumb enough to hit the branch twice.”

2007 Honda Accord SE V-6

Somebody give me a reason not to buy this car Friday. I prefer Moroccan Red Pearl, but will take whatever color the dealer has available.

A Year Ago