Thursday, 25 January 2007

Unelected Princes of the Newsroom

I leave you this fine evening with Ben Stein’s column. Stein was valedictorian of his Yale Law School class in 1970. That doesn’t give his values any more weight, obviously, but it does tell you that he’s smart, and therefore worth reading.

Twenty Years Ago

1-25-87  David Cortner wanted me to come over and watch a cable television show on a man’s bicycle ride across the Mohave Desert. I declined, however, because my day was already planned. This morning I drafted journal entries, read the newspaper [The Arizona Republic], and ate a big breakfast. Then I rode my bike to Colossal Cave and back. Then, to top off a varied day, I showered and watched the twenty-first annual Super Bowl. This morning I got a laugh out of George Will, political columnist and baseball fan. Appearing on This Week With David Brinkley, Will was asked whom he thought would win the Super Bowl. “I don’t know,” he responded, disdainfully. When pressed on it, he said that the only good thing about the Super Bowl is that it means there are only twenty-five days until the Baltimore Oriole pitchers and catchers report to training camp. Way to go, George! There’s really no comparison between baseball and football. Football tries, and woefully, to fill the gap between World Series and spring training. In a better world, baseball would be played year ’round and there would be no other sports to distract us.

But let me say a couple of words about the Super Bowl, because many people do enjoy the sport and, let’s face it, this is the pinnacle of achievement for a football player. The New York Giants, who had a solid year, defeated the Denver Broncos, 39-20. Denver led at halftime, 10-9, but the Giants, behind quarterback Phil Simms, put on an aerial show during the second half. I was pleased with the result. I won five dollars from Paul Baker, saw my prediction come true (“New York by two or three touchdowns”), and got to see several exciting plays. Now we can put football behind us for another year and get ready for baseball. In the meantime, I have my [Arizona] Wildcat basketball team as a rooting interest. Sports, like the seasons, come in cycles.

Now on to my bike ride. The most significant statistic is that I passed the 7000-mile mark for all-time riding. I’ve now ridden 7020.8 miles since buying my first bike on 9 August 1981. That’s less than five and a half years. Assuming that I live in Tucson until August 1988 [which I did], I have nineteen more months, or roughly eighty-one weeks, in which to ride. If I ride an average of forty miles per week, that gives me an additional 3240 miles, or 10,260.8 overall. So there you have it: another goal. I plan to hit the 10,000-mile mark before leaving Tucson. If I take a long bike trip this summer or next, I’ll have no trouble. But even if I don’t, I should make it. I love setting and achieving goals. [I left Tucson with 11,876.2 miles.]

My gross-average speed today, in seventy-two degree [Fahrenheit] temperatures, was 16.35 miles per hour, my fourth-best ever. It was my best speed since 5 October 1986, three and a half months ago. I also passed my 1981 mileage mark (121.9 miles) today. Surprisingly, I averaged 15.54 miles per hour to the cave. This encouraged me tremendously, and I decided to go for the record (16.74 miles per hour). I even thought that I might break seventeen miles per hour. But the wind held me back. Much as I tried, I couldn’t keep my speed over twenty as I had hoped, and I ended up averaging only 17.37 miles per hour on the return trip. But I’ll settle for 16.35. I missed the record by 3.41 minutes. About two of that was spent changing [cassette] tapes, and the rest, I suppose, could have been made up by exerting myself just a bit more. The record will fall. I set it, and I’ll break it. Conditions just have to be right. By the way, I’ve now done nine strenuous activities (four bike rides, five hikes) in the past twenty-two days. I’m in great physical shape.

Richard John Neuhaus on Homosexuality

[T]here is no way of lifting the dark clouds over a way of life that turns on the identification of the self with the satisfaction of morally disordered desire, a way of life marked by a tragically high incidence of loneliness, alcoholism, drugs, disease, and early death. There is a more widespread tolerance, but it is not true that the battle for the acceptance of homosexuality has been won. One admires parents who continue to love their gay children, but in the faces of those who carry signs declaring that they are proud of their gay sons one detects the determination to hide the sadness of wishing it were not so.

(Richard John Neuhaus, “The Public Square,” First Things [December 2006]: 59-80, at 72)


If this isn’t the best album ever made, then I’m a monkey’s uncle.

Gallery of Regrettable Food

Mark Spahn sent a link to this. Isn’t it wonderful that all this old material is being put on the Internet? If I had the time, I’d scan my baseball-card collection, which is probably worth billions and billions and billions of dollars.

