Monday, 30 April 2007


I leave you this fine evening with a blog post by Roger Kimball.


The depth, breadth, and intensity of Bush hatred is astonishing. I well remember the Clinton years, and while there were a few people who hated him and lied about him, it was nothing compared to the legions who hate and lie about President Bush. Charles Krauthammer coined the term “Bush Derangement Syndrome” a few years ago to describe the malady. It’s actually broader than that. Anyone who has helped President Bush, or who works for him, or who advises him, or supports him, is vilified. Democrats have been trying to bring down Karl Rove—Bush’s so-called brain—for years, to no avail. They just know, without the slightest evidence, that he has engaged in unscrupulous behavior, perhaps even criminal behavior. This column by Fred Barnes summarizes the latest despicable attempts to “get” Rove. If I were Rove, I wouldn’t take it personally. He’s a brilliant political tactician, and Democrats know it. If he were on their side, they would worship him. Because he’s not, they revile and attack him.

Addendum: Please don’t write to say that Bill Clinton was hated as much as President Bush is. That’s risible. I voted for Bill Clinton in 1992. I liked him. I read the newspapers, watched televised political programs, and talked to people. There is no comparison between how these two presidents were treated. I don’t recall any attack pieces on President Clinton in The New York Times, for instance. Do you? Compare the present situation. At least one op-ed columnist per day—Paul Krugman, Bob Herbert, Frank Rich, Maureen Dowd—writes scurrilous, hateful things about President Bush. The animosity is palpable. Many of the news “reports” are little more than anti-Bush propaganda. It’s disgraceful.


Today is a great day for law enforcement, for public safety, and for just deserts. It is a bad day for reckless punks. See here. By the way, do you suppose that if the case had gone the other way, David Stout of The New York Times would have described it as “a case sure to please personal-injury attorneys”? Can you say “bias”? But then, we’ve come to expect that of the Times, haven’t we? It never met a criminal it didn’t like or a police officer it did.

Confession Is Good for the Soul

See here.

God Is Not Great

That’s the provocative title of Christopher Hitchens’s new book. The subtitle is “How Religion Poisons Everything.” Here, courtesy of Kevin Stroup, is an excerpt from the book. I reproduce the first paragraph:

There are four irreducible objections to religious faith: that it wholly misrepresents the origins of man and the cosmos, that because of this original error it manages to combine the maximum of servility with the maximum of solipsism, that it is both the result and the cause of dangerous sexual repression, and that it is ultimately grounded on wish-thinking.

Hitchens begs all the important questions. Theists would deny that their faith misrepresents anything. They would say that their faith represents the origins of man and the cosmos. They would add that whether servility is appropriate depends on whether God exists, and since they believe that God exists, and have reasons for doing so, they believe that it’s appropriate. They would say that sex is a gift from God, to be used in accordance with God’s purposes. It is not a mere means to express oneself or to gratify one’s urges, although, if self-expression and gratification flow from it, these are to be celebrated rather than regretted. Finally, they would deny that their faith is “ultimately grounded on wish-thinking.” Their faith, they would say, is ultimately grounded in reality. They don’t just assert this, either. They argue for it. Hitchens should grapple with their arguments.

If Hitchens can beg this many questions in just the first paragraph of an excerpt, his book should be a dandy, right up there with Richard Dawkins’s philosophically illiterate book The God Delusion. Both men need a crash course in philosophy—starting with critical thinking.

Twenty Years Ago

4-30-87 Thursday. What a great feeling! I’m done with my major written [preliminary] exam [on philosophy of law] and there’s no doubt that I passed it. Now I’ve got an entire week to prepare for the minor written exam [on rights], after which I have four days to prepare and psyche myself up for the oral exam. As I calculate it, the work is more than a third done. Here’s how today’s exam went. I left the apartment at 7:30 A.M. with my [Kaypro II] computer, [C.Itoh] printer, and a briefcase full of disks and cords. When the office opened at eight o’clock, I set the computer up in the commons room. Everything went smoothly, much to my relief. I remembered where the cords went, nothing was damaged, and the computer worked fine when I turned it on. At one point Jody [Kraus] came by to cheer me up. After buying a large cup of coffee, I picked up the first set of questions and went to work. The choice was smaller than I had expected. I was asked to answer two questions from a list of three. Fortunately, there were two questions that I felt comfortable with, so I attacked them. I spent two solid hours discussing [John] Austin, [H. L. A.] Hart, [Lon] Fuller, and [Ronald] Dworkin, then formatted and printed the manuscript.

