Friday, 18 January 2008

All Fred, All the Time

Here is a New York Times story about Fred Thompson, who can repel UFOs simply by staring at them. Someone explain to me why Fred isn’t doing better in the primaries. His conservative credentials are unimpeachable. To me, he’s the perfect candidate. Do Republicans not want a conservative as their candidate?

Twenty Years Ago

1-18-88 . . . Today is Martin Luther King‘s [1929-1968] birthday. Much of the furor concerning Governor Evan Mecham started when he rescinded Bruce Babbitt’s executive order proclaiming a state holiday for King. Mecham says that he had to do so in order to avoid civil liability; others say that he did it with glee and that he’s a racist. Both could be true, of course. My view on the King holiday is this. King was many things in his lifetime: husband, father, civil-rights leader, religious leader, author, and citizen. I salute his work in civil rights, but find his appeal to religion offensive. It’s just an accident that he was a preacher; one can imagine a secular person doing the same work he did. But that’s precisely the problem with giving him a state or federal holiday. Holidays honor persons, not persons qua civil-rights leader or persons qua citizen. I fear that if King is honored for his work in civil rights, as he should be, people will think that he is being honored for his religious convictions or for his religious work. In other words, I’m worried about the symbolic effect of such a holiday.


I’m not gettin’ this op-ed column by David Brooks. Is it news that people vote for those whom they believe to have good character? (Brooks seems to have forgotten that we vote for people, not propositions, policies, or principles.) Is it news that character is inferred from behavior, including verbal behavior? Is it news that these inferences can be invalid? Is it news that human beings are both rational and emotional, and make use of both capacities in their daily lives? Is it news that human beings are tribal?


Here is the latest column by Christopher Hitchens, who, when he fails to edify (which is often), at least entertains. Hitchens says that a racist is “one who believes that there are human races.” That makes 99% of the people in the world racist. You can be sure that a definition is erroneous (or merely persuasive¹) when it has an absurd implication such as this. Memo to Hitchens: Race is to humans as breed is to dogs. There are human races in the same sense in which there are dog breeds. Do you deny the reality of dog breeds?


¹“A ‘PERSUASIVE’ definition is one which gives a new conceptual meaning to a familar [sic] word without substantially changing its emotive meaning, and which is used with the conscious or unconscious purpose of changing, by this means, the direction of people’s interests” (Charles Leslie Stevenson, “Persuasive Definitions,” Mind, n.s., 47 [July 1938]: 331-50, at 331).


Here is Peg Kaplan’s next-to-latest post.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

In “The Identity Trap” (column, Jan. 15), David Brooks claims that the feminist and civil rights rhetoric “constructed at a time when the enemy was the reactionary white male establishment” is no longer necessary. He suggests that the days of that establishment are in the past.

But if the Republican debates of this primary campaign have shown us anything, it is that the “reactionary white male establishment” is literally all that the Republicans have to offer at this moment in history.

For Mr. Brooks to say that Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama “are not facing the white male establishment” is ludicrous. Of course our system of primaries pits candidates of the same party against each other. But that is only temporary, until a nominee is selected.

Once that happens, the Democratic nominee will go back to fighting the same old, same old, white male reactionary Republican platform.

Linda Charnes
Bloomington, Ind., Jan. 15, 2008

Note from KBJ: I admit to being a reactionary. I react negatively to male-bashing ideologues like Linda Charnes.

A Year Ago



Here is the latest piece of dishonesty from the editorial board of the New York Times. Key paragraph:

But it isn’t, of course, because it ignores the fundamental question of what to do about the undocumented 12 million. A locked-down border won’t affect them. There is no way to round them up and move them out all at once. Not even the most eagerly anti-immigration candidate would dare talk about detention camps. Amnesty is a Republican curse word. So what’s the plan?

Who advocates rounding them up and moving them out all at once? That’s absurd. Do we say the same thing about criminals? “We can’t possibly round them up and try them all at once, so let’s just forget that they’ve broken the law.” What we do is find them, one by one. As they are discovered, they are deported.

