The Sensible Knave

"I do not see that we are further along today than where Hume left us. The Humean predicament is the human predicament." - W.V.O. Quine

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Don't Support Negative Campaigning

Vote for Billy.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

U.N. Repudiates Multilateralism...

...urges U.S. to act unilaterally.

What's next? Hot rain falls up?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


A year and a day ago, I tried to put some health care comparisons in perspective. I suspected that America's relatively high infant mortality rate had something to do with a higher premature birth rate.

Now comes a report validating much of what I said.

A reclassification of infant deaths by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that 34 percent of infant deaths in America in 2002 should be blamed on premature births...

A report released in July by the Institute of Medicine said premature births, which accounted for one-in-eight U.S. births last year and have increased 30 percent since 1981, cost society at least $26 billion a year.

Assisted fertility methods are used more often and there are a larger number of older mothers, both of which tend to produce multiple births and such babies are more likely to be born early.

The U.S. infant mortality rate declined sharply throughout most of the 20th century but has been relatively stable in recent years -- coincident with the rise in preterm births.

The earliest preterm births -- newborns weighing less than 750 grams (about 1.6 pounds) with a gestational age of less than 28 weeks, who face particular health risks -- contributed to a rise in the 2002 U.S. infant mortality rate, the CDC study said.

Of course, it bears repeating that many other nations have lower premature birth rates, and most other nations have higher late-term fetal death rates.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Wasting no time

From the Lynchburg News & Advance:

It’s been just over a week since the school’s historic vote, and Randolph-Macon Woman’s College already is making plans to add four men’s sports teams next year.

The change is among several already in motion as the college prepares for its first class with men next fall.

R-MWC’s athletic department has decided to add basketball, cross country, soccer and tennis to its programs. Men also will be added to the riding team, which will be coed.

Is the opportunity to walk onto three or four varsity teams worth the poisonous atmosphere?

Incidentally, there's no need for the college to change its name, if this precedent means anything.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Toilet law?

I thought this was a bad life, until I saw this.

There is some advice to be culled from this: don't go into deep debt for anything less than a top-tier legal education.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Baby cuisine

Due to her rapid development, our daughter Aerin's palate has grown too sophisticated for the more conventional baby food varieties. We've had to scour the shelves for some more distinctive entrees.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Streetcorner Mentality

Suppose your community has a streetcorner where all of the local hooligans congregate. There, they loiter, cuss, smoke, and generally make nuisances of themselves. Just get rid of the streetcorner, and you'll do away with the hooligans, right?

Not many people think it's just that simple, of course. Won't the hooligans just go somewhere else? This point seems to get more obscured though when we deal with metaphorical hooligans, such as low-paying jobs. The single largest private American provider of low paying jobs, Walmart, has been much maligned and threatened, on this account. The mentality seems to be that if Walmart is no longer the largest provider of low paying jobs, then there will be that many fewer low paying jobs. To the extent that that's true, though, there are likely to be that many fewer jobs, period. You can get rid of the streetcorner, but you can't get rid of the hooligans.

I see a similar mindset among many far leftists. Capitalist societies, they'll say, are full of ambitious, greedy, and cruel people who think nothing of victimizing the less powerful. Maybe so, but will a socialist alternative solve this problem? Will abolishing capitalism do away with these people? Every society has positions of power, and they will attract the same bad elements. You can get rid of the streetcorner, but you can't get rid of the hooligans. You can only get rid of the corner shopkeeper who will shoo them away.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A bait and switch?

I'd like to spotlight an interesting comment in this earlier post. When I wondered whether Randolph-Macon Woman's College's decision to accept male applications might have been expected by prospective students, I didn't think it could be this bad:

Current students were not warned of the change. I am ashamed to say that I recruited students in my sophomore year at the college; those students are now juniors at the college, and they will have men as their classmates in their senior year. At the time I worked for Admissions, I had no idea that the college was contemplating the coed change.

One student this week spoke at a college meeting; she is a first-year, and when she visited campus only two months ago to decide whether she wanted to attend, she was informed that there was no possibility that the college would go coed before she graduated. She now faces three years as a student at a coed school, or the hassle of transferring to another women's college.

Students are not only upset about the change; they are upset at the sneaky, underhanded way in which the decision was made. I think the only just thing to do is to let the current students graduate before admitting men, but the college has already admitting one male applicant, and is reviewing other applications from men.

