Tuesday, 20 November 2007


I leave you this fine evening with a blog post by Ross Douthat.

Dread and the Fugitive Mind

I still can’t believe this song. The guitar is mind-blowing. Thank you, Carlos!

Addendum: I’ve been surfing YouTube this evening. Take a look at Grace Slick here, here, and here. What a voice!

Science and Religion

Here is an interesting New York Times story. Key paragraph:

“Many Europeans, as well as leftists in America,” Dr. Silver says, “have rejected the traditional Christian God and replaced it [sic] with a post-Christian goddess of Mother Nature and a modified Christian eschatology. It isn’t a coherent belief system. It might or might not incorporate New Age thinking. But deep down, there’s a view that humans shouldn’t be tampering with the natural world.”

Hence global warmism.

Best of the Web Today


John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography, Paragraph 23

There was one cardinal point in this training, of which I have already given some indication, and which, more than anything else, was the cause of whatever good it effected. Most boys or youths who have had much knowledge drilled into them, have their mental capacities not strengthened, but overlaid by it. They are crammed with mere facts, and with the opinions or phrases of other people, and these are accepted as a substitute for the power to form opinions of their own: and thus the sons of eminent fathers, who have spared no pains in their education, so often grow up mere parroters of what they have learnt, incapable of using their minds except in the furrows traced for them. Mine, however, was not an education of cram. My father never permitted anything which I learnt to degenerate into a mere exercise of memory. He strove to make the understanding not only go along with every step of the teaching, but, if possible, precede it. Anything which could be found out by thinking I never was told, until I had exhausted my efforts to find it out for myself. As far as I can trust my remembrance, I acquitted myself very lamely in this department; my recollection of such matters is almost wholly of failures, hardly ever of success. It is true the failures were often in things in which success in so early a stage of my progress, was almost impossible. I remember at some time in my thirteenth year, on my happening to use the word idea, he asked me what an idea was; and expressed some displeasure at my ineffectual efforts to define the word: I recollect also his indignation at my using the common expression that something was true in theory but required correction in practice; and how, after making me vainly strive to define the word theory, he explained its meaning, and showed the fallacy of the vulgar form of speech which I had used; leaving me fully persuaded that in being unable to give a correct definition of Theory, and in speaking of it as something which might be at variance with practice, I had shown unparalleled ignorance. In this he seems, and perhaps was, very unreasonable; but I think, only in being angry at my failure. A pupil from whom nothing is ever demanded which he cannot do, never does all he can.

Note from KBJ: Two things. First, Mill is right about the importance of thinking vis-à-vis memorizing. I teach Logic. As I explain to my students, it’s not about acquiring information; it’s about processing information. The mind is a hard drive. Until it is formatted, it cannot be used to store information or run programs. Logic formats the mind. Second, I agree wholeheartedly with Mill about the importance of having high expectations of one’s students. Every now and then, a student will thank me for this, often adding that he or she had never been pushed by anyone before. If you expect little, you will get little. If you expect a lot, you will get a lot.

A Year Ago



Two injustices in two days. Jimmy Rollins of the Philadelphia Phillies has been named the Most Valuable Player of the National League. Matt Holliday of the Colorado Rockies was the most valuable player. East Coast bias, anyone?

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Does Death Penalty Save Lives? A New Debate” (front page, Nov. 18):

The revived debate over the death penalty already seems destined to miss the mark. It is not a technical or empirical issue, but a moral one. As such, economists and other social scientists have little to tell us as empirical chroniclers about the death penalty’s continued use.

Although a demonstration that the death penalty has no deterrent effect would be morally significant in curbing its use, there is no particular or free-standing moral significance to the claim that it does have some deterrent effect.

There are all manner of punishments and innovations that might be introduced if deterrence were the only or main determinant of its social acceptability: chopping off limbs, stoning people and corporal punishment might be usefully retried.

The fact is that the death penalty, like limb-chopping or stoning, is a morally outrageous practice whatever its deterrent effect: it reduces society to the ethical level of the murderer. In a society that aspires to be moral and just, there is no room for such a state-sanctioned uncivilized practice.

Allan C. Hutchinson
Cambridge, Mass., Nov. 18, 2007
The writer is a visiting professor at Harvard Law School.

Note from KBJ: If the death penalty “reduces society to the ethical level of the murderer,” then imprisonment reduces society to the ethical level of the kidnapper and fining reduces society to the ethical level of the thief. Professor Hutchinson needs a crash course in critical thinking.

Note 2 from KBJ: Professor Hutchinson says that the death penalty is “a morally outrageous practice.” Actually, it’s a morally required practice. Killing murderers is not a necessary evil; it’s a positive good. We kill murderers because, and only because, we value innocent human life.

Note 3 from KBJ: Professor Hutchinson is right that understanding the deterrent effect (if any) of capital punishment does not, in and of itself, resolve the moral issue. What social scientists can show us is how many innocent lives we must give up in order to preserve the life of a convicted murderer. Social science is telling us (see the New York Times story) that we must give up several innocent lives. What’s morally outrageous is valuing the life of a convicted murderer more highly than the lives of several innocent people. To quote Professor Hutchinson, “In a society that aspires to be moral and just, there is no room for such a state-sanctioned uncivilized practice.” What we have here is squeamishness masquerading as justice.

Note 4 from KBJ: Professor Hutchinson writes:

Although a demonstration that the death penalty has no deterrent effect would be morally significant in curbing its use, there is no particular or free-standing moral significance to the claim that it does have some deterrent effect.

This is flat-out wrong, as I explained in the previous note. Suppose capital punishment deters. Then not killing convicted murderers costs innocent people their lives. How does that lack “free-standing moral significance”? Does Professor Hutchinson not value innocent human life? What a bizarre letter!


Oh my god! Different people like different kinds of music! The sky is falling! The sky is falling! David Brooks is a moron.

From the Mailbag

You believe that conservatives think people, in general, are bad—while progressives think people, in general, are good.

How does that square with the progressive tendency towards the Nanny State which presumes the common man to be dolts requiring Mom’s supervision? To reject the Nanny State presumes more TRUST in the people to handle their own affairs, no?

OR . . . do progressives believe the common man is good . . . AND STUPID while conservatives believe him to be essentially bad . . . BUT SMART?

So does Mom believe her children to be good but stupid—and Dad believe them to be bad but smart?

Will Nehs

Note from KBJ: That’s a dumb question, Will.