Saturday, February 21, 2004


I apologize to those of you who wrote to me but haven't received a reply. I really do like to hear from readers (some of whose letters I post), and I certainly read every letter I receive, but replying to them takes time. I'm sure that I could spend half of each day responding to letters. But that would leave little time for the other things that I need and want to do, such as prepare for my courses, write scholarly essays, read, run, play with my girls, and write blog entries. Something has to give. I'm afraid it's correspondence. The other day my inbox had swollen to more than 100 letters. Every day more were added. I kept thinking I'd start to answer them, perhaps at the rate of ten a day, but finally I gave up and deleted them. I did read every letter, so if you wrote to me, thank you. Richard Wolin on Jurgen Habermas on 9-11 Habermas's cosmopolitanism is, I think, too rigid. His rather pristine view of humanitarian intervention risks foundering on the question: how should one proceed in the event that multilateral institutions break down? One could argue that the German and French refusal to join the anti-Iraq coalition was less principled than the Anglo-American military intervention--which, after all, targeted for removal one of the twentieth century's most bloodthirsty and insidious tyrants. In September 2002, Gerhard Schroeder parlayed a brazen and thankless anti-Americanism into a semi-miraculous electoral triumph. Across the Rhine, Jacques Chirac took careful note of the domestic political gains to be won from playing the anti-American card. Since their first priority was the eminently "realist" goal of setting limits to American geopolitical reach, France and Germany were happy to let Saddam's brutal regime off the hook, thereby forsaking--or so one might argue--the precepts of humanitarian intervention that had been put to such outstanding use in Bosnia, Kosovo, and East Timor. Nor should one forget that in Kosovo, in order to forestall genocide, NATO was compelled to act in the absence of a Security Council resolution--to act unilaterally. On that occasion it was Russia that played an obstructionist role by threatening to block U.N. approval through use of its veto power. Sometimes liberal nationalism is the fallback position for a dysfunctional multilateralism. (Richard Wolin, "Kant at Ground Zero," review of Philosophy in a Time of Terror: Dialogues with Jurgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida, ed. by Giovanna Borradori, The New Republic: A Journal of Politics and the Arts 230 [9 February 2004]: 25-32, at 30)

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor: Re "Gay Marriage in the States" (editorial, Feb. 18): I hear the question asked over and over again: How would gay marriage have any negative impact on traditional marriage? Gay marriage devalues the holy institution of marriage even further than it has been devalued by public policy errors like no-fault divorce. Marriage is a special relationship between a man and a woman that has served the good of society throughout history. Gay marriage redefines marriage as something less than an unalienable right ordained by nature, and nature's God. Marriage is a public institution created for the good of society, not a private institution created for self-fulfillment. If I have an ounce of gold and the government suddenly announces that sandstone will now be called gold and valued equally, what will happen to the value of my gold? It will crash, and so will the economy. So will it be with gay marriage. Marriage will be further devalued, and so will our entire social order. (Rev.) BILL BANUCHI Executive Director New York Christian Coalition Newburgh, N.Y., Feb. 18, 2004 The Nader Factor If Ralph Nader runs for president, and I sincerely hope he does, it's all over for the Democrats. Give them credit; they're smart enough to know it. See here. By the way, The Nation, which is edited by the apparatchik Katrina vanden Heuvel, is pleading with Ralph not to run. See here. What grovelers! If Ralph has any self-respect, he'll ignore this self-interested entreaty. Here is his reply. posted by Keith Burgess-Jackson 2/21/2004 02:40:44 PM Prediction There's going to be an awful backlash against homosexuals because of antics like this. Expect to see not only an amendment to the United States Constitution, but amendments to many state constitutions. Americans are an understanding and generous people, but they don't take kindly to lawlessness. Justice for William H. Pryor Jr One thing I love about President Bush is his steely resolve. It's a Texas trait, one that I'm sure he picked up in the oilfields. Yesterday, as you may have heard, President Bush appointed Alabama Attorney General William H. Pryor Jr to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which sits in Atlanta. (See here.) This is long past due. Senate Democrats have been filibustering some of President Bush's judicial nominations,which is an unprecedented display of arrogance. (It will come back to haunt the Democrats. Mark my words.) Instead of caving in to the Democrats, President Bush made a recess appointment. A few weeks ago, he did the same with Charles W. Pickering Sr of Mississippi, who will serve on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which sits in New Orleans. Democrats say that Pryor is incapable of keeping his personal beliefs and values (he's Catholic) out of the chambers. Is it only Republicans (or Catholics) who suffer from this malady? What a bunch of hypocrites the Democrats are! Thank you, President Bush, for standing your ground. It's one reason so many of us admire you. Now where's Miguel Estrada?

Friday, February 20, 2004

S. F. Sapontzis on Animal Liberation

Apparently, many people are offended when animal liberationists draw analogies between animal liberation and the various human liberation movements. For example, Leslie Francis and Richard Norman assert that "the equation of animal welfare with genuine liberation movements such as black liberation, women's liberation, or gay liberation has the effect of trivializing those real liberation movements," and Richard A. Watson adds that "Singer's claim that the struggle against the tyranny of human over nonhuman animals is a struggle as important as any of the moral and social issues that have been fought over in recent years is insulting to past and recent victims of moral and social oppression."

Unfortunately, it is not immediately obvious what makes a liberation movement "genuine," "real," or "as important as" other, certified liberation movements. If we were to judge by the number of suffering individuals involved, then the animal liberation movement is clearly more serious than any human liberation movement. We kill approximately five billion mammals and birds annually in the United States alone. That is many times the number of women and people of color in the United States. If we are to judge by how fundamental the interests being violated are, then once again, liberating animals is very serious business, since they are routinely tormented and mutilated in laboratories, are denied any sort of normal, fulfilling life in factory farms, and have their very lives taken from them in a vast variety of situations. Women and minorities do not suffer such routine, fundamental deprivations. If we are to judge by the moral, legal, cultural, and individual life-style changes that would be occasioned by the success of the movement, then once again, animal liberation is at least as serious an issue as the extension of equal rights to minorities and women. Liberating animals would directly affect our eating habits, clothing preferences, biomedical research industry, sporting business, and land use, thereby changing our current way of life at least as pervasively as have the civil rights and women's liberation movements.

(S. F. Sapontzis, Morals, Reason, and Animals [Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1987], 84-5 [endnotes omitted])

Remembering David Bloom (1963-2003)

Does anyone besides me miss David Bloom? He was a brave man, doing the job he loved. Here is his journalistic colleague, Jonathan Alter. The images of Bloom riding on a tank, covered with dust, and reporting from the battlefield in his flak jacket, will be with me always. I hope his wife and daughters are doing well. They have reason to be proud.

