Sunday, 28 October 2007


I leave you this fine evening with a column by George Will.

Baseball III

Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox and their fans. The Red Sox swept the Colorado Rockies, who entered the World Series 21-1. This is the fourth consecutive World Series dud. In 2004, Boston swept the St Louis Cardinals. In 2005, the Chicago White Sox swept the Houston Astros. In 2006, the Cardinals beat my beloved Detroit Tigers in five games. Good pitching beats good hitting. It will be said that the long layoff between the NLCS and the World Series hurt the Rockies, and maybe it did to some extent; but the Red Sox pitchers were magnificent. They shut down the Rockies hitters, who looked confused, frustrated, and desperate at the plate. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Red Sox back in the World Series in 2008. The only question is whether any National League team can beat them. If you’re a fan of the New York Yankees, now would be the time to show some class and congratulate the Red Sox.

Addendum: In both 2004 and 2007, Boston clinched the World Series on the road, which deprived its fans of a chance to celebrate in Fenway Park. Thank goodness for small favors.

Addendum 2: Alex Rodriguez is no longer a Yankee. See here. Will anyone want this postseason ne’er-do-well? He has yet to play in a World Series. I doubt that he ever will. Incidentally, I wonder how many of those Yankee fans who’ve been insisting that A-Rod is the American League Most Valuable Player will change their tune, now that he’s no longer a Yankee. And I wonder how they’ll feel about him if he joins the Red Sox, as he almost did four years ago. The thing you must realize is that A-Rod is a mercenary.


This is what happens when you confuse the meaning of a word with its origin. Here is the definition of “terrorism,” from the Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed.:

1. Government by intimidation as directed and carried out by the party in power in France during the Revolution of 1789–94; the system of the ‘Terror’ (1793–4): see terror n. 4.

2. gen. A policy intended to strike with terror those against whom it is adopted; the employment of methods of intimidation; the fact of terrorizing or condition of being terrorized. Also transf. Cf. terrorist 1b.

President Bush uses the term in the second sense—to refer to those whose avowed aim is to destroy us. Robespierre was not the George W. Bush of his day; he was the Osama bin Laden of his day.


Lawrence Downes simply hates it that people aren’t indifferent to illegality. Wouldn’t it be nice if he engaged people’s arguments instead of imputing base motives to them? We philosophers insist on being charitable to our opponents. This means, inter alia, imputing good motives to them. For example, on the war in Iraq, you should assume that President Bush is well-intentioned—even if you believe he is not—and address his policies. Are the policies making things better? Are they making things worse? By what standard? In my experience, progressives are far more likely than conservatives to impute bad motives to their opponents. How many times have you heard a progressive call someone a “bigot” or describe someone as “prejudiced”? Who makes accusations of racism, sexism, and homophobia? Who uses scurrilous terms such as “fascist,” “authoritarian,” and “theocrat”? Could it be that progressives have created academic and journalistic echo chambers? How do you learn to argue when everyone around you believes what you do?

Baseball II

The World Series is over. No team has come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a World Series. Let’s take stock. Here are the teams of the various decades, based upon number of titles won:

1900s: Chicago Cubs (2)
1910s: Boston Red Sox (4)
1920s: New York Yankees (3)
1930s: New York Yankees (5)
1940s: New York Yankees (4)
1950s: New York Yankees (6)
1960s: St Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees (2)
1970s: Oakland Athletics (3)
1980s: Los Angeles Dodgers (2)
1990s: New York Yankees (3)
2000s: Boston Red Sox (2)

The decade isn’t over yet, but Boston is leading. The Yankees haven’t won a World Series since 2000, despite outspending every other team by an obscene amount. It’s a great time to be a Yankee hater.

Addendum: I became a baseball fan in 1967, when I was 10 years old. The first World Series I watched was in 1967. This year’s Series is therefore my 40th. The Yankees have won only six of them (in 1977, 1978, 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000). My beloved Detroit Tigers have won two (in 1968 and 1984). The Yankees are not getting much bang for their buck.


Maybe I’m missing the point, but this editorial opinion by the New York Times appears to be condemning advertising. Doesn’t the Times sell advertising? Could it stay in business without it? If it’s okay for the Times to sell its readers’ eyeballs to commercial enterprises, why is it not acceptable for Facebook to do the same? Maybe the Times is just envious that advertisers are going elsewhere. After all, who wants to advertise in a progressive propaganda organ?

