Wednesday, 7 May 2008

“His Own Bigoted Paranoias”

I leave you this fine evening with a column by James Kirchick.

Sweet Revenge

My beloved Detroit Tigers blew leads of 4-0 and 8-4 this evening, but scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning off Boston Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon to win, 10-9. Placido Polanco had five hits, including the game winner.


The Giro d’Italia starts Saturday. Wish me luck.


We’re one week into the second month of the season. Here are the standings. What are the five biggest surprises, as far as team performance is concerned? Here are my surprises (in no particular order):

1. The Detroit Tigers (14-20). This team has shown me nothing. The starting pitching is terrible and the hitting has been nonexistent. The players, when I’ve seen them on television, seem uninspired. What a waste of money.

2. The Oakland Athletics (22-14). Who are these guys?

3. The Arizona Diamondbacks (22-11). Good pitching beats good hitting.

4. The Colorado Rockies (12-21). The feel-good team of 2007 reverts to form. Will the team make another late run at the divisional title?

5. The San Diego Padres (12-21). I have no idea why this team is struggling. Given its personnel, the team should be 21-12.

The good news for teams playing badly is that the season is only 20% over. The bad news is that the season is 20% over.

Political Notes

1. According to this New York Times story, one-third of Hillary Clinton’s supporters say that if she loses to Barack Obama, they will vote for John McCain. Only one-fifth of Obama’s supporters say that if he loses to Clinton, they will vote for McCain. What, in your view, explains the disparity?

2. I don’t see Clinton getting out of the race until she’s arithmetically eliminated. Do you? The Clintons aren’t used to losing, don’t like to lose, and don’t want a Democrat president who is not named Clinton. There hasn’t been one since January 1981. Think about that for a moment. There are people who are 27 years old who have had only one Democrat president. Bill Clinton has been out of office for seven years, which means there are 20-year-olds (my students, for example) who have no effective memory of a Democrat president.

3. I honestly think that Hillary Clinton prefers a McCain presidency to an Obama presidency. If Obama loses to McCain, he will be damaged goods, like Al Gore after the 2000 election and John Kerry after the 2004 election. Clinton will be the presumptive nominee in 2012. If Obama beats McCain, Clinton will have to wait until 2016, by which time she will, in the eyes of many Americans, be too old. Query: Are Americans as willing to elect an elderly woman as an elderly man?

4. As much as I dislike Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann, their political coverage (on MSNBC) is sharper and more interesting than that of Fox’s reporters. Brit Hume is boring.

5. I still think McCain will beat either Clinton or Obama. Of course, a lot can happen between now and November. If McCain has any health problems, the American people will not entrust the office to him. If there is a terrorist attack, he will win in a landslide.

6. Clinton’s supporters are putting on a brave face. How many of the old feminists who support her will vote for Obama?

Capital Punishment

The editorial board of the New York Times says the next few months are “an ideal time for the nation to rethink its commitment to capital punishment.” I hate to break the news to the board, but this is not a national matter. Each state, in our federal system, must decide for itself whether to punish murderers (or a subset thereof) with death, for capital punishment is not prohibited by the United States Constitution (although it may be prohibited by various state constitutions). As of this writing, 36 states (that’s 72% of the total) and the federal government allow capital punishment. If you think capital punishment is wrong, you should contact your elected representatives. If you think it’s right, as I do, you should do the same. That’s how democracy works.


Since starting this blog, I’ve asked readers to prepare diagrams for me, and several have done so. Will someone explain how to do it, so I can do it myself? I’m talking about two-by-two box diagrams, for example. Like this. I have no idea which software to use (or whether I have it on my computer). Thanks.

Addendum: At Michael’s suggestion (see the first comment), I located PowerPoint on my computer and figured out how to make a flowchart. Here is my first work of art. Thanks, Michael!

A Year Ago


Hall of Fame?

Darrell Evans. (For an explanation of this feature, see here.)

David Stove (1927-1994) on Sedition

An unprecedented expansion of communism took place immediately after the second world war. For the next twenty-odd years, any possibility of resistance to communist expansion depended almost entirely upon America: no other country possessed both the requisite military capacity and the willingness to use it. But the outcome of the Vietnam war showed that, while America’s capacity for such resistance remained intact, her willingness did not. For that war was lost, not through defeat of American armies in the field, nor yet through treachery among them, but through a massive sedition at home. The nation showed that it had become utterly opposed to any further armed resistance to communism.

(David Stove, “‘Always Apologize, Always Explain’: Robert Nozick‘s War Wounds,” chap. 3 in his The Plato Cult and Other Philosophical Follies [Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1991], 43-59, at 43)


If this isn’t the best album ever made, then there is no evil in the world.

Addendum: Which song is your favorite, and why? Try to post a YouTube video of it. Here is my favorite.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

I play tennis, climb stairs for exercise and baby-sit around 18 hours per week for my grandchildren. Until 2005 I joined peace and civil rights marches throughout the country. I refuse all invasive tests, and will not stay overnight in a hospital. I have an excellent doctor who respects my desire to die unexpectedly at home in bed. I go to see her when I am not feeling well.

I am 74 and I will probably die in the next 20 years. Why should I spend any of those years recovering from invasive treatment or going to doctors to find out how or when I am going to die?

Susan Stern
Newton, Mass., May 5, 2008

Babies and Animals, Part 2

Seven months after R. G. Frey’s essay was published, philosophers Dale Jamieson and Tom Regan replied to it. (Dale Jamieson and Tom Regan, “Animal Rights: A Reply to Frey,” Analysis 38 [January 1978]: 32-6.) They make the following points:

1. Nobody makes the argument Frey criticizes. It is certainly not an “important argument,” as Frey claims.

2. Frey claims that there are only three grounds for premise 2 of the argument: potentiality, similarity, and immortality. None of these grounds, he says, applies to animals. Jamieson and Regan reply that some animals are potentially rational. If so, then it is not the case, as Frey claims, that every ground for affirming premise 2 renders premise 1 false. At least one ground for affirming premise 2 renders premise 1 true.

3. The three grounds Frey supplies for premise 2 are not exhaustive. There is at least one other ground—namely, sentience—for the proposition that babies have rights. Unfortunately for Frey, this ground, unlike the three he supplies, does not preclude animals from having rights. Since both babies and animals are sentient, both have rights.

I think point 2 is shaky. Animals are not rational in any meaningful sense, and if they are not rational, then they are not potentially rational. Point 3 is a good reply, in my opinion. The right not to be made to suffer derives from (i) sentience and (ii) the intrinsic badness of pain. As for point 1, I don’t see why it matters whether anyone has made the argument. It’s an argument in favor of animal rights. Those who deny that animals have rights (e.g., Frey) must find fault with it. As for whether it’s an “important” argument, I don’t know. Nothing hinges on whether it is.