Ambrose Bierce

Outcome, n. A particular type of disappointment. By the kind of intelligence that sees in an exception a proof of the rule the wisdom of an act is judged by the outcome, the result. This is immortal nonsense; the wisdom of an act is to be judged by the light that the doer had when he performed it.

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

Zell Miller

Dr John J. Ray, my polymathic friend Down Under, has a link to this essay by Georgia Senator Zell Miller on his site. It's worth your time. It's refreshing to see that not every Democrat is driven by hatred, envy, or rabid partisanship. By the way, Miller is a Marine. The following is taken from his Senate website:

Zell Miller credits the Marine Corps for turning his life around as a young man. He had dropped out of Emory University and landed in the drunk tank for a night in 1953 when he decided to sign up for a three-year enlistment in the Marines. Miller did his 12-week boot camp at Parris Island, SC, followed by time at Naval Training Station in Great Lakes, IL and the 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, NC. By the end of the three years, he had earned the rank of sergeant and was an Expert Rifleman. Miller went on to become a history professor, mayor of his hometown of Young Harris, Georgia, a state senator, lieutenant governor for 16 years, governor for eight years and now, a U.S. senator.

"My experience in the United States Marine Corps steered me onto the path of success. The Marine Corps instilled in me honor, courage and commitment--core values that have sustained me through thick and thin,'' Miller said in a public service announcement he taped for the Marine Corps in 2001.

Semper fi!

From the Mailbag

I'm a born & raised Okie who's currently transplanted to Washington DC. I first read your articles on Tech Central Station, whither I'd followed a link from

Thank you, Dr. Burgess-Jackson, for sharing your mind with all of us. I really feel, in becoming a regular reader of AnalPhilosopher, that I'm getting a vigorous university humanities course FOR FREE. I've never taken a philosophy course, but appreciate the way you make the art of thinking, arguing, and critically reading accessible, inviting, and honest. Verily, this must be what it was like to sit with the great Athenian thinkers--only 'ya had to be there'.

May traffic to your site(s) burgeon. Please continue to educate, illuminate and entertain!

John Parker

Run, Ralph, Run!

Fox News is reporting (here) that Ralph Nader will announce his candidacy for the presidency this weekend--as an independent. This is great news, not only for those of us who admire him personally (I voted for Nader in 1996 and 2000), but for President Bush, our commander in chief. You can be sure that Nader will be viciously attacked by Democrats, who hold him personally responsible for the 2000 defeat of Al Gore. (That's nonsense, of course. Nader was not and is not beholden to the party.)

Nader will receive votes from disaffected Democrats as well as independents like me. James Taranto reports today (here) that some Dean supporters are indicating an unwillingness to support the Democrat nominee. Some of them will undoubtedly vote for Nader, either out of spite toward the nominee (John Kerry or John Edwards) or in order to increase Howard Dean's chances in 2008. A Bush victory this fall will mean a wide-open race for president in 2008. It could be Howard Dean against Hillary Clinton for the Democrat nomination. The screamer versus the schemer. Things do be getting interesting!

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

Re "And Now There Are Two" (editorial, Feb. 19):

By whittling down a broad array of candidates and choices to two men who are all but interchangeable, the primary process has deprived people of a true choice. This has taken place in a small number of mostly rural states, with populations smaller than a single county in many of the more populous states yet to hold primaries.

While I will stay interested in the process and outcome of this campaign, I am unhappy that a tiny number of voters in the early primaries and caucuses had such a disproportionate effect on the shape of the campaign. Voters in the so-called Super Tuesday states have every right to be angry about being co-opted from the process.

San Diego, Feb. 19, 2004


This is the funniest thing I've read in a long time. It took a while, but I think I'm composed enough to write. Thanks to Robert Hessen.

posted by Keith Burgess-Jackson 2/20/2004 02:06:20 PM

From the Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed.

Yankee, n. and a.

Also Yankey, Yanky, pl. Yankies.

The two earliest statements as to its origin were published in 1789: Thomas Anburey, a British officer who served under Burgoyne in the War of Independence, in his Travels II. 50 derives Yankee from Cherokee eankke slave, coward, which he says was applied to the inhabitants of New England by the Virginians for not assisiting them in a war with the Cherokees; William Gordon in Hist. Amer. War states that it was a favourite word with farmer Jonathan Hastings of Cambridge, Mass., c 1713, who used it in the sense of 'excellent'. Appearing next in order of date (1822) is the statement which has been most widely accepted, viz. that the word has been evolved from North American Indian corruptions of the word English through Yengees to Yankees (Heckewelder, Indian Nations iii. ed. 1876, p. 77); cf. Yengees.

Perhaps the most plausible conjecture is that it comes from Du. Janke, dim. of Jan John, applied as a derisive nickname by either Dutch or English in the New England states (J. N. A. Thierry, 1838, in Life of Ticknor, 1876, II. vii. 124). The existence of Yank(e)y, Yankee, as a surname or nickname (often with Dutch associations) is vouched for by the following references:

1683 Cal. St. Papers, Colon. Ser. (1898) 457 They [sc. pirates] sailed from Bonaco..; chief commanders, Vanhorn, Laurens, and Yankey Duch. 1684 Ibid. 733 A sloop..unlawfully seized by Captain Yankey. 1687 Ibid. (1899) 456 Captains John Williams (Yankey) and Jacob Everson (Jacob). 1687-8 MSS. Earl of Dartmouth in 11th Rep. Hist. MSS. Comm. App. v. 136 The pirates Yanky and Jacobs. 1697 Dampier Voy. I. iii. 38. 1725 Inventory of W. Marr of Carolina in N. & Q. 5th Ser. X. 467 Item one negroe man named Yankee to be sold.

Cf. also 'Dutch yanky' s.v. yanky.

A. n.

1. a. U.S. A nickname for a native or inhabitant of New England, or, more widely, of the northern States generally; during the War of Secession applied by the Confederates to the soldiers of the Federal army.

b. By English writers and speakers commonly applied to a native or inhabitant of the United States generally; an American. Applied occas. to a ship (cf. Frenchman, etc.).

2. [ellipt. use of the adj.] The Yankee language, the dialect of New England; loosely, American English generally.

3. Whisky sweetened with molasses. local U.S. colloq.

4. pl. Stock Exchange slang. American stocks or securities.

