Friday, 2 March 2007


Here are the top picks for 2007, according to Consumer Reports. As my friend Joe put it, “it always makes me feel good after making a big decision and then seeing I made the right choice.” Indeed.

Pop v. Soda

For crying out loud, people, it’s “pop.”

Addendum: I grew up in Tuscola County, Michigan, where 23 of 26 respondents replied “pop.” But I assure you, I would have called it “pop” if I had grown up anywhere in the country. Why? Because it’s pop!

Addendum 2: Here, courtesy of Mark Spahn (who also supplied the other links), is a story about Faygo. I’ll tell you what I would die to have right now: a tall glass of A&M Root Beer, fresh off the tap.

Addendum 3: I feel like an idiot. I called A&W Root Beer “A&M Root Beer.” No wonder I couldn’t find a link to the company’s site! Maybe I had Texas A&M University on my brain, since I taught there during the 1988-1989 academic year. Thanks for pointing out my gaffe, Stephen. Now please bring me a glass of ice-cold, frothy, aromatic A&W Root Beer.


Bill Kristol denies that conservatism is “exhausted.” He says it has “new thinking” on domestic policy. As much as I admire Kristol, this is nutty. Conservatism isn’t the sort of thing that can get exhausted, and it certainly doesn’t need new thinking. It’s not a political platform, a program, a blueprint, a policy, a road map, a vision, or a strategy. It’s a political morality—or, better yet, a temperament. Its aim is not to do anything, for most of the time things can only be made worse. Its aim is to conserve valuable practices, institutions, traditions, customs, and ways of life. Its job, first and foremost, is to thwart the social engineers, who would impose an egalitarian, cosmopolitan, feminist, secular vision on society. Progressives refer to conservatives as “reactionaries,” the connotation of which is negative. Conservatives should embrace the term, despite its pejorative connotation, for we do in fact react—usually quite negatively—to boneheaded, misguided, ill-informed utopian schemes. There is more knowledge, wisdom, and rationality in a randomly selected tradition than in all the Ivy League faculties combined.

Bee-ing and Nothingness

See here.

Democratic Theory

This essay by historian Jacques Barzun, who will celebrate his 100th birthday on 30 November, is 21 years old, but still pertinent. Read it carefully, for there will be a test.


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


Mark Spahn sent a link to this.

Best of the Web Today


From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “The Senate’s Forgotten Iraq Choice” (Op-Ed, March 1):

Thanks to Lincoln D. Chafee, the former Republican senator from Rhode Island, for reminding us that fault for the catastrophe in Iraq is shared by a complaisant Senate, which, far from performing its constitutional duty, abdicated that responsibility at one of the most crucial moments in our nation’s history.

As the 2008 election approaches, we must also not forget that many of the senators voting in favor of the resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq harbored presidential ambitions (John Kerry, John Edwards, Hillary Rodham Clinton, John McCain) and were plainly influenced by a fear that such ambitions might be thwarted if they voted against the resolution and the war later turned out to be a success.

Now that the war is revealed for the unmitigated disaster that should have been predicted, these same senators perform all manner of linguistic contortions to justify their vote.

Our nation owes a debt of gratitude to those senators who, courageously and eloquently, spoke in opposition to this illegal and immoral war. Conversely, history will not be kind to those 77 senators who voted “yea” that fateful evening.

Joseph J. Saltarelli
New York, March 1, 2007

Note from KBJ: The letter writer calls the war “immoral.” On what theory? Certainly not utilitarianism. Utilitarians maintain that the rightness or wrongness of an action is a function solely of its consequences. We do not yet know the consequences of the war in Iraq, and may not for a generation or more; hence, we do not know whether it was right.

Bush-Hatin’ Paul

Look at the blurb that accompanies Paul Krugman’s* latest column: “If we’re going to have a financial crisis, here’s how it will play out.” Here’s what he means: “If we’re going to have a financial crisis—and I sincerely hope we do, because people will blame President Bush for it, and my goal in life is to make President Bush look bad—here’s how it will play out.”

* “Op-Ed columnist Paul Krugman has the disturbing habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers in a fashion that pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to substantive assaults” (Daniel Okrent, “13 Things I Meant to Write About but Never Did,” The New York Times, 22 May 2005).

The Irony of Politics

Will Nehs sent a link to this story about Barack Obama. It turns out that he is descended from slaveowners. Let’s think about this. White people such as me are said to be the beneficiaries of slavery—a fact that is supposed to ground an obligation on our part to make amends, if only by paying higher taxes to support the disadvantaged (a disproportionate number of whom are, presumably, descendants of slaves). Obama’s father is Kenyan, hence not descended from American slaves. His mother is white, and now we know that she descended from slaveowners. Does that make Obama one of the bad white people? The irony! Maybe this discovery will put slavery to rest as a moral, legal, political, and social issue. Isn’t it time? I don’t own slaves. Never have, never will. No black person alive today is a slave. Never has been, never will be.

A Year Ago


Allan Bloom (1930-1992) on Rawlsian Presumption

The greatest weakness of a Theory of Justice [sic] is not to be found in the principles it proposes, nor in the kind of society it envisages, nor in the political tendencies it encourages, but in the lack of education it reveals. Rawls’s “original position” is based on a misunderstanding of the “state of nature,” [sic] teachings of Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau. His “Kantian interpretation” is based on a misunderstanding of Kant’s moral teaching. His “Aristotelian principle” is based on a misunderstanding of Aristotle’s teaching about happiness. And these three misunderstandings constitute the core of the book. An authentic understanding of these thinkers would have given him an awareness of the problems he faced and of the nature of philosophic greatness. We are in no position to push ahead with new solutions of problems; for as this book demonstrates, we have forgotten what the problems are.

The most essential of our freedoms, as men and as liberal democrats, the freedom of our minds, consists in the consciousness of the fundamental alternatives. The preservation of that consciousness is as important as any new scheme for society. The alternatives are contained in the writings of the greatest men in the philosophic tradition. This is not to assert that the last word has been said, but that any serious new word must be based on a profound confrontation with the old ones. That confrontation has the added salutary effect of destroying our sense of our own worth and giving us higher aspirations. Rawls is the product of a school which thinks that it invented philosophy. Its adherents never approach an Aristotle or a Kant in search of the truth or open to the possibility that these old thinkers might have known more than they do; and since they have a virtual monopoly on the teaching of philosophy, there has been a disastrous, perhaps irreparable, loss of learning and extinguishing of the light which has flickered but endured across so many centuries. His book is a result of that loss of learning and contributes to it in turn. His method and the man he wishes to produce impel me to think that Nietzsche—abused by Rawls, although not culpably because ignorantly—might provide a more appropriate title for this book: A First Philosophy for the Last Man.

(Allan Bloom, “Justice: John Rawls Vs. The Tradition of Political Philosophy,” The American Political Science Review 69 [June 1975]: 648-62, at 662 [italics in original])

Rightosphere Temperature Check

John Hawkins of Right Wing News polled right-of-center bloggers (including yours truly) on a number of issues. Here are the results. My choices were Yes, Yes, No, No, A, A, C, and C.