Addendum: The Times has taken to calling opponents of illegal immigration “restrictionists.” It’s meant to be pejorative. I suppose it’s better than “nativists,” which is James Taranto’s favorite term of abuse. But think about it. Nobody has a right to come into my house without my permission. I restrict access. Why is it any different with our country? Nobody has a right to come into our country without our permission. We restrict access. I think the Times is implying that those who oppose illegal immigration also oppose immigration—which is false. There is all the difference in the world between doing something with permission and doing it without permission. (Rape, for example, is sex without permission.) Are the members of the editorial board not restrictionist when it comes to their houses, their offices, and their bodies? Why is one restriction acceptable but the other not?

Best of the Web Today


Intellectual Thuggery

Mark Spahn drew my attention to this blog post at Power Line. When I began blogging, in November 2003, I had never read Andrew Sullivan. I had heard of him, but that’s all. I read Sullivan’s blog for a couple of months, mainly for his posts about the war in Iraq. That he was a homosexual meant nothing to me. After a while, I began to notice intellectual dishonesty. President Bush announced his support for the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA). All of a sudden, he was persona non grata to Sullivan. Disagreement is one thing; reasonable people disagree about many topics, including the desirability of amending the Constitution to limit marriage to heterosexuals. To Sullivan, however, it was beyond the pale. Those who favored the amendment, or indeed opposed homosexual “marriage” at the state level, were religious bigots. He called the FMA the “Religious Right Amendment.” He began using the term “Christianists.” That was it for me. Sullivan had recused himself from rational discourse. I haven’t been back to his blog since, although I may have read a column or two of his in the past few years. It’s sad, really. Sullivan has a doctoral degree from Harvard University. He’s intelligent, well read, and articulate. He could contribute a great deal to public discourse. Instead, like Brian Leiter, he plays the thug.

Addendum: Some of you have heard me say (often tongue in cheek) that if you read me, I own you. It’s an exaggeration, obviously, but it makes a point. There are 24 hours in a day. There is far more to read than there is time in which to read it, so, like anyone else, I have to be selective. I gravitate to writers who have something to teach me, and who do it in a respectful way. Sullivan disrespected me by dismissing me as a religious bigot. He was saying that nothing I could say could possibly change his mind. My motives were bad (in his view), so my arguments couldn’t be good. I can’t make Sullivan stop writing; nor would I want to. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to give him any of my time, energy, or attention! He simply dropped out of my intellectual world, to be replaced by someone honest and respectful. What do the rest of you think of Sullivan? Do any of you read him?


One gets the sense, while watching Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton campaign for the presidency, that they resent having to go through the process. They exude a sense of entitlement. This is, of course, unbecoming, since nobody is entitled to public office, much less the highest office in our land. What explains their attitude: this ungodly mixture of entitlement, resentment, and frustration? I think it has two components. The first is that Hillary chose not to run for the presidency in 2000 and 2004. She “allowed” Al Gore and John Kerry to represent the Democrat Party, assuming (1) that it would be her turn in 2008 and (2) that everyone in the party, indeed all progressives, would get behind her, both financially and morally. That she has not been handed the nomination grates on her. Don’t others know that it’s her turn? Why are they making things difficult?

The second component is that Hillary is being forced to run against an African American. This complicates the storyline, which was supposed to be “Woman faces white male.” Hillary could then exploit her sex for political gain. She can still do this, of course, since Barack Obama is male, but she can’t dismiss him as just another white male seeking political power. In other words, she can’t dump on him, for that would suggest that she is no less an oppressor than a typical white male. How much simpler it would be if it were just Hillary against John Edwards! That she has to be careful what she says, for fear of alienating the African-American community, must frustrate her and Bill, who were always able to take the black vote for granted. (Is it fair to say that they have always manipulated African Americans?)

Hillary will probably get her wish, which is to run against a white male. But first she must vanquish Obama.

Addendum: I discovered this column by Charles Krauthammer several hours after composing my post. Great minds think alike!