5. A name for various special tools of American origin, or of ingenious design. (Cf. Yankee notions in C.)

6. = Yankee jib in sense C. b. below.

7. Horse-racing. A composite bet on four or more horses, composed of doubles, trebles, and one or more accumulators.

B. adj. a. That is a Yankee; pertaining to or characteristic of Yankees (often with the connotation of cleverness, cunning, or cold calculation); loosely, belonging to the United States, American.

b. Used of or in reference to the language or dialect: cf. A. 2.

C. Comb., etc. a. gen., as Yankee-like, -looking adjs.

b. Special combinations and collocations. Yankee bet Horse-racing = sense A. 7 above; Yankee gang, name in Canada for a special arrangement of gang-saws (see quot.); Yankee jib (topsail), a large jib topsail used in light winds, set on the topmast stay; Yankee-land, the land of Yankees, New England; loosely, the United States; Yankee notions [notion 9b], small wares or useful articles made in New England or the northern States; Yankee State, a nickname for Ohio.

Hence Yankee v. (rare), trans. to deal cunningly with like a Yankee, to cheat; Yankeedom, the realm or country of Yankees, the United States of America; Yankees as a body; Yankeyess, a depreciatory term for an American woman; Yankeefied (-faId) ppl. a., made or become like a Yankee; characteristic of a Yankee; Yankeeish a., resembling a Yankee (whence Yankeeishly adv., like a Yankee); Yankeeism, Yankee character or style; a Yankee characteristic or idiom; Yankeeize v., trans. to make Yankeeish, give a Yankee character to; Yankeeness, Yankee character.


Andrew Sullivan has a link to a neat site. Take the twenty-question test and see what your dialect is. Feel free to tell me; I'm curious. Here's mine: "39% (Yankee). A definitive Yankee." I grew up in Michigan; what can I say? But I got to Texas as fast as I could.

From Today's Dallas Morning News

Re: "Jersey Girls," the Fashion!Dallas cover story in yesterday's Texas Living.

So this is The Dallas Morning News' idea of "fashion": the big color photos of the teenage girls? The clear message is: "It's hip to look like a drugged-out, hostile jerk. Show how callous and hardened you are; quit looking like a decent, pleasant girl."

What's the point? Who poses these girls, urging them to look sullen if not trashy? Why isn't someone with good judgment and common sense involved?

If your Fashion!Dallas editor thinks these pictures are so good, take them out on the street and ask passers-by: "How would you feel if your daughter or sister or niece looked like these pictures?" You'll hear words like "disgusted," "ashamed" and mostly "worried." No, not their clothes--the looks on their faces, the character and personality they reflect. If my daughter had ever worn expressions like this, I'd have been deeply worried, for her sake. Does anybody on your Fashion!Dallas staff have a daughter?

What's the point? What's the message?

William R. Wilson, Dallas

Sexist and Nonsexist Literary Practices, Part 11

One final note: throughout this book I shall use the colloquial plural pronouns 'they' and 'their' in impersonal contexts, in place of the masculine singular 'he' and 'his' required by strict English grammar. I believe that grammar needs changing in this respect, since it contrives to give the appearance that only men ever do or think anything worth mentioning.

(Peter Carruthers, Human Knowledge and Human Nature: A New Introduction to an Ancient Debate [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992], viii)

Reader Mail

Dr. Burgess-Jackson,

Like you I read Andrew Sullivan. For me this happens almost every day. I enjoy his point of view on most topics; gay marriage being the exception. I have come to the conclusion that he is blinded on this issue. I enjoyed your post today because it clearly points out the speciousness of Andrew's posted argument.

The funny part is I agree with the goal of legalizing gay marriage! I'm just really turned off (unpersuaded) by his particular arguments. Indeed, the other peculiar thing is that Stanley Kurtz, whose position on this issue I generally disagree with, summed up Andrew's current position pretty effectively when he posted this:

"As best I can discern it, this is Andrew Sullivan's position on gay marriage: 1) I am willing to argue as if it matters whether gay marriage undermines marriage or not. But if it is shown that gay marriage really does harm marriage, that is irrelevant. Gay marriage is a civil right, and must be granted regardless of its effect on the institution. 2) I am willing to argue as if I expect and prefer to see gay marriage adopted slowly and legislatively on a state by state basis. But if gay marriage is imposed by the courts in Massachusetts, and if that kicks off a process of nationalization, that is irrelevant. Gay marriage is a civil right, and must be granted, even if it is imposed on the nation by a few liberal judges. 3) I am willing to argue as if I believe in the democratic process and respect for law. But if gay marriage is forced on the nation through a campaign of civil disobedience, that is irrelevant. Gay marriage is a civil right, and must be granted, even if it is undertaken in clear violation of the law, and in clear violation of the will of the people of California as expressed in a legally binding democratic referendum."

Thanks for your post on this issue today, it sheds some much needed light on the issue and the process for resolving it.


Brian Leiter Gets His Comeuppance

I hope all of my readers followed my advice over the past few days to read Edward Feser's brilliant two-part essay on academia at Tech Central Station. Feser, a philosopher, had the temerity--the sheer effrontery--to depict and challenge the leftist domination of the academy. Naturally, this drew out the left-wing nuts, such as the self-promoting, status-obsessed Brian Leiter. Today, Leiter and his fellow do-gooders get their comeuppance. See here. Feser takes them apart, demonstrating not only their hypocrisy but their malice, arrogance, dogmatism, spitefulness, and bigotry. (Remember: I was one of them. I know.) The response to his essay by the trendy lefties, none of whom could hold a job in the real world, shows exactly what academia is like, thus, however inadvertently, proving Feser's thesis. Thank you, Professor Feser, for speaking the truth, which, judging from their responses, Leiter and his ilk can't handle. Godspeed.

Welcome to the Blogosphere

I received a nice letter from this new blogger. Thanks!

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997) on John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)

He was loyal to movements, to causes, and to parties, but could not be prevailed upon to support them at the price of saying what he did not think to be true. A characteristic instance of this is his attitude to religion. His father brought him up in the strictest and narrowest atheist dogma. He rebelled against it. He embraced no recognized faith, but he did not dismiss religion, as the French encyclopaedists or the Benthamites had done, as a tissue of childish fantasies and emotions, comforting illusions, mystical gibberish and deliberate lies. He held that the existence of God was possible, indeed probable, but unproven, but that if God was good he could not be omnipotent, since he permitted evil to exist. He would not hear of a being at once wholly good and omnipotent whose nature defied the canons of human logic, since he rejected belief in mysteries as mere attempts to evade agonizing issues. If he did not understand (this must have happened often), he did not pretend to understand. Although he was prepared to fight for the rights of others to hold a faith detached from logic, he rejected it himself. He revered Christ as the best man who ever lived, and regarded theism as a noble, though to him unintelligible, set of beliefs. He regarded immortality as possible, but rated its probability very low. He was, in fact, a Victorian agnostic who was uncomfortable with atheism and regarded religion as something that was exclusively the individual's own affair.

