Wednesday, 27 June 2007


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

Conservatism and Progressivism

According to this New York Times story, young people are more progressive than older people. Duh. There’s a reason young people are more progressive than older people. They have less experience (and hence less knowledge of what works and what doesn’t work), less of a stake in existing institutions and practices (and hence a greater commitment to individual liberty vis-à-vis order and security), fewer (if any) children, and, because most of their life lies ahead of them rather than behind them, a different view of the future. As people age, they become (more) conservative. So really, the question the Times reporters should have asked (and tried to answer) is whether the percentage of young people who are progressive is higher than what it used to be. In other words, compare young people across time, not young people with old people at a given time.

Addendum: Even if it’s true that the percentage of young people who are progressive is higher than what it used to be, it doesn’t follow that the trend will continue. It could be a cycle.

Twenty Years Ago

6-27-87 Saturday. I should say a few words about yesterday’s purchase of Levi’s. Many years ago, perhaps a decade, I threw away my last pair of denim blue jeans, vowing never to own or wear another pair. There was nothing profound about this decision; I just felt that blue jeans represented a part of me that I was uncomfortable with. It was a change in image, I guess. But now I’ve broken down and purchased another pair. Why? For one thing, they’re cheap. Compared to other kinds of slacks, blue jeans are inexpensive. I paid sixteen dollars for this pair. Second, they’re easy to care for. In fact, the more you wash blue jeans, the better they look. I think faded, crisp-looking jeans are attractive, whether on men or women. Finally, they’re comfortable. I intend to wear my Levi’s to school, around the apartment, and on jaunts around town. If I like them as much as I think I will, I may even buy additional pairs. [Denim jeans are blue-collar clothing. By giving them up 10 years earlier, I was (1) rejecting my working-class origins and (2) announcing my move into the professional (middle-class) world of law. By going back to them, I was returning to my working-class roots.]

. . .

This should come as no surprise to the reader, but the issues that concern Michiganders differ from those that concern Arizonans. Here [in Michigan], the two main issues are the fifty-five mile per hour speed limit and abortion funding. Recently, Congress enacted legislation which permits states to increase the speed limit on rural interstates from fifty-five to sixty-five miles per hour. Arizona reacted immediately to this enabling legislation, but Michigan politicians are still fighting about the issue. The legislature has enacted or is in the process of enacting a law raising the speed limit, but Governor James Blanchard, a liberal populist, says that he’ll veto it unless it contains a ban on so-called “fuzzbusters.” These are devices that detect police radar. They’re fairly cheap and many drivers put them right on their dashes. Blanchard argues that fuzzbusters have only one purpose (as the name implies): avoidance of the law. Others argue against the ban; they claim that individuals have a right to use any electronic devices that they choose.

As for the abortion issue, Michigan has for some time funded abortions for indigent women. Now, in response to public pressure in the form of a referendum, the legislature has banned abortion funding. But Governor Blanchard opposes the ban and refuses to give it immediate effect, so the issue has gone to the courts. The Michigan Supreme Court must decide whether the bill goes into immediate effect or must await the statutorily prescribed time. This may seem like a minor issue, but actually it’s at the forefront of the debate over abortion. Now that the United States Supreme Court has ruled [in Roe v. Wade (1973)] that early-stage abortions are legally permissible [i.e., that no state may prohibit them], the fight has shifted to the financial front. Those opposed to abortion argue that poor women have no right to public subsidization of their abortions, while those in favor argue that abortion is like any other permissible medical service, and hence should be made available to all women regardless of ability to pay. The debate rages. This is one fight that we are not having in Arizona, because, as far as I know, Arizona has never funded abortions for poor women.

