Tuesday, 26 June 2007


Here are the latest vote totals for the National League All-Star team. Here are the American League totals. That Andruw Jones, who is hitting .198, is fifth in the NL outfield voting, ahead of the likes of Matt Holliday and Carlos Lee, shows that fans are blithering idiots.

Twenty Years Ago

6-26-87 I was stunned by today’s news: [United States] Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell [1907-1998] is leaving the bench. Speculation has it that President [Ronald] Reagan will nominate circuit judge Robert Bork to the high court. Although Powell was never known as a liberal, he did furnish the “swing vote” on many important decisions. All this means is that, during much of his tenure on the court, there was an even split between liberals and conservatives. Four liberals would line up on one side of an issue and four conservatives would line up on the other. Powell didn’t fit neatly into either category, so, depending on how he voted, the court swung either liberal or conservative. As for replacements, Bork has to be high on the president’s list, but there are others. Richard Posner, a circuit judge and former law professor at the University of Chicago, has been mentioned, as has Frank Easterbrook (same credentials) and J. Clifford Wallace (a circuit judge). To be honest, I’d rather have Posner, Easterbrook, or Bork on the court than Ed Meese, Orrin Hatch, or William French Smith. These latter three are political and legal hacks, while the former three are law professors and legal scholars who’ve made a career of rational argument. Whatever their political leanings, I want a court of intelligent people who know how to argue.

All Fred, All the Time

Here is a profile of our next president.


You will have noticed that, while I often write about immigration, I rarely (if ever) use the term “amnesty.” You may be wondering why. The answer is that the word is used in different ways by the opposing camps. The camps are not, therefore, engaging one another. Each is engaged in persuasive definition, which is the attempt to exploit the emotive meaning of a term for partisan purposes. Those who support the immigration bill, such as President Bush, mean by “amnesty” something like “letting illegal aliens remain in this country with impunity.” Since the immigration bill he supports does not do this, he can say, with a straight face, that the bill does not confer amnesty. Those who oppose the bill mean by “amnesty” something like “not deporting those who are in this country illegally.” Since the immigration bill does not require deportation, they can say, with a straight face, that the bill confers amnesty. One side says the bill confers amnesty; the other denies it. It looks as though they are having a factual dispute. In fact, they are equivocating. This accomplishes nothing. I believe it’s best to avoid the term “amnesty” altogether and discuss the bill’s provisions directly.

Addendum: I’ve written about this topic before. See here.

W. D. Ross (1877-1971) on Prima Facie Duties

Of prima facie duties I suggest, without claiming completeness or finality for it, the following division.

(1) Some duties rest on previous acts of my own. These duties seem to include two kinds, (a) those resting on a promise or what may fairly be called an implicit promise, such as the implicit undertaking not to tell lies which seems to be implied in the act of entering into conversation (at any rate by civilized men), or of writing books that purport to be history and not fiction. These may be called the duties of fidelity. (b) Those resting on a previous wrongful act. These may be called the duties of reparation. (2) Some rest on previous acts of other men, i.e. services done by them to me. These may be loosely described as the duties of gratitude. (3) Some rest on the fact or possibility of a distribution of pleasure or happiness (or of the means thereto) which is not in accordance with the merit of the persons concerned; in such cases there arises a duty to upset or prevent such a distribution. These are the duties of justice. (4) Some rest on the mere fact that there are other beings in the world whose condition we can make better in respect of virtue, or of intelligence, or of pleasure. These are the duties of beneficence. (5) Some rest on the fact that we can improve our own condition in respect of virtue or of intelligence. These are the duties of self-improvement. (6) I think that we should distinguish from (4) the duties that may be summed up under the title of ‘not injuring others’. No doubt to injure others is incidentally to fail to do them good; but it seems to me clear that non-maleficence is apprehended as a duty distinct from that of beneficence, and as a duty of a more stringent character. It will be noticed that this alone among the types of duty has been stated in a negative way. An attempt might no doubt be made to state this duty, like the others, in a positive way. It might be said that it is really the duty to prevent ourselves from acting either from an inclination to harm others or from an inclination to seek our own pleasure, in doing which we should incidentally harm them. But on reflection it seems clear that the primary duty here is the duty not to harm others, this being a duty whether or not we have an inclination that if followed would lead to our harming them; and that when we have such an inclination the primary duty not to harm others gives rise to a consequential duty to resist the inclination. The recognition of this duty of non-maleficence is the first step on the way to the recognition of the duty of beneficence; and that accounts for the prominence of the commands ‘thou shalt not kill’, ‘thou shalt not commit adultery’, ‘thou shalt not steal’, ‘thou shalt not bear false witness’, in so early a code as the Decalogue. But even when we have come to recognize the duty of beneficence, it appears to me that the duty of non-maleficence is recognized as a distinct one, and as prima facie more binding. We should not in general consider it justifiable to kill one person in order to keep another alive, or to steal from one in order to give alms to another.