So is that all there is to it? I have no reason to doubt it, but I'd invite anyone with a different story to tell their side of it.

In any case, if I were the head of admissions at Hollins, I'd rent a biplane and drop transfer applications over the R-MWC campus. I'd even waive the application fee.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


This George Will editorial has gotten a lot of play on the internet. It's a scathing critique of the liberal case against America's most prominent institution.

Liberals should recognize a silver lining in one of Will's remarks. Evidently, only 325 of the 25,000 applicants for employment in the new Evergreen Park, IL Walmart were hired. Walmart managed to dupe only 1.3% of a vast applicant pool into prolonged serfdom.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Still going coed

The decision at RMWC has triggered quite an uproar. Hollins, beware!

I have to agree that something stinks about the timing of the announcement ("Now that all of your tuition checks for the academic year have cleared, we've got big news for you girls!").

Transferring schools, while a necessity for some, is a great upheaval for many. Many current students are contemplating this, and I suppose that the male enrollment will offset this loss (in the long run, possibly; I, for one, wouldn't be brave enough to attend next year!).

How many of the current students would have selected this school, having foreseen such an abrupt change? Very few, I imagine. I wonder whether prospective students were warned of this change as a distinct possibility. If they weren't, then can't they make the case for "grandfathering" the current student body?

It seems only fair that the school put off the admission of men until 2010, after the first year class has its standard four years to graduate. Every current student would get what they came to the school for: a four year college education in a single-sex environment. That's not everyone's cup of tea, but it's what induced these women to choose this school. If the administration needn't do this for ethical reasons, then it should do so for pragmatic ones. How else could they ever expect prospective students to take the school at its word?

Now, is my assumption incorrect? Were prospective and incoming students in recent years warned that this change was looming? If so, then never mind.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

David Hume, on why many academic philosophers are miserable

From The Epicurean:

But of all the fruitless attempts of art, no one is so ridiculous, as that which the severe philosophers have undertaken, the producing of an artificial happiness, and making us be pleased by rules of reason, and by reflection...

You pretend to make me happy by reason, and by rules of art. You must, then, create me anew by rules of art. For on my original frame and structure does my happiness depend. But you want power to effect this; and skill too, I am afraid: Nor can I entertain a less opinion of nature's wisdom than of yours. And let her conduct the machine, which she has so wisely framed. I find, that I should only spoil it by my tampering.

To what purpose should I pretend to regulate, refine, or invigorate any of those springs or principles, which nature has implanted in me? Is this the road by which I must reach happiness? But happiness implies ease, contentment, repose, and pleasure; not watchfulness, care, and fatigue.

Am I reading too much into this?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Happy birthday, Aerin!

She's my daughter, born one year ago today. She came a little earlier than expected. Actually, you can't be born much earlier than 14 weeks before your expected due date. She didn't just beat the odds, though; she trounced them.

Despite having spent the better part of her first three months in hospitals, she made it home for good before her original due date. How's that for determination?

Happy 1st birthday, big girl! Thanks for every single moment of the past year.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Going coed

My heart skipped a beat when I saw this headline on the Yahoo! main page. I expected to learn that Hollins University, which employed me in the 2004-05 academic year, had finally done the unthinkable out of financial necessity. Instead, I was to read that Randolph-Macon Woman's College will soon be one big lie.

That is, unless they broader their "vision for the future" just a tad further and consider a new name. Of course, they can't just become Randolph-Macon College, since there already is one; I've taught there as well. I will forward all suggestions to the proper authorities.

A number of traditionally all-female colleges have made the tough decision to go co-ed, despite intense opposition. Rumor has it that one person became the ex-president of Hollins University by daring to float the proposition. I suspect that if Hollins ever bites the bullet, it will be one of the very last to do so. On the other hand, I would expect that things will get better for the holdouts, as more single-sex schools go coed. While the demand for single-sex schools might have hit a historic low, there will always be a few students that will seek out such institutions. Now, Hollins has one less competitor.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Never mind

Just as I was planning to put together another rebuttal, I saw that this nonsense has been been shredded so thoroughly that there is a nary a scrap to pick apart further. I had been arguing that the figures in the map, even if they were accurate, did not support the grim conclusions being drawn. Now we see that even the premise of the argument is deeply flawed.

The credulity of supposedly trained critical thinkers we've seen here is astounding. You would think that if academic philosophy doesn't impart any practical knowledge, it would at least instill the practical virtue of skepticism.