Monday, 9 July 2007


Christopher Hitchens is nothing if not a self-promoter. Examining the case of the murderous doctors, he arrives at the conclusion that religion caused their heinous acts. The subtitle of Hitch’s latest book, you will not be surprised to learn, is “How Religion Poisons Everything.” There are two possibilities: first, the world just happened to throw up support for Hitch’s thesis; second, everything supports his thesis.

Judicial Activism

Maybe I’m cranky today, but this is one of the most idiotic things I’ve ever read. The author—I’ll be blunt—doesn’t understand judicial activism. He thinks it’s judicial activism to strike down legislation. Ha! That would turn judges into potted plants. The question is not whether to strike down legislation, but which legislation to strike down. Some legislation comports with the Constitution. The proper response to this legislation is to uphold it. Some legislation violates the Constitution. The proper response to this legislation is to strike it down. The term “judicial activism” refers to the act of substituting one’s own values for those of the Constitution. This can happen in either of two ways: first, by upholding legislation that violates the Constitution, simply because one likes the legislation; second, by striking down legislation that comports with the Constitution, simply because one doesn’t like the legislation. In my experience (I’ve been an attorney for 23½ years), the overwhelming majority of willful acts are by progressive justices. Progressives are embarrassed by this fact, so they redefine “judicial activism” to make it seem as though conservative justices are just as activist as progressives. Can you say “persuasive definition”?

Addendum: After I composed this post, I checked The Volokh Conspiracy to see whether anyone had commented on the New York Times story. Yup.


“BET” stands for Black Entertainment Television. Why is there not White Entertainment Television? Just askin’.

Law and Psychology

I don’t understand the point of speculations about the psychology of Supreme Court justices. Who cares how or why Clarence Thomas formed the beliefs he has about affirmative-action programs? Where a belief comes from and whether it’s true are separate questions, not to be conflated. But suppose, for the sake of argument, that the origins of a belief have a bearing on its merits. We would need to examine the origins of the belief that affirmative-action programs are justified. In other words, we would need to examine the psychology not just of Clarence Thomas, but of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, David Souter, and John Paul Stevens. And we can’t stop with judges, either. How did John Rawls (1921-2002) come to be an egalitarian? Is it because he was born to privilege and always felt guilty about it? Why is Brian Leiter hostile to religion? Is he acting out against an abusive father? Is he repressing fear of annihilation? Is he a latent homosexual with a crush on God? Maybe he’s just a jackass. If psychology is relevant, it’s relevant for everyone, not just for black conservatives such as Clarence Thomas. In fact, it’s irrelevant. Focus on the merits of belief, not on how, why, when, or where it came about.


Somebody explain to me why we’re in Iraq, nearly four years after the capture of Saddam Hussein. According to this New York Times story, there may soon be more Republican defections from the Bush camp. Let’s get the hell out of Iraq and let the Iraqis fight it out, for surely that’s what’s going to happen whether we’re there or not.

W. D. Ross (1877-1971) on the Duty to Keep Promises

Suppose, to simplify the case by abstraction, that the fulfilment of a promise to A would produce 1,000 units of good for him, but that by doing some other act I could produce 1,001 units of good for B, to whom I have made no promise, the other consequences of the two acts being of equal value; should we really think it self-evident that it was our duty to do the second act and not the first? I think not. We should, I fancy, hold that only a much greater disparity of value between the total consequences would justify us in failing to discharge our prima facie duty to A. After all, a promise is a promise, and is not to be treated so lightly as the theory we are examining would imply. What, exactly, a promise is, is not so easy to determine, but we are surely agreed that it constitutes a serious moral limitation to our freedom of action. To produce the 1,001 units of good for B rather than fulfil our promise to A would be to take, not perhaps our duty as philanthropists too seriously, but certainly our duty as makers of promises too lightly.

(W. D. Ross, The Right and the Good [1930; repr., Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, 1988], 34-5 [footnote omitted])

Note from KBJ: Let me put this quotation in context. Ross is a moderate deontologist. This means two things: first, that there are certain types of act, such as breaking a promise, that are intrinsically wrong (i.e., wrong in and of themselves, independently of their consequences); and second, that it is sometimes right, all things considered, to break a promise. When is it right to break a promise? When, by keeping it, one would lose a great deal of utility. Ross tells us here that losing one unit of utility is insufficient to justify breaking a promise. In other words, he has a high—but not infinitely high—threshold. Moderate deontologists differ among themselves by setting different thresholds. An absolute deontologist such as Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) agrees with Ross that there are certain types of act, such as breaking a promise, that are intrinsically wrong, but disagrees that it is sometimes right, all things considered, to break a promise. According to Kant, it is always wrong, all things considered, to break a promise. Do you see why Kant is called an absolutist? He allows no exceptions to his rules. He has an infinitely high threshold. Certain acts must not be performed, no matter how good the consequences of doing so, and certain acts must be performed, no matter how bad the consequences of doing so. For Kant, utility is irrelevant to rightness. For Ross, utility is relevant to rightness but not dispositive.


