Thursday, 21 June 2007

“Unpleasantly Imperious”

I leave you this fine evening with a column about Hillary Clinton.

Karl R. Popper (1902-1994) on the Corrosive Effect of Cynicism

Or take a different example of a philosophical prejudice. There is the prejudice that a man’s opinions are always determined by his self-interest. This doctrine (which may be described as a degenerate form of Hume’s doctrine that reason is, and ought to be, the slave of the passions) is not as a rule applied to oneself (this was done by Hume, who taught modesty and skepticism with respect to our powers of reason, his own included), but it is as a rule only applied to the other fellow—whose opinion differs from our own. It prevents us from listening patiently, and from taking seriously opinions which are opposed to our own, because we explain them by the other fellow’s interests. But this makes rational discussion impossible. It leads to a deterioration of our natural curiosity, our interest in finding out the truth about things. In place of the important question “What is the truth about this matter?” it puts the less important question “What is your self-interest, what are your motives?” It prevents us from learning from people whose opinions differ from our own, and it leads to a dissolution of the unity of mankind, a unity that is based on our common rationality.

(Karl R. Popper, “How I See Philosophy,” chap. 1 in The Owl of Minerva: Philosophers on Philosophy, ed. Charles J. Bontempo and S. Jack Odell [New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1975], 41-55, at 50)


I have two comments on this New York Times story by Linda Greenhouse. The first is that, as she well knows, the doctrine of respect for precedent is not absolute. Sometimes it is perfectly appropriate for the United States Supreme Court to overrule one of its prior decisions. The second is that, while she mentioned the overruling of Bowers v. Hardwick (1986) by Lawrence v. Texas (2003), she did not explain why it was justified. None of the factors she mentioned, such as causing confusion or being unworkable, applies to this case. The bottom line is that progressives such as Greenhouse don’t respect precedent; they respect precedents they like, such as Roe v. Wade (1973). If we know anything at all about progressives, it is that, for them, the end justifies the means. By the way, did you notice that the only legal scholar quoted by Greenhouse is Ronald Dworkin, a rabid progressive who opposed both John Roberts and Samuel Alito? A fair-minded journalist would have sought out, and reported, other perspectives.


Here are some sobering statistics for fans of the New York Yankees. (I still don’t understand how someone could be a fan of the New York Yankees; but let that go.) After today’s loss (to the high-flying Colorado Rockies), the Yankees are 35-35 (.500) for the season. The Boston Red Sox (46-25, .648) lead the American League East Division by 10½ games. Here are some suppositions:

1. Boston plays .500 baseball the rest of the way. New York would have to go 57-35 (.619) to tie. That winning percentage would produce 100 victories during a season.

2. Boston plays .550 baseball the rest of the way. New York would have to go 61-31 (.663) to tie. That winning percentage would produce 107 victories during a season.

3. Boston plays .600 baseball the rest of the way. New York would have to go 65-27 (.706) to tie. That winning percentage would produce 114 victories during a season.

Remember: Both things have to happen, not just one of them. It’s not enough, for example, for the Yankees to go 57-35 the rest of the way. The Red Sox would have to play .500 baseball the rest of the way. What are the chances that both the Red Sox will stumble and the Yankees will soar? By the way, Roger Clemens is 1-2 on the season after today’s loss. If Yankees fans were counting on him to be their savior, they should think again.

Ayn Rand

I’m working up a blog post about Ayn Rand (1905-1982). Stay tuned.


Here is a scene from today’s stage of the Tour of Switzerland, won by Dutchman Thomas Dekker. At one point during the race, the riders huddled in a tunnel to protect themselves from hail. Race organizers decided to halt the race temporarily. They transported everyone to the other side of the mountain and resumed racing. Read the account here. Key paragraphs:

Apart from the reshuffling of the general classification, the big news of the day was the incredible storm which was raging at the start and which led to the abandonment of the race after just six kilometres. Huge chunks of hail and ice fell from the skies, breaking team car windshields, bruising riders and even smashing some carbon frames. The riders took cover for a while in a tunnel while emergency discussions about the best course of action were taken by race director Armin Meier and others.

He spoke with rider representatives Schleck, Fabian Cancellara (CSC) and Erik Zabel and due to weather reports forecasting another possible storm on the day’s hors categorie climb of Nufenenpass, it was decided to restart the race on the other side of the mountain in Ulrichen, 95 kilometres from the finish. The peloton was ferried to that point and things got underway once more at 15.35.

Professional cyclists are tough, but not infinitely so. Is there any sport in which action would continue in a hailstorm? I can’t think of any offhand. By the way, did you notice the awful title? “All Hail Dekker and Efimkin.” Groan.

Stem-Cell Research

I’ve been seeing a lot of dishonest (or incompetent) reporting on President Bush’s veto of a bill that would allow federal monies to be spent on embryonic stem-cell research. See here, for example. President Bush hasn’t banned this research. It can go forward with private funding. What he’s banned is the use of federal monies to fund it. Is this too subtle a distinction for reporters to grasp? The situation is analogous to abortion. There’s a legal right to abort (according to Roe v. Wade), but no right to have one’s abortion funded by taxpayers, many of whom believe that abortion is murder. Here is the bill that President Bush vetoed. Here is his vow (from April) to veto it. Here is his veto message of yesterday.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

I have been moved by and appreciate Bob Herbert’s columns about the lack of access to health care. One aspect of the problem that has not been mentioned and that I, as a pediatrician with an economically mixed population, see often, is that parents don’t see access to health care as a right.

When I see a child who hasn’t been in for too long, and I ask the parent about it, often the answer I get is that they had no insurance. They are ashamed when they say it, as if it were a failing on their part. When I mention that the United States is the only first-world country that doesn’t provide universal health insurance of some kind, they seem stunned. Where is their anger?

Barbara Gold, M.D.
Philadelphia, June 20, 2007

Note from KBJ: The reason parents don’t see access to health care as a right is that it’s not a right, either legally or morally. And why isn’t it a failing to breed before one has the financial resources to provide for one’s offspring? What could possibly be more irresponsible than that?


I’d like to wish everyone a happy and safe solstice. It’s now summer here in the Northern Hemisphere. One thing I miss about Michigan, where I spent the first 26 years of my life, is its four distinct seasons. Things run together a little more in North Texas, where I’ve lived since August 1989. Sometimes I think we have just two seasons: summer and winter, i.e., hot and warm. It does get cold here in the winter, but it rarely lasts for more than a week. It’s supposed to start heating up in the next day or so. When it finally gets hot, it feels like a blast furnace, and it lasts until October. Thank goodness for air conditioning! How anyone survived in Texas before air conditioning was invented is beyond me.

Best of the Web Today

Here. (Still no mention of immigration.)

A Year Ago



I’m still not getting this. The black kids are saying that white people do something that nonwhites (or blacks specifically) don’t do. But what? Are they saying that only white people care about their health? That only white people are strong, focused, and disciplined? That only white people have enough self-control to exercise in inclement weather, when the easy thing would be to stay inside? That only white people are hardy? That only white people are ambitious or industrious (as opposed to lazy)? That only white people are able to delay satisfactions or manage their time?