(Isaiah Berlin, "John Stuart Mill and the Ends of Life," chap. 4 in his Four Essays on Liberty [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969], 173-206, at 203-4 [essay originally published in 1959])


This story will crack you up. (Thanks to James Taranto of OpinionJournal for the link.)

Scruton on Kant on the War in Iraq

Roger Scruton is the author of Kant in Oxford University Press's Past Masters series. He believes (as I do) that Immanuel Kant--whom Simon Blackburn describes as "the greatest philosopher of the last three hundred years"--would support the war in Iraq. See here for the argument. (Thanks to Robert Hessen for the link.)

Begging the Question

Andrew Sullivan wrote the following in his blog (see here):

What this debate may be coming down to is that, under almost any rational understanding of equal protection, civil marriage has to be extended to gay couples. That's why court after court has ruled thus. But popular feeling among at least a plurality of voters holds that marriage for gays is abhorrent to them, a threat to marriage itself - or, in the words of Laura Bush, "very, very shocking." Given equal protection guarantees, the only viable option, then, for those opposed to marriage rights for gays is to change the constitutions - state and federal - to carve out an exception to equality under the law. So that the U.S. and state constitutions would say: Every citizen is equal under the law, except when it comes to gays marrying. Or, more bluntly: all people are equal but some people are more equal than others. And this Orwellism we put into the founding document of the country. That may emerge as the choice we face.

Neither the moral principle of equality nor the constitutional doctrine of equal protection under the law requires equal treatment. They require equal treatment for similarly situated individuals. If the individuals in question are differently situated, then they can and should be treated differently. This is basic stuff, folks. It goes back to Aristotle. The issue, therefore, is whether there are relevant differences between heterosexual and homosexual marriage. If there are, then equality requires different treatment. If there are not, then equality requires the same treatment.

You'll notice that I used the word "relevant." There are really two debates going on: a legal debate and a moral debate. The legal debate asks whether there is a legally relevant difference between heterosexual and homosexual marriage. The moral debate asks whether there is a morally relevant difference. We should not assume that the answers to these questions will be the same. It may be that there is no morally relevant difference between the two types of marriage but that there is a legally relevant difference. Or there could be a morally relevant difference but no legally relevant difference. Not everything immoral is or should be illegal, and not everything that is or should be illegal is immoral. Law and morality are distinct institutions, even if they mutually influence each other.

Andrew Sullivan and other proponents of homosexual marriage should stop begging the question against their interlocutors. To assume that the moral principle of equality (or the constitutional doctrine of equal protection under the law) requires homosexual marriage is to assume, without argument, that there are no morally or legally relevant differences between homosexual and heterosexual marriage. But that's precisely what needs to be established. I, for one, am skeptical that it can be established. Indeed, I believe that it cannot. There are both morally and legally relevant differences between the two types of marriage. Since Sullivan is trying to change the status quo, the burden of persuasion is on him.

In another post of this date (see here), Sullivan uses the expression "discrimination against gay couples." But "discrimination" is ambiguous. It means either discrimination on the basis of irrelevant traits or discrimination on the basis of relevant traits. Only the former is objectionable. The latter is not only not objectionable; it is constitutive of rationality! But then we must ask which traits are relevant and which irrelevant. We are back to the same issue--the key issue in this debate; the issue Sullivan is evading. Sullivan's use of rhetoric and fallacy to move his readers is philosophically distressing and personally insulting. It demonstrates a lack of respect for his readers' intelligence. It also suggests that he hasn't thought things through.

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

"Amazon Glitch Unmasks War of Reviewers" (front page, Feb. 14) has finally revealed the laissez-faire practices of's reviewing system. The article deals mostly with fiction, however. But in the world of nonfiction, any competing author can post a review, negative or positive, and lie about the content or veracity of a reference book.

This has turned the review sections into bizarre, vitriolic chat rooms, which may entertain but ultimately do not help the customer make a good purchase.

And when buying a textbook where one is relying on facts, the wrong choice can have serious results.

New York, Feb. 14, 2004

Dr Dean's Demise

Howard Dean's campaign for the presidency is over, thank goodness. At least for this year. He'll probably be back in 2008. He's too young, too ambitious, and too convinced of his own rectitude to retire from the political scene. I should say up front, and for the record, that I was wrong in predicting a Dean-Edwards ticket. See here. Like many others, I was taken in by his success in raising money via the Internet. Early on, however, I dismissed his campaign as pie in the sky. See here. I should have stayed with my original judgment. In case you're interested, The New York Times weighs in here on the Dean phenomenon.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Argumentation and Demagoguery

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who say that there are two kinds of people in the world and everyone else. But seriously, I'm starting to think that in politics, there really are two kinds of people: those who reach out to the unconvinced, hoping to persuade them (rationally) to come around, and those who preach to (and seek to rile) the converted.

I got to thinking about this while watching Hardball this evening. One of the guests was Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation. She has always struck me as excessively, even hysterically, partisan. Like Ann Coulter, she uses manipulative rhetoric and plays fast and loose with the truth. They are intellectually dishonest. I can't imagine anyone listening to either of them and being persuaded. That is to say, I can't imagine anyone who doesn't already agree with them coming around to their position as a result of what they say. It's not just their manner, which is smug and obnoxious; it's that they don't even try to find out what their interlocutors believe. In order to persuade you of proposition p, I must show you that p follows from something else you believe and are unwilling to give up. If anything, vanden Heuvel and Coulter alienate the undecided.

So why do they act as they do? Why would they act in a way that is calculated to turn people away from them? That's perverse! I think it's because they're not trying to persuade. They're trying to motivate. They want people to share their anger and resentment toward others. (Why they're angry and resentful is a question best left to therapists.) They want their readers/listeners to feel like part of a crowd instead of thinking things through for themselves. They want to rile the converted.

