Saturday, January 31, 2004

How to Lecture

A colleague forwarded a link to this essay by William Germano on how to give a scholarly lecture. I gave two public lectures in 2003: one on "The Virtues and Vices of Lewis and Clark" (28 March) and one on "Our Millian Constitution: The Supreme Court's Repudiation of Immorality as a Ground of Criminal Punishment" (2 October). The full version of the latter will appear soon in the Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics & Public Policy.

Political Correctness Run Amok

I don't get it. No sane person denies that there are dog breeds. See here. Why, then, is so much energy invested by so many intelligent people in denying the existence of human races? See here. They are analogous. If dog breeds exist, then human races exist (and for the same reason). If human races do not exist, then dog breeds do not exist. Even more astounding is that PBS (the Public Broadcasting Service) affirms the existence of dog breeds while denying the existence of human races. Does PBS even realize how silly it looks? And to think that my hard-earned income is taken from me against my will to fund this nonsense. (Thanks to my colleague, Denny Bradshaw, for bringing the dog link to my attention. He is not responsible for this harangue!)

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

Catching my eye in "Where's the Apology?" (column, Jan. 30) was how Paul Krugman embraces the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace report (could anyone expect such a group to support a war?) while rejecting Lord Hutton's report vindicating Tony Blair.

I find it fascinating to watch Mr. Krugman blast the Bush administration for using politicized intelligence (or "cherry-picking," which seems to be the left's buzz word of the week) by using the same tactic.

Hingham, Mass., Jan. 30, 2004

The New York Cynical Times

A cynic questions other people's motives. A cynic refuses to accept the stated reason for an action, preferring instead to find an ulterior motive. When cynics get carried away, they become conspiracy theorists. They find plots, intrigue, duplicity, and disingenuousness at every turn. Nothing is as it appears. Everything is concerted for disreputable--and sometimes nefarious--purposes.

A certain degree of cynicism is healthy and appropriate, but, like anything, it can be carried too far. The New York Times has gotten to the point where everything President Bush does is for an ulterior motive, usually to promote his electoral prospects. Please. Give the man credit. Evaluate what he does and forget why he does it. For one thing, you don't know why he does it. You're only speculating. Here is the latest example of excessive, gratuitous cynicism by what used to be a great newspaper but is now merely an apologist and propagandist for the Democrat party.

Bernard Williams on Counterproductive Tactics

Some utilitarian writers aim to increase a sense of indeterminate guilt in their readers. Peter Singer is an example, and in his book Practical Ethics (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980), he is evidently more interested in producing that effect than he is in the theoretical basis for it, which gets very cursory treatment. As moral persuasion, this kind of tactic is likely to be counterproductive and to lead to a defensive and resentful contraction of concern.

(Bernard Williams, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985], 212

Friday, January 30, 2004

Edward O. Wilson on Biophilia

The critical stages in the acquisition of biophilia have been worked out by psychologists during studies of childhood mental development. Under the age of six, children tend to be egocentric, self-serving, and domineering in their responses to animals and nature. They are also most prone to be uncaring or fearful of the natural world and of all but a few familiar animals. Between six and nine, children become interested in wild creatures for the first time, and aware that animals can suffer pain and distress. From nine to twelve their knowledge and interest in the natural world rises sharply, and between thirteen and seventeen they readily acquire moral feeling toward animal welfare and species conservation.

(Edward O. Wilson, The Future of Life [New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002], 137-8)

Skewering Paul Krugman

Donald Luskin is, as usual, dead-on. See here.

My Polymathic Friend Down Under

I'm proud to call Dr John J. Ray my friend, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I learn from him every day. He didn't just help me with my blog, getting nothing in return; he's an honorable, honest, and kind man. See here. Do we agree on everything? Don't be silly. If we did, we'd be one person, not two. But we agree on a lot, including many of the most important things. Keep up the good work, John. I hope I send a few readers your way.

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

Re "Dump Cheney Now!," by Maureen Dowd (column, Jan. 29), and "Report on Iraq Case Clears Blair and Faults BBC" (front page, Jan. 29):

Many politicians and others have been quick to judge the Bush and Blair administrations for leading their countries into an unnecessary war and are accusing both of manipulating intelligence. But based on the David A. Kay report and the Hutton inquiry in Britain, it appears that the two leaders acted on the intelligence information presented to them at the time.

Although in hindsight this intelligence may prove to be partly or completely erroneous, the president and the prime minister have a duty to protect their citizens. Had they stood idly by, they would have failed in this responsibility.

