Sunday, 11 November 2007


I leave you this fine evening with a column by Dick Morris and Eileen McGann.

Animal Ethics

Here is my latest post. (Thanks to James Drake for the link.)

Twenty Years Ago

11-11-87 We’ve got a new [United States] Supreme Court nominee. It’s Anthony Kennedy, a federal circuit judge from Sacramento, California. A few weeks ago, when Douglas Ginsburg was nominated, I heard that it had been a three-way race between Ginsburg, Kennedy, and William Wilkins, a southerner. Edwin Meese backed Ginsburg, while Chief of Staff Howard Baker backed Kennedy. Meese prevailed. But now Baker has his choice. Predictably, conservatives are upset with [Ronald] Reagan. They say that Kennedy is not ideological enough, that he, unlike Robert Bork, is unwilling to overturn Supreme Court precedent. I find that odd, coming from conservatives. If conservatism means anything, it means adherence to precedent, an unwillingness to treat the past lightly. But liberals are arguing for adherence to precedent, especially the precedents of the [Earl] Warren court on matters of criminal justice. Politics indeed makes strange bedfellows! It’ll be interesting to see how Kennedy fares in the confirmation process. By the time the FBI completes its background check and the Senate undertakes and completes its hearings, it’ll be spring of 1988. The Court has been operating with eight members for months. [Anthony Kennedy was confirmed by the Senate and is still a member of the Supreme Court. In 2003, he wrote the majority opinion in Lawrence v. Texas, which overruled the 1986 case of Bowers v. Hardwick. Many conservatives are still upset with Reagan for appointing him. He is currently the “swing vote” between liberals and conservatives.]

The AIDS [Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome] crisis is still very much in the news. Researchers are working feverishly toward a cure, while politicians and bureaucrats are trying to deal with the social consequences of the disease. One issue is whether to permit AIDS-inflicted children to attend school. Here in Tucson, as elsewhere, parents are upset that their children are in class with AIDS victims, or AIDS carriers. They argue that, although studies show the disease is almost always acquired through blood transfusions or sex, it’s still possible to acquire it through so-called casual contact. At first, I thought this was a silly argument. I thought that parents were panicking and not using good judgment. But now I think otherwise. Although the risk of acquiring AIDS in school situations is small, the magnitude of the harm should it be acquired is staggeringly large. At this time, AIDS is fatal; there is no cure. So when you multiply a small probability times a very large (indeed, infinite) magnitude, it becomes rational to oppose having AIDS carriers in class. At any rate, that’s my current thinking. I deny that parental opposition is irrational, hysterical, or silly. It’s none of those. [By this logic, it would not be irrational to stay in one’s house all day!]

Odds and ends: (1) There was no class this evening; it’s Veteran’s Day. I spent much of the day outlining chapter one of Ronald Dworkin’s Law’s Empire for tomorrow’s lecture. The outline will also be useful for my dissertation. (2) Roger Clemens won his second consecutive American League Cy Young Award. His record wasn’t all that great this year, but nobody did any better. Next year he can set a record with three straight awards. [Clemens, who is still pitching, has won seven Cy Young Awards: six in the American League and one in the National League. He did not win in 1988.] (3) The east coast was hit by a massive snowstorm. Washington received fifteen inches of snow in one day. As I watched on television, it seemed unreal, like a different world. Here in Tucson, it’s still summery. The high temperatures are in the seventies or eighties [degrees Fahrenheit] every day. But then, it’s November; it’s wintertime (meaning snow and cold) in most of the nation.


Here are the latest college-football rankings. It doesn’t seem right that Kansas is 10-0 and ranked fourth in the nation. This is the team that used to get trounced by Nebraska, 77-0.  How many of you would like to see a playoff system instead of the bowl system we currently have? Who would emerge victorious in such a system?

Veterans Day

I’m grateful to those who served our country in the military. Without whom not.

From the Mailbag

You and your wife have a son. At some point he wants to build a tree house. Dad says, “Why not? I built one as a kid and loved it.” Mom says, “No, that sounds too dangerous.”

Who wins? Who would have won 20 years ago?

Will Nehs


Here is Alan Brinkley’s review of Ronald Brownstein’s new book about American politics. If you thought politics was bitter during the run-up to the 2004 presidential election, wait until 2008.

