Thursday, 31 January 2008


I leave you this fine evening with a New York Times story about conservatism.

From the Mailbag

Dear Keith:

Here’s a hyperlink to a new article by Victor Davis Hanson about the inherent uncertainties in waging war. If you are not comfortable clicking on a hyperlink, I can send you the full text in a message, or send the text as an attachment.

Although I am a historian, my field of expertise is NOT military history. Hence most of the information in the article was news to me—as it probably will be to you and to most of your readers too. Hanson has written a brilliant essay, placing the conduct of the current Iraq war into historical context.


The Debate

I have only one comment on tonight’s Democrat debate: It’s imperative that we not elect Hillary Clinton. Did you notice how many times she used that word? What a scold!

Home Sweet Home

Check out this house.

Alan Donagan (1925-1991) on Torture

[O]ne condition of immunity to violence is that one not be participating in an attempt on the lives or the bodily security of other innocent persons; and the terrorist ex hypothesi is so participating: he is, at the very least, deliberately allowing innocent persons to be killed and mutilated by withholding his knowledge; and if he had a hand in placing the bombs, he is allowing the consummation of murders and mutilations he himself has set in train. Until the nineteenth century, positive law and moral opinion joined in permitting torture in such a case. In the past century and a half, torture has come to be prohibited by law in all civilized countries; and rightly, because it has been found practically impossible, while allowing it at all, to confine its use to the very few cases in which it would be morally permissible.

(Alan Donagan, “Cases of Necessity,” chap. 4 in Absolutism and Its Consequentialist Critics, ed. Joram Graf Haber [Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1994], 41-62, at 57 [essay first published in 1977])


The debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama begins in 34 minutes. It’ll be televised on CNN. Obama should call attention to the Clintons’ dirty tricks. He should ask Hillary, point blank, “Why has your husband been bringing race into this campaign? Is there anything you won’t do to get elected?”

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

I think Paul Krugman has drawn the wrong lessons from 1992. The nastiness of the 1990s was a consequence of who the Clintons are and how they do business.

The Clintons evoke negative visceral reactions in a large part of the electorate, and their actions over the past weeks in playing down-and-dirty politics has reinvigorated their negatives and sent a reminder of what the bad old days were like.

The lesson from 1992 is that the Democrats need a candidate who is inspiring and doesn’t have a lot of baggage, who is tough and will fight back but will stay out of the gutter.

It better [sic] to remember the lesson from 1994, when the Democrats lost both houses of Congress: We need a Democratic president who will vigorously and successfully campaign for Democratic senators and representatives. No one can do that better than Barack Obama.

William Terry
Newton, Mass., Jan. 28, 2008

Note from KBJ: I have a question for my readers. Which Democrat will be easier to defeat this fall: Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama? Does your answer change as you consider different Republican opponents?

Best of the Web Today


A Year Ago


Wednesday, 30 January 2008

John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography, Paragraph 35

It will be admitted, that a man of the opinions, and the character, above described, was likely to leave a strong moral impression on any mind principally formed by him, and that his moral teaching was not likely to err on the side of laxity or indulgence. The element which was chiefly deficient in his moral relation to his children was that of tenderness. I do not believe that this deficiency lay in his own nature. I believe him to have had much more feeling than he habitually showed, and much greater capacities of feeling than were ever developed. He resembled most Englishmen in being ashamed of the signs of feeling, and by the absence of demonstration, starving the feelings themselves. If we consider further that he was in the trying position of sole teacher, and add to this that his temper was constitutionally irritable, it is impossible not to feel true pity for a father who did, and strove to do, so much for his children, who would have so valued their affection, yet who must have been constantly feeling that fear of him was drying it up at its source. This was no longer the case later in life, and with his younger children. They loved him tenderly: and if I cannot say so much of myself, I was always loyally devoted to him. As regards my own education, I hesitate to pronounce whether I was more a loser or gainer by his severity. It was not such as to prevent me from having a happy childhood. And I do not believe that boys can be induced to apply themselves with vigour, and what is so much more difficult, perseverance, to dry and irksome studies, by the sole force of persuasion and soft words. Much must be done, and much must be learnt, by children, for which rigid discipline, and known liability to punishment, are indispensable as means. It is, no doubt, a very laudable effort, in modern teaching, to render as much as possible of what the young are required to learn, easy and interesting to them. But when this principle is pushed to the length of not requiring them to learn anything but what has been made easy and interesting, one of the chief objects of education is sacrificed. I rejoice in the decline of the old brutal and tyrannical system of teaching, which, however, did succeed in enforcing habits of application; but the new, as it seems to me, is training up a race of men who will be incapable of doing anything which is disagreeable to them. I do not, then, believe that fear, as an element in education, can be dispensed with; but I am sure that it ought not to be the main element; and when it predominates so much as to preclude love and confidence on the part of the child to those who should be the unreservedly trusted advisers of after years, and perhaps to seal up the fountains of frank and spontaneous communicativeness in the child’s nature, it is an evil for which a large abatement must be made from the benefits, moral and intellectual, which may flow from any other part of the education.

Note from KBJ: Mill writes long paragraphs, doesn’t he? This paragraph should be read and reflected upon by every teacher and parent. Mill is saying that there are two mistakes to be made in education. The first is catering to students’ wants; the second is tyrannizing students. It’s pretty clear that teachers and parents today, in the United States at least, make the first mistake, not the second. Should we be surprised by the results? By demanding so little of our children and students, we get little out of them.


Here is Thomas Sowell’s latest column.

The Debate

I watched the entire Republican debate this evening and enjoyed every second of it. The more I see John McCain, the more I detest him. He’s a vicious backstabber, no different from the Clintons. He’ll do whatever it takes to get elected, including lie about his opponents. I don’t think Americans want that, but I could be wrong. McCain is a militarist. Readers of this blog know that, while I supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003, I called for a withdrawal of American troops shortly thereafter. We have no business rebuilding nations. I’ve heard all the arguments about stabilizing the Middle East and not allowing Iraq to become a haven for terrorists. The whole world is a haven for terrorists. Are we supposed to police the world? We need to withdraw from the world and secure our borders. If someone attacks us, we retaliate. Let the people of the Middle East kill each other, if that’s what they want to do. I suppose this puts me in Ron Paul’s camp. So be it. Mitt Romney would make a good president. I think he’s surprised by McCain’s ruthlessness and finds it hard to respond in kind. He may be too nice to be a politician. Mike Huckabee is a terrific speaker. He appears to be able to think on his feet, which is a rare skill in American politics. He’s also funny. It’s hard to dislike him, but that doesn’t mean I want him as my president. All in all, it was an entertaining evening. I hope you enjoyed it. Time to prepare for tomorrow’s lectures.

Addendum: Michelle Malkin live-blogged the debate. I had not read her post when I wrote mine. In fact, I’m only now going to read it, now that I’ve linked to it.


I eat an ounce of these every day. They are scrumptious.


My friend and former student Carlos is an avid fan of the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Not just football, mind you, but wrestling. I lost only one wrestling match in my career, and I still regret it. I lost in overtime, by one point, to Ken Desjardins. This was in ninth-grade gym class. I was in the skinny runt category. My school had no wrestling team in those days. My brothers Glenn and Gary were terrific wrestlers. By the time Gary got to high school, it had a team. He won many medals. Here is Carlos’s post about his beloved Huskers.


Clinton, Obama
McCain, Romney, Huckabee
Are you serious?