Thursday, 21 February 2008


I leave you this fine evening with a column by George Will. Did anyone watch the Democrat debate this evening? Hillary Clinton must hate it that she’s running against a charismatic African American. First, if she were running against a white man, she could exploit her sex. The white man would have nothing going for him as far as identity politics is concerned. Second, her own lack of charisma is painfully obvious when she’s paired with Barack Obama. She probably thought she’d be running against John Kerry, a.k.a. Lurch. Instead, she gets Jesus.

John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography, Paragraph 37

I owed another of the fortunate circumstances in my education, a year’s residence in France, to Mr. Bentham’s brother, General Sir Samuel Bentham. I had seen Sir Samuel Bentham and his family at their house near Gosport in the course of the tour already mentioned (he being then Superintendent of the Dockyard at Portsmouth), and during a stay of a few days which they made at Ford Abbey shortly after the peace, before going to live on the Continent. In 1820 they invited me for a six months’ visit to them in the South of France, which their kindness ultimately prolonged to nearly a twelvemonth. Sir Samuel Bentham, though of a character of mind different from that of his illustrious brother, was a man of very considerable attainments and general powers, with a decided genius for mechanical art. His wife, a daughter of the celebrated chemist, Dr. Fordyce, was a woman of strong will and decided character, much general knowledge, and great practical good sense of the Edgeworth kind: she was the ruling spirit of the household, as she deserved, and was well qualified, to be. Their family consisted of one son (the eminent botanist) and three daughters, the youngest about two years my senior. I am indebted to them for much and various instruction, and for an almost parental interest in my welfare. When I first joined them, in May 1820, they occupied the Château of Pompignan (still belonging to a descendant of Voltaire’s enemy) on the heights overlooking the plain of the Garonne between Montauban and Toulouse. I accompanied them in an excursion to the Pyrenees, including a stay of some duration at Bagnères de Bigorre, a journey to Pau, Bayonne, and Bagnères de Luchon, and an ascent of the Pic du Midi de Bigorre.

Note from KBJ: Mill turned 14 on 20 May 1820, which means he spent his 14th year in France with the Benthams. It must have been an eye-opening experience for a sheltered young man. I hope you’re enjoying these paragraphs as much as I am. I read Mill’s Autobiography for the first time 18 years ago. It’s a treat to read it again. If you weren’t along from the beginning and want to catch up, please click the category “John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)” immediately below this post. It will bring up all the paragraphs to date. There are many more to come.

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Does this song kick ass, or what?

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One of my former students sent a link to this, which is hilarious. I have tears streaming down my cheeks. This post in particular cracked me up.

Addendum: Peg likes the blog.


There will be a televised debate this evening (on CNN, at 7:00 Central Time) between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The New York Times solicited questions from readers. Which questions would you ask?

Addendum: Democrats around the country appear to be fed up with negative campaigning and dirty tricks. This puts the Clintons at a disadvantage, for their modus operandi is negative campaigning and dirty tricks.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

I’m quite puzzled by this notion of plagiarism in political speeches (“In Politics, Inspiration or Plagiarism Is a Fine Line,” news article, Feb. 20). When was the last time a politician said, “In the words of my speechwriters . . .”?

Do we believe that all of Ronald Reagan’s avuncular lines were penned by the Gipper himself?

Does anyone think that all of President Bush’s lines were sprung, full blown, from his brow?

I don’t think that presidents even acknowledge that they have speechwriters until they (or their writers) write their memoirs.

Were one of my students to submit a mathematics problem set that was obviously copied, I would not accept the excuse that it was prepared by an anonymous writer hired for that purpose.

If we are to have standards for political plagiarism, fine: just what are they?

Mark Bridger
Newton, Mass., Feb. 20, 2008

Note from KBJ: The letter writer isn’t clear on the concept. There’s a morally relevant difference between (1) using someone else’s words with permission and (2) using someone else’s words without permission. Presidents who hire speechwriters do the former; Barack Obama—if the reports are true—did the latter. By the way, why did the letter writer use two Republican presidents as his examples? Does he believe that Democrat presidents write their own speeches? Is he implying that Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush are unintelligent? I’d wager $10,000 that either one has a higher IQ than the letter writer.