This, of course, is the essence of demagoguery: appealing to the basest instincts of the mob. As any sociologist will tell you, the intelligence of a mob is less than the sum of the intelligences of its members. It's shameful. It's disgraceful. Vanden Heuvel, Coulter, and their ilk have coarsened our political discourse and poisoned our minds. They want us to view our political adversaries as enemies. I'm sorry, but as much as I disliked Bill Clinton personally and disagreed with (many of) his policies, he was not my enemy. Nor, despite the hateful rhetoric of vanden Heuvel et al., is George W. Bush any American's enemy.

An Answer to My Question About Peter Singer

Good afternoon, Professor.

Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog. I'd return the favor, but I see that you do not have commenting software on yours.

Re the Bestiality post...I would assume that Singer doesn't object as long as the animal is not hurt or "protesting" in some way. But, as you know, he's really weird. :-)

I think also he's trying to make the point that you can't object to sex with animals on cruelty grounds if you think it's okay to stuff them in cages, kill them and eat them. You can't object via a cultural relativity argument, as some cultures (apparently) have engaged in it. You can't object via a "people have souls" appeal to religion because we also have bodies, bodies that are very similar to animal bodies. A Kantian "people have dignity" argument fails because we do other things that counter our alleged dignity.

So, why does this sexual taboo stand when so many others have fallen? I don't think Singer actually answers the question. He simply wants to show that there isn't a good argument against it.


Ambrose Bierce

Esoteric, adj. Very particularly abstruse and consummately occult. The ancient philosophies were of two kinds,--exoteric, those that the philosophers themselves could partly understand, and esoteric, those that nobody could understand. It is the latter that have most profoundly affected modern thought and found greatest acceptance in our time.

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

Philosophy of Sex

Few nonphilosophers would know this (although some might suspect it), but there's a substantial and sophisticated body of literature on the philosophical dimensions of sex (as in sexual intercourse). This should come as no surprise, since sex is an important aspect of human experience. One of my published essays, on statutory rape, was reprinted in a philosophical anthology entitled Human Sexuality, edited by Igor Primoratz (Aldershot, England: Dartmouth Publishing Company, 1997). Part I of this anthology, on "The Nature of Human Sexuality," contains essays on sex and procreation, sex and love, sex as a language, plain sex, and sexual perversion. Part II, on "Issues in Sexual Morality," contains essays on homosexuality, prostitution, sexual harassment, and rape. Primoratz, who is a first-rate analytic philosopher, is the author of Ethics and Sex (London and New York: Routledge, 1999), which I reviewed (favorably) in the Journal of Applied Philosophy. Another excellent work, by perhaps the foremost philosopher of sex in the English-speaking world, is Alan Soble's Sexual Investigations (New York and London: New York University Press, 1996). You may wish to visit Soble's website, which is loaded with intellectually provocative material. If you're interested in something less academic than this, see here.

The New York Times on Homosexual Marriage

In an editorial of this date (see here), The New York Times supports a federalist approach to homosexual marriage. Let each state decide how to define "marriage." What the Times doesn't discuss, however, is the possibility (probability?) that the United States Supreme Court will force every state to recognize homosexual marriage. Am I alone in being concerned about this? Am I cynical (or overly cynical) in thinking that the Times secretly hopes for such a ruling?

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

I am a longtime admirer of Thomas L. Friedman. I disagree, however, with his advice to Senator John Kerry relative to our Army in Iraq, which is summarized in his final line: "We will not run" (column, Feb. 15).

This determination to stand and fight is tempting to political leaders. The trouble with this appeal is that brave young Americans do the bleeding and dying--not the political leaders who committed them to a mistaken war. Terrorists are killing American soldiers in Iraq because our Army is in Iraq. I hope that President Bush, with the help of the United Nations, will find a way to return Iraq to the Iraqis and bring our Army home.

Paradoxically, on the same page as Mr. Friedman's column is a column by Maureen Dowd detailing how Ahmad Chalabi, the convicted criminal Iraqi exile, snowed the neoconservatives in the Bush administration into believing that the American Army could walk into Iraq unopposed and that he would be an ideal replacement for Saddam Hussein.

Replacing Saddam Hussein with Ahmad Chalabi would be comparable to replacing Jack the Ripper with Al Capone. Such a development is not worth risking the death of one additional American.

Thousands of young Americans bled and died in Vietnam to keep a series of political frauds in power in Saigon. Let's not go down that road again, claiming all the while, "We will not run." How about a compromise? Let's walk out of Iraq.

Marco Island, Fla., Feb. 16, 2004
The writer was the Democratic candidate for president in 1972.

Once More into the Breach

One of the things I love about blogging is its immediacy. Scholarly publication is frustratingly slow. But immediacy has its downside. Things get posted before they're ready. In terms of thoughtfulness, blogging lies somewhere between e-mail and scholarly publication. It's more thoughtful than e-mail, but less thoughtful than scholarly publication. My blog entries are like second drafts. I write them, then go back over them to correct errors. Sometimes, as you know, I get things wrong or don't say things well. Mea culpa.

Yesterday, in my entry entitled "Andrew, Andrew, Andrew," I proposed a constitutional amendment to the effect that no state is required to recognize another state's marriages. I thought this would achieve the federalist result I seek. But UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, to whom I sent the entry, said it would not. Suppose the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment forbids discrimination on the basis of sex (or sexual orientation) in marriage law. This would mean that each state must thenceforth recognize homosexual marriage. My proposed amendment would not stop that.

It took me a while to figure out what Professor Volokh was saying, in part because his messages were so short. He's right, of course. So let me try again. I hope you see what I'm trying to accomplish. Qua federalist, I believe that each state should decide for itself how to define "marriage." If Massachusetts wants to allow homosexual marriage, it should be able to do so. If Texas wants to disallow homosexual marriage, it should be able to do so. I haven't argued for (or defended) federalism; all I've done is draw out its implications for homosexual marriage. Here's an amendment that ought to do the trick:

Each state shall decide for itself how to define "marriage," except that no state shall require that the parties to a marriage be of the same race.

I was tempted to stop after the first occurrence of "marriage," but that would open the door for states to prohibit heteroracial (sometimes called "interracial") marriages. (I'm not saying that any state would, but it could.) It might be asked why a federalist would object to a state law banning heteroracial marriages. Is a federalist, as such, committed to viewing Loving v. Virginia (1967) as a mistake? I don't think so. There's a morally and constitutionally relevant difference between heteroracial, heterosexual marriage (on the one hand) and homosexual marriage (on the other). Heteroracial, heterosexual couples are capable of procreating. Homosexual couples are not.

