Saturday, 10 May 2008


I leave you this fine evening with a column by Alan Abramowitz.

Paul A. Boghossian on Fear of Knowledge

Why this fear of knowledge? Whence this felt need to protect against its deliverances?

In the United States, constructivist views of knowledge are closely linked to such progressive movements as post-colonialism and multiculturalism because they supply the philosophical resources with which to protect oppressed cultures from the charge of holding false or unjustified views.

Even on purely political grounds, however, it is difficult to understand how this could have come to seem a good application of constructivist thought: for if the powerful can’t criticize the oppressed, because the central epistemological categories are inexorably tied to particular perspectives, it also follows that the oppressed can’t criticize the powerful. The only remedy, so far as I can see, for what threatens to be a strongly conservative upshot, is to accept an overt double standard: allow a questionable idea to be criticized if it is held by those in a position of power—Christian creationism, for example—but not if it is held by those whom the powerful oppress—Zuni creationism, for example.

The intuitive view is that there is a way things are that is independent of human opinion, and that we are capable of arriving at belief about how things are that is objectively reasonable, binding on anyone capable of appreciating the relevant evidence regardless of their [sic] social or cultural perspective. Difficult as these notions may be, it is a mistake to think that recent philosophy has uncovered powerful reasons for rejecting them.

(Paul A. Boghossian, Fear of Knowledge: Against Relativism and Constructivism [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2007], 130-1 [first published in 2006])

Note from KBJ: There are three possibilities: (1) criticize everyone (the powerless as well as the powerful) by the same standard; (2) don’t criticize anyone (even the powerful); and (3) criticize only some (e.g., the powerful, but not the powerless). Boghossian prefers 1.


Here is Michael Hedges playing “Aerial Boundaries.”


Here is a scene from today’s opening stage of the Giro d’Italia.

Cedar Hill

This morning, in Cedar Hill, Texas, I did my sixth bike rally of the year and my 427th overall. We’ve been blessed with good weather this year. Today was no exception. Although it was cloudy and humid, as opposed to sunny and dry, it wasn’t hot and it didn’t rain. There was, however, a southerly wind, but there is almost always wind in North Texas. If you complained about it, you’d go insane.

The long ride of a week ago paid off, because I felt strong from the beginning. Despite the headwind, I averaged 17.9 miles per hour during the first two hours, during much of which I was at the front of the pack. Just to show you how much energy you save by drafting, my heart rate was in the 140s while I was breaking the wind. As soon as I slipped into the pack, it dropped to 99. It was like riding on a bus. Each week, I ride as hard as I can for at least an hour. This strengthens me for the following week. I’m not training for anything, but I like to get stronger over the course of the summer.

The return trip, with a tailwind, was great fun. I averaged 19.2 miles per hour for the final 1:31:21, which gave me an average speed of 18.48 miles per hour for 65.1 miles. A year ago, on the same course, I averaged 17.29 miles per hour. I would have gone even faster today if my friends hadn’t slowed me down. They are wheelsucking slugs. We stopped twice for refreshments. I keep telling the rest-stop volunteers that they need to add dill pickles to their stock of goodies. Some of them think I’m kidding. There’s nothing like a dill pickle during a long bike ride, especially on a hot day.

Statistically, I burned 2,124 calories, which means I get to eat a little more this evening and tomorrow. My maximum speed was 37.4 miles per hour, the same as a year ago. My maximum heart rate was 153 and my average heart rate 125. Did you exert today? If so, what did you do?


Six months ago, the New York Times published a story about Barack Obama’s policy toward Iran. Here are the key paragraphs:

Making clear that he planned to talk to Iran without preconditions, Mr. Obama emphasized further that “changes in behavior” by Iran could possibly be rewarded with membership in the World Trade Organization, other economic benefits and security guarantees.

“We are willing to talk about certain assurances in the context of them showing some good faith,” he said in the interview at his campaign headquarters here. “I think it is important for us to send a signal that we are not hellbent on regime change, just for the sake of regime change, but expect changes in behavior. And there are both carrots and there are sticks available to them for those changes in behavior.”

In his Democratic presidential bid, Mr. Obama has vigorously sought to distinguish himself on foreign policy from his rivals, particularly Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, by asserting that he would sit down for diplomatic meetings with countries like Iran, North Korea and Syria with no preconditions.

Compare this to a story in today’s New York Times. Key paragraph:

Susan E. Rice, a former State Department and National Security Council official who is a foreign policy adviser to the Democratic candidate, said that “for political purposes, Senator Obama’s opponents on the right have distorted and reframed” his views. Mr. McCain and his surrogates have repeatedly stated that Mr. Obama would be willing to meet “unconditionally” with Mr. Ahmadinejad. But Dr. Rice said that this was not the case for Iran or any other so-called “rogue” state. Mr. Obama believes “that engagement at the presidential level, at the appropriate time and with the appropriate preparation, can be used to leverage the change we need,” Dr. Rice said. “But nobody said he would initiate contacts at the presidential level; that requires due preparation and advance work.”

Do the reporters read their own newspaper?

A Year Ago


From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Sen. Clinton and the Campaign” (editorial, May 9):

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s statement that “Senator Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again” is a backhanded use of the race card. It’s also a fallacy.

Her argument is simple: Since they prefer me, they won’t vote for him. But one doesn’t follow from the other. Black voters prefer Senator Barack Obama, but they would still very likely vote for Mrs. Clinton if she were the nominee.

It is possible that some working-class white Democrats, particularly racist ones, might vote for Senator John McCain instead. But surely the vast majority of them would side with the Democratic nominee after eight years of the disastrous Bush administration and the promise of four more under Mr. McCain.

Now is the time for Mrs. Clinton to realize that both logic and justice demand that she start unifying the Democratic Party rather than continuing to divide it along racial lines.

Kirk Savage
Pittsburgh, May 9, 2008

Note from KBJ: Why do “Black voters prefer Senator Barack Obama”? Are they racist?