After reading Fingarette’s essay “Alcoholism and Self-Deception” in Self-Deception and Self-Understanding, I was eager for more of his unique and interesting perspective on problem drinking in Heavy Drinking: The Myth of Alcoholism as a Disease. In this short and very readable book, Fingarette steadily and easily demolishes the prevailing opinion that alcoholism is a disease in which the alcoholic loses control over his drinking. (The scientific community long ago abandoned this view, but it lives on as dogma through therecovery movement.) Fingarette instead explains problem drinking as the result of choices that elevate drinking into a “central activity” in the drinker’s life. He argues that the motivations for the choices that make drinking a core value are as many and varied as are the individuals making them. My only serious objection to the book comes in the final chapter on social policy; Fingarette would seem to be happy to turn this country into a totalitarian state to prevent some people from making stupid choices about alcohol. Despite that flaw, Heavy Drinking presents an impressive and well-reasoned case against the disease model of problem drinking. Similar arguments, I suspect, would apply to any so-called addiction.


Shane Bodrero e-mailed me that professors no longer have to retire at age 65 because the government regards such mandatory retirement as age discrimination. Just as I suspected. He also sent this rather fascinating 2000 NYT article Tenure Gridlock: When Professors Choose Not to Retire on a president’s attempts to reform the tenure system at Muhlenberg College. I wonder how successful those efforts have been.

Most revealing was this passage:

“He [the president of the college] makes it quite plain that he views older faculty members as an encumbrance,” said Richard C. Hatch, 63, a chemistry professor who has been on the faculty since 1962. “He would just as well see those nearing retirement get out as soon as possible, and I guess I’m one of those.”

Dr. Hatch says he is looking forward to retirement at the end of the next academic year, thanks to what he calls “a very good retirement package” offered by Muhlenberg and managed by the pension fund TIAA-CREF. But he adds that he does not appreciate the feeling that he and other senior colleagues are being pushed toward the door.

“I feel more and more like a dinosaur,” he said. “It is more difficult to keep up with developments in the discipline, but I also find myself out of step with the attitudes that the newer faculty has towards what a college like this should be.”

So this ancient chemistry professor isn’t really able to do his job anymore and is offered a great retirement package. But he’s resentful! Amazing!


Mila 18 is a fictional account of the Warsaw Uprising, in which a small number of Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto fought off the Germans for a surprisingly long time. The book is a good read, but not great literature. Philosophical issues such as collaboration and the prudence of armed resistance are explored through the conflicts between the characters before the uprising. The German determination to exterminate the Jews, even at the cost of undermining their war effort, is made horrifyingly clear. The willingness of Christian Poland, including the Catholic Church, to not only stand idly by, but also actively turn Jews over to the Germans, is also evident. The characters are well-drawn, but you do not live among them as in John Hersey’s novel The Wall. A novel about such an event should be overwheming, but Mila 18 did not reach those heights. Nevertheless, the book was hardly a waste of time or money; it was a good read.

Reading Mila 18 does provide a convenient excuse to re-read The Wall, which is one of my favorite novels of all time. But I should probably read a historical account of the Warsaw Uprising first. Any suggestions?

The right of Jews to defend themselves against those who wish to slaughter them is, sadly, no less relevant today than it was in Nazi Germany. The face of the enemy may no longer be the deluded Aryan Master Race, but the threat is the same. For our government to preach forebearance to the Israelis in the face of suicide bombers killing innocent civilians on an almost daily basis is an insult to all people who value their own lives. It is hypocricy in its worst form, particularly after 9/11.

My only hope is that GW is trying to calm down the area until he can neutralize Israel’s greatest threat — Iraq — who likely has weapons of mass destruction. (My understanding is that we need a few months to restock our supplies of weapons for a war with Iraq.) As Andrew Sullivan notes, the Arab states may be gearing up for another war on Israel. Although Israel could certainly kick all their primitive asses back to long before the stone age, the death toll may be terribly high if someone uses nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons against Israel. By knocking out Saddam, we largely eliminate that risk. Additionally, the Arab states may not be so eager to get their asses kicked again without the promise to weapons of mass destruction. And they may not want the US to join the fight either. In any case, I just hope Bush isn’t really cruising down the morally indefensible path of appeasement.

Mar 282002

I recently finished Mila 18 by Leon Uris, a fictional account of the Warsaw Uprising. (I’ll post a review later.) So some articles on eugenics popped out at me last night.

In Reason, the article Eugenics Rides a Time Machine takes peek at the eugenics of The Time Machine, comparing the ideas in the new movie to H. G. Wells’ book.

