Sunday, 22 June 2008

Peggy Noonan

I leave you this fine evening with an essay by Jacob Bernstein.


After a horrific start, my beloved Detroit Tigers have improved their record to 36-39. They are only five games behind the division-leading Chicago White Sox. Here are the up-to-the-minute standings. Which teams are playing better than you expected? Which teams are playing worse than you expected?

Addendum: There are two teams left in the College World Series: Fresno State (i.e., California State University at Fresno) and Georgia. The teams begin a best-of-three series tomorrow night. I predict that the Bulldogs will win.

Addendum 2: As I was watching the White Sox-Cubs game this evening, I was reminded of something one of A. J. Pierzynski‘s teammates said. He said that when you play against Pierzynski, you hate him, and when you play with him, you hate him less.

Addendum 3: There’s a very real possibility that the New York Yankees will finish last in the five-team American League East Division. The Toronto Blue Jays are about to start rolling under new manager Cito Gaston.

John Dinwiddy (1939-1990) on “The Greatest Happiness Principle”

Let us now shift our focus on to the central proposition of Bentham‘s ethical system. His principle of utility went through several formulations and revisions. It is usually associated with the phrase ‘the greatest happiness of the greatest number’; indeed, the first page of his first published work contained the statement: ‘it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong’. . . . It is a curious fact that for more than forty years after 1776 the phrase did not reappear in his published works, but in the early 1820s he used it frequently, perhaps because it had a resonance which suited his purposes at that time as a radical publicist. The greatest happiness of the greatest number was described, for example, as ‘the only right and proper end of sound action’, and as the ‘all-comprehensive object’ of his Constitutional Code. . . .

Later in the 1820s, however, he developed doubts about the phrase. He considered that ‘the greatest happiness of the greatest number’ was preferable to ‘the greatest happiness of all’, because conflicts of interest would always be liable to arise which might make it necessary for the happiness of some to be subordinated or sacrificed to that of others. . . . On the other hand, he thought that the words ‘the greatest number’ might give the impression that the happiness of the majority was all that mattered, whereas in fact he believed that it would be possible for a minority to be oppressed by a majority in a way which caused more unhappiness to the former than it brought happiness to the latter, and which therefore reduced the overall happiness of the community. During the same decade he also became dissatisfied with the phrase ‘principle of utility’, on the grounds that the term ‘utility’, which he had taken over from Hume and Helvétius, was not manifestly connected with the notion of maximizing happiness or pleasure. The label which eventually seemed to him more satisfactory, as a means of getting over both these difficulties, was ‘the greatest happiness principle’.

(John Dinwiddy, Bentham, Past Masters, ed. Keith Thomas [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989], 25-6 [ellipses added; italics in original])

A Year Ago



Here is a scene from today’s stage of the Tour of Switzerland, the overall winner of which is Czech cyclist Roman Kreuziger. I watched two hours of tape-delayed coverage today on Versus. Switzerland is a beautiful country. Next up—in 13 days—is the Tour de France.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

In “Gay Couples Find Marriage Is a Mixed Bag” (front page, June 15), several same-sex couples discussed the personal reasons that compelled their marriage decisions. But there are also sociopolitical arguments for same-sex marriage.

Of course, I married Barry Safran on the first day it was legal in Massachusetts (Williamstown, May 17, 2004) because I loved him, but we consciously chose to marry to be on the principled side of history.

We believe that secular marriage is a universal right between consenting adults.

As a founder of the modern gay liberation movement in 1969, I couldn’t have conceived nearly four decades later that same-sex marriage would become reality. Then, our mantra was “come out” to establish our viability as a people. It wasn’t our sole political raison d’être then, as gay marriage isn’t now.

As long as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people are entrapped, imprisoned and killed, here and globally, our work is in progress.

Steven F. Dansky
Las Vegas, June 15, 2008

Twenty Years Ago

6-22-88 . . . To my astonishment, it was hotter today than yesterday. We had a high temperature of 114 degrees [Fahrenheit] this afternoon, another record. The heat is searing the nation, causing widespread crop damage and slowing commerce on large rivers. I stayed inside for most of the day, completing chapter one of my dissertation and writing a poem for Kyle on the occasion of his seventh birthday.

Twenty Years Ago Yesterday

6-21-88 Tuesday. I have two sports stories to recount. First, my beloved Detroit Pistons went down to defeat. The Los Angeles Lakers came out firing in the third quarter, building a fifteen-point lead. Despite a valiant effort by the Pistons, the Lakers held on to win the seventh and deciding game of the NBA championship series, 108-105. It’s easy, after the fact, to point to particular shots that made a difference, but one of them had to be Dennis Rodman’s midrange jumper with only seconds left. It would have tied the game. The problem was, the Pistons were on a fast break and he could have passed the ball for an easy layup. That’s the way things seem to go for the Pistons. Needless to say, I was disgusted by the Laker players and fans. They’re spoiled. This is their second championship in two years (the first team in nineteen years to win back-to-back titles), and the commentators were calling them “the team of the eighties”. I know it can’t be true, but I still believe that these games are rigged. It’s just too important for the NBA to have a Boston or Los Angeles champion. If nothing else, league management is happy with this outcome.

Second, the Detroit Tigers won a miraculous game this evening. Going into the game, they led the second-place New York Yankees by half a game. They moved into first place last night on Tom Brookens’s home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. Tonight, the Tigers trailed, 6-1, going into the bottom of the ninth. Who but a diehard Tiger fan would have thought there was any chance of winning? But they did. After loading the bases, the Yankees retired two batters. Then two Tigers drew walks, making it 6-3. Alan Trammell stepped up. Bang! With two strikes on him, he hit a towering home run into the left-field seats. A grand slam! That made it 7-6, Tigers, and the game was over. How do I know all this? Mom called me. Just when I was feeling despondent about the Pistons in the fourth quarter, she called to tell me about Trammell’s heroics. Now, instead of falling back into second place, we’re a game and a half ahead of the Yankees. Even if we lose the third game of the series, tomorrow, we’ll be in first place. This could be a turning point in the season.

. . .

Odds and ends: (1) Weather records have been kept at the Tucson International Airport since 1941. Until today, the highest recorded temperature there was 111 degrees [Fahrenheit]. Last year, the highest temperature of the year was 110 degrees (on 13 July). But today we broke the record. The mercury climbed to a phenomenal 112 degrees. Of course, meteorologists exaggerated the significance of this. Michael Goodrich of Channel 4 claimed that it was the “hottest day ever in Tucson”. That’s ridiculous. What about in 1312? 1657? 1881? So far as we know, it got up to 120 degrees in those years. [According to the National Weather Service, the record high temperature in Tucson, since 1894, is 117° (set on 26 June 1990, two years after I wrote this journal entry).]


What is the relation (if any) between IQ and ideology? Dr John J. Ray has the answer here.

Safire on Language