Thursday, 28 February 2008

William F. Buckley, Requiescat in Pace

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.

R. M. Hare

You probably wonder what I do with my time, since I teach only two mornings a week. Stuff like this. I’m up to 1965. Today I read and annotated Hare’s review of Georg Henrik von Wright‘s book Norm and Action: A Logical Enquiry (1963).


It’s called a tooth guard, Megan. I’ve been wearing one since 1991.

A Year Ago


Robert G. Olson on Martyrs and Fanatics

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.

(Robert G. Olson, “Ethical Egoism and Social Welfare,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 21 [June 1961]: 528-36, at 534-5)

Dissecting Leftism

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.

Best of the Web Today


From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

As someone who believes that Ralph Nader helped nudge George W. Bush to victory in 2000, I find it particularly ironic that Ralph Nader has announced his candidacy for the presidency the same week that the Supreme Court is hearing the Exxon Valdez case.

Exxon Mobil (whose profits were over $40.6 billion last year) will try to convince the court that it should not pay punitive damages to Alaskans whose livelihoods were destroyed when the tanker struck a reef.

This court has been moved far to the right by President Bush’s appointments of Justice Samuel A. Alito (who has recused himself from the case because he owns Exxon stock) and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

It is a court that has shown a clear preference for corporate rights over worker and consumer rights.

The judicial branch has huge influence over the issues that Mr. Nader has identified as key concerns. One could speculate that the court would be much more sympathetic to those concerns had Al Gore been the one making the appointments.

It may be that Mr. Nader has actually hurt the causes he claims to support.

Jonathan M. Rosen
Albany, Feb. 27, 2008

Note from KBJ: I love the part about the Supreme Court “show[ing] a clear preference for corporate rights over worker and consumer rights.” That wouldn’t be because the law required it or anything. The justices just like sticking it to the common man.

From the Mailbag


I used that subject line [“Non vegetarian comfort food”] to get your attention. My Grandparents ate parts of the animals that I don’t even want to read about. They grew almost all their own food and wasting anything was anathema to them.

Here is my Farmor’s (Paternal Grandma’s) recipe for potato soup. It was probably my favorite lunch during my school years. I make it at least once a month.

Mrs. Nygaard’s Potato Soup.

1 potato peeled and diced.
1 onion peeled and diced.
2 ribs celery including leaves (the more leaves the better) diced.
Cream (2% milk is fine)
Butter (margarine works, too)

Simmer the vegetables in a little water until tender. Mash well, add cream and a good size glob of butter. Bring back to serving temperature, add salt and pepper to taste.

This is a Lutheran recipe. You’re expected to be able to work out the details such as how much cream and butter and how tender to cook the veggies. Anyway it only takes about half an hour or so from start to belch.

After using this recipe two or three times, you’ll be able to phone it in.

Gramma usually made it with cream and home churned butter. It’s OK with 2% and margarine, though, just not as comforting. I think more fat means more comfort.

She had a real heirloom Norwegian soup stone, too. I was in about the third grade when I read the story of the beggar and stone soup and that is when I figured it out. She made me promise not to tell the little kids so they could find out about it for themselves on their own. It was fun having a secret with Gramma. Stone soup is still one of my favorites. I have a lot of favorite foods.

I was a grown man when my dad told me Gramma’s soup stone wasn’t really a family heirloom from Norway, she’d captured and tamed a wild one from down by the cattle pond.