Bronxville, N.Y., Jan. 29, 2004

The Much-Maligned but Indispensable Second Amendment

Here is a magnificent resource for students of the Second Amendment, by law professor Eugene Volokh.

Reader Mail (Name Withheld by Request)

don't give me the lecture, but - i ate a steak last night. (i'm on that south beach diet.)

I LOVE animals ....... we have pet birds, and i cannot tell you how smart my cockatiel . . . is.

i can imagine that, in one sense, it IS irrational for me to eat meat, because of how much i love animals and i KNOW that at least animals like birds and dogs & cats DO have feelings & intelligence, etc. but - i still eat beef & pork & chicken.

i've read what you have written about vegetarianism........ but i don't think i will change. irrational, perhaps. but - i feel better eating some meat protein

Peter Singer on the Role of the Philosopher

It is sometimes said, though less often now than it used to be, that philosophers have no special role to play in public affairs, since most public issues depend primarily on an assessment of facts. On questions of fact, it is said, philosophers as such have no special expertise, and so it has been possible to engage in philosophy without committing oneself to any position on major public issues. No doubt there are some issues of social policy and foreign policy about which it can truly be said that a really expert assessment of the facts is required before taking sides or acting, but the issue of famine is surely not one of these. The facts about the existence of suffering are beyond dispute. Nor, I think, is it disputed that we can do something about it, either through orthodox methods of famine relief or through population control or both. This is therefore an issue on which philosophers are competent to take a position. The issue is one which faces everyone who has more money than he needs to support himself and his dependents, or who is in a position to take some sort of political action. These categories must include practically every teacher and student of philosophy in the universities of the Western world. If philosophy is to deal with matters that are relevant to both teachers and students, this is an issue that philosophers should discuss.

Discussion, though, is not enough. What is the point of relating philosophy to public (and personal) affairs if we do not take our conclusions seriously? In this instance, taking our conclusion seriously means acting upon it. The philosopher will not find it any easier than anyone else to alter his attitudes and way of life to the extent that, if I am right, is involved in doing everything that we ought to be doing. At the very least, though, one can make a start. The philosopher who does so will have to sacrifice some of the benefits of the consumer society, but he can find compensation in the satisfaction of a way of life in which theory and practice, if not yet in harmony, are at least coming together.

(Peter Singer, "Famine, Affluence, and Morality," Philosophy & Public Affairs 1 [spring 1972]: 229-43, at 242-3)

Ambrose Bierce

Reasonable, adj. Accessible to the infection of our own opinions. Hospitable to persuasion, dissuasion and evasion.

(Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary, c. 1911)

Follow-up Mail from My New Friend in Wisconsin



As a child my mother would correct my English until finally "It was he" actually sounded O.K. (I think I was 35...:) To this day I shudder involuntarily when I hear "It don't matter" or "It was him." Old habits die hard. Like a monkey hitting his red light to get fed. (Ah, we Psych. Majors...) (Skinner, no less, from UW-Madison...and his little monkeys hugging stuffed mothers...) In the end, as with lawyers seeking expert witnesses, "authorities" can assuage any position we culprits desire. Then again, we Anal-Retentive types like things "just so." Likely my best course should have been to shut up and get a life.

I am reminded of a televised basketball game between Duke and Wake Forest recently when as the camera panned the rabid fan section there stood a proud student with a sweatshirt emblazoned with: FUCK DUKE. Simple. Eloquent. To the point. And doubtless his parents were proud as punch to have his paunch fed into the nation's homes. Indeed, standards are in flux, sir. As I recently heard purported, grammar is what's OUT there. If everyone says, "It is him," It IS him!!!

Any Ayn Rand in your past?

Best, Will

Reader Mail (Reprinted by Permission)

Dear Keith

Thank you for posting the letter from the UTA alumna or alumnus on religious belief. I find in it several common confusions about the relationship between reason and faith. I'd be curious to know what you think.

First, the writer says that most things in the Bible don't have a scientific explanation. But isn't it true that we all believe many things without a scientific reason for doing so? For instance, much of what we believe we accept on the testimony of authorities we regard as reliable, whether our parents, or historians, or legislatures. One might even include our memories among the authorities we sometimes trust. What is more, as we grow and learn, we refine our criteria for trusting authorities, such that we decide that some authorities are to be trusted on certain subjects or under certain circumstances, but not on other subjects or in other circumstances. Any realistic account of belief formation must take these phenomena into account, and yet so often people who think of themselves as scientifically minded overlook the role that testimony plays in their beliefs. If we exclude this category of belief formation from rationality, then most of us lead largely irrational lives even in this scientific age, and those (if indeed there are any) who do restrict their beliefs to what can be scientifically verified probably lead very impoverished lives. Perhaps you can tell that I recently read Plantinga's essay "Reason and Belief in God". In fact, that essay incited my renewed interest in philosophy.