J. J. C. Smart on Obfuscation

I have argued that activities which most of us would regard as “philosophical” occur in mathematical physics. Since mathematical physics is generally regarded as a highly respectable subject, this suggests that philosophy is a respectable subject. However, when we look at the profession of philosophy itself, we may begin to doubt this supposed respectability. This is because there do not seem to be any agreed standards in philosophy. Consider the writings of a certain sort of phenomenologist or existentialist. To many philosophers, including myself, they seem to be not only incomprehensible but to be utter bosh. Whether such writings really are bosh or not, it does seem to be an empirical fact that there are groups within the philosophy profession between whom dialogue does not seem to be possible. It almost seems, sometimes, that though phenomenologists, existentialists, and a certain sort of Thomist are interested in concepts, their interest is often not so much to clarify concepts as to muddy them up.

(J. J. C. Smart, “My Semantic Ascents and Descents,” chap. 2 in The Owl of Minerva: Philosophers on Philosophy, ed. Charles J. Bontempo and S. Jack Odell [New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1975], 57-72, at 59)

Note from KBJ: Take a look at Smart’s final sentence. He could have said this:

Though phenomenologists, existentialists, and a certain sort of Thomist are interested in concepts, their interest is often not so much to clarify concepts as to muddy them up.

Smart weakens this bold statement in three ways. Here is the first (boldface mine):

It seems that though phenomenologists, existentialists, and a certain sort of Thomist are interested in concepts, their interest is often not so much to clarify concepts as to muddy them up.

Here is the second:

It almost seems that though phenomenologists, existentialists, and a certain sort of Thomist are interested in concepts, their interest is often not so much to clarify concepts as to muddy them up.

Here is the third:

It almost seems, sometimes, that though phenomenologists, existentialists, and a certain sort of Thomist are interested in concepts, their interest is often not so much to clarify concepts as to muddy them up.

Talk about obfuscation!

Baseball Notes

1. I just cast my All-Star ballot. Here are the players who deserve to start the game (American League player listed first at each position, followed by National League player):

1B: David Ortiz, Todd Helton
2B: Placido Polanco, Chase Utley
SS: Carlos Guillen, Edgar Renteria
3B: Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera
C: Ivan Rodriguez, Benji Molina
OF: Ichiro Suzuki, Carlos Lee
OF: Grady Sizemore, Eric Byrnes
OF: Magglio Ordonez, Matt Holliday

Feel free to list your own picks, pathetic though they may be, as a comment.

2. New York Yankees fans are incorrigibly optimistic. As of this moment, the Yankees are 11 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the American League East Division (10 games behind in the all-important loss column). This is an insurmountable lead, as anyone with any intelligence knows, but Yankees fans think they have a chance to win the division. It cracks me up. Nor are the Yankees going to win the American League wild-card spot. You have to finish in the top two in your division to be the wild-card team, and the Yankees are going to have their hands full with the Toronto Blue Jays. Also, the Cleveland Indians and the Detroit Tigers are going to be fighting it out for the Central Division title. Whichever team finishes second will be the wild-card team. Bye-bye, Yankees. Better luck next year. Not!

3. Teams that are playing better than I expected are the Los Angeles Angels (49-29), the Seattle Mariners (41-33), the Cleveland Indians (45-31), the Milwaukee Brewers (45-32), and the Arizona Diamondbacks (44-34). Teams that are playing worse than I expected are the Texas Rangers (32-45), the Minnesota Twins (39-36), the Chicago White Sox (31-42), the Yankees (36-38), the Atlanta Braves (40-38), and the St Louis Cardinals (34-40). We’re not yet to the halfway point of the season, so some of these teams may turn things around.

4. Lou Piniella has put fire into the belly of the Chicago Cubs. This is good. Baseball needs a competitive team in Wrigley Field. I’m surprised that Lou didn’t build a winner in Tampa Bay, for, like Billy Martin, he’s a superb motivator.

5. I have an awful feeling that Major League Baseball will pull strings to get Barry Bonds onto the National League All-Star team. The All-Star game, which is scheduled for Tuesday, 10 July, will be played in Bonds’s home park in San Francisco. Some people will say that he should be there, no matter how well he’s playing and no matter how many votes he gets. I disagree. It destroys the integrity of the game. If fans don’t elect Bonds, that means (a) they don’t think he deserves to play and (b) they don’t want to see him play.

