Friday, 20 April 2007

Academic Pathology

I leave you this fine evening with an essay by James Lewis.


Richard John Neuhaus weighs in on Gonzales v. Carhart (2007).


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

More Guns, Less Crime

Will Nehs sent a link to this column by Fred Thompson, which I would not otherwise have seen. The column is not only correct as a matter of substance; it is clearly and elegantly written. I want this man to be my president. (Sorry, Mitt.)

Best of the Web Today


Addendum: Here is the message I just sent to James Taranto:

20 April 2007, 5:34 P.M. James: It’s bad enough that you don’t ask me for feedback on your law-related posts. Now you’re playing moral philosopher! That’s my specialty. Moral relativism is not subjective. It’s objective. You’re conflating two distinctions: that between relativism and absolutism and that between subjectivism and objectivism. Absolutists affirm, and relativists deny, that there are moral standards that apply everywhere and always, i.e., that rightness and wrongness are not relative to anything (such as societies or cultures). Objectivists affirm, and subjectivists deny, that there are values/norms that exist independently of valuing subjects. Objectivists say that when people make moral judgments, they are describing the (objective) world. Subjectivists say that when people make moral judgments, they are describing their own mental states (which are, of course, part of the world, but not in the same way in which chairs are part of the world). Relativists are objectivists, for they hold that rightness and wrongness exist independently of valuing subjects. What makes an action right or wrong is whether it conforms to the norms of one’s society. Please consult me next time. kbj

If James replies, I’ll ask for permission to post his message.

Tempting Fate

Here is a New York Times story about fatalities in national parks. I must admit: I’ve done some dangerous (read “stupid”) things in national parks and other wilderness areas. See here and (for detail) here. (I was wearing sandals.)

R. M. Hare (1919-2002) on Ethical Theory

Ethical theory, which determines the meanings and functions of the moral words, and thus the ‘rules’ of the moral ‘game’, provides only a clarification of the conceptual framework within which moral reasoning takes place; it is therefore, in the required sense, neutral as between different moral opinions. But it is highly relevant to moral reasoning because, as with the rules of a game, there could be no such thing as moral reasoning without this framework, and the framework dictates the form of the reasoning.

(R. M. Hare, Freedom and Reason [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963], 89)


Could it be? There’s a playoff atmosphere for tonight’s game between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. It’ll be televised on ESPN (in high definition) at six o’clock Central Time. I can’t wait. Boston leads the East Division by one game over the Yankees. If the Yankees win tonight, the teams will be tied for first place. Alex Rodriguez is on fire. He leads all of baseball with 10 home runs and 26 runs batted in—in just 14 games. Yankees fans have never warmed to him, largely because he has not led the team to a World Series title. (The Yankees have high standards.) He performs well in meaningless games, but not in games that matter. Tonight’s pitchers are Andy Pettitte (for the Yankees) and Curt Schilling (for the Red Sox). Schilling has been dominant this season. It’ll be interesting to see whether he can cool Rodriguez off. You can be sure he won’t walk A-Rod. Schilling is a competitor.

Addendum: Some of you may be wondering which team I like (or dislike the least). I hate both teams with a passion, albeit for different reasons. But I’m a baseball fan, and tonight’s game is high drama. I’m already tingling with excitement.

Addendum 2: The Red Sox came back from a 6-2 deficit to win, 7-6. It was a great game, with tension to the end. Alex Rodriguez hit two more home runs! That gives him 12 home runs and 30 runs batted in in 15 games. He is on pace to hit 129 home runs and drive in 324 runs this year. Unbelievable. But his team lost. Yankees fans will have taken note.

Addendum 3: Anyone who is dismayed by the fact that Barry Bonds will break Hank Aaron’s record of 755 home runs should relax. Bonds’s record will be broken in a few years by A-Rod, who has never been accused of taking performance-enhancing substances. Bonds and his bulked-up body will disappear from the record book. I predict that A-Rod will hit 800 home runs. He now has 476—and he’s only 31 years old.