The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires equal treatment (by states) of similarly situated individuals. It does not require equal treatment of those who are differently situated. Since homoracial and heteroracial heterosexual couples are similarly situated with respect to procreation, to which there is a fundamental right (according to the Supreme Court), the amendment requires that they be treated equally. But heterosexual and homosexual couples are differently situated with respect to procreation, so the amendment does not require that they be treated equally.

Please don't say that not all heterosexual married couples procreate (or intend, upon being married, to procreate). I've addressed that objection. See here. The law, unlike morality, must draw lines. The line between homosexual and heterosexual is no more arbitrary, legally speaking, than is the line between people under twenty-one years of age and people twenty-one years of age or older with respect to the drinking of alcohol. The second part of my proposed amendment simply ensures that Loving v. Virginia, which struck down bans on heteroracial marriage, remains in effect.

James Rachels (1941-2003) on Ethics

Ethics is the subject that attempts to provide directions for conduct: Should a manufacturer advertise a product as being better than it is? Should a lawyer suppress evidence that tends to show that his client is guilty? Should a physician help a dying patient who, because of constant misery, wishes to end his life sooner? And so on, endlessly.

Ethical theory, on the other hand, concerns itself with questions about ethics. These questions divide naturally into two categories. First, ethical theorists want to know about the relations between the various reasons and principles we use in justifying particular moral judgments. Can they be fitted together into a unified theory? Can these diverse principles be reduced to one ultimate principle, which underlies and explains all the rest? Much of modern moral philosophy has consisted in the elaboration of such theories: egoism, Kantianism, and utilitarianism, each purporting to have discovered the ultimate principle of ethics, are the most familiar.

Second, there are questions about the status of ethics. Are there any objective truths in ethics which our moral judgments may correctly or incorrectly represent? Or are our moral judgments nothing more than the expression of personal feelings, or perhaps the codes of the societies in which we live? Often it is helpful in dealing with such issues to analyze the meaning of moral concepts--to examine what is meant by such words as 'good', 'right', and 'ought'.

Twenty years ago the prevailing orthodoxy among English-speaking philosophers was that ethical theory, but not ethics itself, is the proper concern of philosophy. Philosophers, it was said, are theoreticians, not ministers or guidance counselors. The more radical philosophers even excluded what I have called the "first part" of ethical theory from their purview; they restricted their attention entirely to the analysis of moral language. The result was a body of literature which seemed, to those outside academic circles, curiously empty and sterile.

Today this attitude has been almost completely abandoned; the best writing by moral philosophers combines ethical theory with a concern for specific moral issues. Part of the reason for this change is that the traumas of the past two decades--especially the protest movements against racism, sexism, and the Vietnam war--forced philosophers to rethink their role in society. But there is a deeper reason, internal to philosophy itself. The rejection of ethics was the result of a preoccupation among philosophers during the first half of this century with understanding the different kinds of inquiry. Science, mathematics, religion, and ethics are very different from one another, and, as philosophers tried to sort out the differences, the idea took hold that philosophy's distinctive contribution is to analyze and clarify the concepts used in each area. It was an appealing idea, with ample historical precedent. After all, the patron saint of philosophy, Socrates, had conceived of his work mainly as an investigation into definitions; and the great figures such as Aristotle and Kant had appealed, at key points in their work, to linguistic considerations for support. Philosophers, then, were to study not ethics but only the language of ethics. That philosophers are not ethicists seemed as natural a conclusion as that philosophers are not scientists or mathematicians.

By the mid-1960s, however, it was becoming clear that the recognition of differences among kinds of inquiry does not require that they be pursued in isolation from one another. Indeed, separation may not be desirable or even possible. (One cannot do physics without mathematics.) Today philosophers generally do not recognize sharp boundaries between their own work and work in other areas. Thus W. V. Quine, whom many consider the most eminent living American philosopher, regards his work as continuous with that of theoretical science. Links between current philosophy and psychology, linguistics, and computer science are everywhere apparent. The reuniting of ethical theory with ethics, then, is merely a part of a larger movement within philosophy, to bring back into proper relation the disparate inquiries.

(James Rachels, "Can Ethics Provide Answers?" chap. 1 in Applied Ethics and Ethical Theory, ed. David M. Rosenthal and Fadlou Shehadi, vol. 1 of Ethics in a Changing World [Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1988], 3-24, at 4-5 [italics in original] [essay originally published in 1980])

Reader Mail

Dear Professor:

Actually, the quote comes from James Anthony Froude, the British historian, describing the marriage of Thomas Carlyle and his wife Jane, who fought bitterly and constantly.

I have been a faithful reader of your Blog since it was first linked by Volokh, often visiting three times a day to see what new gems you have unearthed or generated yourself. Thanks. Now that I have made contact with you, I shall occasionally send you items of interest.

Robert Hessen
Senior Research Fellow
Hoover Institution
Stanford University
Stanford CA 94305

Animal Legal & Historical Center

Philosophers are interested in the moral status of animals. Lawyers are interested in their legal status. If you're interested in either of these--or both, as I am--please visit Animal Ethics, which has several useful links. Today I added a link to law professor David Favre's Animal Legal & Historical Center, which will eventually contain the text of all statutes and judicial opinions about animals. It's an ambitious but eminently worthy project. The site accepts tax-deductible donations, if you're so inclined. Thank you for your hard work in behalf of animals, Professor Favre!


This blog had 2,110 site visits in the past week (Wednesday morning to Wednesday morning). That's an average of 301.4 visits per day (none of them me). I finally broke the 300 barrier--and I did it without a Tech Central Station column, which usually boosts my readership significantly. My most recent column appeared on 29 January, nearly three weeks ago. Thank you for reading my blog. I get nothing out of it except satisfaction. I enjoy writing, whether it's about philosophy, politics, music, or baseball. As I'm fond of saying, if it's worth doing or thinking about, it's worth writing about. Even writing is worth writing about. I suppose even writing about writing is worth writing about. Please excuse my rants. Ranting is cathartic. I'll try to keep the rant-to-analysis ratio low, but it'll never be zero.

Monday, February 2, 2004

Who Says Scholars Are Humorless?

J. Christopher Maloney, "Content: Covariation, Control and Contingency," Synthese 100 (August 1994): 241.

H. Holcomb III, "To Bet the Impossible Bet," International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 36 (October 1994): 65.

O. K. Werckmeister, "Kafka 007," Critical Inquiry 21 (winter 1995): 468.

Ian Welsh, "Letting the Research Tail Wag the End User's Dog: The Powell Committee and UK Nuclear Technology," Science and Public Policy 21 (February 1994): 43.

