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Slippery Slopes


I think the slippery-slope metaphor is now almost entirely useless, an impediment to thought rather than an aid to it. If you want to say that A makes a worse B inevitable, say so and explain why. If you want to say that acceptance of A makes it impossible in principle to reject B, say that and explain why it matters. And if you want to reject these and similar propositions, don’t rest your case on the unreliability of slippery-slope arguments in general. All this by way of saying that Jonah’s formulation is not quite right. He can’t really take the position that anyone trying to use B as an argument against A has to prove that A will inevitably lead to B. Surely if A dramatically increases the likelihood of B in some demonstrable way, and B really would be disastrous, that’s something to take into account when considering A.



Here’s a noteworthy article from Al-Ahram. According to one housewife, a
graduate of the American University in Cairo, “Whatever crime they [Saddam's
sons] committed, is beside the point. Killing them was a crime, a murder, it was
sacrilegious because the body belongs to God not to people.” And Saddam’s
crimes and murders? Those of his sons? (The head of the student union at the
Suez University did admit that the brothers “were despotic,” but immediately
retorted that the US had “no justification” for their killing–”otherwise what
would courts be for?”) Some elementary distinctions are being blurred here.

The article also quotes an Islamic scholar who immediately appeared on
al-Jazeera after footage of the brothers was broadcast and concluded that it was
“an illegal act that violates Shari’a and the Geneva Convention.” Of course,
that is the official line of the Vatican’s newspaper.

Ah, well, at least we have Chaput–whose book, Living the Catholic Faith, for
those who may be interested, is excellent.


When Sugar Goes Bad


A helpful link from a Corner reader.

Web Briefing: July 26, 2014

Tune in Tomorrow


Just learned that tomorrow evening at 8 pm Eastern, 5 pm Pacific, I’ll be on Laura Ingraham’s radio show with Nancy Collins, who’s guest-hosting for Laura this week. The topic? No surprise there. How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life. (Check for local listings.)


Jayson Blair, The Very Long View


Clay Waters notes that in the report on the Jayson Blair fiasco, Times-appointed reviewer Roger Wilkins put the paper’s “need to pursue diversity aggressively” in the historical context of white male exploitation:

“The Times’s recruitment occurs mainly within the context of the American culture, with all of the extraordinary freight that it had accumulated in the 400 years since Europeans first set foot on this continent and encountered the people who already lived here. Essentially that culture taught that white men were the only people qualified to carry out the serious business of the world. Even down to the seventh decade of the last century, that culture was producing many newsrooms across the nation that were lily-white and all-male….the Times newsroom is an American place and is thus touched–as are virtually all American places–by our culture, including some remnants of hostility to minorities and women.”

BTW, Clay adds our historian Wilkins told the Boston Globe in 1991: “Reagan was just an ignorant, old guy with old-time bigotry, and he didn’t even know how racist he was.”

April to The Rescue


Reading my previous post about attitudes toward interracial marriage in the late 1960s, my wife e-mails me a link to an article by Steve Sailer in NR from a few years ago. Sailer wrote, “[I]n January 1967 the Supreme Court struck down the anti-interracial-marriage laws in Virginia and 18 other states. And in 1967 these laws were not mere leftover scraps from an extinct era. Two years before, at the crest of the civil-rights revolution, a Gallup poll found that 72 per cent of Southern whites and 42 per cent of Northern whites still wanted to ban interracial marriage.”

Re: Missing Ya


There is never enough Ponnuru in The Corner.

Re: Sugar


I’m getting all kinds of condiment email…

Re: Selling Conservatism to The Chi-Coms


Sorry, Ramesh, Jonah:–original got lost there somehow:

Jonah: Well, I–and National Review–got a nice write-up in the July 10
China Economic Times.”
(The print version has a photograph of me in mid-gesticulation, too.)
Should be worth a few subscriptions.

American Constitution Society


Tomorrow afternoon, I’ll be speaking at the first national convention of the American Constitution Society, a group launched by law professors and liberal legal types to act as a counterweight to the Federalist Society. I am on a panel with former EPA administrator Carol Browner, NJDEP head Bradley Campbell, John Podesta, and Jim Hecker of Trial Lawyers for Public Justice. This sounds like it will be four against one, so it should be fun.

Canada, Slopes, Gays


Stan – I agree that Canada’s policies on gay marriage are significant, but they do not constitute an irresistable undertow for the United States of America. We are different countries. If Canada were our future we would be holding bake sales for the Pentagon budget and the Post Office would be running health care. Americans and Canadians have many things in common but they also have a great many things not in common. Arguing that Canada is leading the way for the US must be demonstrated. And the historical record on major issues like health care, foreign policy, the United Nations, taxes, etc etc suggests that such a demonstration would be at least difficult.

As for the American Law Institute, I don’t know enough, but I don’t see why we have to let the American Law Institute settle these questions for us. You assert that the Law Commission of Canada and the ALI are “rough equivalents” in your Standard piece. I take you at your word, but I do know a little about the Canadian Law Commission’s power and influence — as well as Canada’s general acceptance of rule by the courts — and I must say I’m a little skeptical that the ALI has the same authority here.

