Sunday, 25 March 2007

The Politics of Disdain

Here is George Will’s latest column. I agree with Will that there is a great deal of anger toward President Bush, but there is also a great deal of hatred toward him. Paul Krugman, for example, hates President Bush; he isn’t just mad at him. James Taranto uses the expression “Angry Left.” It should be “Hateful Left.” One important difference between anger and hatred is that anger can be justified. When it is, it’s called resentment or indignation. Perhaps Americans are angry because they feel victimized. They believe that they are being wronged by others, including their president. It’s been said that ours is the age of victimization. This would explain why it’s also the age of indignation.

Twenty Years Ago

3-25-87 Wednesday. Last night’s philosophy of law seminar was frustrating. The subject is voluntariness, and the question was whether one can voluntarily commit an irrational action. A second question is whether one can voluntarily commit an unreasonable action. Now, the answers to these questions depend crucially on how we conceptualize voluntariness, rationality, and reasonableness, and [Joel] Feinberg gives conceptions in his book Harm to Self [1986]. But the students seem to ignore his conceptions and go off the deep end in their arguments. The entire course has been conducted in this manner. If I were Joel, I’d make it clear up front what we’re assuming, and then see what follows logically from it. But perhaps he wants the students to come at the issues from many different directions in order to furnish him with new perspectives and ideas. I made only a couple of comments this evening. Afterward, I argued with David Cortner, Ann Levey, Clark Wolf, and Jonathan Kandell.

Our governor, Evan Mecham, is at it again. First he cancelled [sic; should be “canceled”] the Martin Luther King, Jr, holiday; then he appointed Jim Cooper, a creationist, to a high administration post; then he decreed a Phoenix newspaper columnist a “nonperson”; and now he has infuriated people with a comment about blacks. Mecham said that when he was growing up, the word “pickaninny” was not derogatory to blacks. In fact, he said, he knew black parents who referred to their own children as “pickaninnies.” Black leaders were outraged by this comment, not only because it is likely false that any parent used the term as Mecham says, but because the governor would make it sound so mild. Mecham denies that he is a racist, but every word and action belies it. By now, I think, he has done something to alienate most of the Arizona electorate. Constitutionally, no governor can be recalled from office for six months. I predict that there will be a full-fledged recall campaign this summer, and that Mecham will be ousted. He is an embarrassment to our state and to the nation. [Recall petitions were gathered and a recall election set for May 1988. In the meantime, Mecham was impeached, convicted, and removed from office, so the recall election was canceled.]


Here is a blurb from today’s edition of Cyclingnews:

Ride with Armstrong in RAGBRAI

While his former Discovery Channel teammates slug it out with the rest of the ProTour peloton in France this summer, Lance Armstrong will be heading up a LiveStrong team at the popular Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI).

Lance Armstrong Foundation webmaster and occasional Cyclingnews contributor Chris Brewer said that “our Team LiveStrong for this years [sic] RAGBRAI will be comprised [sic] of 100 riders who will ride the 7-day, 472 mile bike ride across the state of Iowa from west to east. To join us, each rider must raise a minimum of $1,000 for the Lance Amstrong Foundation. And this amount includes the $125 entry fee for RAGBRAI and one LIVESTRONG cycling jersey.”

Interested riders should check out but Chris advises that “there are limited slots remaining (and) all registration applications must be received no later than midnight central daylight time Tuesday March 27, 2007.”

Any takers?

Eating Out

Here is a New York Times story about portion sizes in restaurants. I take 99% of my meals at home, and when I eat out, it’s by stopping at Taco Bell (for bean burritos) or Subway (for a footlong sandwich), so I’m not sure what to make of it. Has anyone noticed a change in portion sizes? If so, where and in what direction?

Addendum: I now think the percentage of meals I take at home is closer to 95.


What will they think of next?

Hang Up and Drive!

See here.

Jacques Barzun on Baseball

Iannone: You have said, I am told, that to understand America we need to understand baseball. Please explain. And would therefore the changes we have seen both in baseball and in the sports world at large (so many sports coming onto the scene, including European soccer) carry any implications for the state of the national character?

Barzun: Ah, the great baseball question! I thought the game specially American and admirable, because it is the most complex sport and the least physical. It doesn’t depend on butting and bashing. It calls for lightning judgment and response at every moment of play, together with accuracy of eye and power of arm and leg for hitting, running, and throwing. And it is a wonderfully cooperative game in which the continually changing conditions bring on a variety of rules and opportunities.

Those features seemed to me, when I made the statement in 1954, to mirror the character of our individual behavior, our social and business relations, and our sense of organization generally. We have fallen away from this standard to an appalling degree—we blunder repeatedly, “the honest mistake” regularly accounts for the predictable error. We utter stupidly offensive words, followed by apologies. Our legislatures dither and act too late. Industry and corporations are outsourcing because it’s more fun for CEOs to buy and sell companies than run them. It’s only a matter of time till baseball bats are stamped “Made in China.” Anyhow, allegiance to a team is no longer possible; the free-player system scrambles the lot, and the salaries paid introduce an element of disgust in what used to be the joy of being a fan.

(Jacques Barzun, “A Conversation with Jacques Barzun,” interview by Carol Iannone, Academic Questions 19 [fall 2006]: 19-27, at 26-7)

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Fred I. Greenstein, the presidential historian at Princeton University, says Ronald Reagan was an above-average president (“Nowadays, a Candidate Can Seem Too Experienced,” Week in Review, March 18). I disagree.

After the nearly scandal-free Carter administration, the Reagan administration scandals involved top officials and harmed the country.

The Iran-contra scandal involved sales of weapons to Iran in violation of federal law to finance the contra rebels in Nicaragua, also in violation of federal law. Eleven administration officials were convicted, and Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger avoided trial only because President George H. W. Bush pardoned him.

President Reagan ignored the growing AIDS problem for at least four years, during which a more activist approach could have advanced research and saved many lives then and later. The Reagan presidency above average? I think not.

Joel Rubinstein
San Francisco, March 18, 2007

Note from KBJ: Joel Rubinstein may be the only person in the United States who has fond memories of the Carter presidency.

A Year Ago


Caloric Needs Calculator

How much do you weigh? Is your weight stable? Are you happy with it? If you want to lose weight, you must consume fewer calories than your body needs to sustain your present weight. It’s best to do this over a period of time. If you want to gain weight (yes, there are people who want to gain weight), you must consume more calories than your body needs to sustain your present weight. Again, it’s best to do this over a period of time. If you want to stay at your present weight, you must consume as many calories as your body needs to sustain its present weight, but no more. How many calories your body needs to sustain your present weight can be estimated with this calculator. I’ve been on a strict diet of 2,200 calories per day for almost two years. My weight has gone from 177 to 155.5 pounds. (I’m five feet, eleven inches tall.) I’ll be 50 years old in 13 days. My resting heart rate is 48 beats per minute, sometimes lower. My heart rate reached 160 during a 3.1-mile run a few minutes ago. Not to boast, but I’m in the best physical shape of my life—which is not to say that I don’t have aches and pains! Remember: Your body is your earthly vehicle. It needs to be kept in top running condition if it’s to get you to your destination, whatever that may be. Some people take better care of their automobiles than they do their bodies. That’s absurd. Your automobile can be replaced; your body cannot.

Safire on Language