I love my Microsoft Zune. Synchronizing it with the music folder on my desktop computer’s hard drive is simple. First, I fire up the Zune program on the computer. I leave it alone for a few minutes while it updates itself. Second, I tell it to search the music folder on my hard drive for new songs. While it does this, it deletes any songs that I have deleted from the music folder since the most recent synchronization. Third, I plug my Zune portable player into the USB port of the desktop computer. Immediately, it synchronizes with the Zune program on the desktop computer. As it does this, it charges the player’s battery. When I unplug the player, it’s ready to go. The player is about the size and weight of a deck of cards, so it fits easily into the pocket of my bicycling jersey. As of today, I have 7,114 songs on it, and it’s only two-thirds full. The sound quality is excellent. What a different world this is compared to 1975, when I was purchasing albums on eight-track tape! I honestly can’t think of any way to improve the current technology. Okay, there’s one thing I’ve been unable to figure out. I can get the Zune to play an entire album, but it plays the songs in a different order from that in which they appear on the album. This may seem unimportant, but there are many albums in which the songs run together. They need to be listened to in the proper order. If anyone knows how to solve this problem, please let me know.

Addendum: I’d like to thank StephenJK and William B. for their assistance (in the comments). Stephen solved my problem. I had “shuffle play” selected on my Zune because, when I listen to individual songs rather than albums, I like to hear them in random order. It never occurred to me that the shuffle-play function applied to albums as well as songs. I turned on the Zune, turned the shuffle play off, located an album, and selected it for play. Sure enough, the songs were in the proper order. Neat! I can now say that I’m entirely happy with the Zune. By the way, I’m not implying, when I praise the Zune, that it’s superior to the iPod. I wouldn’t know, since I’ve never used an iPod. I’m sure they work pretty much the same way, with equal results.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

The Supreme Court’s opinion in Gonzales v. Carhart upholding the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act is beyond belief. The court acknowledges that there is medical support for the position that the procedure at issue, intact dilation and extraction, is sometimes necessary to protect the health of the mother. It goes on to hold that the government can put a doctor in jail if he performs that procedure.

This ruling puts the few doctors willing to perform abortions in an impossible position. In the rare situation where a doctor determines in his best medical judgment that a dilation and extraction is the safest procedure for his patient, how is the doctor to choose between obeying the law and respecting his personal and professional commitment to protect the health of his patient?

For a doctor who confronts that dilemma, it will surely be cold comfort that the court has left the door open for an “as applied” challenge to the law.

Emily Rubin
Hanover, N.H., April 19, 2007
The writer, a lawyer, is a student at Dartmouth Medical School.

To the Editor:

Re “Denying the Right to Choose” (editorial, April 19):

I was most anxious this morning to obtain a copy of The Times in order to read the predictably apoplectic editorial regarding the Supreme Court decision upholding the ban on what was described by the late pro-choice Daniel Patrick Moynihan as “infanticide.”

I was not in the least disappointed: “fundamental dishonesty,” “atrocious result,” “so-called partial-birth method” and so on. As I read and reread your wail of dismay, I looked for, and couldn’t find, the words baby, human life or even fetus.

You are upset that the court finally made the observation that pregnancy involves two persons, even if one of them lost legal standing under Roe’s tortured discovery of a right that had somehow failed to be noticed for 200 years.

Lawrence Longua
Rockville Centre, N.Y., April 19, 2007

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Read this. Key passage:

I’m not naive enough to suppose that being Ned Flanders-nice to the class creep is a blanket vaccination against future bloodshed.

But trying to be a little more civil, a little less cruel and exclusive and hypercompetitive, might make a difference to somebody. At the very least, it might make our society a slightly easier place to be the odd man out.

It’s not a magic fix. But then, nothing is.

If people had just been nicer to the mass murderer, he would have desisted.

A Year Ago