Second, the writer seems to take a reductionist line in the way he suggests that science mitigates against religious faith.

If science truly confines itself to natural phenomena as its base of data, it is then never in a position to apprehend supernatural phenomena (if there are any). Strict science can never say whether its failure to observe supernatural phenomena is due to the fact that there aren't any such phenomena, or to its own epistemological blind spot. When scientists encounter phenomena they cannot explain in terms of current science, they are obliged to assume that there are yet undiscovered scientific explanations for the phenomena, and to pursue those explanations under that assumption. Since I believe in a God who with few exceptions governs the universe according to the natural laws he established, I believe that this assumption is largely warranted, but it is nonetheless an assumption.

To illustrate the problem with this sort of argument against religion, Wittgenstein is said to have used the example of a group of researchers studying the fish in a pond. Using a net with a 2" mesh to drag the pond, they conclude that there are no fish smaller than 2" in the pond. (see

I do see two ways in which science can be used to argue against religious faith:

(1) it can be used to point out inconsistencies in revelation regarded as authoritative, thereby suggesting that the revelation is fallible and doesn't deserve credence (or as much credence as it claims);

(2) it can be used to suggest that there is no need to resort to God as an explanation for the natural universe, thus paring God away with Occam's razor.

There are probably other approaches from science that can plausibly be used to argue against religious faith, but these are the two that occur to me now. (1) has more promise in my mind, as there is the hope of uncovering inconsistencies that cannot be reconciled. However, many Christians consider their understanding of the Bible fallible even while they consider the Bible infallible. Thus, they are always open to improving their understanding of scripture, and it may be that arguments of the type of (1) will incite them to refine their interpretations rather than give up their faith (and it may be that this applies to believers in other religions as well). Still, (1) does have some hope of falsifying a religion. (2) seems to me worth little if the religion being criticized asserts that God ordained natural law, and that he accomplishes his will through its natural outworking as well as through whatever supernatural means he chooses. In that case, (2) seems to me rather to amount to a criticism of how particular adherents of the religion have understood the relationship of God to his creation, and unless those adherents' understanding of that relationship is the only one consistent with the faith in question, then (2) is of no force against that religion.

I think you are correct that very few people are swayed by the classical arguments [ontological, cosmological, teleological] for and against religious faith.

You write that some people find belief in a god and an afterlife comforting, and that they can't or won't face up to their mortality. While this is doubtless true, it doesn't seem to me to offer a complete explanation of religious faith, nor a cogent critique of it. Perhaps you didn't mean it that way. Some people believe a particular faith is true in spite of finding the idea of accountability to God frightening. These people might find the idea of annihilation at death more comforting than the thought of a final judgment. But I think that psychological explanations and critiques of religion (e.g. that it arises from some weakness of character in the believer) suffer from a more fundamental problem: they have no bearing on the truth claims of the religion (unless the religion makes claims about the psychological state of each and every person who professes that faith). Many of the central claims of Christianity are historical, e.g. that God brought about the redemption of his people through the atoning death of Jesus on the cross. Even if we claim that 95% of professing Christians believe solely because they derive comfort from that belief (and I don't claim that), that claim still does not touch the central claims of the Christian faith. The psychological argument against religious faith is a kind of ad hominem fallacy it seems to me.

This email has gone on long enough--much longer than I intended. I hope it hasn't been too tedious. I welcome any comments, criticisms, and suggestions, however brief. Thanks again for your interesting weblog.

Chuck Bearden

Reader Persnicketiness

I received the following e-mail message this morning (referring to my entry on R. M. Hare):

"Later, when I saw a picture of Hare, I realized it was him." HE! Will Nehs, Oconomowoc, WI

Thanks for writing, Will. I'm not a perfect writer (nobody is), but in this case I stand my ground. Here is Bryan A. Garner, A Dictionary of Modern American Usage (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 388-9:

it is I; it is me. Generally, of course, the nominative pronoun (here I) is the complement of a linking verb (this is she) (it was he). But it is me and it's me are fully acceptable, especially in informal contexts: "both forms, 'It is I' and 'It is me,' are correct--one by virtue of grammatical rule, the other by virtue of common educated usage." Norman Lewis, Better English 186-87 (rev. ed. 1961). And, of course, those with even a smattering of French know that It's me answers nicely to C'est moi. Good writers have long found the English equivalent serviceable. . . . Similar problems arise in the third person, as in it is him.