The Horny Hick

Here is Ann Coulter’s latest incendiary column.


Ernie Harwell is 89 today. If you’ve never heard of him, move along. If you have, click here.


Why are so many Americans defeatist? Is it because they’ve lost the capacity to make moral judgments? Are they uncertain about right and wrong, good and bad, just and unjust? Is it guilt? Is it Bush Derangement Syndrome? Is it fatigue? Self-doubt? Anxiety? Perplexity? I wish all the defeatists would move to Europe or Canada, where they would be welcome.

Best of the Web Today


From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Bush, Pressing Modest Agenda, Insists U.S. Must Not Fail in Iraq” (front page, Jan. 24):

President Bush, in his State of the Union address, proposed tinkering with his existing policies to solve our most urgent problems, including global warming, health care and the occupation of Iraq.

Unfortunately, greenhouse gas emissions won’t be curbed by “clean coal technology” and ethanol. Health care will not become accessible to all Americans through tax cuts. And the quagmire of Iraq will not be solved through escalation.

What our country needs are bold changes in failing policies, changes that the president seems incapable of delivering.

It is time for the Democratic Congress to take the lead in solving these problems, through attainable caps on carbon emissions, a truly universal health care system and an expedited redeployment of our troops out of Iraq.

Eric Ettlinger
Berkeley, Calif., Jan. 24, 2007

To the Editor:

In his State of the Union address, President Bush once again tried to have the American people and the world believe that the maelstrom in Iraq and the Middle East is due entirely to a litany of acts of evil terrorists and the external influences of foreign powers, especially Iran and Syria. And he would have us believe that these are recent developments.

Nowhere was there any sign of introspection. Mr. Bush is still in denial. As a result, even more Americans and innocent civilians will die in Mr. Bush’s misguided “augmentation,” as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calls it, and the world will be a much more dangerous place.

After Mr. Bush was elected in 2000, I consoled myself that our system of government was strong enough to withstand the incompetence of any individual that held the office of president. Events of the last five years have shaken my confidence in the inherent strength of our Republic.

In 2008 and beyond, Americans must exercise their power to vote with the utmost care, lest America repeat the fate of other great powers in history that met their downfall.

Bill DeLorenzo
Basking Ridge, N.J., Jan. 24, 2007

To the Editor:

President Bush said in his State of the Union address, “This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we are in.”

Has he forgotten that he received many warnings, internationally and domestically, that the war we went into would become the war we are in now? He ignored them all.

Irene Lion
Hillsboro Beach, Fla., Jan. 24, 2007

To the Editor:

When speaking about Iraq, President Bush told Congress, “And whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure.”

This is the president’s way of reframing the issue. Of course no one voted for failure, and the president’s opponents are not hoping for failure.

The president knows full well that the failure has already occurred, but instead of looking at that failure as a way of learning how not to repeat it, he’s framing the discussion so that his opponents—including the 70 percent of the American people who disapprove of the way he’s handling the war—can be blamed for their lack of “resolve.”

Here is a short list of the president’s errors: listening to his secretary of defense instead of the generals who cautioned him that we needed 500,000 troops to secure the peace; not clearing the troops out within six months of his announcement that “major combat operations in Iraq have ended”; not listening to any voices, especially the Iraq Study Group report, urging anything but continued staying the course.

I don’t include his justifications for the invasion—the W.M.D. or Saddam Hussein’s involvement in 9/11. Those weren’t errors. Those were lies.

Nat Ehrlich
East Lansing, Mich., Jan. 24, 2007

To the Editor:

In his State of the Union address, President Bush warned that “America must not fail in Iraq.”

Let’s see if I have this right: Against the advice of many of its passengers, a man drives a car recklessly into a ditch. It gets stuck. At first he denies that it’s stuck at all. Then when it’s impossible to avoid the truth, he guns the gas, spins the wheels and sinks the car deeper in the mud, all the while yelling hysterically about how terrible it will be for everyone if they can’t get out.

Well . . . thank you for enlightening us, Mr. President.

President Bush patronizes the entire nation when he tells us that failure in Iraq would be a disaster for the nation. We are acutely aware of the consequences of his bellicosity, thank you.

William Horwitz
Irvington, N.Y., Jan. 24, 2007

To the Editor:

The state of the administration’s remarkable disunion from reality is highlighted by a signature phrase from the State of the Union address.

