Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Twenty Years Ago

3-5-88 . . . One of the Republican candidates for president is Pat Robertson, former television preacher, Yale-trained lawyer, and entrepreneur. In recent weeks he has made a number of questionable statements—questionable not because they’re dubiously true (though they are), but because he was unable to provide any support for them. He’s somehow driven to make provocative statements. For example, he claimed a few months ago that one of every four Detroit auto workers is on drugs. More recently, he said that there are Russian missiles in Cuba, when the Reagan administration denies it. He also claimed to have knowledge of the location of certain American hostages. Needless to say, the national press is having a field day with Robertson’s remarks. What I’m concerned about is his mental competence. As a television preacher, he is used to talking about miracles, the power of “healing”, and other nonscientific phenomena. Nobody ever asks him, as a preacher, to give reasons or evidence for what he says. They accept it on faith. But now that he’s in the secular world of politics, he runs into trouble when he makes this type of statement. He has no real chance to win the presidency, so I’m not worried about it. It’s just interesting.

Politics II

Dick Morris is right: If Barack Obama is to vanquish Hillary Clinton, he must go on the offensive. If he continues to take the high road, on the assumption that his soaring rhetoric will suffice to win him the Democrat nomination, he’ll lose. The Clintons and their minions will destroy him. The problem for Obama is that his supporters will not tolerate negativity from him. The thing they love about him is his positivity. (Is that a word? If not, it should be, since “negativity” is a word.) They view him as something other than a politician—as a secular messiah. How many times have you heard it said in recent weeks that the Democrats have two wonderful candidates, either of whom would make an impressive president? Progressives hate fighting. They want to make love, not war. What Obama doesn’t appear to grasp is that pacifists never prevail in contests with the bellicose. The meek might inherit the earth, but they seldom win presidential elections.


This is one of my all-time favorites. The guitar solo at 1:34 is mind-blowing.


Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are playing reporters like violins. I didn’t see the Saturday Night Live skit mentioned in the story, but I’ve read about it. I can very easily see it influencing coverage of the candidates. Nobody wants to be the butt of jokes. When SNL made fun of reporters who fawn over Obama, it made them reflect on what they had been doing, realize that they were in the bag for Obama, and vow to be more detached (impartial) in their coverage. Journalists don’t like to be laughed at. They like to laugh at others.

Addendum: I’m not implying that only Democrats play reporters like violins. Ronald Reagan was very good at it. John McCain has been doing it for years with much success. McCain gives reporters access; they write favorable stories about him. Quid pro quo.

Addendum 2: If someone finds a video of the SNL skit in which someone asks Obama whether he wants a pillow, please bring it to my attention.

J. A. Brunton on Partialism and Impartialism

If a man’s principles are known by the line he takes in life, then it is perhaps a sad fact, but a fact nevertheless, that, in innumerable cases no real attempt is made, in deciding what ought to be done, to adopt a neutral attitude between oneself and others, one’s own children and other people’s children, one’s own country and other people’s countries. Most, or at least many, people unhappily dither in a twilight kingdom inhabiting the region between ‘E’ type and ‘U’ type principles, between the ‘Individualistic’ axiom and the ‘Neutrality’ principle, and never quite make up their minds to which they owe allegiance.

(J. A. Brunton, “Egoism and Morality,” The Philosophical Quarterly 6 [October 1956]: 289-303, at 302)

A Year Ago


Ends and Means

How do actions such as this promote the cause of those who performed them? I can’t think of anything more self-defeating. There are, in general, four ways to achieve an end. The first is to use force. The second is to use coercion (i.e., the threat of harm). The third is to use manipulation (e.g., deception). The fourth is to use rational persuasion. Only the fourth is respectful of persons, which is a moral imperative. I would argue, from a consequentialist point of view, that only change brought about in the fourth way has any chance of long-term success. The first three means generate resentment, alienation, and backlash. Many people who accept the ends reject the means. Eventually, they come to identify the end with the means and reject the end itself. When that happens, what has been accomplished? Precisely nothing. Indeed, things are worse at that point than they were at the outset.

Everyone who cares about the environment must emphatically denounce these actions. Everyone who cares about animals must emphatically denounce (as well as renounce) the use of force, coercion, or manipulation to improve the lot of animals. I hate it when someone refuses to denounce extremists. When someone from PETA, for example, refuses to denounce those who use violent means to pursue their ends, it links PETA with those means. Why would someone even hesitate to denounce those who use violent means, other than misplaced solidarity? I am not in solidarity with thugs. Anyone who cares about the environment or about animals will be judicious in the selection of means, and will not hesitate to condemn those who use inappropriate means. How often does it have to be said that the end does not justify the means?

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “More Than 1 in 100 Adults Are Now in Prison in U.S.” (news article, Feb. 29):

Now that one in 100 American adults is incarcerated, one in 100 Americans will also face discrimination as he or she looks for jobs when released from custody.

While New York is one of the few states that prohibit blanket employment discrimination against people with criminal records, laws are not always effective in eliminating a culture of prejudice.

An academic study by Pager and Western in 2005 showed that in New York City having a criminal record cut a person’s employment prospects by nearly a third. Results for black applicants were even more striking.

It is a sad truth that while employment has been proved to lower the risk of recidivism for people with criminal records, the stigma of having a record continues to punish people—and their families—long after they have finished their sentences.

New York State must do more to help people with conviction histories make the transition to becoming productive members of society.

Evelyn Malavé
Legal Assistant, Legal Action Center
New York, March 3, 2008

Note from KBJ: It’s one thing to prohibit discrimination on the basis of characteristics that are out of one’s control, such as sex, race, or ethnicity; it’s quite another to prohibit discrimination on the basis of characteristics that are in one’s control, such as criminality. Have we lost our minds?

Hall of Fame?

Denny McLain. (For an explanation of this feature, see here.)