Tuesday, 22 January 2008


What made this country great? God, guns, guts, and alcohol.

Twenty Years Ago

1-22-88 . . . Tonight I read an exchange between Jacques Derrida [1930-2004], the French deconstructionist, and John Searle, the analytic philosopher of language who teaches at the University of California-Berkeley. [Jacques Derrida, “Signature Event Context,” Glyph 1 (1977): 172-97; John R. Searle, “Reiterating the Differences: A Reply to Derrida,” Glyph 1 (1977): 198-208.] What a treat! Derrida gets things started by criticizing the work of J. L. Austin [1911-1960] on speech acts. Then Searle comes along and accuses Derrida of misunderstanding Austin. The exchange gets sharp at points, with Searle saying things like this: “Derrida has a distressing penchant for saying things that are obviously false.” Although I side with Searle on most issues, there’s something disconcerting about the exchange. It’s as if two cultures had collided head on. Derrida isn’t a theorist or arguer; he’s more of a literary critic. Searle is nothing but a theorist and arguer. So in a sense they weren’t even joining issue with one another; neither denied what the other asserted. But it makes for great reading. One needs to be reminded that what passes for philosophy in one place and time need not be considered philosophy at all by others.


Here is a scene from today’s stage of the Tour Down Under. I must admit, I’ve lost some of my enthusiasm for professional cycling since Lance Armstrong retired. The drug scandals of the past couple of years have worn me out. Perhaps this year’s Tour de France will be scandal-free. How much do you want to bet that Lance’s son Luke grows up to be a world-class cyclist?


I have a message for Frances Kissling and Kate Michelman (the coauthors of this column): People don’t disapprove of women’s sexuality; they disapprove of women’s irresponsibility. How is it possible, in this day and age, with condoms everywhere you look, to have an unwanted pregnancy? It’s mind-boggling.


Say what you will about Pat Buchanan: He knows politics. See here for his column about the conniving Clintons.

Alan Donagan (1925-1991) on Ends and Means

No philosophy of history has produced any evidence worth the name either that, in the long run, any great political good could only have come about through barbarous or oppressive means, or that the barbarous and oppressive actions without which some political goods would not have come about have not also brought about compensating evils.

(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 54 [essay first published in 1977])


It’s mid-winter. I’m experiencing baseball withdrawal. This cheered me up, even though it came at the expense of my beloved Detroit Tigers. I consider it one of the greatest performances in World Series history.

Addendum: If that’s not enough of a fix, try this.

Everyone’s Second Choice

This column by David Brooks makes me gag. Is it possible that John McCain is every Republican’s second choice? Think about it. If the other candidates—Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, and, until today, Fred Thompson—do very well among certain constituencies and poorly among others, but McCain does well among all constituencies, he could win the nomination. To be honest, I wasn’t a George W. Bush supporter in 2000. I thought both he and Al Gore were tragically flawed (in some ways, comically flawed) presidential candidates. That’s why I voted for Ralph Nader: to protest the terrible choice we were given. Things changed with the attacks of 9-11 and when I saw how unfairly President Bush was treated by progressives. Will the same thing happen with McCain? I don’t know. All I know is that right now, I hate his guts.


If this isn’t the best album ever made, then Bill Clinton belongs on Mount Rushmore.

Addendum: Here is “Mirrors.” Don’t you love the backup singers? “Pretty girls can’t look away.”

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Wallets Thick and Thin Seem to Be Closing” (front page, Jan. 14) doesn’t mention the upside of a slowing in consumer spending. Specifically, the less we consume the better for the natural environment.

Buying and using less is the only way to avoid continuing the devastating destruction of species and habitats around the globe. We ignore that reality at our peril.

Alan Saly
Brooklyn, Jan. 15, 2008

Eating Right

James Ament sent a link to this snarky blog post by Megan McArdle. Has anyone out there met someone who was persuaded to give up meat as a result of an argument?

A Year Ago



Here is Thomas Sowell’s latest column. By the way, is it Sowell as in “howl,” or Sowell as in “bowl”? I honestly don’t know. I’ve never heard the name pronounced.

Best of the Web Today



Are you ready for some heresy? If it weren’t for the Supreme Court, I wouldn’t mind a Democrat presidency. Let’s face it: Any president, Republican or Democrat, is going to protect Americans, if only to avoid going down in history as the president who let this country’s enemies get the better of it. Nor, to be honest, am I concerned about the economy. It’s not as though George W. Bush was frugal with a dollar! He’s as big a spender as any Democrat would have been or will be. As far as taxes go, I don’t earn much, so nothing a Democrat president does is going to hurt me. So what if I pay a few hundred dollars more in income tax each year. It’s the Supreme Court I worry about. The next president will probably get to appoint two or three justices, which will give us a progressive Court for the rest of my life. What do the rest of you think? Can you live with a Democrat president? What, in your view, is the worst aspect of a Democrat presidency?

Addendum: Another reason I wouldn’t mind a Democrat president is that it will change the tenor and trajectory of public discourse. Paul Krugman, Bob Herbert, Maureen Dowd, et al. will have to change their templates. Instead of mindlessly opposing whatever the president does, they will be forced to think and exercise judgment. Are they capable of it? I want to find out. As for Democrats themselves, how will they handle power? Will it force them to grow up? Will they be able to bear the burden of responsibility?