The thing stays! Bryan Garner is my authority on such matters.

Postscript: I need some coffee. I had "persnicketyness" instead of "persnicketiness" in my title. The Oxford English Dictionary (2d ed.) set me straight.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Richard Mervyn Hare (1919-2002)

R. M. Hare died two years ago today at the age of eighty-two. I have learned as much philosophy from him as from any other person, living or dead--and I expect to continue learning from him for as long as I live, since I have still not read everything he wrote. Over the years I had occasion to write to Hare several times. He always wrote back, busy as he must have been. His letters were warm and encouraging. In one letter he said that he despaired of the way philosophy was being conducted in the United States, but that my letter made him think that all was not lost. Needless to say, I was flattered. Later, I sent a chart of metaethical theories to him. He replied by sending a copy of his Axel Hagerstrom lectures (subsequently published as Sorting Out Ethics [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997]) and remarked that my chart was almost identical to his.

I never met Hare, but I'm pretty sure I saw him at an American Philosophical Association meeting in Atlanta in December 1989. As I entered an elevator in the conference center, I saw an elderly, distinctive-looking man approach. (Hare would have been seventy at the time.) I noticed his unruly hair. Later, when I saw a picture of Hare, I realized that it was him. I wish I had known, if only to introduce myself and tell him how much he had meant to my philosophical development. If I were stranded on a desert island and could take books by only two authors, they would be Richard A. Posner and R. M. Hare. My mind would never want for nourishment.

Addendum: Here is a memoir of Hare by one of his students, John Randolph Lucas. Here are links to many of Hare's writings. Here is a link to the web page of Hare's only son, John E. Hare, who was recently appointed Noah Porter Professor of Philosophical Theology at the Yale University Divinity School. Here is a bibliography that I painstakingly compiled over a period of many years.

Students for the Second Amendment

I'm proud to be the adviser of this student organization. Please visit its website. I hope students at other universities are as vigilant in protecting their Second Amendment rights as they are in protecting their First Amendment rights.

Barry Holstun Lopez on Winter Herons

One winter evening in New York he had had dinner with a classmate from Amherst, on 56th Street. When they emerged it was to find it had been snowing. They were dressed for it. They were full of food and wine and did not care to get away anywhere. They stood on the corner of 54th and Park and talked. The falling snow obliterated their footprints and left them standing in a field of white illuminated by a street lamp before the friend finally caught a cab uptown. He watched the cab until it was only red taillights. He did not want to hurry away. In the chilled air and falling snow was some universal forgiveness and he did not want to disturb it. He stepped slowly off the curb, headed south.

Overhead, above the surface of the pool of light cast by the street lamps, the canyon of the wide avenue disappeared into darkness. He had walked only a few blocks when he realized that birds were falling. Great blue herons were descending slowly against the braking of their wings, their ebony legs extended to test the depth of the snow which lay in a garden that divided the avenue. He stood transfixed as the birds settled. They folded their wings and began to mill in the gently falling snow and the pale light. They had landed as if on a prairie, and if they made any sound he did not hear. One pushed its long bill into the white ground. After a moment they were all still. They gazed at the front of a hotel, where someone had just gone through a revolving door. A cab slowed in front of him--he shook his head, no, no, and it went on. One or two of the birds flared their wings to lay off the snow and a flapping suddenly erupted among them and they were in the air again. Fifteen or twenty, flying past with heavy, hushing beats, north up the avenue for two or three blocks before they broke through the plane of light and disappeared.

(Barry Holstun Lopez, "Winter Herons," in his Winter Count [New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1981], 15-25, at 23-4)

Five Things That Came As a Shock to Me

1. Jimmy Carter's election in 1976.

2. Law school.

3. Prices in New York City.

4. The politicization of academia.

5. The depth and breadth of Bush-hatred.

From Today's Dallas Morning News

Re: "Christianity, capitalism," Saturday Letters, by Patrick Holloway, who argues that works, not words, reveal true faith.

OK, I've had it; this is enough! Christianity is not socialism, and Christ never gave anyone authority or even a hint that it was OK to steal from one person in order to give to someone else; book, chapter and verse, please! (Before anyone brings up the communal living of the saints in Acts as justification for socialism/communism, let us remember that this was a voluntary action by local Christians, for a specific purpose, under the Apostles' guidance. Not a form of government practiced by the masses and enforced by the gun of government. And, even here, the sanctity of the disposition of private property was upheld.)

