Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Health Care

This is one of the most bizarre editorial opinions I have ever read, and believe me, I’ve read a lot of editorial opinions during my life. The editorial board writes: “The Republicans happily accuse the Democrats of advocating socialized medicine, which anyone who has listened to them knows is nonsense.” How is it not socialized medicine to require, on pain of punishment, that everyone purchase health insurance? What could “socialized medicine” mean if not that? Both Hillary Clinton and John Edwards support such a plan, and Paul Krugman* has been berating Barack Obama for not joining them. Here is the final paragraph of the opinion:

Americans have had seven painful and disillusioning years. The last thing they want is for either party to drag out the old playbooks of division and anger. We doubt now whether Mr. Bush ever intended to deliver on his 2000 pledge to unite, not divide. Americans still want, and deserve, a leader who will fulfill that promise.

Does the board not realize that President Bush was reelected in 2004? What does that signify? That a majority of Americans don’t mind pain and disillusionment? Sometimes I wonder about the mental health of the Times‘s board members. They seem afflicted by Bush Derangement Syndrome.

* “Op-Ed columnist Paul Krugman has the disturbing habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers in a fashion that pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to substantive assaults” (Daniel Okrent, “13 Things I Meant to Write About but Never Did,” The New York Times, 22 May 2005).

Addendum: Here is another Times editorial opinion. In this one, which is at least as bizarre as the other one, the board describes an Iranian assault on a U.S. warship and then blames President Bush for it. Unbelievable.


Here is ESPN’s list of the 25 greatest individual seasons in sports history. Any quibbles? I have one. The greatest individual season in sports history is Eddy Merckx in 1972 (or 1970, or 1971, or 1973, or 1974). Scroll down and have a look at his victories in those years. They didn’t call him “The Cannibal” for nothing.

Addendum: Here is a 10-minute video of the 1976 Paris-Roubaix race, known affectionately as “Hell of the North.”

Addendum 2: Here is a short documentary on Merckx.


Before you take out a second mortgage to send your kid to Harvard, you might want to read this.


There are two mistakes one can make in putting an animal companion to sleep. (I know that’s a euphemism. So sue me.) The first is doing it too early, which destroys meaningful life. The second is doing it too late, which inflicts needless suffering. I made the second mistake with Sophie. About two years ago, she stopped taking walks with Shelbie and me. Her leg was hurting her. She was fine around the house, had a good appetite, and acted normally. About a year ago, she began to decline. She became confused, incontinent, and, perhaps because of the pain, lethargic. That’s when I should have acted. This is the first time I’ve had to make a decision like this, and I intend to learn from it. Remember: I’m the author of an essay entitled “Doing Right by Our Animal Companions.” The essay, you will notice, is dedicated to Sophie and Ginger.


Here is Thomas Sowell’s latest column. I’m dumbfounded by Sowell’s description of Barack Obama as “a black man.” According to Wikipedia, Obama’s father is Kenyan and his mother is Kansan. So why is he “a black man”? Why is he not a white man? Is Sowell (a black man) using the racist one-drop rule, which says that if you have even one drop of black blood, you’re black? Is he assuming that race is patrilineal? What’s going on? By the way, “African-American” perfectly describes Obama.

Jonathan Wolff on Government-House Utilitarianism

Henry Sidgwick (1838-1900), the most thoughtful and sophisticated of the early utilitarians, suggested that, while utilitarianism is the correct moral theory, it might sometimes be better if this were kept secret. Perhaps most people should be given some very straightforward, simple maxims to follow: do not lie, do not murder, do not cheat, and so on. His reason for this is that, should ordinary people know the truth of utilitarianism, they would be likely to attempt to calculate in direct utilitarian terms. Not only would this be a bad thing for the reasons already given; most people would also make poor calculations through lack of care, or ability, or through the magnification of their own interests. . . . It is much better, thought Sidgwick, to keep utilitarianism as an esoteric doctrine, revealed only to the enlightened elite. (This view has been called ‘government house utilitarianism’ by its opponents. It treats citizens in the patronizing fashion that European powers treated their colonial subjects in the days of empire.)

(Jonathan Wolff, An Introduction to Political Philosophy, rev. ed. [New York: Oxford University Press, 2006], 118-9 [ellipsis added])

Best of the Web Today


From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Jared Diamond states that “there will be more terrorist attacks against us and Europe, and perhaps against Japan and Australia” as long as those in countries with lower rates of consumption “believe their chances of catching up to be hopeless.”

That hardly accounts for 15 of the 19 hijackers who attacked on 9/11 who were citizens of Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s richest countries, as well as terrorists from wealthy backgrounds in Germany, Britain, Japan and the United States who marched with terrorism for reasons other than their countries’ consumption levels.

Sy Dill
Providence, R.I., Jan. 2, 2008

Note from KBJ: Only a progressive could think that poverty causes terrorism. To the progressive mind, all social ills, from crime to illiteracy to spousal abuse to terrorism to obesity, derive from poverty.

Hall of Fame?

Ruben Sierra. (For an explanation of this feature, see here.)


Did anyone watch the television coverage of the New Hampshire primary yesterday? I watched several hours of it, including many of the speeches. Everything is orchestrated. The candidates know exactly when to give their speeches, so as to get maximal television coverage. The speeches are ostensibly about the day’s vote, but the candidates are already looking ahead to the next primary—in this case, Michigan’s. Yesterday’s winners were Hillary Clinton and John McCain. I’m not surprised. The establishment almost always gets its candidates, and these are the establishment’s candidates. Clinton is a known quantity in Washington and has ties to many power brokers within the Democrat Party. McCain is an old Washington hand, with many connections to lobbyists, journalists, and politicians. You can easily imagine Clinton getting the enthusiastic endorsement of the New York Times and McCain getting the enthusiastic endorsement of the Wall Street Journal (which loves his immigration stance). Barack Obama could be Clinton’s running mate; I don’t think he’s burned any bridges yet. McCain could choose Fred Thompson, although I’m not sure Fred would want such a post. How does McCain-Huckabee sound? I sense that Mitt Romney is done. Nobody knows for sure, but I think his Mormonism is hurting him. It’s certainly not helping, although it would in Utah. Whether Rudy Giuliani can make a comeback remains to be seen. John Edwards is only humiliating himself by continuing. He is an angry, bitter, resentful man, which is why progressives love him. Either that or he’s very good at channeling other people’s anger, bitterness, and resentfulness. He’s a trial lawyer, after all.

A Year Ago