Even more provocative and fascinating is the article by Jonah Goldberg on NRO entitled Westminster Eugenics Show. It talks about the AKC obsession over pure dog breeds as the result of lingering eugenicist views about racial purity.

Personally, I am all too familiar with the costs of focusing on purity of bloodlines and conformation in physical appearance in dogs, rather than temperament or health. One of my German Shepherds, Kate, has very bad hip dysplasia. (We adopted her from a shelter in January of 2000, when she was about 4 years old, so we didn’t select the breeder.) She has just had the first of what will be three expensive surgeries. Without these surgeries, I suspect that we would have to put Kate down in about a year; the pain simply would have been unbearable for her. However, she is a stunningly beautiful dog, with a very regal appearance. She would certainly pass the AKC conformation standards.

Any dog, of course, can develop expensive medical problems. But the likelihood is simply so much greater with purebreds than with mixed-breeds. I will certainly never adopt another purebred dog, for fear of yet more careless breeding.


The What Do You Think? on gay adoption in The Onion was hysterical this week. I almost died laughing.


In pursuit of a dramatic story, the Seattle times seems to have mislead its readers about whether patients in a clinical trial actually gave informed consent. Laura Landro’s article gives all the details. The editor of the Seattle times responds and WSJ replies. Fascinating.

But the dishonesty doesn’t stop there. Pete Du Pont also has an article on OpinionJournal about environmentalists falsifying data. Mr Du Pont writes:

So why the lying? It seems deceit is the only way the greens can advance their Luddite agenda. They are ideologically inspired to try to limit, slow and if possible stop economic growth, for they believe that prosperity is harmful to the environment. But our nation’s and the world’s environments are getting better all the time, in fact so much better so much faster that it is hard to wave the green shirt based on honest data. Subterfuge and misrepresentation are thus left to energize the greens’ antiprosperity cause.


I’ve been hard at work these past few days on my six-lecture course “Objectivism 101″ to be given at the 2002 Summer Seminar of The Objectivist Center. I have to turn in a detailed outline in the beginning of May, so I have about a week to work on each lecture. Of course, I’m already behind schedule. :-)

I’ll probably be privately posting my lecture notes in advance of the seminar so as to get some feedback from cool people. Cool people are defined as those that give me interesting answer to questions like these:

Questions for Objectivists and Sympathizers: What issues do you think are absolutely critical to cover? Were there particular issues that you remember being confused over in learning the philosophy? What kinds of common misunderstandings do you see in other people new to Objectivism?

Questions for Everyone Else: What would you like to learn about the philosophy? Where do your most serious reservations lie? What would make taking such a course enticing?

Thanks in advance…

Update: Due to serious philosophic and moral objections, I am no longer associated with The Objectivist Center in any way, shape, or form. My reasons why can be found on my web page on The Many False Friends of Objectivism.

Mar 262002

My husband Paul (of GeekPress) sent me to this visual demonstration of why stick people are extinct. Seems to me that it’s at least on par with some sociobiological just so stories!


Maggie Gallagher has a good piece on whether divorce is all that it’s cracked up to be. (She’s reviewing Hetherington’s new book For Better or for Worse: Divorce Reconsidered.)

Two interesting facts stand out. First, people usually aren’t better off after a divorce. Many seem to be far worse off, particularly women. They are often poorer, depressed, miserable, embittered, and so forth. Second, most people don’t divorce “to escape from violent hellholes” but rather because “they are lonely, bored, depressed, dissatisfied.” A “minority of divorces” are the result of the three A’s: adultery, abuse, and alcoholism.

People make all kinds of philosophical mistakes in their marriage that make divorce seem like an attractive option. They expect the other person to fill all their needs. They develop bad habits. They don’t think creatively about how to solve their problems. They dwell on minor problems, blowing them completely out of proportion. They ignore critical issues, allowing them to become entrenched and difficult to resolve. They focus on the other person’s problems, rather than their own. They think that the mere change of a divorce will alleviate their troubles.

Given the amazing and wondrous potential of a good marriage, such failures are depressing, precisely because they are usually so unnecessary.


My weekend started off grumpy and ended up in searing pain. Thankfully, the middle wasn’t so bad.

As for the searing pain, let me just say that I’ll never again chop up hot chilies while wearing contacts. The passage of hours and multiple hand washings did not remove all the hot hot hot oils from my hands. Repeatedly sticking my fingers in my eyes in a desperate attempt to remove my contacts was not an experience I ever want to repeat.

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha