Wednesday, 4 June 2008


Here is your entertainment for this Wednesday evening. Bang your head.


Are you seeing a smaller percentage of gas-guzzling vehicles on the road? I don’t drive enough to notice. One of my bicycling buddies told me that he has noticed a decrease. Do you suppose people will do more than change vehicles as a result of the high price of gasoline? Will they move closer to work, for example? Will they change jobs to work closer to home? Will the demand for public transportation intensify? Will more employers allow their employees to work from home? One thing I like about having fewer SUVs on the road is that it’ll be safer for those of us who drive normal-sized cars. Our old friend Will Nehs, who either died or got mad at me, used to tell me that I should buy a large vehicle for safety reasons.


Every theory, whether positive or normative, has both strengths and weaknesses. A theory doesn’t have to be perfect to gain allegiance; it has to be better than its rivals. Darwinian natural selection is a theory, and it’s not perfect. Shouldn’t its weaknesses as well as its strengths be taught in public schools? What are Darwinians afraid of? See here for a New York Times story. (For the record, I’m a Darwinian.)

Food for Thought

As belief in God wanes, the desire to create heaven on earth waxes.

A Year Ago


Hall of Fame?

Jose Rijo. (For an explanation of this feature, see here.)


Suppose Barack Obama offers the vice presidency to Hillary Clinton. Will she accept it? In my view, she will accept it only if it increases the likelihood that she’ll be president one day. Does it? I believe so. If Obama chooses someone else and then loses the 2008 election, that someone else will be the favorite for 2012. If Clinton is on a losing ticket this year, she’ll be the favorite in 2012. But won’t her presence on the ticket increase the likelihood that Obama will be elected this year, and won’t that preclude a run by Clinton in 2012? I’m not sure her presence on the ticket increases the likelihood that Obama will be elected this year. Yes, she has many avid supporters and is good at raising money, but she’s also very much disliked. What do you think?

Addendum: One of my friends mentioned that Obama could nominate Clinton for the Supreme Court. I don’t think she’s interested in being one of nine justices, any more than she’s interested in being one of 100 senators. She wants to be president. Specifically, she wants to be the first female president. She would be only the third female on the Supreme Court, after Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

At this point in history, when religious belief remarkably like superstition is practically a requirement to run for office in the United States and a motivation for enemies of freedom, Brian Greene’s message has never been more important.

Religious faith, after all, is defined by the very notion of belief without evidence, and Dr. Greene wrote a compelling essay about belief in evidence and, even more important, how the process of scientific inquiry helps us experience powerful feelings without reaching for the comfort of an outside authority.

Zealots will continue to argue that meaning and purpose come only from faith in an unseen source. To the contrary, seeing what actually happens and learning from it are the key to a full, honest experience of the great gift of life.

Adam Davis
San Rafael, Calif., June 2, 2008

Note from KBJ: Gift? Is this a Freudian slip?

Justice Clarence Thomas on Capital Punishment

It is not a little ironic—and telling—that lethal injection, hailed just a few years ago as the humane alternative in light of which every other method of execution was deemed an unconstitutional relic of the past, is the subject of today’s challenge. It appears the Constitution is “evolving” even faster than I suspected. And it is obvious that, for some who oppose capital punishment on policy grounds, the only acceptable end point of the evolution is for this Court, in an exercise of raw judicial power unsupported by the text or history of the Constitution, or even by a contemporary moral consensus, to strike down the death penalty as cruel and unusual in all circumstances. In the meantime, though, the next best option for those seeking to abolish the death penalty is to embroil the States in never-ending litigation concerning the adequacy of their execution procedures. But far from putting an end to abusive litigation in this area, and thereby vindicating in some small measure the States’ “significant interest in meting out a sentence of death in a timely fashion,” Nelson v. Campbell, 541 U. S. 637, 644 (2004), today’s decision is sure to engender more litigation. At what point does a risk become “substantial”? Which alternative procedures are “feasible” and “readily implemented”? When is a reduction in risk “significant”? What penological justifications are “legitimate”? Such are the questions the lower courts will have to grapple with in the wake of today’s decision. Needless to say, we have left the States with nothing resembling a bright-line rule.

(Clarence Thomas, Baze v. Rees, 553 U. S. ___ [2008] [italics in original])