Friday, 16 March 2007

Twenty Years Ago

3-16-87 The weekend of basketball behind me, I focused attention on my [preliminary-exam] reading list and the research for Allen Buchanan. After a morning of reading and work on my charity manuscript, I drove to school to mail a couple of letters and visit the law library. There, as usual, I examined new issues of the law journals and copied articles for Allen. I also found an interesting article by Mark Sagoff on liberalism and environmentalism. [Mark Sagoff, “Can Environmentalists Be Liberals?  Jurisprudential Foundations of Environmentalism,” Environmental Law 16 (summer 1986): 775-96.] This, by the way, is one thing that I find exciting about philosophy and law. The range of issues is incredibly wide. When I’ve received my Ph.D. degree and taken a teaching position, I can focus on anything that captures my interest, from ethical theory to legal theory to the environment to metaphilosophy to entrapment—well, you get the picture. I’m an intellectual gadfly, so this is right up my alley.

While at the law library, I ran into Bob Schopp, who is completing work on a joint Ph.D./J.D. degree (he already has a Ph.D. degree in psychology). We discussed legal publishing and law journals, primarily. I told Bob that it’s disgusting how much Richard Posner and Richard Epstein write. No matter where I look, I said, I seem to find new and interesting articles by them. Both, in addition, regularly publish books. And Posner is a [United States] Court of Appeals judge! Bob is less impressed by them than I am. In fact, he said that to some people, anything they say, on any issue, is important. I laughed, because this is precisely the case with Epstein. I had just seen a short article by him on constitutional law in which he confessed, right off the bat, to never having taught a course on the subject. But immediately he turned this into a virtue, rather than a shortcoming, saying that it left him untainted, unfazed by the traditional categories. While I’m impressed by the quantity of both Posner’s and Epstein’s writing, I’m not impressed by the quality. Epstein is a dunce, while Posner is single-minded and ideological. Neither, in short, is sufficiently philosophical. I have only so much patience with this type of person. [I’ve changed my mind about Posner, in part because he has written about so many more topics. He’s not only brilliant; he’s a masterful stylist. I enjoy reading him, on any topic.]

Today is technically the first day of spring break. But our weather is horrible: a high temperature of fifty-six degrees [Fahrenheit], rain, and dark clouds everywhere. Our high temperature has dropped twenty-five degrees in only two days, and twenty-eight in four. So I’m depressed by it all. And even worse, there are two other Pacific storms headed in our direction. I’ll kill somebody (perhaps a meteorologist) if it doesn’t get warm quickly.

John Edwards

Watch this only if you have a strong stomach. Excuse me while I get up to vomit.

Into Great Silence

This movie looks interesting.


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

Homosexual Conduct

According to this study, 58% of respondents in a nationwide poll (conducted in 2004) believe that homosexual conduct is “always wrong.” Only 31% believe that it’s “not wrong.” Men are slightly more likely than women to believe that it’s always wrong. Blacks are much more likely than whites to believe that it’s always wrong. That puts progressives in a spot, doesn’t it? Are they bigots if they accuse blacks of being bigots?

By the way, if anything, the percentage of people who believe that homosexual conduct is “always wrong” is higher than that reported. Why? Because there are probably many people who believe that homosexual conduct is wrong, but wouldn’t say as much to a pollster for fear of being labeled a bigot (or worse).

Best of the Web Today


Cheney Derangement Syndrome

Not to put too fine a point on it, but Richard Nixon drove people (including academics such as Ronald Dworkin) crazy. I was too young to notice it, but I’ve heard and read a great deal about it over the years. Jimmy Carter was merely incompetent. People felt sorry for him, for he seemed to have no clue as to how to lead this great nation. Americans, recognizing their mistake, threw him out of office after one term, hoping he would go back to Plains, Georgia, to run his peanut farm. Little did they know that they would never hear the last of him. Ronald Reagan made progressives see red, but he had a genial nature that helped to defuse criticism. How could you not like a man who smiled like this and began every sentence with “Wale”? George H. W. Bush didn’t threaten progressives nearly as much as Nixon and Reagan had, but, like Gerald Ford a decade earlier, he was mercilessly mocked.  Just think of all the Saturday Night Live skits in which Dana Carvey (playing Bush) said, “Wouldn’t be prudent at this juncture.” Bill Clinton seemed young and virile by comparison to Reagan and Bush, but progressives soured on him quickly. He was better than the previous two presidents, by their standards, but nowhere near what was wanted (or, in their view, needed). In many ways, Clinton merely consolidated Reagan’s accomplishments. He was a master triangulator as well as a master baiter. Progressives view the Clinton years as years of wasted opportunity: so much potential, so little accomplishment. And then came George W. Bush. Many people refused to accept him as their president after the 2000 election, which suggests that they had not advanced far beyond adolescence. Even if he had never gone to war in Iraq, he would have been vilified. When he was reelected in 2004, by an even larger margin, progressives (such as Paul Krugman) lost it. They couldn’t believe how utterly stupid Americans were. It had to be a conspiracy. As if Dubya himself weren’t enough, progressives had to put up with Dick Cheney as vice president. He makes them apoplectic. Their eyes bug out; they break into a cold sweat; their skin crawls; their hearts pound; spittle comes out of their mouths when they talk. He is evil incarnate, the bête noire, the bogeyman, the vice president from hell, Darth Vader. The irony is that progressives think Cheney is mentally ill. Ha! If they want to see the face of mental illness, they should look in a mirror.


Kevin Stroup and I are shocked—shocked!—that Democrats are making political hay of the U.S. attorney scandal.

Julian H. Franklin on the Use of Animals in Research

To inflict death or pain on animals for scientific or medical research is wrong morally, and ought to be prohibited. This follows from everything said in the text about the rights of animals. This does not mean that animals may never be deliberately harmed or become subjects of research. They may be killed in order to protect the health of humans (and other animals) if they are infected with a serious disease and cannot be quarantined. They may be used in benign research such as teaching chimpanzees to understand and use sign language. But even when the purpose of research is to benefit the animals themselves, inflicting pain or death in the process of research is wrong. Animals cannot give consent. Hence, unlike humans, they cannot be called upon to sacrifice even for the good of other animals.

(Julian H. Franklin, Animal Rights and Moral Philosophy [New York: Columbia University Press, 2005], 125)

Socrates the Teacher

Mark Spahn sent a link to this hilarious column. I have an admission to make: I haven’t read a teaching evaluation since becoming a professor. I have no idea what my students think of me. Nor do I care.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

David Brooks says Democrats have no realistic plan for Iraq. But he does not mention Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s proposal, which happens to be the only plan based in a realistic evaluation of the situation in Iraq: partitioning the country into three physically logical regions—Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish.

As in any fight, whether between countries, warlords or individuals, the first thing to do with the parties who refuse to co-exist in peace is to at least try to separate the warring parties so that they no longer continue to kill and do harm to one another.

Lee Roper
West Chester, Pa., March 15, 2007

Note from KBJ: Why would partitioning the country stop, or even lessen, the fighting? Is the letter writer suggesting that a wall be built? By the way, what is a “physically logical” region?

A Year Ago