6. My adopted Texas Rangers are in a bind. Until the past couple of weeks, they were playing so poorly that nobody could have blamed general manager Jon Daniels if he unloaded high-paid veterans and began the slow rebuilding process. But the team has been playing well lately, winning nine of its past 12 games. There’s a chance the Rangers could have a respectable season. Second place in the division is not out of the question. If Daniels unloads stars such as Mark Teixeira, fans will howl. Sometimes it’s best to play either very well or very poorly, but not somewhere in between.

7. Did anyone see the College World Series? I was disgusted by the strategy of several of the teams to let their batters get hit by pitches. The batters, some of whom wore armor, would crowd the plate, and when the pitcher threw inside, would stand there and get hit instead of moving out of the way. Cal-Irvine was especially bad about this. There’s a right way and a wrong way to play the game. Trying to get hit is the wrong way.

8. You may have noticed that I voted for four Detroit Tigers: Placido Polanco, Carlos Guillen, Ivan Rodriguez, and Magglio Ordonez. Is that because I’m partial? No. It’s because I recognize skill. The Tigers, despite losing their past two games to the Rangers, have the best team in Major League Baseball.

9. Many of today’s players do little things with their uniforms to assert their individuality. Some players wear their caps skewed; some flatten the bills of their caps; some wear their caps low over their eyes; some pull the pockets out of their pants; some wear baggy pants; some wear pants that drag on the ground; some leave their shirts open; some wear necklaces. I became a baseball fan in 1967, when I was 10. I don’t recall players asserting their individuality in any of these ways. What happened?

10. The New York Yankees suck.

Addendum: Greg Maddux (7-4, 340-207), Tom Glavine (7-5, 297-196), and John Smoltz (9-4, 202-141) won their games today. Is that cool, or what?

Hall of Fame?

Omar Vizquel. (For an explanation of this feature, see here.)

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “A Liberal Explains His Rejection of Same-Sex Marriage,” by Peter Steinfels (Beliefs column, June 23):

If there’s anything liberal in David Blankenhorn’s arguments against same-sex marriage, it went right by us. His opposition to same-sex marriage rests upon two familiar conservative notions: the view that interventive “protection” rather than encouragement is the best way to bolster the presumably threatened institution of marriage (the same foundation on which conservatives stood decades ago when they opposed racial intermarriage); and the idea that gay marriage is insufficiently “pro-child” to merit legitimation.

Significantly, Mr. Blankenhorn does not extend this second argument, which insults so many gay parents, to childless heterosexual couples. The basis of the discrimination he advocates, in other words, is homosexuality.

“Liberal” Mr. Blankenhorn reassures us that he isn’t a bigot and proposes an “interesting new conversation” in which same-sex couples who want to marry can learn to stop misjudging the people who would deprive us of the legal protections heterosexuals enjoy.

But the solution to our disenfranchisement is not a more amiable conversation with those who seek to perpetuate it, whatever their self-justifying pieties.

We call ourselves married, but we’re not, legally, and we want to be. We’re fans of the Declaration of Independence, the 14th Amendment and Brown v. Board of Education, and we want equal treatment under the law.

Mark Harris
Tony Kushner
New York, June 23, 2007

Note from KBJ: You already have equal treatment under the law. Nothing is stopping either of you from marrying. But you can’t marry your dog, your car, a child, a corpse, or two or more women. Does that, too, deprive you of equal treatment?

A Year Ago


All Fred, All the Time

Democrats are desperate for power. By January 2009, when the 44th president takes office, they will have had the bully pulpit for only eight of the previous 28 years (and 12 of the previous 40). In presidential politics, that’s a rout. Democrats never understood Ronald Reagan’s success, in part because they’re tone-deaf to patriotism and religion. All they know is that Reagan resonated with the American people. They’re determined to prevent another Reagan from emerging, which explains why they are so fearful of Fred Thompson. See here.

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