Christ told the rich young ruler to sell what he had and give to the poor. He did not tell him to use the power of government to plunder his neighbor and to then give to the poor. Christianity is, was and shall always be a personal religion. We do good and seek to convince others to do good but we have no right to force them to do so.

Thomas Jefferson noted the self-evident truth that the government is created by the people and draws its just powers from them. If we can't steal, we can't give our government the right to do it for us. Plunder is plunder, regardless of the cause or the plundering agent.

Democrats use force to tax me to give to whoever will vote for them. Republicans use force to tax me and give to whoever will vote for them. Neither is the work of God.

David R. Calvert, Weatherford

My Escape from Ideology

My eighteenth Tech Central Station column is up. See here. Thank you, Peg Kaplan, for the constructive criticism.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Ambrose Bierce

Logic, n. The art of thinking and reasoning in strict accordance with the limitations and incapacities of the human misunderstanding. The basic of logic is the syllogism, consisting of a major and a minor premise and a conclusion--thus:

Major Premise: Sixty men can do a piece of work sixty times as quickly as one man.
Minor Premise: One man can dig a post-hole in sixty seconds; therefore--
Conclusion: Sixty men can dig a post-hole in one second.

This may be called the syllogism arithmetical, in which, by combining logic and mathematics, we obtain a double certainty and are twice blessed.

(Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary, c. 1911

Conservative = Selfish and Cruel

Capitalism is the engine of prosperity. If liberals really cared about the poor, as they claim to, they would promote capitalism, not try to thwart it. Sometimes I think liberals prefer everyone being poor to some being affluent. Please read this. It will open your eyes to liberal obtuseness. (Thanks to Peg Kaplan for the link.)


I have a new hero tonight: Dr David Kay. His report shows that President Bush acted on the best information available in going to war in Iraq. That some of the information turned out to be false is no reflection on President Bush. What is he supposed to do, go to Iraq personally to see whether Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction? Any president, whether Democrat or Republican, must rely on intelligence gathered by various agencies. That's exactly what President Bush did. The focus now should be on why the intelligence was defective. That is cause for alarm. It should concern every American. Whatever went awry must not be allowed to recur.

In a better world, President Bush's critics would take a deep breath. They would ask not whether what President Bush believed was true, but whether it was reasonable for him to believe it. David Kay is saying that it was. I honestly believe that the incessant charges that President Bush "lied" about weapons of mass destruction will backfire on those who make them. Americans have a deep and abiding sense of fairness. They will imagine themselves in the White House with the information President Bush had at his disposal and ask what they would have done. I believe they will conclude that they would have done exactly what President Bush did. President Bush is an honorable man whose primary motive in going to war in Iraq was to protect Americans from a "gathering threat." Liberating the Iraqi people from a sadistic tyrant was a secondary (but important) motive, as was promoting democracy and liberal values in the Middle East.

Thank you, Dr Kay, for telling the truth--and for risking the wrath of the Bush-haters. I'm sure Paul Krugman will have nasty things to say about you Friday morning in The New York Times. Mark my words. Anyone who is not the enemy of Krugman's enemy, President Bush, is Krugman's enemy.

Political Rhetoric

One reason I was drawn to politics early in life (it was my major field of study as an undergraduate) is that I've always been interested in language. What it is; how it's used; how it's abused; &c. Language is a powerful instrument. Those who understand it and know how to use it have power over others. Politics is about power--who has it, what forms it takes, how it's acquired and lost, what is and ought to be done with it, and so forth--so naturally most politicians are adept with language. Rhetorical ability helps them gain power, and, having gained it, helps them solidify, ramify, and retain it. Newt Gingrich, for example, is one of the most gifted rhetoricians this nation has produced. His speeches and writings should be study manuals for aspiring demagogues. Here are two examples of political rhetoric:

1. At least twice in the past couple of weeks I heard someone describe President Bush as "prancing about in a flight suit on an aircraft carrier." Not wearing a flight suit, mind you; not walking around in a flight suit; but prancing in it. When said of a horse, to prance is to raise the forelegs and spring from the hind legs. When said of a person, to prance is to "walk or behave in an arrogant manner" (The Oxford American Dictionary and Language Guide). Arrogance is bad, obviously, so the word "prance" is evaluative (prescriptive) as well as descriptive. It simultaneously tells the reader what President Bush did (the descriptive part) and condemns him for doing it (the evaluative part). The evaluation is implicit rather than explicit.