And as for slippery slopes, I have a long record as a skeptic of such arguments, but all I’ll add is that I agree with Noah Millman. If you are going to use them at all, you need to demonstrate very carefully that A must force B into existence and that B requires C and so on. You cannot simply say that B is more likely once A happens, or that it would be intellectually consistent if supporters of A also campaigned for B. People aren’t consistent and they don’t follow through on their convictions simply because a straight-line prediction of their rhetoric suggests they should.

Sullivan’s Proposal


Andrew floats a compromise: a constitutional amendment guaranteeing that states wouldn’t have to recognize one another’s same-sex marriages. (He says he doesn’t support it but offers it as a suggestion. I’m not sure on what grounds he does not support it wholeheartedly, given the federalist case he makes for it.) I might support his modified marriage amendment if it were modified again, to reach down to bar state judiciaries from imposing same-sex marriage. Andrew doesn’t seem to object to such judicial activism.

He writes, “Much bigger majorities opposed inter-racial marriage in 1967, when it was finally protected, than now oppose same-sex marriage. But then those evil judicial activists imposed equal marriage rights on an unwilling populace.” Does anyone have any numbers on this? Had no states democratically lifted their prohibitions on interracial marriage in 1967? Did sizable majorities think that interracial marriage was not only something to be avoided, but something to ban?

Selling Conservatism to The Chi-Coms


Reader Blegg


This is unorthodox, even for us, but I don’t have time to help but do want to. What would you’all send this fella?

I am a
business lobbyist (and lifelong NR reader) and I will be speaking before a
group of college-age students from Arab nations.

I’ve read so many NRO column… that I can’t remember
the most salient one on the development of the Arab world, esp. the need for
mitigating civic institutions (independent judiciary, mosque/state
separation, secure property rights, and so on).

Could you please recommend the best items from the NRO archive so I can use
them as handouts for my students? I just learned a few minutes ago that I’m
up against the state political director of AFL-CIO, who has truly far-left
views on government intervention in the economy.



I expect the drop in the poll numbers on support for gay marriage will continue, especially if the Massachusetts court imposes it on the state. I doubt, however, that the drop will take the numbers back to where they were in, say, 1990. If something like the Federal Marriage Amendment passes, it will in part be the result of a tactical mistake by liberal judges. The cause of gay marriage is winning, and only overreaching will inflict a loss.

Regarding Jo’s--Ii


Nicholas Antongiavanni of the Claremont Institute is miffed that various respondents to his post about John have failed to understand its nuances. It is the constant lament of a writer. In this case, the headline over Antongiavanni’s post contributed to the confusion (if it is a confusion). My own disagreements with Antongiavanni–always leaving open the possibility that I too am insufficiently attuned to his deeper meanings–are several. (I will leave aside his assumption that he knows the ins and outs of personnel decisions at National Review.)

First, he conflates paleoconservatism with foreign-policy realism. The paleos may like realism better than neoconservatism, and some of them may even think of themselves as realists, but there really is no reason to treat a realist turn as a paleo turn. Calling the paleos isolationists isn’t exactly right either, but it’s closer to the truth than calling them realists–and surely nobody needs instruction on the difference between realism and isolationism?

Second: Having characterized the National Interest’s philosophy on the basis of three articles contained in one issue of it, Antongiavanni goes on to complain that his views are being attributed to Claremont as an institution. I think it much fairer to say that the journal has been open to various views, with a strong tilt toward a non-paleoconservative realism. John is friendly with various paleos, and I do not doubt that a few of them will be published in the National Interest. But I wouldn’t go further than that.

Finally, I don’t believe it is true that O’Sullivan has a “paleo-realist background,” unless opposition to continuous mass immigration is all it takes to be a paleo (in which case I’m one too). Certainly National Review under John’s editorship was not a paleo mag.

Just Checking


Did he just call me “Sugar”?

Hi Guys


I’m back after an absence from the Corner of a week or so. Miss me? Or, er, notice I was gone?

Jonah & Slopes


Jonah, a couple of comments on your post about slippery slopes. Two of the key points in my long piece involve the Law Commission of Canada’s “Beyond Conjugality” report and the American Law Institute’s “Principals of Family Dissolution.” The “Beyond Conjugality” report is about as radical as a thing can get. It stops only just short of proposing the abolition of marriage. That’s striking for two reasons. First, it’s amazing that so radical a proposal has already been formally laid before Canada’s parliament by an official commission. That shows that the slippery slope here is not imaginary. Second, advocates of gay marriage touted the report, yet never took issue with its proposals to virtually eliminate marriage. You would think if the real motive was to get in on, and protect, traditional marriage, gay marriage advocates would have reacted with ambivalence to the report. But they didn’t. And our own country’s American Law Institute proposals are already very radical. Maggie Gallagher has more on that at her new blog. Yet the ALI Principles have to be considered likely to be eventually adopted. So the slippery slope I am talking about here is not some crazy radical future that will probably never come about. It is already knocking on our doors–and the odds so far are in its favor.

Re: Anything Into Oil


Thanks for the excellent feedback. Most of you are skeptical, and a great many of you pointed out Steven Den Beste’s blog post on it here. Although one smart reader said:

“I have degrees in electrical, mechanical and metallurgical engineering and a certification in nuclear engineering and I can find no flaws in the technology. They are going on-line at a Con-Agra plant in Missouri this week, making turkey offal into #2 diesel and water…. When I first read about it, I thought it have the sociological impact of manned flight… I still think so.”

I report, you decide.


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