As always, I enjoyed the Indianapolis 500. Congratulations to Dario Franchitti, who is now a two-time winner. (His first victory, in 2007, was rain-shortened.) There was a terrible crash near the end of yesterday's race. Do not watch this if you are faint of heart.
Here is an insightful blog post by Jennifer Rubin. When I call Barack Hussein Obama an alien, I mean it. He doesn't believe what most Americans believe; he doesn't value what most Americans value; he doesn't respect what most Americans respect. He is sullying the presidency, just as Bill Clinton did before him.
After today's victory, the Atlanta Braves are in first place. Maybe Braves fans will appreciate it this time. I said the other day that the Chicago Cubs have the highest support-to-success ratio in Major League Baseball. The Braves have the lowest.
In conclusion, I must put in a not too apologetic apology for the triviality of my own examples, such as the hockey one. I find that anti-utilitarians tend to be very high minded, angry and moralistic when they write against utilitarianism. I think that I used to be just as irritating from my side of the fence (accusations of superstition, rule worship, and so on). So though I have had to consider the distressing examples of [Bernard] Williams and [H. J.] McCloskey, my own examples have been relatively trivial ones, my hope being that this might help to cool the climate of the discussion. Readers can easily make up more exciting examples if they want to, even though I think that my examples are perfectly adequate to illustrate the conceptual points which I need to make.
(J. J. C. Smart, "Benevolence as an Over-riding Attitude," Australasian Journal of Philosophy 55 [August 1977]: 127-35, at 135 [brackets added])
Note from KBJ: Fourteen years later, in his essay "Utilitarianism and Punishment" (Israel Law Review 25 : 360-75, at 371), Smart referred to rule utilitarianism as "absurd rule worship." So much for cooling the climate of the discussion!
Here is a New York Times story about Roman Catholic priests. The church should have a zero-tolerance policy: If you touch a child, you're excommunicated. The focus should be on actions, not dispositions.
Two days ago, in Burleson, Texas, I did my sixth bike rally of the year and my 478th overall. This rally, known as the Honey Tour, is in its 12th year. I've done 11 of them. My friends Phil and Randy met me in the parking lot, and during the ride we caught another friend, Marc. The weather was gorgeous. Besides being hot (the official high temperature for the day at DFW International Airport was 95º), it was calm. The average wind speed for the day was only 4.0 miles per hour. The highest wind speed for the day was a mere 12. Calm days are rare in North Texas, so we enjoyed it immensely.
A year ago, on the same course, I averaged 20.14 miles per hour. We didn't ride nearly as hard this year, but somehow we managed to average 18.34 miles per hour (elapsed time = 3:13:54) for 59.3 miles, which makes this my second-fastest of 11 Honey Tours. I pedaled 18.9 miles the first hour, 19.0 the second, and 17.1 the third. I averaged 18.56 miles per hour for the final 13:54. There were no accidents and nobody had a flat. Does it get any better? We talked, laughed, commiserated, ate, drank, and in general enjoyed the ride. The road surfaces were smooth (for the most part) and the course had few hills. I haven't averaged 18.34 miles per hour or higher since 19 September, more than eight months ago. I'm sure we could have gone faster if we wanted to.
After the rally, we moseyed about the parking lot, eating the free food (bean burritos and tortilla chips for me), drinking the free drinks (cold water for me), and listening to a live band play songs by Steely Dan and other artists. Although it was only noon, it was quite hot. Randy was too lazy to walk 50 yards to see whether he won anything in the raffle. I took his ticket and walked over for him. To my surprise, he won a copy of Lance Armstrong's second book, Every
Second Counts. Randy told me to keep it, since I had done the work for it, but I insisted that he take it home. My theory is that if Randy reads it, he will do less whining, and that will make everyone happier.
High on the list of unnecessary expenses that states can cut should be
the costs of operating a two-house legislature instead of emulating
Nebraska by adopting unicameralism. New Zealand, a fine (and complex)
country of almost 4.5 million people, operates very well with a single
House of Representatives. The 27 other American states with under five
million in population (besides Nebraska) could easily save money and
probably get both better and more accountable government by eliminating
their upper houses.
Indeed, to his great credit, Rick A. Lazio, a former member of Congress
who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor, has suggested the
same for New York. He may be right, though there may be a stronger
argument for two houses in the largest states.
There is no argument for bicameralism in the smaller states, especially
when, unlike New Zealand, a parliamentary system, they all have
governors who have the veto power should the legislature pass notably
5-30-90 . . . The Soviet Union [i.e., the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics] is moving toward free and open markets, or so goes the prevailing talk. This constitutes a radical change from the planned, centralized economy of the past. The problem is that the transition is not easy. Entire social structures—planning committees, for example—have been built around the Soviet economy. Attitudes of public officials have been formed toward centralized decisionmaking concerning production and consumption. People’s livelihoods depend on making economic decisions for the citizenry. And yet, everyone, including Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, acknowledges that the centralized economy has failed miserably to deliver the goods. Soviet citizens—even those in major metropolitan areas such as Moscow—regularly go without soap, fresh fruits, vegetables, and basic consumer items. People spend hours waiting in line for toilet paper. Naturally, the shift delights Western conservatives, who have long argued that capitalism is superior to communism both economically (in terms of efficiency) and morally (in terms of protecting people’s rights). It’ll be interesting to see whether this change in Soviet policy works. A centralized economy cannot be dismantled overnight, and the changes are bound to cause dismay and protest among the Soviet people, but it’s probably in the long-term best interests of the Soviets to open up their markets. A market is a good mechanism for producing what the people want and need and getting it where it needs to be. The downside, of course, is that people without resources fare badly in the marketplace. I assume that the government will not let these people fall through the cracks.
Congratulations to Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay, who, yesterday, became the 20th player in Major League Baseball history to pitch a perfect game. Earlier this month, Dallas Braden became the 19th such pitcher. Thirteen years elapsed between perfect games by Catfish Hunter and Len Barker. Now we have two perfect games in one month. Does this cheapen the feat? I'm inclined to think that it does.
David Brooks contrasts the “theories of change” espoused by the radical
French, on the one hand (what, them again?), and the conservative Scots,
as represented by Edmund Burke, on the other, and concludes—surprise!—that the Scots were right and the French wrong: one can’t engineer a
sweeping transformation of society on the basis of abstract ideas
without the wheels coming off.
In making his argument, he casts the American Revolution as a
conservative one concerned solely with restoring ancient liberties
stripped from the colonists by George III and his Parliament. That would
certainly surprise many of the founders, who made no bones about seeing
the struggle as aimed at creating a brand-new society. The inscription
“Novus Ordo Seclorum” on the dollar bill translates as “A New Order of
the Ages,” hardly the motto of people whose only wish was to return to a
In fact, as Mr. Brooks observes with apparent disapproval, America
straddled the divide between Burke and the Jacobins, and would likely
have tilted more toward the French model if it had not been necessary to
pacify reactionary Southerners. (Some things, it seems, really don’t
change much.) Yet despite the columnist’s “stubborn fact of human
nature,” this country has indeed re-engineered itself, not once but
repeatedly, and has on the whole done pretty well, if not always without
Eric B. Lipps
Staten Island, May 25, 2010
Note from KBJ: Comparing the American Revolution with the French Revolution is like comparing the American Revolution with the French Revolution.