2. A great deal has been spoken and written about whatever it is that Howard Dean did nine days ago in what was supposed to have been his concession speech in Iowa. Some jokers have called it the "I Have A Scream" speech. At least the humor there is obvious. But a letter writer to today's Dallas Morning News describes what Dean did as a "squeal." He says Dr Dean squealed in order to thank and motivate his many young volunteers. Interesting word, no? Piglets squeal. Children squeal with delight. This term domesticates what many people saw as an intemperate, vulgar, and frightening outburst.

There's nothing intrinsically wrong with rhetoric, even political rhetoric. An educated, informed electorate would see through it and perhaps even be amused by it (as I am). Unfortunately, not everyone is educated and informed. Rhetoric is used because it works. It engages the heart rather than the brain. It bypasses the rational faculty, thereby disrespecting ("dissing") the person. I've said for many years, only half kiddingly, that nobody should be able to vote without having taken my Critical Thinking course, or at least having read my coauthored (with the late Irving M. Copi) textbook, Informal Logic, 3d ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1996). Learn logic. Don't be hoodwinked and bamboozled by the Al Frankens and Newt Gingriches of the world.

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

Since the early 1990's, complaints about student disengagement have become common. Rhonda Garelick's contribution ("Career Girls," Op-Ed, Jan. 24) is clarifying, for it reveals just how political this complaint is.

How dare students in her class reject feminism! The outrage, that students in a French class would rather discuss French subjects than sit through left-wing criticism of the president's foreign policy!

Professor Garelick is correct: there is a generation gap. There is a reason campus antiwar protests feature more gray-haired professors than students.

But the generation gap is not a problem to be solved. Students should not be forced to believe what their professors believe, but must be free to explore their own ideas.

Washington, Jan. 24, 2004

To the Editor:

As a current college student, I have sat in many classes over the last three semesters in which professors have deviated from their syllabuses to discuss other issues, most frequently, the war in Iraq.

I can well understand what Rhonda Garelick (Op-Ed, Jan. 24) describes as campus apathy, but I would like to suggest a different reason for it: the students actually like their career plans and are happy with the way our society is structured.

Many of them agree with our government's decision to drive Saddam Hussein from power.

But none of us appreciate it when instead of learning material that we pay dearly to learn, we are forced to listen to a teacher's personal opinions.

Plainview, N.Y., Jan. 24, 2004


I would have sworn that I (my Compaq Presario computer) had the latest e-mail worm. (See here for the story.) When it comes to keeping my computer free of viruses, worms, trojans, and other critters, I'm borderline obsessive. I run Norton SystemWorks's LiveUpdate every night before turning the computer off. I refuse to open attachments. I use all the tools provided to me by Windows XP, Norton, and EarthLink. But the other day I received an e-mail message from a long-lost cousin in Michigan. It had an attachment. I guess I thought (hoped) it was a picture, so I clicked it. After that, strange things began to happen.

First, I received more spam than usual. Second, I began getting undeliverable-mail messages from people to whom I had not sent e-mail. Third, I received messages from ISPs saying that an e-mail message I had "sent" was infected and could not be delivered to its "intended" recipient. I would have wagered a hundred dollars or more that I had the e-mail worm described in the Times story.

Nope. An hour ago I went to the Symantec website and downloaded a removal tool for the worm. I did everything it said, including turning off my Internet connection and temporarily disabling System Restore. I waited twenty minutes or so for the tool to scan my computer. It said it did not find the worm. (It was looking for a particular worm, not just any worm.) I suppose I should be happy, but I wanted to kill the critter. As for why those strange things were happening to my computer, I don't know. They may have been signs that other people's computers were infected. Please protect yourself! If you have unprotected computer sex, you are having sex with every computer with whom your computer's companion has had sex.

Advocacy Journalism

Here is a textbook example of advocacy journalism, i.e., opinion-writing in the guise of a news report. Sadly, it comes from what used to be a respectable newspaper, The New York Times. Notice that the worst interpretation is put on every statement made by President Bush. Every motive is questioned. Nothing can be what it appears. Despicable.

Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to require that a state recognize or give legal effect to marriages other than those between one man and one woman.

This amendment would not only disable the Full Faith and Credit Clause; it would prevent any state or federal judge from holding that the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause or Equal Protection Clause confers a right of homosexual marriage analogous to a right to abort a fetus. In other words, it leaves the matter to the states. This, and not the Federal Marriage Amendment, is the amendment a federalist should support.

