Tuesday, 6 May 2008


I leave you this fine evening with a column by Thomas Sowell.

John Dinwiddy (1939-1990) on Bentham’s Paranoia

One noticeable feature of his [Jeremy Bentham’s] writings on evidence and procedure in the years 1803-8 was a new degree of asperity in his attitude towards the legal profession; he said in describing Scotch Reform to his brother that lawyers were ‘treated throughout as the scum of the earth and the arch enemies of mankind’. . . . He had long been aware of the importance of the vested interests of lawyers as an obstacle to law reform, but in these writings he was particularly caustic and persistent in attributing the abuses of the system to their ‘sinister interest’ and ‘sharp-sighted artifice’. Earlier, the proceedings over the Panopticon had made him highly critical of the executive; in the 1800s he let fly at judges and professional lawyers; and by the end of that decade he was coming to see the whole of the country’s ruling élite as a confederation of sinister interests. He wrote in a manuscript of 1808 that there was a ‘conspiracy among the high and opulent to support one another against the low and indigent’. . . . In the following year he turned his attention to the legislature, and he quickly came to regard Parliament as the mainstay of the confederation or conspiracy he had begun to discern.

(John Dinwiddy, Bentham, Past Masters, ed. Keith Thomas [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989], 11 [ellipses added; italics in original])

Note from KBJ: It was Bentham, not Hillary Clinton, who first noticed the “vast right-wing conspiracy”!


If I vote for John McCain this fall, it will not be because of his position on illegal immigration, campaign finance, or free trade. It will be because of his position on federal judges. See here for a New York Times story about McCain’s speech at Wake Forest University.


May I make a recommendation to those of you who exert? Try CamelBak Elixir. I found a two-tablet sample in one of my rally packets this year and tried it. It’s not only delicious; it’s good for you. See here for FAQs. I buy my Elixir at Summit Hut in Tucson. I just ordered six canisters (72 tablets) for $56. There is no sales tax or shipping expense (at least to my zip code). That comes to 77.7¢ per tablet, which is a steal. I drink one glass of Elixir per day, even if I’m not running or cycling that day. The best thing about Elixir is that each tablet is only 10 calories. Gatorade, for example, contains many more calories per glass.

A Year Ago


Babies and Animals

Here is a common argument in favor of animal rights:

1. If babies have rights, then animals have rights.
2. Babies have rights.
3. Animals have rights.

In 1977, philosopher R. G. Frey argued that at least one of the premises of this argument must be false, and hence that the argument is unsound. (R. G. Frey, “Animal Rights,” Analysis 37 [June 1977]: 186-9.) This doesn’t show that animals don’t have rights, for an unsound argument can have a true conclusion; but it does show—if Frey is right—that there must be some other basis for animal rights than the one provided by this argument.

What is Frey’s argument? Frey claims that (i) there are only three grounds for ascribing rights to babies and (ii) none of them applies to animals. Thus, what makes premise 2 true makes premise 1 false. What are the three grounds?

1. Potentiality. Babies may not be rational, but they’re potentially rational. If we ascribe rights to babies on the basis of their potential rationality, we thereby deny rights to animals, for animals are not even potentially rational.

2. Similarity. Babies may not be rational, but they’re similar in many other respects to “other members of our species.” If we ascribe rights to babies on the basis of their similarity to other human beings, we thereby deny rights to animals, for animals are not similar in many other respects to human beings.

3. Immortality. Babies may not be rational, but they have immortal souls. If we ascribe rights to babies on the basis of their immortality, we thereby deny rights to animals, for animals are not immortal.

One way to challenge Frey is to show that (i) there is a ground other than these three for ascribing rights to babies and (ii) it applies to animals. Can you think of such a ground?

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Your headline’s characterization of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s persona as “ruthless” (“Seeing Grit and Ruthlessness in Clinton’s Love of the Fight,” front page, May 5) brings back memories from 40 years ago about the presidential campaign of Robert F. Kennedy, for whom I worked.

He reacted to the “ruthless” label with a mixture of pain and amusement. Senator Clinton, whose New York Senate seat is the one that R.F.K. held and who was also a lightning rod in a presidential administration (his brother’s, her husband’s), has largely built her campaign on much of the same coalition that he was molding.

Her fighting spirit resembles his fierce determination to go against the odds in 1968 despite accusations that he, too, was dividing the party.

There are also similarities in Senator Barack Obama’s contrasting style and appeal, especially to upper-income voters and students, to that of the aloof, cerebral Senator Eugene McCarthy and his legions of young “new politics” followers, who by and large stayed away from the polls in November of that year.

Conscious of these eerie parallels, I pray that 2008 will not end up like 1968: a Democratic convention in disarray and the election of a conservative Republican.

William J. Arnone
Port Washington, N.Y., May 5, 2008

Note from KBJ: I pray that 2008 will end up like 1968.


If this isn’t the best album ever made, then Joe DiMaggio belongs in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Addendum:It Can Happen.” At 1:37, the bottom drops out.