Thursday, 9 August 2007

Twenty Years Ago

8-9-87 . . . Turning to another of my interests, politics, I’m still supporting Senator Paul Simon of Illinois in the 1988 presidential campaign, but there’s a new kid on the block who may steal my loyalty and attention. She’s Patricia Schroeder, a United States Representative from Colorado. Although Schroeder hasn’t officially announced her candidacy, she’s touring the country as if she had, probably testing the political waters before leaping in. Schroeder would be the first female in the race, and quite possibly also the most liberal. These are two good reasons for supporting her. Also, I learned recently that she’s a graduate of the Harvard Law School, which tells me reams about her. She must be extremely bright, and also, undoubtedly, a lawyer. So the race is becoming interesting. At some point, assuming that both run, I’ll have to choose between Simon and Schroeder. Either would make a good president, and together they would be a radical’s dream.

Peter C. Meilaender on Immigration

Contemporary liberalism’s difficulty in justifying restrictions on immigration should give us pause. Its conclusions vary widely from the ordinary assumption of most people (and, traditionally, of international law) that the state is entitled to regulate immigration. Not, of course, that states may do anything they like in this regard. Most people acknowledge obligations toward refugees and asylum seekers, or even a broader obligation to admit at least some of the world’s “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” But these obligations to outsiders are not commonly thought to cancel out our collective right to protect the national culture or defend the economic interests of existing citizens.

(Peter C. Meilaender, “Immigration: Citizens & Strangers,” First Things [May 2007]: 10-2, at 11)


Harvey Mansfield weighs in on the recent spate of atheistic tomes.

Simma Down Na

For some reason, I thought of this Saturday Night Live skit while mowing the lawn a few minutes ago. It’s hilarious.

A Night at the Ballpark

Here I am at the Ballpark in Arlington two days ago. During the game, a young man with a camera slung over his shoulder approached Hawk and me. He asked whether we wanted our pictures taken. We said no, so he moved on. Then I began to wonder how it works, so I called him over. He said I don’t pay anything or even give any information. He gives me a card with a web address on it. The day after the game, I go to the website, type in the date and place of the event, and find the image he made. I can then order it in various formats. I told him to go ahead. If it came out well, I’d consider purchasing it. Sure enough, it came out well, so I ordered the JPEG and a 5 x 7 print for $20.98. The image I downloaded was quite large. I didn’t know until a few minutes ago that I had the ability to reduce the size of images here at my computer. I opened the file with Microsoft Office Picture Manager (which I never use) and clicked the mouse a few times. Voila! The image you see is the small version.

One Mind at a Time

A reader sent a link to this column, which raises the perennial question of how best to change society. Resorting to violence against person or property is not in the long-term best interests of animals, as Peter Singer has argued. Those who break duly enacted laws should be punished. If they believe the law they’ve broken is unjust, they should take their punishment as a way of (1) demonstrating their sincerity and (2) opening a dialogue with those who disagree with them. This is what Martin Luther King Jr taught. It’s called nonviolent civil disobedience. All of us are entitled to work within the political system to enact laws we believe just and to repeal or amend laws we believe unjust. All of us are entitled to spend our money in animal-friendly ways. (If you want, you can think of this as “punishing” those who use animals as resources.) I’ve been a proponent of animal rights for more than a quarter of a century. I am convinced that the best means of change, in the long run, is rational persuasion. Not force. Not coercion. Not manipulation. If you care about animals, as I do, you will work within the system to improve their lives. Yes, this will take time, for it means addressing individuals one by one, respectfully, showing that their own beliefs and values commit them (logically) to changing the way they treat animals. (See here for an example of this approach.) Nothing worth doing is quick, cheap, or easy. Think long-term. Do what’s best for the animals, not what makes you feel good.