Addendum: My conservative readers won’t like this, but it might do our country, its political parties, and a lot of people good if a Democrat were elected president in 2008. Progressives are frustrated to the point of apoplexy. (Just read one of Paul Krugman’s columns.) They have been powerless (as far as the presidency goes) for 36 of the past 56 years (and 20 of the past 28). During this time, they have become increasingly immature, since they have not had to bear the responsibilities of governance. If they elect a president, they will have to grow up. They will have to take responsibility for economic growth, national security, and foreign policy. Conservatives, meanwhile, have become too cozy with big government. They need some time out of power to recover, reflect, reconnoiter, and regroup.

A Year Ago



Here, courtesy of a Canadian friend, is a column by David Horowitz about academic indoctrination. Nobody would care about indoctrination if it were taking place voluntarily in a private college or university, but it is taking place in public universities that are funded (in large part) by tax dollars. Before you donate money to your alma mater, please examine its curriculum. Giving money is a way of saying, “I like what you’re doing; keep it up.” Withholding donations is a way of saying, “What you’re doing is unacceptable; I refuse to subsidize it.” If you withhold donations, please inform administrators (including the university president) of that fact; otherwise, nothing will change. By the way, that Horowitz is vilified by progressives is a testament to his power. The ideologues who run campuses do not like having their activities scrutinized.

Peter Vallentyne, Hillel Steiner, and Michael Otsuka on Self-Ownership

[T]here is something theoretically plausible about the thesis of self-ownership: we—and not others—are morally in charge of our bodies and our persons. It is wrong to kill us, strike us, have sex with us, or remove our body parts without our permission. Moreover, full self-ownership is both plausible in the abstract (we are fully in charge of our persons) and has a theoretical simplicity. To be sure, the plausibility of a principle does not depend solely on its theoretical attractiveness. It also depends on the plausibility of its concrete implications. Full self-ownership admittedly has some counterintuitive implications (e.g., the legitimacy of voluntary slavery and the absence of a legally enforceable duty to provide highly desirable personal services under certain circumstances). This, however, is true of all principles. A full defense of a principle requires a balancing of the abstract theoretical considerations with the plausibility of the concrete implications (e.g., as in reflective equilibrium). Our claim, undefended here, is that at least loose full self-ownership is justified by such a balancing procedure.

(Peter Vallentyne, Hillel Steiner, and Michael Otsuka, “Why Left-Libertarianism Is Not Incoherent, Indeterminate, or Irrelevant: A Reply to Fried,” Philosophy & Public Affairs 33 [spring 2005]: 201-15, at 207-8 [italics in original])

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Childhood for Dummies” (editorial, Nov. 4):

Parents of my generation were taught to remove pain and failure from our lives. “No, you can’t hang upside down on the monkey bars,” and “Yes, everyone gets a trophy.” These are the ideas that guided our lives.

Eliminate risk even at the expense of fun and experience. Failure is wrong, and showing up is the same as winning.

What results is a group of kids who graduate from high school and are afraid to take the risks required to succeed because there is a high possibility of failure.

It’s not that breaking your arm while racing your friend down his stairs on mattresses inherently makes you a stronger person. It’s that the experience teaches you how to stop it from happening again.

Childhood is the time to be cut and scraped and to make mistakes, because it is then that you learn how to handle obstacles and adversity for later in your life when you have no one to bail you out.

Kegan Snyder
Jackson, Calif., Nov. 4, 2007

To the Editor:

You make the necessary point that “The Dangerous Book for Boys” presents childhood things—like making snowballs, hiking in the woods and skipping stones—as technical skills they need to be taught.

Moreover, the book advises that many such childhood adventures, like climbing trees, are so risky that they must be supervised by an adult.

But your hope that “the trend dies out before the next book” misses the essential point that makes this book and its spinoffs so popular: children are no longer allowed—and thus need to be instructed—to do what used to come naturally.

Much is lost with the absence of experiences like tree-climbing, wandering around in the woods and taking public transportation. Many children no longer grow up with the self-confidence, independence and often the competencies to manage major areas of their lives—with often disastrous mental health and addictive consequences.

Stanton Peele
Chatham, N.J., Nov. 4, 2007
The writer, an adjunct professor of psychology at New School for Social Research, is the author of a book about children and addiction.

Note from KBJ: Thank God my mother wasn’t a feminist. She allowed her four boys to be boys. Indeed, she taught us how to (1) shoot guns, (2) drive snowmobiles, (3) play cards, (4) play billiards, and (5) swear. We rode horses, raised animals, built treehouses, hunted, fished, played every sport under the sun, picked berries, blazed trails through the woods, played army, worked on our uncles’ and aunts’ farms, swam, collected bottles and cans alongside the road, hitchhiked, worked on cars, and in general learned how to take care of ourselves. Many young men today, raised by domineering mothers, don’t even know what they missed.

Safire on Language