Contrary to President Bush’s assertion that “this is not the fight we entered,” a great many people warned before the invasion of Iraq that the war would be pretty much exactly “the fight we are in” now. At the time, the president’s orchestrated minions suggested that such people were stupid, timid, defeatist and unpatriotic.

No one expects a genuine admission of error from this president, but it would be nice to at least hear him apologize to the people who were maligned for having greater prescience and common sense than his entire retinue of foreign and defense policy makers.

Charles M. Newman
New York, Jan. 24, 2007

To the Editor:

Simple elegance marked our president’s walk down the aisle to preside over the annual ritual of the State of the Union address, where not only is there no charging the podium, catcalling or other acts of incivility witnessed in other countries, but also there is rather attentive camaraderie and even occasional enthusiastic bicameral endorsement.

Here, legislators on both sides of the political line of scrimmage, loyal to their principles, build bridges and, through vigorously exchanged competing philosophies, unite our purpose.

How heartwarming to see some of the president’s toughest critics, like Senator John Kerry and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, rise in supportive applause. Sometimes Ms. Pelosi was on her feet ahead of the vice president.

How touching to come together as a nation to honor men like Wesley Autrey for extraordinary humanity and Sgt. Tommy Rieman for exceptional bravery.

How fortunate and privileged we are to be Americans.

Elliott Scheinberg
Staten Island, Jan. 24, 2007

To the Editor:

President Bush proposed tax cuts that would give uninsured Americans a modest amount of money to use toward premium payments for their own health insurance coverage.

Here’s what he didn’t say: unlike group plans negotiated by employers, individual coverage plans are subject to denial, termination or prohibitive rate increases if the covered person actually has a health problem.

For decades now, the G.O.P. has flimflammed voters with its snake-oil pitch about tax cuts.

Tax cuts didn’t produce more revenue, despite promises from Republicans like Jack Kemp and Ronald Reagan. They produced staggering debt.

And tax cuts won’t give uninsured Americans the access to health care that citizens of most leading nations take for granted.

Americans need real health care reform, not gimmicks, and we need it now.

David A. Scott
Columbus, Ohio, Jan. 24, 2007

To the Editor:

The president failed to mention one of our greatest national embarrassments, the state of the city of New Orleans. Is it no longer part of the union?

I can only surmise that President Bush could not include the topic without reminding us of his administration’s astounding incompetence, which was unmasked by Hurricane Katrina. Or reminding us of his abandonment of New Orleans since his carefully staged post-disaster town square speech.

Here are the words the president should have said: “We must allocate every resource possible to fulfill every pledge I made to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf states ravaged by Katrina. We cannot accept any notion that the population of New Orleans could end up half of what it was before the storm. We cannot fail these people.”

Mr. President, could you not find anyone to write those words?

Chris Westerkamp
Holyoke, Mass., Jan. 24, 2007

To the Editor:

Re “The State of the Union” (editorial, Jan. 24):

In his address, President Bush said the state of the union is “strong.” Should we believe that just because he said it? Does he base his statement on the fact that under his economic policies, the rich are getting richer?

Mr. Bush’s tragic blunder of invading and occupying Iraq is the chief cause of the continuing blood bath there.

Our president has admitted that mistakes have been made in Iraq in the past four years, but he still believes that he was correct in sending our brave troops into an unwinnable conflict that we initiated.

The Iraq debacle has done irreparable harm to President Bush’s credibility, which carries over to most everything he proposes.

Congress and the American people must hold Mr. Bush’s feet to the fire and not let him send more troops to die in Iraq for his monumental mistake.

Paul L. Whiteley Sr.
Louisville, Ky., Jan. 24, 2007

To the Editor:

After six years of the Bush administration and seven addresses by President Bush to Congress on the state of the union, it’s now clear that Mr. Bush’s political philosophy can be condensed into two principles:

First, most domestic problems in the United States can be solved by tax cuts or tax credits.

Second, most of the United States’ foreign problems can be solved by wars or threats of war.

Unfortunately, the president’s approach has only exacerbated America’s problems, because our problems are too complex and difficult for these facile solutions.

Anthony J. DiStefano
Aiken, S.C., Jan. 24, 2007

Note from KBJ: I reproduced all 11 letters published by The New York Times on President Bush’s State-of-the-Union address. Bias? You decide.

A Year Ago


Animal Ethics

Here is Mylan Engel’s latest post. Please read it. I think you’ll enjoy it.