Saturday, 19 January 2008


Okay, one more column for this evening, this one by anti-American historian Howard Zinn. Did you know that it’s fashionable in progressive quarters to be anti-American? Progressives say that patriotism is like racism.


I leave you this fine evening with a column by John Dickerson. Two comments. First, if Bill and Hillary Clinton keep bashing Barack Obama, they will drive African Americans to the Republican Party. Second, Bill Clinton is going to be the death of his wife’s candidacy. Americans are going to have to decide, come November, whether they want him back in the White House. It’s clear that he will not stand aside while Hillary governs. He will be co-president. I don’t think even Democrats want that.

Twenty Years Ago

1-19-88 Tuesday. I had a long but interesting day at school. First I taught my logic class to about forty students, then I sat in on Joel Feinberg‘s [1926-2004] philosophy of law class, then I held office hours (during which I had a discussion of deconstruction with Bob Schopp and George Rainbolt), and then I taught the third of three GRE [Graduate Record Examination] preparation courses. Somewhere in there, I found time for lunch at Louie’s restaurant in the Student Union Building. The big news of the day is that David Cortner is back in town. He spent the fall semester in Tennessee with his mother, but has decided to attend classes this semester and work on the qualifying paper for his master’s degree. It should be a more interesting semester with David in town. He keeps me on my toes intellectually, and some of our disagreements are well-known among graduate students. On a given day, one can find us arguing about scientific method, metaphysics, or morality in the TA [teaching-assistants’] office or outside. I love to argue.

Joel’s class was interesting. It’s a course rather than a seminar, which means that there are undergraduates as well as graduate students in attendance. The graduate students include Bob Schopp, David Bjorgaard, Craig Gabriel, Howard Klepper, John Tomasi, Clark Wolf, and Joel’s daughter, Melissa. I haven’t met Melissa, but I know that she’s a student at the [University of Arizona] law school. What a strange feeling it must be to attend your parent’s class! Joel asked me before class if [sic; should be “whether”] I would mind writing things on the board for him. This saves time; he can continue talking as I write definitions and other material. I gladly agreed. The course, by the way, centers on punishment, so today Joel gave an overview lecture. I plan to attend as many of the lectures as I can. It’s like sitting under the olive tree listening to Plato. That’s how I and many others feel about Joel.

. . .

I mentioned that I discussed deconstruction with Bob Schopp and George Rainbolt.  George, who recently spent a year in France, attended a lecture by Jacques Derrida [1930-2004], perhaps the foremost deconstructionist in the world today. I’ve read an article by Derrida and am reading a book about the movement. [Christopher Norris, Deconstruction: Theory and Practice, New Accents, ed. Terence Hawkes (London and New York: Methuen, 1982); I finished reading this book on 19 March 1988.] To me, the movement is silly, but must be taken seriously and refuted. Why? Because it’s attractive to many people; it occupies the field. But Bob argued that we should ignore it. “Are we obligated to refute every absurd view that comes along?”, he asked. “Only if it’s attractive”, I replied. This led to a discussion not just of deconstruction, but of scholarship generally. I love arguing with Bob, because he cuts through the rhetoric and takes strong positions. George and I were on the same side of this issue, though he may be more sympathetic to deconstruction than I am. I really find it silly and nonproductive.


What’s going on in South Carolina, Steve? Give us an update!

“Irresponsible Demagogues”

Here is Thomas Sowell’s latest column. Of the current presidential candidates, only three could get my vote: Fred Thompson (my first choice), Mitt Romney (my second choice), and Rudy Giuliani (my third choice). I cannot vote for John McCain or Mike Huckabee.

Addendum: I live in Texas, which will go overwhelmingly for the Republican candidate, so my vote doesn’t matter. It wouldn’t even matter if the vote were expected to be close. (What are the chances that the election will come down to a single vote?) So my vote has always been merely symbolic. What I’m saying is that I cannot express support for McCain or Huckabee.


My friend Carlos sent a link to this video, which shows a creative wrestling move.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

In “Take the Kids, and Don’t Feel Guilty,” A. O. Scott concludes that although some films may be “too hot or too rough,” parents should take their kids anyway. Mr. Scott states that his family gravitates “more and more toward age-inappropriate fare” and adds: “Is this just wrong? Maybe.”

Maybe? Absolutely wrong is more like it. Studies show that excessive violence in media increases the acceptance of violence as a way to settle conflict, and other studies find that teenagers who see the most sexual content are likely to lose their virginity at younger ages.

While Mr. Scott is free to make his own decisions regarding his kids, it seems pretty irresponsible to encourage parents to run out to the movie theater with their kids to view age-inappropriate movies without warning them that exposure to sex and violence can have a negative impact on youth.

At Common Sense Media, we spend our days helping parents make age-appropriate media decisions for their kids. It is important for parents to know that contrary to Mr. Scott’s approach, there are independent, nonpartisan resources available to help parents make smart, well-informed movie choices for their kids.

James P. Steyer
San Francisco, Jan. 11, 2008
The writer is chief executive of Common Sense Media.

Note from KBJ: A. O. Scott is robbing his children of their innocence. If they turn out well, it will be in spite of their father, not because of him.

Gregory S. Kavka (1947-1994) on Hobbesian Government

Hobbes himself considers roughly eight powers to be essential to the existence and continued functioning of a government. Five of these we need not quarrel with, and we shall assume that—for the obvious reasons—Hobbesian parties would agree to their selected government’s possessing and exercising these powers in some form or other. The five powers are (1) legislative or lawmaking (including the making of laws assigning, regulating, and redistributing property), (2) law enforcement (judicial and police functions), (3) formulation and execution of foreign and military policy, (4) taxation to support government functions, and (5) appointment of subordinate officials to aid in carrying out government policy and functions. A sixth power that Hobbes emphasizes—the bestowing of official honor and titles reflecting the public worth of individuals—is a bit antiquated and will be set aside, especially because it conflicts with the principle of equal status to be discussed below. The seventh suggested power, censorship, will also be considered below, in the context of the rights and liberties of individual citizens. What remains is the power of the government to decide, for itself, what means are necessary to the peace and defense of the commonwealth. By ascribing this power to the sovereign, Hobbes stakes out an extremist position on the key issue of limiting and dividing government power. To see why we should not incorporate this position into Hobbesian theory, it will be useful to contrast Hobbes’s views on government power with those of Locke.

(Gregory S. Kavka, Hobbesian Moral and Political Theory [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986], 225 [italics in original; footnote omitted])

A Year Ago



I was asked to give this site some publicity. I don’t see any problem with that.