(W. D. Ross, The Right and the Good [1930; repr., Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, 1988], 20-2 [boldface added; footnotes omitted])


Pete du Pont is on the right track in his immigration proposal. The first thing we must do is secure the border. Nobody should be coming into this country without permission, from this moment forward. His mistake is treating the 12 million illegal aliens who are already here as a lump sum. When you think of it that way, it seems impractical, if not impossible, to deport them. (Du Pont calls it “difficult and chaotic.”) But they’re not a lump sum; they’re 12 million individuals, scattered around the country, some working, some not. They should be put on notice that if and when they are apprehended (in a traffic stop, for example), they will be deported immediately. It would also be a good idea to make it a criminal offense not to notify authorities when one has knowledge of the location of an illegal alien.

Best of the Web Today

Here. (Still no mention of immigration.)

Evolutionary Biology

Here is a New York Times essay about the status of (and prospects for) evolutionary biology. There is nothing in evolutionary biology that is incompatible with theism, so theists have nothing to fear from it. When a theist reads essays such as this, he or she should say, “The world God created—and gave us the power to understand—is amazing; natural selection was implemented, in all its wondrous detail, to bring human beings into existence.” Just as theists have nothing to fear from evolutionary biology, atheists should take no solace in it, for it says nothing about whether a supernatural being created the world and its laws. Any scientist who makes a claim about the supernatural realm, even to deny that there is such a realm, is going beyond science. This is precisely where science leaves off and scientism (an ideology) begins.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

For someone who claims to have listened to women, Melinda Henneberger gives little credence to the voices of the majority of women, and Americans in general, who trust women to make the right decisions for themselves and their families, including the decision to terminate a pregnancy.

The right to make the most basic decisions about family, parenthood and bodily integrity is protected in one of the world’s first human rights documents, the United States Constitution, and held dear by the vast majority of Americans.

And as countries around the world recognize, these human rights include reproductive rights. Respecting women means respecting these rights, not kowtowing to political opportunism or outdated notions of women being in need of protection from themselves.

If Ms. Henneberger were really listening, that’s what she might have heard.

Nancy Northup
Center for Reproductive Rights
New York, June 22, 2007

Note from KBJ: Chapter and verse, please.

Note 2 from KBJ: You have to be pretty stupid (or reckless) to get pregnant without wanting to be a mother. One incidental benefit of restrictive abortion laws (the intended beneficiary is the fetus, whose future is at stake) is that it will force women to be responsible. Note that many men don’t want women to be responsible, for that means less sex. You won’t hear this from feminists, of course, but restrictive abortion laws empower women (vis-à-vis men).


I roared with laughter when I read this. The editorial board of The New York Times is a reliable anti-authority. If the board members are unhappy with a Supreme Court ruling, chances are excellent that the ruling is correct as a matter of law. If the board members are happy, chances are excellent that the ruling is incorrect (albeit in accordance with progressive values). Long live the Roberts court!

A Year Ago