Saturday, 12 January 2008


I leave you this fine evening with a column by Meghan Daum. Look at all the metaphors in Daum’s first paragraph:

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton may have clawed her way out of an abyss in the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, but the shadows over her campaign are a reminder that the path she’s forging is still in the deep woods.

Sloppy writing is a sign of a sloppy mind.


Here is the latest on Roger Clemens. I’ve always given Lance Armstrong the benefit of the doubt, as far as drug allegations go, so I suppose I should do the same with Clemens, as unlikable as he is. I’ll have more confidence in Clemens when he testifies under oath that he never knowingly used steroids. It’s one thing to deny an allegation before a group of reporters; it’s another to do so when the consequence of lying is imprisonment.


Here is an essay by Steven Pinker, who is one of my favorite authors. If you haven’t read his book The Blank Slate, you ought to have your head examined.


Some of you will recall that I’m reading the 10-volume Encyclopedia of Philosophy (second edition) at the rate of two pages per day. I’ve been at it since 24 April. Today I finished the letter “A.” It’s been a hoot. Some of the entries, to be honest, bore me to tears, but others are fascinating. I’m learning a lot about ancient and medieval philosophers, some of whom I’ve never so much as heard of. Among the entries I’ve read are:

Abelard, Peter
Aesthetic Judgment
African Philosophy
Alston, William P.
Analogy in Theology
Anaxagoras of Clazomenae
Animal Mind
Art, Ontology of
Austin, John
Ayer, Alfred Jules

I read the two pages first thing in the morning, with coffee. It takes about 15 minutes.


Is anyone watching the playoff game between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks? It’s being played in a blizzard! I love it. It reminds me of classic games in the 1960s and 1970s, such as the Ice Bowl. I hope they never build a domed stadium in Green Bay. Football—unlike baseball—is meant to be played in inclement weather. Will the New England Patriots remain undefeated this evening? Steve Walsh must be sweating bullets. Here in North Texas, everyone (except me) is giddy about the Dallas Cowboys. I’m counting the days until spring training.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Justices Indicate They May Uphold Voter ID Rules” (front page, Jan. 10):

Surely, the Supreme Court justices must know that if they uphold the Voter ID rules they are now considering, tens and possibly hundreds of thousands of American citizens now legally entitled to vote will be disenfranchised in the next election. And for what? To protect against voter fraud that doesn’t exist?

As an Election Day volunteer who has driven older, infirm and, yes, legal voters to the polls in past elections, I know that many of these people will simply not be able to overcome the barriers to voting that the new ID rules impose on the public.

That the court would even consider validating these new, onerous voter ID rules exposes the hypocrisy of the Supreme Court today (whatever happened to “judicial restraint”?). It also illustrates that Republican partisanship has infested our legal system at its highest levels. Our nation must act in the next election to fight this corruption of our judiciary.

Mark Kraemer
Wilmette, Ill., Jan. 10, 2008

Note from KBJ: Let me get this straight. If a Supreme Court justice doesn’t agree with Mark Kraemer, then he or she is hypocritical, partisan, and corrupt. Sounds right to me!

From the Mailbag

hey there,

just discovered your nice blog on animals and ethics. i’ve touched on relevant issues off and on, but most specifically in a 2004 piece on arguments for and against whale hunts.

i’ve linked back to that story in my latest post on Japan v Greenpeace saga on my Dot Earth blog.

i’m going to add Animal Ethics to my blogroll. a very under-appreciated arena.


Andrew C. Revkin
The New York Times / Science
620 Eighth Ave., NY, NY 10018

A Year Ago


Thomas Nagel on Sexual Toleration

So I do not think the situation of women, even in modern secular liberal cultures, is just fine. But I think the wish to improve it by the device of interfering with the sexual fantasy life and sexual expression of heterosexual men, so long as they do not directly harm specific women, is unwise and morally obtuse. I even think the level of society’s tolerance for offense in this domain should be quite high, nearly as high as it should be for political and religious expression.

My reason is that the impulse to control some people’s sexuality on the ground that it makes others feel threatened comes from a misguided desire to treat the riot of overlapping and radically incompatible sexual fantasies among which we live as if it were part of the public environment, and to subject it to the kind of control and accommodation that is suitable for the public space. But this is completely ridiculous. We all have to live surrounded by sexual fantasies, of which we are sometimes the object, and which are often potentially extremely disturbing or alarming in virtue of their relations of incompatibility or resonance with our own sexual imaginations. No one is sufficiently polymorphous perverse to be able to enter with imaginative sympathy into the sexuality of all his fellow citizens. Any attempt to treat this psychic jungle of private worlds like a public space is much too likely to be an expression of one’s own sexual fantasies, rather than being based on an accurate appreciation of the meaning of the sexuality of others.

(Thomas Nagel, “Personal Rights and Public Space,” Philosophy & Public Affairs 24 [spring 1995]: 83-107, at 104)