Sunday, 2 March 2008


I leave you this fine evening with a column by Charlotte Allen.


1. This song by Double is one of my favorite songs of all time.

2. Click here if you want to hear the greatest bassist in rock ’n’ roll.

3. At 31 seconds into this classic song, you are out of your chair, dancing like a fool.

4. YouTube is a wonderful thing. I’ve been searching for several months for the 1991 remix of Queen’s “Seven Seas of Rhye,” which appeared on Queen II (1974). Tonight I found it. It’s mind-bogglingly good. I love the changes at 1:32 and 1:49. I miss you, Freddie.

5. My fifth and final item of the evening is a film clip rather than a song. Nearly 20 years ago, while visiting a campus on the East Coast, I happened upon a movie on the hotel’s cable-television system. It had a strange title: Lolly-Madonna XXX. No, it’s not a pornographic movie. The “XXX” stands for love and kisses. The movie is based on Sue Grafton’s novel The Lolly-Madonna War. It’s the saddest movie I’ve ever seen, with a great soundtrack. I’ve been searching for it on DVD for years, to no avail. Here is a clip.

The Shotgun Blog

Grant Brown is an attorney in Alberta. I met him in the mid-1980s when I was in graduate school at the University of Arizona. In 1986, he, David Cortner, and I took a car trip to Salt Lake City, stopping at the Grand Canyon along the way. We argued incessantly, as befits philosophers. Our argument got so heated in the Grand Canyon Lodge (over dinner) that the waitress tried to settle us down. Little did she know that we were having a ball. As I recall, the argument was about epistemology. After a year or two in Tucson, Grant went to the University of Oxford, where he earned a D.Phil. degree in philosophy. We have kept in touch over the years. I have tried to get Grant to start a blog, but he always resisted, claiming that he was too busy with work. He has now made the leap. See here for The Shotgun Blog. I will add it to the blogroll.

Addendum: Here we are. From the left: KBJ, Grant, David.

Addendum 2: I believe this is Grant’s first post.

A Year Ago


Jonathan Wolff on Conservatism

[O]ne could reject liberal individualism on many different grounds. Consider two quite different objections to the first claim [that “the task of political philosophy is to devise principles of justice”]. Communitarian critics of individualism often propose that the task of political philosophy is not to provide abstract principles of justice, but to generate a vision of the good society. Thus, rather than abstract principles of justice, political philosophy should provide rich and concrete accounts of what makes human society flourish. Certain conservatives, on the other hand, suppose that, strictly speaking, it is a mistake to think that political philosophy has any tasks at all. Edmund Burke (1729-97), in his work Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)—an attack on the French Revolution and the political ideas that led to it—argued against the use of reason and theory in politics. Burke emphasized the importance of habits and traditions, which, although they may not be able to withstand criticism at the bar of reason, should not be expected to pass what he thought to be a quite inappropriate test. The theme has been resumed in the twentieth century by Michael Oakeshott (1901-90) who, in various writings, including Rationalism in Politics (1962), argues that our traditions and inherited institutions contain more wisdom than we do—the accumulated wisdom of generations—and that it is both wrong and damaging to reform and rebuild except in the most slow and careful manner. On this view liberal individualism is just one more form of pernicious rationalism, with a mistaken view about what reason in politics can achieve.

(Jonathan Wolff, An Introduction to Political Philosophy, rev. ed. [New York: Oxford University Press, 2006], 180 [italics in original])

Note from KBJ: Does this help to explain why I consider libertarianism a species of progressivism?


I hate the New York Yankees more today than I did yesterday, if that’s possible. Joba Chamberlain was on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight this afternoon. He is a very special young man. I wish he played on my team.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Your article about insurance and DNA illustrated nicely the existence and harmful effects of fear of genetic discrimination, but it may have inadvertently made matters worse.

Ninety percent of Americans cannot be affected by genetic discrimination, either because they get health coverage in ways that do not allow health risks to be considered (Medicare, Medicaid, employer coverage) or because they can’t afford health insurance at all.

Only about 15 million Americans get insurance in ways that could lead to genetic discrimination, but more than 40 states have forbidden discrimination in that kind of insurance. Many states have also outlawed genetic discrimination in employment, adding to the unclear protection of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act will provide clear and broad protection when it passes. People should not avoid medically important genetic tests because of unrealistic fears of discrimination.

And we all must be careful not to worsen the harm caused by those fears.

Hank Greely
Stanford, Calif., Feb. 24, 2008
The writer is a professor of law and of genetics at Stanford University.

Safire on Language



There are three questions that can be asked about any belief. The first is what caused it. The second is what its consequences are. The third is what (if anything) grounds it. The first two questions are scientific in nature; the third is philosophical. One of the most widely held beliefs is that God exists. I have a question for Christians: What exactly is it that earns one salvation? Is it the fact of belief? Must the belief have a particular cause? Must the belief have certain consequences, in the form of actions? Must the belief be well grounded? As an atheist, I find it hard to believe that God would reward mere belief with salvation. Nor is it plausible that belief caused by self-interested calculation (think Pascal’s Wager) would suffice. But what’s left? Perhaps God rewards only (1) those whose beliefs are well grounded or (2) those who act upon their beliefs in the proper way (by being charitable, &c). What do you think?