Friday, 29 February 2008
This will make it all the more satisfying for fans of the Boston Red Sox when the Red Sox beat the New York Yankees again. In case Yankee fans have forgotten, the Red Sox have won two of the past four World Series. The Yankees haven’t won a World Series since 2000, and that was tainted by the steroid use of Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Chuck Knoblauch, Jose Canseco, and Jason Grimsley. What a bunch of cheaters.
Read this review of a new book about George W. Bush. The reviewer, an Ivy League historian, refers to “the disastrous war in Iraq.” What makes the war in Iraq disastrous? Fewer lives have been lost in Iraq than in other wars in this country’s history. Were they, too, disastrous? Was World War II disastrous? Is it possible for a war not to be disastrous? If some wars are disastrous and some are not, what is the criterion? What if Iraq becomes a democracy? What if the Middle East becomes stabilized? What if the invasion of Iraq deters other tyrants from abusing their people? Is the war still disastrous? How do we know whether the war has been a success until we know how things turn out? It’s been less than five years since the invasion. Many more years must pass before we are in a position to make an all-things-considered judgment. But maybe these questions don’t matter to progressives. It’s an article of faith to them that the war in Iraq is disastrous. There is no need to define the term “disastrous” or to state a criterion by which to distinguish those wars that are from those that are not disastrous. I have come to expect such sloppy thinking from progressives; it’s disheartening to get it from an Ivy League historian.
What is your favorite season, and why? I grew up in Michigan, which has four distinct seasons. I hated winter because of the snow and cold. Summers were nice, but very humid. Spring was enjoyable because we were emerging from the dark days of winter, and autumns were gloriously cool and colorful. In Tucson, where I lived for five years while in graduate school, I loved all the seasons, including summer. The low humidity made even extreme heat tolerable. Winters (January through March) were especially pleasant. Here in Texas, the seasons aren’t as distinct as in Michigan. We have oppressively hot and humid weather from May to September (inclusive), but mild weather the rest of the year. October through April are quite nice. So I guess I like autumn and winter the best.
To the Editor:
David Brooks (“The Real McCain,” column, Feb. 26) champions John McCain for his record defying the narrow interests advanced by business lobbyists. But it’s also worth noting the obvious: John McCain is a Republican.
And while many Democrats in Congress have nothing to be proud of when it comes to taking money from lobbyists and doing their bidding, Republicans are generally much worse.
Indeed, when the Republicans controlled Congress, Tom DeLay created a tight, campaign contribution-fueled alliance between the G.O.P. and some of the lowest of the K Street low.
Let’s remember that a vote for John McCain will be a vote to empower those in his party with a dismal record of putting business interests ahead of the public interest.
Montclair, N.J., Feb. 26, 2008
That the recipients of tutorial discipline might find themselves resenting its pains, as the raw recruits to the army hated the sergeant, would be an understandable human response. The odd thing, however, is that in family life, the pressure to turn a tutorial association into an egalitarian one has come as much from the parents as from the children. Some of this is no doubt the familiar guilt of working parents who compensate for lacking time with their children by giving in to whatever they ask for. No less important is the appearance of a strange new moral doctrine that understands authority itself as a form of violence that ought to be replaced by negotiation and persuasion. In the past authority sustained its disciplines by an adroit use of sticks and carrots, and in the past the stick did not need to be used excessively; its background role sustained a whole structure of life. In this new atmosphere, sticks have been abandoned as being forms of aggression, and only carrots are left. Carrots without sticks are merely a form of bribery. In other words, the basic moral category is no long [sic] reward and punishment, but attitudinal manipulation. To punish, runs the doctrine, is to send the wrong message: that violence pays.
(Kenneth Minogue, “Conservatism & the Morality of Impulse,” The New Criterion 26 [January 2008]: 8-12, at 11)
I had a good month, athletically. I ran 17 times (for a total of 62.3 miles) and rode my bike once (60.6 miles). That’s 18 aerobic activities in 29 days. It’s been a weird month, weatherwise. We had high temperatures in the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. One day I suffer in the heat and humidity; the next I suffer in the cold. I hope you’re staying fit. You owe it to yourself.
Thursday, 28 February 2008
Much has been written (and continues to be written) about the late William F. Buckley (1925-2008). Let me throw in my two cents. This obituary of Ernest van den Haag (1914-2002), written by his friend Buckley, is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read.
Addendum: This essay by van den Haag, which was first published in the Harvard Law Review, is the best thing I have read on capital punishment. Many years ago, I had an exchange with van den Haag in the pages of Criminal Justice Ethics.
It might be said that but for the heroic, unrewarded sacrifices of martyrs or the benefits conferred upon society by the fanatical zeal of social reformers who have been too rash to consult their own interests civilization would never have emerged and would soon disappear. There seems, however, to be no historical warrant for such a claim. Regardless of what one’s criteria of historical progress may be, one is almost forced to the conclusion that the martyr and the fanatic have done at least as much harm as good and that their influence has rarely, if ever, been historically decisive, since every cause has produced its own martyrs and fanatics. It was not, for instance, because there were so few martyrs or heroes that Naziism developed in Germany. The Nazis demonstrated a capacity for martyrdom and heroism which was probably not surpassed by that of the non-Nazis. It would seem rather that Naziism developed largely because the English and the French in 1917 and the Germans again in 1933 preferred the immediate pleasures of self-righteous indignation and revenge to the rational pursuit of their long-range self-interests.
I hope you’re reading Dr John J. Ray’s blog every day, as I do. Here are today’s posts. I love the cartoon.