Richard Wincor, "Unrest on the Frontiers of Copyright," Communications and the Law 16 (September 1994): 83.

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

Paul Krugman ("Red Ink Realities," column, Jan. 27) says "the ultimate goal" of conservatives "is to slash government programs that help the poor and the middle class, and use the savings to cut taxes for the rich."

This is a pejorative way of describing the desire to allow people to keep their own money.

Redistribution of wealth is not one of the truths the Declaration of Independence held to be "self-evident."

Los Angeles, Jan. 28, 2004

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

Re "Georgia Takes On 'Evolution' as 'Monkeys to Man' Idea" (news article, Jan. 30):

I have always been amazed at the ability of the Christian right to bully educators into diluting the teaching of evolution and promoting so-called creation science in public school classrooms. I suspect that part of the reason for this is a misappreciation of the importance of evolution by the general public.

Evolution is not an isolated concept that can be expediently omitted from a high-school biology syllabus. Rather, it is the single unifying concept of modern biology. It unites all areas of biology, from ecology to physiology to biochemistry and beyond. Without it, students are denied a framework to understand how these different areas are related and interdependent.

Can you imagine asking a physics teacher to cover everything except Newton's laws?

Maybe soon a small group of reactionaries will persuade a school board to teach students that apples do not fall to earth because of gravity, but because of some mystical phenomenon that can neither be studied nor understood.

New Haven, Jan. 30, 2004
The writer is a research fellow, department of cell biology, Yale University School of Medicine.

An Open Letter to President George W. Bush

Dear President Bush:

Let me begin by saying that while I did not vote for you in 2000, I have never been more proud to be an American than during your three years as president. I sincerely hope that you have five more years in which to lead and serve this great country. But certain aspects of your presidency trouble me. Since I am in no sense your adversary (much less your enemy), I hope that the criticisms I make herein are taken to heart rather than dismissed out of hand. My aim is to help you, not hurt you.

The first thing that troubles me about your presidency is your failure to articulate the grounds of some of your social policies. The core value of conservatism, as you know, is self-sufficiency. Each of us is responsible for providing for his or her material needs. I am not my brother's keeper. My brother is my brother's keeper. Americans are a hard-working, honest, generous people. They are more than willing to lend a hand to those in need, but they resent having their hard-earned wealth taken from them and distributed to others by governmental functionaries. Making one person work for another is slavery, which is a moral outrage. If "slavery" strikes you as too harsh a term for this, then perhaps "theft" will do.

We live in a land of opportunity. There is no reason other than laziness for anyone to be destitute. Nobody should have to work to provide for the lazy. I am not suggesting that everyone begins life with equal resources. Some people are fortunate; others are not. But misfortune is not injustice. Injustices must be rectified. Misfortunes are only to be regretted. There are countless examples of immigrants and impoverished Americans pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. It may be difficult, but it's not impossible. The greater the challenge, the more satisfying it is to meet it. The message you need to convey at every opportunity is that everyone in this country is expected to be self-sufficient. Governmental assistance must never be more than temporary, and it should always be the basis for shame.

I believe a message of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility would resonate with the American people, the overwhelming majority of whom are industrious and optimistic. It would inspire (and perhaps strike fear into the hearts of) the lazy as well as reinvigorate the productive. You should hold up to public scrutiny the success stories: immigrants who worked long hours to start a business and who managed, through hard work and sacrifice, to send their children to college; children of working-class parents who became professionals; children from broken homes who were mentored by teachers or neighbors and who made something of themselves. It takes a lot of effort to be poor in this land of opportunity. You, as the president, should do everything you can to promote self-sufficiency. It is not just the core conservative value; it is the core American value.

One of the geniuses of our society, and the main explanation of its success, is its commitment to markets. Free, open markets, both within and between nations, are the engines of prosperity. Every intervention into the market by an agent of the state undermines its efficiency and thwarts productivity. Every intervention takes food out of someone's mouth. But ordinary people are not trained in economics. The principles of supply and demand must be explained to them in terms they can understand. If I were president, I would sponsor weekly or monthly roundtables on economic issues. I would employ the best teachers in the nation for this task. You should have no trouble finding volunteers. The aim of the roundtables would be to get people to see the centrality of markets to our way of life--and their indispensability to our future prosperity.

Another troubling feature of your presidency, if I may be so bold as to point it out, is the secrecy with which it operates. I don't know why things are done so secretly. Ours is supposed to be an open government. You should be forthright not only about the grounds of your policies but about how policy decisions are made. Your secrecy antagonizes many people who would otherwise support you, and it positively enrages the opposition. You should not write this latter group off. They may never vote for you, but if you can moderate their frustration and anger, it will eliminate certain obstacles now placed in your way. Please reach out to the critics, even the unfair ones. Our society is deeply divided. One half is willing to go to the wall for you; the other half, if you believe its rhetoric, would like to see you dead. Nobody benefits from this state of affairs. Indeed, it harms all of us. I believe many Americans are desperate for civility, reasoned discourse, and moderation.

One thing I love about the law is that it is concerned with appearances and not just reality. It's not enough for a lawyer to avoid impropriety. Lawyers are expected to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. The reason is simple: Law, as an institution, requires the confidence of the people. But this rationale applies to politics as well as to law. Agents of government, especially those at the highest reaches, must avoid even the appearance of impropriety. I believe you have violated this principle by awarding noncompetitive contracts to corporations such as Halliburton. Do you know how this looks to ordinary Americans? Even those of us who support you see it as shady and unseemly. It looks as though you are rewarding your friends. I have no idea whether Halliburton would win the contract it has been granted in a fair and open competition. The point is that no competition was held, so we will never know. You must correct this. Appearances matter.

For many months now, you have taken a beating on the war in Iraq. There is no reason for this. The war was justified on many distinct grounds, from protecting Americans from a "gathering threat" to stabilizing the Middle East to punishing a mass murderer (thereby deterring other would-be tyrants) to liberating a people. History will judge you kindly for this war, as many of us already do. What's ironic is that liberals, not conservatives, used to defend humanitarian intervention. Now they appear to care only for Americans. Liberals have grown selfish and complacent. You must make the humanitarian case for war. You must show that humanitarian intervention is in keeping with, and not a deviation from, American values. It doesn't matter whether humanitarianism was your motive (or one of your motives) in going to war. Motives are not justifications. What you did and why you did it are separate questions. I'm not for a moment suggesting that you had disreputable motives in going to war. I'm saying that even if you did, it would have no bearing on whether the war was just.