Here is a scene from today’s stage of the Tour de France, won by Gert Steegmans. The Belgian rider averaged 27.46 miles per hour on the 104.7-mile course. Here is the story. Here is the New York Times report. Here is tomorrow’s stage.

All Fred, All the Time

Michelle Malkin isn’t sure it’s a good thing for Fred Thompson to hire John McCain’s laid-off staffers.

Addendum: In case you haven’t been paying attention, here is information about Fred. Be nice to Fred. He can kill you just by giving you a dirty look.

Addendum 2: I’m not the least bit troubled by Fred’s “delayed” entry into the presidential race. I think of it as foreplay. The more foreplay, the better the sex.

The Latest Progressive Gimmick

This cracks me up. Progressives think they lose presidential elections because (1) they aren’t framing issues properly and (2) they aren’t appealing to voters’ emotions. May I help? It’s the values, stupid. The American people reject homosexual “marriage,” coercive redistribution of wealth, punitive taxation, manufactured rights, abortion on demand, global warmism, hostility to religion, lawless judges, open borders, scientism, cosmopolitanism, socialized health care, feminism, reverse discrimination, the coddling of criminals, and pacifism, among other idiocies.

Bo Jackson

Does anyone remember Bo Jackson? Of course you do. They were talking about him on television the other day, which brought back memories. Remember when he ran up the wall in the outfield, to avoid injury? Try that some time. Remember when he broke a bat over his head in frustration? Remember when he ran over Brian Bosworth during a football game, after Bosworth had insulted him? Remember when he tried to call time as the pitcher wound up? The umpire refused his request, so he stepped back in as the pitch was being delivered and smote it mightily for a home run. Remember when he ran wild against the Crimson Tide, shrugging off tacklers as though they were mosquitoes? Remember when he threw out Harold Reynolds from the warning track, without bouncing the ball? What an athlete! Here is a web page devoted to his exploits.

Addendum: I used to love Bo’s Nike commercials. In one of them, he was riding a bicycle. He looked at the camera and growled, “When’s that Tour de France thing?” What’s funny is that, had he applied himself to cycling, he could have ridden in the Tour de France. I truly believe he could have excelled in any sport.

Addendum 2: While searching for Bo Jackson videos, I came across this video of a seventh-grade running back. I got tired just watching the little shit.


Here is John Fund’s latest column. Will America allow Bill Clinton back into the White House?

Best of the Web Today


From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

In “How the Grid Is Changing the Village” (The Media Equation, July 2), David Carr notes that Time Warner “was headed up the mountain” to his home in Corinth, N.Y., and soon he will have all the electronic amenities he has in the city.

Not necessarily. I live “up the mountain” in Connecticut. There has been a fiber-optics box within sight of my house since last fall, yet AT&T’s representatives tell me that high-speed Internet service is not available to me. Nor will they say when or if [sic] it will become available.

When Corinth is what the service providers term “completely wired,” there will still be people left out in the dial-up wilderness. The problem isn’t the technology, it’s the bottom line. Hooking up customers in sparsely settled areas doesn’t pay.

Fourteen years ago I did a cartoon for The New Yorker with the now famous caption, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” Well, the service providers think they know who’s a dog. Turns out I’m one.

Peter Steiner
Sharon, Conn., July 2, 2007


The Major League All-Star game is tomorrow night in San Francisco. I’m stoked. Even though it’s not important to win, each player has enough pride to want to do well, so it ends up being competitive. If you’re a pitcher, you want to show America that you can get good hitters out. If you’re a hitter, you want to show America that you can hit good pitching. The starting pitchers have been announced. Jake Peavy of the San Diego Padres will start for the National League and Dan Haren of the Oakland Athletics will start for the American League. The managers will be Tony LaRussa of the St Louis Cardinals and Jim Leyland of my beloved Detroit Tigers. Here are the starting lineups. I know you’re waiting with bated breath for my predictions, so here goes. Barry Bonds will hit two home runs (one of them a grand slam) and be named the game’s Most Valuable Player. The National League wins, 9-5.

Addendum: If you think you can compete with me, which of course you can’t, make your predictions as a comment.

Addendum 2: The Major League All-Star game is the only all-star game that’s competitive. Basketball is a joke; nobody plays defense. In football, the players’ main goal is to avoid getting hurt. Hockey is worse than a joke. Did you know that “hockey” is Canadian for “pointless”? Hockey and soccer are the same pointless game, the only difference being that one is on ice.

Addendum 3: A Canadian sent this to me.

Addendum 4: The American League won, 5-4. Barry Bonds hit a long fly ball to left field, but no home runs. Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners went 3-3 with a stand-up inside-the-park home run to win the game’s Most Valuable Player award. The American League continues to dominate this event. It is 10-0-1 in the past 11 years. If I continue to pick the National League, I’m bound to be right eventually.

A Year Ago