Addendum: In case you’re wondering how a conservative such as me can support animal rights, I have just explained how. Conservatives are not opposed to change; that’s a vicious progressive stereotype. They’re opposed to exogenous change. Change that comes from within the system, practice, or institution, in response to the felt needs and desires of individuals, is perfectly acceptable to a conservative. Progressives, by contrast, seek to impose change from without. They are impatient with endogenous change. Another difference is that conservatives want change to be gradual, so that mistakes can be identified and corrected before they become disastrous. Progressives, by contrast, advocate abrupt change, which, while satisfying to those with an engineering mentality, is dangerous. It’s interesting that when it comes to the environment, it’s progressives who insist that, given the complexity and fragility of ecosystems, we should intervene cautiously, if at all. Society is every bit as complex and fragile as an ecosystem. Why should the same caution not apply there? In short, conservatives can and should work to change the way people treat animals. They should work within the political system to elect people who take animals seriously. They should work within the legal system to see that laws against abuse and neglect are enforced. They should spend their money in animal-friendly ways. Most importantly, they should engage in rational persuasion. I believe that rational persuasion is the most secure basis for change. You might say, cynically, that I believe this because I’m a philosopher. No. I’m a philosopher because I believe this.

Best of the Web Today


From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

As Barry Bonds approached the career home run record, there has been speculation not only about drug use but also about the vulnerability of other baseball records.

Lou Gehrig’s consecutive game streak fell years ago to Cal Ripken, and various players have come close to Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, a record considered by many fans to be unbreakable. But the one record that is really beyond reach is Cy Young’s 511 pitching victories.

Even if a pitcher won 20 games a year for 25 consecutive years, he would still come up short. With five-man rotations, more emphasis on relief pitchers and the need to protect million-dollar arms, no pitcher will get the chance to win that many, even if he had the ability.

Hank Aaron passed Babe Ruth, Bonds passed Aaron, and Alex Rodriguez may pass Bonds someday, but Cy Young’s 511 wins will stand for all time. So will his 316 losses.

Mark R. Godburn
Sheffield, Mass., Aug. 8, 2007


The editorial board of The New York Times continues its campaign of abuse against those of us who believe (1) that there should be immigration laws and (2) that these laws should be enforced. The board calls us “ideologues,” “restrictionists,” and “cruel.” Name-calling may make the board members feel good, but it contributes nothing to public discourse.

A Year Ago


Yankee Watch

The Boston Red Sox won yesterday, while the New York Yankees lost. Boston’s magic number to eliminate New York is down to 43. Let me make three points in response to reader criticism:

1. I have always hated the Red Sox, just as I have always hated the Yankees. (The only time I ever rooted for the Yankees was in 1996 and 1999, when they played the Atlanta Braves in the World Series.) I was devastated in 2004, when Boston won the World Series. Why would anyone doubt my sincerity (or question my motives) when I say this? If I hate the Yankees more than I hate the Red Sox, it is because (1) Yankee fans are more obnoxious than Red Sox fans (though not by much) and (2) New York spends more money for players than Boston does. (How can you feel good about a title when you bought it?)

2. This Yankee Watch has nothing to do with my beloved Detroit Tigers (a.k.a. God’s team). Someone taunted me by saying that the Yankees have crept up on my Tigers in the wild-card race. The Tigers are not in the wild-card race. They are in the race for the Central Division title, which they will win. This blog feature isn’t about me, Yankee fans. It’s about you and your loser of a team.

3. A couple of people pointed out that the Yankees “control their own destiny,” since they trail by six games and have at least that many games remaining with the Red Sox. All this shows is that New York hasn’t been eliminated yet, i.e., that it’s still possible for New York to win the East Division title. Did I ever say that New York has been eliminated? What would be the point of this Yankee Watch if New York had already been eliminated? To repeat: It’s possible for New York to win the title. It’s also highly improbable.


From the Mailbag


This reports on an unintended consequence of mandatory arrest policies for domestic abuse: an increase in murder. I expected that one bad consequence of such a policy would be an increase in false accusations of abuse (thus putting the other partner in jail), but this article mentions nothing about this possibility.

Mark Spahn (West Seneca, NY)

Note from KBJ: Men are as likely as women to be victims of domestic violence. See here.