2. Federalists are proponents of states' rights. They believe that states should be free to experiment (i.e., do as they please) in the realm of public policy. But states are composed of judiciaries as well as legislatures. What if the highest court of a state rules that its constitution requires homosexual marriage? The people of that state, by hypothesis, will not have voted on the matter, but it wasn't imposed on the state by the United States Constitution, either. What should a federalist say about this?

I believe a federalist should remain silent. The constitution of a state presumably reflects the will of the people of that state. It is the job of the state judiciary to interpret that document. If state judges interpret the document in a way that the citizenry of the state opposes, the citizens have two forms of recourse. First, they can amend their constitution to nullify what was done. Second, they can replace the judges, either by electing different ones (if judges are elected) or by electing a governor who will appoint new ones (if judges are appointed). These acts may be time-consuming, costly, and cumbersome, but they are not impossible.

Federalism is not identical to majoritarianism. These doctrines should not be conflated, even though they sometimes are. A majoritarian insists that homosexual marriage be left up to the people, acting through their elected representatives. It is not (he or she says) a matter for judges to decide. A federalist, however, remains neutral as between the legislative and the judicial branches of state government.

When we put everything together (see the previous two posts), we get the following as the federalist position on homosexual marriage:

1. Oppose the Federal Marriage Amendment and all other proposals that would prevent states (such as Massachusetts) from allowing homosexual marriage;

2. Support a constitutional amendment such as the one set out above, which prevents state or federal judges from forcing homosexual marriage on unwilling states (such as Texas); and

3. Take no position on how state-court judges interpret state constitutions. In other words, let the various state legislative and judicial processes work.


Here, for curious readers, is an argument for the Federal Marriage Amendment (by the editors of National Review Online). The FMA, as I have argued several times (okay, ad nauseam) in this blog, violates federalist principles. Suppose I had to choose between position 1 and position 2 in my previous post. In other words, suppose I could not have the federalist result (position 3). Which would I choose? I would choose position 1. I would rather prevent all states from allowing homosexual marriage than force all states to allow it. So my ranking is 3 > 1 > 2. Position 3 is well ahead of the others. Position 1 is preferable (though not by much) to position 2.

Why do I prefer 1 to 2? Because at this time, only a few states wish to allow homosexual marriage. (My evidence for this is that only two states--Vermont and Massachusetts--have seriously entertained it.) Not allowing these few states to allow homosexual marriage is less of a violation of federalist principles than forcing all the remaining states to allow homosexual marriage. The fewer infringements of federalism, the better. Of course, if things were to change and most states wanted to allow homosexual marriage, I would prefer position 2 to position 1--for the same federalist reason. Fortunately, I don't have to choose between 1 and 2. Both are vastly inferior to 3.

Andrew Sullivan's (Blind) Faith

Terry Eastland (see here) has joined the crowd of legal experts/commentators who worry that state or federal courts (or both) will use the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution to impose homosexual marriage on every state. I have expressed this worry many times in this blog. (See here, for example.) I'm a federalist. I believe that each state's citizens should decide for themselves whether to allow homosexual marriage. I have no problem whatsoever with states such as Massachusetts allowing it, but I don't want Texans (for example) to have no choice about whether to allow it. Let the people decide!

Andrew Sullivan, who is a bright man but not a lawyer, is confident to the point of certitude that no court will ever apply the Full Faith and Credit Clause to mandate homosexual marriage. Then why does he oppose a simple constitutional amendment that would disable the clause (i.e., make it inapplicable to homosexual marriage)? He continues to bash the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA), but that amendment is not in accordance with federalist principles. The FMA would prevent any state (even Massachusetts) from allowing homosexual marriage. It would prevent it even if the vast majority of citizens of a state wanted it! If Sullivan is a federalist, as he sometimes suggests he is, he should endorse a weaker amendment that would, in effect, allow states to either allow or disallow homosexual marriage, as they see fit. Federalists both oppose the FMA and support the amendment I described.

Let me summarize. There are three positions on homosexual marriage:

1. No state should be able to allow it (i.e., it should be disallowed everywhere, even in those states--e.g., Massachusetts--in which a majority of citizens want it).

2. No state should be able to disallow it (i.e., it should be allowed everywhere, even in those states--e.g., Texas--in which a majority of citizens don't want it).