Addendum: I think there’s something bigger and more important going on here. Many members of the mainstream media (MSM) are livid that the blogosphere has destroyed its monopoly, and now social sites such as MySpace and Facebook are making things worse (from their perspective). It used to be that people had nowhere to go for information or opinion except the three broadcast television networks and their local newspaper, which took its cues from the New York Times. Now, with the blogosphere and talk radio, people can get information and opinion in thousands of different places—and much of it is free. It’s understandable that the Times and its ilk would resent this. Who likes competition? Who wants to share power? Whenever they get a chance, therefore, they blast the blogosphere. I’ve seen James Taranto do it many times. Has anyone picked up on Taranto’s scorn for bloggers? Every now and then, he’ll let slip a snide remark that reveals his negative attitude. Taranto is part of the MSM.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Clinton Plans to Consider Giving Up Some Powers” (news article, Oct. 24): The American Freedom Agenda, an organization of conservatives founded last March 20 to restore checks and balances and protections against government abuses, requested all presidential aspirants, including Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, to sign an American Freedom Pledge.

They were asked to renounce the following powers if elected: torture; presidential signing statements; indefinite detentions of American citizens as enemy combatants; military commissions that combine judge, jury and prosecutor; spying on American citizens in contravention of federal statutes on the president’s say-so alone; kidnapping, imprisoning and torturing suspected terrorists abroad; executive privilege to shield the executive branch from Congressional oversight; prosecuting journalists under the Espionage Act for exposing national security abuses; listing organizations as terrorist groups based on secret evidence; suspending the writ of habeas corpus during the conflict with international terrorism; and invoking the state secrets privilege to deny victims of constitutional wrongdoing any judicial remedy. Senator Clinton has balked at signing the pledge, as have all other candidates except Representative Ron Paul.

Bruce Fein
Chairman, American Freedom Agenda
Washington, Oct. 24, 2007

Note from KBJ: This is additional proof (if you needed any) that Ron Paul is nuts.

A Year Ago


John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography, Paragraph 15

A book which contributed largely to my education, in the best sense of the term, was my father’s History of India. It was published in the beginning of 1818. During the year previous, while it was passing through the press, I used to read the proof sheets to him; or rather, I read the manuscript to him while he corrected the proofs. The number of new ideas which I received from this remarkable book, and the impulse and stimulus as well as guidance given to my thoughts by its criticisms and disquisitions on society and civilization in the Hindoo part, on institutions and the acts of governments in the English part, made my early familiarity with it eminently useful to my subsequent progress. And though I can perceive deficiencies in it now as compared with a perfect standard, I still think it, if not the most, one of the most instructive histories ever written, and one of the books from which most benefit may be derived by a mind in the course of making up its opinions.

Note from KBJ: Don’t you love the image of 11-year-old John reading the manuscript to his father, who compared what he was hearing with what he was seeing on the page proofs? My teacher Joel Feinberg wrote the following in the Acknowledgments section of his book Harmless Wrongdoing (1988), which is the fourth volume of his tetralogy, The Moral Limits of the Criminal Law (1984-1988):

The help of my wife, Betty Feinberg, with the proofreading for all four volumes was invaluable. She examined every letter of every word in over 1400 pages while I read aloud from the typescript.

Joel told me that they did this (or some of it) while they lay side by side in bed.


Political philosophy is multifaceted. One of the more interesting debates taking place at this time involves left-libertarianism. Consider the following propositions:

1. The libertarian right of self-ownership is incompatible with an egalitarian principle of distributive justice.
2. There is a libertarian right of self-ownership.
3. There is an egalitarian principle of distributive justice.

These propositions are incompatible, which means no rational person can accept all three. Egalitarians such as G. A. Cohen reject 2. Libertarians such as Robert Nozick reject 3. Left-libertarians such as Michael Otsuka reject 1. Left-libertarians are compatibilists; egalitarians and libertarians are incompatibilists.

Some left-libertarians arrive at results that are indistinguishable from egalitarianism, so one might wonder why they bother with reconciliation. Law professor Barbara Fried, for example, calls left-libertarianism “liberal egalitarianism in drag.” (This is the same Barbara Fried who abused Nozick.) Fried is mistaken, for two reasons.

First, even if left-libertarianism is extensionally equivalent to egalitarianism (i.e., even if the theories arrive at the same results), it is a distinct theory of justice. This alone makes it philosophically interesting. (Fried has no philosophical credentials.) Second, if left-libertarians wish to persuade libertarians to adopt egalitarian social policies, they must begin where libertarians are, with a right of self-ownership. This is simple common sense, although many philosophers, judging from their writings, fail to grasp it. (To persuade rationally, one must begin with premises one’s interlocutor accepts.)

I will have more to say about left-libertarianism in days to come. Stay tuned.


Magglio Ordonez is the Most Valuable Player of the American League. My argument is simple: The New York Yankees could have finished second without Alex Rodriguez. The Detroit Tigers could not have finished second without Ordonez.

Safire on Language