[T]he unsuccessful conservative who remains attached to the ideals of his old ideational philosophy becomes a reactionary, i.e., a critic of existing society who wishes to recreate in the future an ideal which he assumes to have existed in the past. He is a radical. No valid distinction exists between "change backward" and "change forward." Change is change; history neither retreats nor repeats; and all change is away from the status quo. As time passes, the ideal of the reactionary becomes less and less related to any actual society of the past. The past is romanticized, and, in the end, the reactionary comes to support a return to an idealized "Golden Age" which never in fact existed. He becomes indistinguishable from other radicals, and he normally displays all the distinctive characteristics of the radical psychology.
(Samuel P. Huntington, "Conservatism as an Ideology," The American Political Science Review 51 [June 1957]: 454-73, at 460)
The United States dominated the 2010 Winter Olympics, just as it dominates everything else in the world (to the chagrin of many). I watched quite a bit of the games, having watched none of the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008. The luge, skeleton, and bobsled events were interesting, but once you've seen one run, you've seen 'em all. The figure skating did nothing for me. The skaters are athletic and talented, but I consider it more art than sport. I like downhill skiing. What were the blue marks doing on the snow? Was it for television? I also like speedskating, though not short track. The X-Games stuff is ridiculous. Kids in baggy pants doing flips on skateboards, er, snowboards. I would have liked to see curling, but it was never shown in the evenings. The most authentic event in the Winter Olympics is the biathlon, which combines cross-country skiing and shooting. These are useful skills. It would be nice if they had cross-country skiing and archery, or perhaps cross-country skiing, archery, and carcass hauling.
I understand Senator Evan Bayh’s position all
too well—desperately seeking a middle ground in an environment where
“no compromise” is the theme. Sadly, the divide may be common in
Americans’ daily lives as well.
My husband and his best friend of
over 30 years have not spoken since the 2008 elections. My husband, a
moderate liberal, and his friend, a staunch conservative, have become
such political adversaries that they can’t surmount the differences that
were once the most exhilarating part of lively dinner conversations and
As the person caught in the middle, both
personally and as a citizen, I beg Washington to realize that action,
not inaction, will make American lives better.
Atlanta, Feb. 22, 2010
Note from KBJ: Please, God, let Washington remain inactive.
Yesterday, as some of you may recall, I predicted that the gold-medal hockey game would end 3-2 in overtime. I nailed it. Unfortunately, I got the team wrong. Canada beat the United States. Congratulations to the Canadian team and its fans, including the insufferable Grant in Alberta. The crow I am eating is awful, which is why it's crow and not, say, chicken. Did you know that crow tastes like chicken?
I just ran 4.3 miles in 62.8º heat. It's windy. I felt good and ran hard. I had a good month on the pavement: 14 runs (in 28 days) for a total of 42.6 miles. I also rode my bike (on Super Bowl Sunday) 40 miles, at an average speed of 15.93 miles per hour. A year ago, I raced nearly every weekend during the fall and winter, including four half marathons, but this year I ran on my own in the neighborhood most of the time. I start cycling Saturday. This doesn't mean I stop running; it means I add cycling to running. I run all year 'round, whether it's freezing or 100º. Curro ergo sum!
Here is a New York Times story about tomorrow's gold-medal hockey game between the United States and Canada. Prediction: United States 3, Canada 2, in overtime. You're probably wondering why I like hockey all of a sudden. I don't; it's a silly "sport" in which only players and referees (but no spectators) see the puck. I'm an American. We must not allow our inferiors to the north to beat us.
Addendum: According to the story, "The Canadians have much more at stake in this game. The entire country
is expecting the gold and will be devastated by any other result." I want Canadians to be devastated. God knows they deserve it.
Here is the latest on the health-reform bill. (Actually, it should be called the health-revolution bill, since it would revolutionize our health-care system rather than change it incrementally.) It'll be interesting to see how many Democrats prefer losing their seats to keeping them. The vast majority of Americans don't want the health-care system remade; they want it improved.
Now in a way we can dispute about the rules of logic, or about the validity of certain inferences. Consider the following immediate inferences [sic]: "all men are mortal. Therefore some men are mortal." Logicians used to dispute about the validity of this inference, but it was a purely verbal dispute about the meaning of "all." If "all men are mortal" is taken to mean the same as "There are some men and if anything is a man it is mortal," the inference is valid. If "all men are mortal" is taken to mean merely "if anything is a man it is mortal," the inference is not valid. The ordinary use of "all" is vague, and either interpretation accords with some of the uses of the word. The example is instructive in spite of its triviality, for it shows how disputes about the validity of inferences are disputes about the meanings of words. Formal logic of the Quine sort may be regarded as a systematization of certain suggested rules (not the actual ones) for the use of the words "and," "not," "all," and "some."
(J. J. C. Smart, "Reason and Conduct," Philosophy 25 [July 1950]: 209-24, at 219)
Note from KBJ: Smart is describing the so-called problem of existential import, about which Aristotle and George Boole famously disagree. Aristotle interprets "all men are mortal" as "there are some men and if anything is a man it is mortal," while Boole interprets it as "if anything is a man it is mortal." In other words, for Aristotle, universal propositions (both affirmative and negative) have existential import. For Boole, universal propositions do not have existential import. (Aristotle and Boole agree that particular propositions have existential import.) The inferences from "All S are P" to "Some S are P" and from "No S are P" to "Some S are not P" are therefore valid for Aristotle but invalid for Boole. (These inferences are known as subalternation.)
I was riveted to my seat for seven hours during President Obama’s
health care forum on Thursday. What I saw was a masterful leader trying,
with some success, to herd cats toward the goal of solving the huge
health care problem this country faces.
Unfortunately, the president faced an opposition party stuck on the
mantra “scrap the plan and start over with incremental changes.” He
repeatedly demonstrated how this approach would lead to worsening health
care and even larger budget problems in the future.
It became clear to me that, sadly, the Republican Party’s strategy
is not to offer any viable alternative but to defeat this president at
any cost. One wonders why.
Newton, Mass., Feb. 26, 2010
To the Editor:
I watched the health care summit meeting in utter fascination and
came to the conclusion that this critical issue is no longer resolvable
through bipartisan efforts.
What Congress believes is the right way to resolve this complex
debate is immaterial; that’s politics, and this is about leadership.
President Obama must now do what he believes is the right thing to do
for the American people. Right doesn’t necessarily mean perfect. It
doesn’t necessarily mean popular. It doesn’t even necessarily even mean
right as judged by history. It simply means right in his estimation at
this time, under these circumstances.
That’s what we Americans have come to expect from our presidents; we
elect them to do what’s right (in their estimation) for us.
If in the end people are dissatisfied with the decision he makes,
with the results of this initiative, then go ahead and vote him out at
the next election and give someone else a chance to do it better; that’s
the way the system works.
But great leaders do something that puts them above everyone else—they lead.
Skillman, N.J., Feb. 26, 2010
Note from KBJ: The letter writers would be at home in a dictatorship, which we, fortunately, do not have.