Friday, 25 July 2008


I leave you this fine evening with a column by Stuart Taylor.


One of the things I love about baseball is that, during the season, there is a game almost every day. No matter how disgusted I am with the outcome of a particular game (a Detroit Tiger loss, a Texas Ranger loss, or a New York Yankee victory), it doesn’t last. As soon as I wake up the next day, I’m thinking of that day’s game. Hope, joy, and anticipation replace disgust, despair, and disappointment. What do you love about baseball?


If you’re a fan of U2, take note. The band has released four of its albums, including the first three, in deluxe editions. I assume that all of the other U2 albums will be released in this format in due course. The first three albums are Boy (1980), October (1981), and War (1983). The other album released in this format is The Joshua Tree (1987). I’ve owned these and other U2 albums on cassette tape for many years. I used to listen to them on my Sony Walkman while riding my bike in Tucson. Unfortunately, I haven’t listened to any of my cassette tapes in years. It was time to reconnect to these wonderful albums. Yesterday, before going to PetsMart to buy Shelbie’s goodies, I went to Best Buy, which is in the same shopping center. I found October, War, and The Joshua Tree in deluxe editions. The store was sold out of Boy, so I’ll have to order it separately from I got three double albums for $64.77 (counting sales tax), which is a steal. The CDs are beautifully packaged.

Addendum: Here is “Gloria,” from October. Here is “New Year’s Day,” from War. Here is a live version of “Bullet the Blue Sky,” which appeared originally on The Joshua Tree.


Here is a scene from today’s stage of the Tour de France. For the second stage in a row, a breakaway succeeded. Rebels everywhere are celebrating. Today’s winner was Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel, who averaged 28.41 miles per hour on the 102.8-mile course. Chavanel was overcome by emotion after the stage, which was nice to see. It shows that these are human beings, not machines. Here is tomorrow’s stage: a 32.9-mile individual time trial on undulating terrain. They don’t call it the race of truth for nothing. No drafting; no pacing; no help from teammates. It’s just you, your (tricked-out) bike, the road, and the clock. My old Texas A&M colleague Chris Menzel predicts that Cadel Evans will emerge as the Tour leader. I think Carlos Sastre will do the ride of his life and retain the yellow jersey. As Paul Sherwen is wont to say, wearing the yellow jersey does something to you.

Addendum: Are you doing the Hotter ’n Hell Hundred, Chris? If so, at what speed? You’re welcome to ride with my friends and me. We have a great time. I averaged 18.26 miles per hour in 2007 (for 102.6 miles) and will probably do about the same this year. We stop three or four times.

Addendum 2: Here is a New York Times story.

Twenty Years Ago

7-25-88 . . . Odds and ends: (1) To my utter disgust, the [Detroit] Tigers lost, 1-0, to the Oakland Athletics. Oakland won all three games of the series, with Detroit scoring only two runs. Ironically, the Tigers scored thirty runs in the previous three games against Seattle [the Mariners]. That’s baseball. One day you score a dozen runs, the next you can’t buy one.


Here is Simon Blackburn’s review of a new book on ethics. Note the gratuitous swipes at President Bush. These have become obligatory—and tiresome—in academia. I still hear it said, for example, without any supporting analysis, documentation, or argumentation, that President Bush lied. If you believe that President Bush lied about something and hope to persuade others to share that belief, you must do the following. First, quote him. Don’t paraphrase him; quote him. Second, provide evidence that, at the time he uttered the sentence, he believed that it was false. Not that he wasn’t sure of its truth, but that he believed that it was false. Third, provide evidence that, at the time he uttered the sentence, he intended to deceive someone. If you can’t do all of these things, then you have no business calling President Bush a liar.


My friend Paul sent a link to this hilarious column by Gerard Baker.


Peggy Noonan is still on vacation. Here is Peg Kaplan’s latest post.

J. W. N. Watkins on Moral Principles

Let us call a moral principle effective if it describes what it prescribes or proscribes, and ineffective if it does not. Thus “Do not steal the pennies from a blind man’s hat” is effective, whereas, as [H. B.] Acton says, “there is very little point in saying that a man has the duty to do the best he can” (p. 92).

Now since we cannot tabulate all the implications of a moral principle, we can know that a principle has no unsatisfactory implications only if we know that it has no practical implications at all—which will be the case if it is an ineffective principle. [Sir David] Ross’s quest for “self-evidently necessary” principles led him to the wholly ineffective principle that it is right, in the event of a conflict of prima facie duties, to do that action “which would have a higher degree of resultant suitability than any of the other actions that could be done in the circumstances” (op. cit. p. 315). Whether self-evident or not, such innocuous principles as this obviously cannot do what Ross wanted them to do—namely, enable us so to fill in the qualification in, say, ‘Thou shalt not kill unless . . .’ that it becomes an effective rule with no unsatisfactory implications.

It remains possible that a set of effective principles will eventually be formulated which, though not self-evident, are not known to have any unsatisfactory implications and from which appropriately qualified versions of existing moral rules will be derivable. But that is a remote possibility. In the meanwhile, how should we respond to the fact that there are marginal conflicts between the working principles to which we broadly subscribe?

A justificationist who despises toothless morality may select one internally consistent but colourful principle and defiantly commit himself to it, come what may. This irrational response would mean refusing in advance to modify one’s wilfully narrowed moral outlook whatever unanticipated implications of it may come to light.

(J. W. N. Watkins, “Negative Utilitarianism,” The Aristotelian Society, supplementary volume 37 [1963]: 95-114, at 107 [italics in original; footnote omitted])

Note from KBJ: Committing oneself to a principle, “come what may,” is known by philosophers as biting the bullet. Many utilitarians, such as J. J. C. Smart and Peter Singer, are bullet-biters. (See the final block quotation of this post for Smart’s view.) I don’t see anything irrational about bullet-biting; nor, I suspect, do those who engage in it.

The German Youth Movement

Have you ever heard of the German Youth Movement? I came across a reference to it while reading the entry on Rudolf Carnap (1891-1970) in the Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Carnap was a devoted member. The GYM sounds like an early version of the Hippie Movement.

A Year Ago



People who use cellphones not only like being leashed; they like playing Russian roulette.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

I disagree with your characterization of the government’s criminal enforcement operation in your July 13 editorial “The Shame of Postville, Iowa.” Those convicted broke United States immigration laws, and most aggravated their crimes by falsely using the identities of others.

The courts that were convened in Waterloo—specially designed to handle hundreds of defendants expeditiously, humanely and with every constitutional right—were not “clearly rigged for the wholesale imposition of mass guilt” upon the innocent. Defendants were provided experienced criminal lawyers and interpreters.

Each lawyer had ethical obligations to object to unfair proceedings or insufficient time to counsel clients. None did so. Judges had the duty to reject any defendant’s guilty plea not made voluntarily, knowingly and with sufficient factual basis. All 305 pleas were accepted.

Bottom line: more than 300 defendants quickly pleaded guilty, not because constitutional or legal corners were cut, but because of strong evidence, a unique investigative approach, efficient prosecution, fair plea offers, and much hard work and professionalism.

Matt M. Dummermuth
United States Attorney
Northern District of Iowa
Cedar Rapids, Iowa, July 23, 2008

Note from KBJ: Thank you, Mr Dummermuth, for enforcing the law.