Sunday, 4 May 2008

Global Warmism

Everything counts in favor of global warming. Nothing counts against it. That’s the sign of ideology, not science.


Here is a scene from the Tour of the Gila (in New Mexico).


The tenor of this New York Times story is that Democrat presidential candidates are just as patriotic as Republican presidential candidates, but that Republicans have deviously portrayed their rivals as unpatriotic. This implies that the American people are idiots. They know patriotism when they see it, just as they know love of one’s spouse or children when they see it. By the way, patriotism is not to be contrasted with hatred of one’s country. It’s to be contrasted with cosmopolitanism. Americans are not convinced that Barack Obama is not a cosmopolitan.

Plant Rights

Here is an essay by Wesley J. Smith. There is no inconsistency in rejecting plant rights while accepting animal rights. If Smith thinks that plant rights and animal rights stand or fall together, then he is confused, for there is a morally relevant difference between plants and animals, namely, that only the latter are sentient.

Addendum: Smith appears not to understand the animal-rights movement. He writes:

The animal rights movement grew out of the same poisonous soil. Animal rights ideology holds that moral worth comes with sentience or the ability to suffer. Thus, since both animals and humans feel pain, animal rights advocates believe that what is done to an animal should be judged morally as if it were done to a human being. Some ideologues even compare the Nazi death camps to normal practices of animal husbandry. For example, Charles Patterson wrote in Eternal Treblinka—a book specifically endorsed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals—that “the road to Auschwitz begins at the slaughterhouse.”

Animal-rights advocates do not believe “that what is done to an animal should be judged morally as if it were done to a human being.” What they believe is that animals matter, morally. Animals have weight on the moral scale. Morally speaking, animals are something, not nothing. Inflicting pain on animals must be justified. This is not to say that it can’t be justified, only that it must be.

Addendum 2: Smith wants the circle of moral concern to be the same as the circle of biological humanity. In his view, neither animals nor plants have rights. He seems to think that if we expand the circle to include animals, we will have to expand it, on pain of inconsistency, to include plants. This is false, for there is, as I say, a morally relevant difference between animals and plants that justifies drawing a line between them. The circle of moral concern should include all sentient beings, not all living organisms.

Addendum 3: When I was a law student at Wayne State University in the early 1980s, I took a graduate philosophy course in ethics with Bruce Russell. He allowed me to write a term paper entitled “Do Plants Have Rights?” Little did I know that I’d be coming back to that topic a quarter of a century later!

Addendum 4: Smith should grapple with the biocentric arguments of Paul W. Taylor in Respect for Nature: A Theory of Environmental Ethics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986). It is one of the best books I’ve read. It sounds to me as though Europeans are taking Taylor’s theory seriously.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “In a 6-to-3 Vote, Justices Uphold a Voter ID Law” (front page, April 29):

The Supreme Court that put forward a baseless “equal protection” excuse for halting the 2000 election, anointing George W. Bush as president, has a worthy successor in the 2008 court, which blithely ignores the discriminatory nature of voter identification laws.

The absence of a shred of evidence that “voter fraud” is a real problem confirms that this supposed justification for disenfranchising poor, elderly and minority voters is merely a pretext for the Republican Party’s anti-democracy agenda.

It is outrageous that this excuse would not be seriously scrutinized when the demonstrable effect—and obvious intent—is to exclude voters whose only “crime” is a proclivity to vote Democratic.

Shame on Indiana, shame on the Supreme Court, and shame on those Democratic senators who let President Bush place two more right-wing ideologues on the Supreme Court.

Mitchell Zimmerman
Palo Alto, Calif., April 29, 2008
The writer, a lawyer, was a coordinator of Law Professors for the Rule of Law, which opposed the Bush v. Gore decision.

Note from KBJ: Two can play this game. The letter writer’s “obvious intent” in opposing voter-ID laws is to facilitate voting fraud so as to elect a Democrat president. By the way, there was nothing “baseless” about the Bush v. Gore ruling. Have we gotten to the point where not liking the result of a legal case means that it’s baseless?


Oakland and Texas are wearing throwback uniforms this afternoon. The Athletics are wearing green sleeves and yellow helmets, as in 1968. You have not lived until you have seen Frank Thomas in a yellow helmet.

Addendum: My beloved Detroit Tigers blew a 6-0 lead, losing to the Minnesota Twins, 7-6. I am sick to my stomach.

Surfing with the Alien

I have now, officially, seen it all.

A Year Ago


H. J. McCloskey on Animal Rights

The issue as to who or what may be a possessor of rights is not simply a matter of academic, conceptual interest. Obviously, important conclusions follow from any answer. If, for instance, it is determined that gravely mentally defective human beings and monsters born of human parents are not the kinds of beings who may possess rights, this bears on how we may treat them. It does not settle such questions as to whether it is right to kill them if they are a burden or if they are enduring pointless suffering, but it does bear in an important way on such questions. Even if such beings cannot be possessors of rights it might still be wrong to kill them, but the case against killing those who endure pain is obviously easier to set out if they can be shown to be capable of possessing rights and in fact possess rights. Similarly, important conclusions follow from the question as to whether animals have rights. If they do, as Salt argued, it would seem an illegitimate invasion of animal rights to kill and eat them, if, as seems to be the case, we can sustain ourselves without killing animals. If animals have rights, the case for vegetarianism is prima facie very strong, and is comparable with the case against cannibalism.