3. Each state should decide for itself whether to allow it.

Sullivan rejects 1 (which would be the result of the FMA) and implies that he accepts 3 (the federalist position); but he refuses to endorse an amendment that would preclude 2. I think he really holds position 2. That is to say, he secretly hopes that state and federal judges use the Full Faith and Credit Clause and other constitutional provisions to mandate homosexual marriage throughout the nation. It would be nice if Sullivan would clear this up for his large readership, but he refuses to engage my arguments. The closest he has come to an engagement is telling me "You're wrong." Oh well, at least he replied.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004


Bertrand Arthur William Russell died on 2 February 1970, almost thirty-four years ago. He was ninety-seven. Russell's godfather, believe it or not, was John Stuart Mill. Russell was born in 1872. Mill died in 1873. In 1957 (the year of my birth), when Russell was eighty-five years old, he wrote a preface to a collection of his essays being edited by Paul Edwards. Here is the beginning of the second paragraph of the preface:

There has been a rumor in recent years to the effect that I have become less opposed to religious orthodoxy than I formerly was. This rumor is totally without foundation. I think all the great religions of the world--Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, and Communism--both untrue and harmful.

(Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects, ed. Paul Edwards [New York: Simon and Schuster, 1957], v)

If you'd like to read Russell's 1927 essay "Why I Am Not a Christian," click here. If you'd like to read the entry on Russell in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (by A. D. Irvine), click here. If you'd like to take a virtual tour of The Bertrand Russell Archives at McMaster University, click here. If you'd like to see some images of Russell, click here.

Lisa Mighetto on the Tension Between Hunting and Conservation

Theodore Roosevelt was the best-known proponent of wildlife conservation in his day. He was also the nation's most famous hunter. Today, many animal lovers would find that a strange and unappealing combination. Indeed, among environmentalists, it is becoming increasingly fashionable to be against hunting. Although sportsmen are included in such organizations as the Audubon Society, Sierra Club, and Earth First!, they are continually criticized by other members. One of the most aggressive groups to oppose hunting is The Fund for Animals. Its members actually meet sportsmen in the wild, in the hopes of convincing them to refrain from killing animals. This tension is not new; in the United States, organized protests against blood sports emerged in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Hunting, however, is not antithetical to conservation. A hundred years ago, much of the groundwork for the protection of wildlife was laid by sportsmen. Their call for conservation was conveyed through a variety of hunting journals, including American Sportsman, Forest and Stream, Field and Stream, and American Angler--all of which were founded in the 1870s and 1880s. Some hunter-conservationists were particularly concerned about birds; the Audubon Society was founded by a sportsman.

(Lisa Mighetto, Wild Animals and American Environmental Ethics [Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1991], 27)

Luskin v. Krugman

Watching Donald Luskin dismantle Paul Krugman is great fun. Twice a week. Check out today's humiliation, based on this Krugman column. That Krugman, a smart man (by all accounts), would make such absurd claims in a public forum makes you wonder about his mental stability. I honestly think he hates President Bush so much (see here) that he can't see or think straight. Watching Krugman disintegrate is like watching the great Nietzsche go insane. Sad.

Addendum: If you're interested in how partisan various columnists are, see here. Look for Paul Krugman's name. Interesting, eh? All 388 of his columns for The New York Times were partisan. (Thanks to Peg Kaplan for the link.) By the way, many conservatives (including me) have distanced themselves from Ann Coulter, a smart woman (a University of Michigan Law School graduate) who has no sense of balance or fairness. I have yet to hear a liberal distance him- or herself from Paul Krugman, who is every bit as shrill, partisan, imbalanced, and unfair. When liberals start condemning Krugman's manipulative rhetoric, I will begin respecting them.

Who Says Scholars Are Humorless?

Lani Guinier, "Comment: [E]racing Democracy: The Voting Rights Cases," Harvard Law Review 108 (November 1994): 109.

"Cleaning Up the Mess, or Messing Up the Cleanup: Does CERCLA's Jurisdictional Bar (Section 113(H)) Prohibit Citizen Suits Brought Under RCRA?" Boston College Environmental Affairs Law Review 22 (fall 1994): 49.

Kenneth S. Abraham, "The Natural History of the Insurer's Liability for Bad Faith," Texas Law Review 72 (May 1994): 1295; Robert H. Jerry II, "The Wrong Side of the Mountain: A Comment on Bad Faith's Unnatural History," Texas Law Review 72 (May 1994): 1317.

Timothy H. Engstrom, "Accounting for Ethics: Where does Ethics Fit into Accounting Theory and Practice?" Business and Professional Ethics Journal 13 (spring 1994): 41.

James A. McGilvray, "Constant Colors in the Head," Synthese 100 (August 1994): 197