As for the much-discussed weapons of mass destruction, you need to come clean about the intelligence failures that led to your belief that Iraq had them. Perhaps some will be found, but you should prepare for the eventuality that they are not. You should explain to the American people the difference between a belief being true and its being justified. These are different concepts. Just as a person can have an unjustified or unreasonable true belief, he or she can have a justified or reasonable false belief. It's pretty clear that you believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that you acted on this belief. The belief may turn out to be false. But that doesn't mean you were unjustified or unreasonable in believing it. By all accounts, you had ample reason to believe that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons, if not nuclear weapons. You acted on the basis of the information you had at your disposal. That is all a rational person can be expected to do. You should ask your critics what they would have done with the information you had.

At this point things get complicated. While your reasonable belief that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction may explain and justify your decision to go to war, it does not release you from holding your underlings responsible. You're the president. Your cabinet members answer to you. Evidently, your advisers provided you with false information about Iraq's weapons capacity. You must find out why you got bad intelligence information and make immediate changes in personnel and policy to prevent it from recurring. Do not conflate the two issues. Admitting that you got false information and cleaning house as a result of it is not to admit to having unreasonable beliefs about Iraq's weapons. Nor does it in any way undermine the legitimacy of the war. These are, as I say, distinct issues. You must convey their distinctness to the American people, who are fair-minded, intelligent, and understanding. Until you do this, your critics will have their way with you. Demagogues never make distinctions, even simple ones. If you don't make the relevant distinctions, nobody will (except a few sympathetic philosophers, such as me).

As a lifelong student of American politics, including its history and philosophy, I know that it can be much more than it is. Politics is the process by which citizens work out their collective destiny. It is a noble undertaking. It is not war. It is dialogue. The aim of politics should be to persuade, not to coerce or manipulate. I know that you are an honorable man. Honorable men would rather lose by playing fairly than win through unfairness or duplicity. One thing I admire about you is that you have principles. You stand for something. This has not always been the case with our presidents. Please use your bully pulpit to articulate your principles, many of which, such as self-sufficiency, I share. Show the American people how these principles apply in their lives. Inspire them. Bring out the best in them. If you lose the 2004 presidential election, so be it. You will have lost honorably. It will be a magnificent moral victory, not only for you, but for the American people and this great nation.


Keith Burgess-Jackson

Richard Robinson on Democratic Mediocrity

One of the dominant themes in the propaganda for a candidate for the presidency of the U.S. is usually the assertion that he is no better than the average citizen, that his home and education were mediocre, that his present tastes and companions are very ordinary, that he is, in one of their favourite phrases, 'as common as an old shoe'. Democracy has a definite tendency to discourage recognition and reverence for all the better kinds of superiority, as [John Stuart] Mill himself recognizes. . . . As E. M. Forster wrote in his Two Cheers for Democracy, democracy encourages the cult of mediocrity, and fosters vulgarity by making mass approval the supreme arbiter.

(Richard Robinson, An Atheist's Values [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964], 240-1)

Sunday, February 1, 2004

Dale Jamieson on Beef Addiction

The addiction to beef that is characteristic of people in the industrialised countries is not only a moral atrocity for animals but also causes health problems for consumers, reduces grain supplies for the poor, precipitates social divisions in developing countries, contributes to climate change, leads to the conversion of forests to pasture lands, is a causal factor in overgrazing, and is implicated in the destruction of native plants and animals. If there is one issue on which animal liberationists and environmentalists should speak with a single voice it is on this issue.

(Dale Jamieson, "Animal Liberation Is an Environmental Ethic," Environmental Values 7 [February 1998]: 41-57, at 46)

Ambrose Bierce

Cynic, n. A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be. Hence the custom among the Scythians of plucking out a cynic's eyes to improve his vision.

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

Finding Your Presidential Soulmate

Andrew Sullivan had a link to this website the other day. If you answer a few questions, you'll see which of the eight presidential candidates (President Bush and the seven dwarfs, er, Democrats) shares your values. It's fun. Try it. In the interest of full disclosure, here's how my values match up with the candidates':

George W. Bush: 100%
Joe Lieberman: 92%
John Kerry: 76%
John Edwards: 74%
Wesley Clark: 73%
Howard Dean: 61%
Al Sharpton: 53%
Dennis Kucinich: 47%

These results ring true to me, so I think the instrument is sound. By the way, it's "dwarfs," not "dwarves," so don't give me hell about that.

The West End Ride

Rituals give our lives depth and meaning. Somehow they slow the passage of time. One of my rituals is the annual West End Ride sponsored by the Greater Dallas Bicyclists. It's not like the two dozen or so bike rallies I do every year. Instead of everyone driving to a certain town to begin riding, everyone converges on a particular place to eat and then returns to the starting point. (Some wimps ride back in motor vehicles.) Riders come from all over the Metroplex. (The Metroplex, for those who don't know, is the greater Dallas-Fort Worth area.)

The West End Ride is always on Super Bowl Sunday. I don't know why; it just is. I did my first West Ender in 1990, a few months after moving to the Metroplex. Today's ride was my thirteenth in fifteen years. The weather is usually bad, but that's half the fun. Today it was chilly, overcast, and drizzly (foggy) at the start. The streets were wet, but nobody was in a hurry. Thirty-four hardy souls left Bicycles, Inc. (known colloquially as Bikes Inc.) in Arlington for the twenty-three mile trek to Dallas. Here is an image of Greg Shugart and me (I'm in the red Gore-Tex jacket) just before the start. Do we look cold? Actually, it wasn't bad, especially once we got moving.

If you've never been to Dallas, you should visit some day. It has a magnificent skyline. Here you can see the tall buildings enveloped in fog. The image gives you an idea of what the riding was like. There are many restaurants in the West End, which is a refurbished part of down (I believe it was once a warehouse district). My friends and I always eat at The Spaghetti Warehouse, which has superb sourdough bread. I eat out only once or twice a year, so you can imagine how much I enjoy it. This year, for the first time, there was a buffet. All you can eat for thirteen dollars. I ate far too much bread for someone who had twenty-three miles yet to ride.

Sure enough, my friends showed up. They appreciate rituals as much as I do, if not more. Here, from the left, are Sheila and Julius Bejsovec, yours truly, Mike Sweeney, and Joe Culotta. The image was made by Andrew, whose surname escapes me at the moment. (Sorry, Andrew.) Joe is the man who got me into marathon running in 1996. Thus, he is responsible for bringing a great deal of pain into the world. I hate you, Joe.