(H. J. McCloskey, “Rights,” The Philosophical Quarterly 15 [April 1965]: 115-27, at 122 [footnote omitted])


Yesterday, in Hillsboro, Texas, I did my fifth bike rally of the year and my 426th overall. Many of the rallies I do have been around for a decade or more. Every now and then, a new rally begins. Some become fixtures on the cycling scene; others disappear after a couple of years. The Hillsboro rally is in its first year. I found it on an Internet cycling calendar. Since there was no other rally yesterday, I decided to go. My friends Phil and Bryce joined me. Randy is out of town on work (where are his priorities?) and Joe, who probably couldn’t keep up with us anyway, was riding with his son’s Boy Scout troop. I’ve passed through Hillsboro many times on my way to Waco, but I had no idea what the rally would be like. Would the course be hilly? Would anybody show up? Would there be traffic support? I downloaded the registration form, paid my fee, and got directions to Hill College, where the rally was scheduled to start at 8:00.

When I got out of my car on the campus of Hill College, I was stunned by the cold wind. Usually, at this time of year, it’s warm and humid. Yesterday it was wintry. The temperature was 50º Fahrenheit. The wind-chill factor must have been in the 30s. Brrr! I found Phil in the lobby of the registration building. I told him that I was willing to cut the ride short (to 51 miles) if conditions remained poor. But both of us wanted to do the long course of 70 miles, if only to build endurance. According to the course map, we wouldn’t have to decide until later. Bryce came up as we were talking. I ate a doughnut, figuring I’d burn off enough calories during the ride to justify it.

The turnout was good for a first-year rally that hadn’t sent out brochures. A few dozen hardy people lined up in the parking lot. I got a kick out of the announcer, who spoke by means of a loudspeaker from a police SUV. He told us about the courses and mentioned that there were “two loose dogs” out there. Earlier, I had told Phil that every rally is different. When the announcer mentioned the dogs, I turned to Phil and said, “See?” I’ve never been warned about dogs before. You just assume that you’ll confront loose dogs while riding. Finally, a few minutes after eight o’clock, the SUV headed out of the parking lot with its siren blaring and we followed. I was shivering.

I had no intention of riding hard yesterday, and certainly not of riding in the lead pack. Phil and I stayed together, but we lost Bryce and never saw him again. The first leg of the course was directly into the wind, which was howling out of the north. I knew that it was in my interest to stay in the lead pack. I also knew that once I got to Blum, about 20 miles from Hillsboro, the worst of the wind would be behind us for the day. Although only 70 people showed up for the rally (according to one of the rest-stop volunteers), there were some strong riders in attendance. Our pack of about 15 gradually dwindled as riders tired and dropped off. At one point, I counted nine of us. Sadly, Phil wasn’t one of them. I figured I’d get to the rest stop in Blum and wait for him.

A little over an hour after we started, during which I took no pulls, we came to an intersection. The 70-mile riders were supposed to turn left and do a loop, but five of the nine turned right. That left four of us to do the loop. I took a long pull, which winded me. We came to a hill and I got dropped. For the first time of the day, I was alone in the wind. I sat up and took my time, knowing that I was just a few miles from Blum. I crossed a beautiful river. The sun was shining and by this time I was warm. It was turning out to be a gorgeous day.

There was no rest stop in Blum, as I expected, so I continued in an easterly direction. I then recalled from looking at the map that the rest stop was several miles away, so I stopped and sat on a ridge for 10 minutes. When I saw Phil coming, I clambered aboard my bike and joined him. We filled each other in on what had happened and stopped at the rest stop. Phil had fought the wind by himself for much longer than I had, but he seemed to be in good spirits. We talked about what we wanted to do. The long course was still an option, but there were places where we could cut it short. I told Phil that I would be happy with 60 miles for the day.

We thought, from looking at the course map, that we would have help from the wind for much of the remaining ride, but the wind was so strong that unless it was directly behind us, it hurt us. We had long stretches of crosswind that slowed our pace. Talking made the miles go faster. There were occasional southerly segments in which we had a tailwind, and it felt great. But then the road would veer eastward and we’d be struggling again. After three hours of riding, I told Phil that I felt good and wanted to do the long course. He didn’t protest. We thought the final 10 miles would be easy. Ha! Not only was there a crosswind, but there were rolling hills. And to make things worse, the course was much longer than advertised. I ended up with 75 miles instead of 70. I was on the bike for 4:39:02.

Statistically, I rode 17.8 miles the first hour (in the lead pack), 16.1 the second, 15.2 the third, and 15.9 the fourth. I averaged 15.37 miles per hour for the final 39:02. All told, I averaged 16.12 miles per hour. I’m happy with that, given the distance and the wind. My maximum heart rate was 152 and my average heart rate 112. (This shows that I didn’t work nearly as hard as I did a week ago in Muenster.) My maximum speed was 33.6 miles per hour. I burned 2,320 calories. Oh yes, I saw the dogs. They came onto the road after me, but I sprayed them with water from my bottle as I passed and told them very firmly to “Go home!” Dogs mind me. Hell, even my friends mind me.

Addendum: Early in the rally, we rode past the Hill County Courthouse. I think you’ll agree with me that it’s beautiful. Most Texas counties have rustic courthouses. I’ve seen a great many of them during my bike rides. The Hill County Courthouse was destroyed by fire on 1 January 1993 (see here for details) and rebuilt during the 1990s.

Safire on Language