The exam was divided into two parts, so I took an hour off to eat lunch (potatoes, eggs, toast, and coffee) and scan Jules Coleman’s article on tort law. By this time I knew that jurisprudence was behind me, so I shifted gears mentally and thought about some of the substantive areas. What would it be, I wondered: criminal law, tort law, contract law, free speech, property? But there was no sense in speculating; I would find out shortly enough. And that I did. By noon I was back at it in the commons room, and once again I was lucky. There were short questions on Charles Fried’s Contract as Promise [1981] and [Guido] Calabresi and [A. Douglas] Melamed’s famous article on property and tort law. The third question, which I ignored, was on criminal attempts. So I spent two hours developing and criticizing Fried, Calabresi, and Melamed, turning in the completed manuscript at two o’clock. It was, all told, twenty-two [double-spaced] pages long. Believe me, there could not be a better feeling than that I felt right then. I knew that I had done well and that the biggest chunk of work was behind me. I’ve been walking on a cloud all day.

Lois Day made copies of my answers for the committee members [Holly Smith, Joel Feinberg, and Ron Milo], so I have the originals here in the apartment with me. I answered four one-hour questions: one on Austin’s command theory of law, together with Hart’s criticisms of it; one on hard cases, with emphasis on Hart, Fuller, and Dworkin; one on Fried’s theory of contracts; and one on Calabresi and Melamed. The questions that I didn’t answer were on free speech ([T. M.] Scanlon and [Allen] Buchanan) and criminal attempts. Actually, I was surprised to have so little choice. Jeff Hershfield, who took his major written exam a week or so ago, was permitted to choose four questions from a list of twelve. Twelve! In effect, I was permitted to choose four questions from a list of six. But it worked out. Had I been unable to answer a question satisfactorily, I’d be angry and disappointed. But I was amply prepared for the four that I answered. I had outlined all of the relevant works and given them a great deal of thought. What more can I ask?

I had a couple of interesting chats with Alvin Goldman this morning. During my lunch break, I ran into him on the way to the Student Union Building. I told him that I was in the middle of my preliminary exam and that it was going well. He remarked that he was pleased to see so many students working their way through the Ph.D. program. Right now (that is, this month), at least five students are taking preliminary exams: David Schmidtz, Jeff Hershfield, Francis Sheehan, Jay Halcomb, and me. As graduate advisor, Alvin likes to see such progress. Later, I ran into him again in the bathroom. I asked him about his own preliminary exams at Princeton [University] and what he told me was astounding. He said that he had had no reading list. He was simply responsible for everything. Can you imagine that? If nothing else, I have the security of knowing that any questions I’m asked will come from books that I’ve read and thought about. I like Alvin. He’s always quick with a smile and a greeting.

Best of the Web Today


R. M. Hare (1919-2002) on the Sources of Disagreement

Two people who are using the word ‘ought’ in the same way may yet disagree about what ought to be done in a certain situation, either because they differ about the facts, or because one or other of them lacks imagination, or because their different inclinations make one reject some singular prescription which the other can accept.

(R. M. Hare, Freedom and Reason [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963], 97)

A Year Ago


From President Bush to President Thompson

It’s no secret that there are things about President Bush that I dislike. First of all, he doesn’t “get” immigration. Why is it so hard for him to understand that lawbreaking must not be rewarded? All I can think of is that he is beholden to the business community. That’s unacceptable. Businesses care only about their bottom line; they don’t give a damn about national security, preservation of our culture, protection of the environment, or law and order. Second, he is inarticulate. I’m not talking about his famously garbled syntax. That’s unimportant. I’m talking about his inability to communicate matters of substance to the American people. As I wrote in this blog more than three years ago, he should have been talking directly to the American people from day one of his presidency, laying out the principled basis for each of his policies, including the invasion of Iraq. Instead, he allows his enemies to frame issues and control the debate. Sometimes the silence out of the White House is deafening. Third, he bungled the invasion of Iraq. He should have quit while he was ahead. The aim was (or should have been) to remove Saddam Hussein from power. It was not to rebuild Iraq. We have no business rebuilding nations. In fact, President Bush used to say as much.

Despite these failures (or shortcomings), President Bush has given us two brilliant and law-abiding Supreme Court justices: John Roberts and Samuel Alito. For that, I will always be grateful. With any luck, he will give us another such justice (or two). Just imagine how things would be if we had had a Gore or a Kerry presidency. Then again, try not to. It’s frightening.

The Bush presidency, for better or for worse, is winding down. Those of us who care about law and order must decide how to vote in 2008. Most of you know that I came out in favor of Mitt Romney early on, and I would still be happy to support him, should he be the nominee. But Romney’s candidacy hasn’t taken off. I’m afraid that his Mormonism will keep people from voting for him, which will make a Democrat presidency likely. What to do? I’m now taken by Fred Thompson, who has President Bush’s good qualities but none of the bad ones. Perhaps most importantly, Thompson knows how to communicate. In that regard, as well as with regard to substance, he is the reincarnation of Ronald Reagan. (See here.) I believe that Thompson will crush whichever sniveling Democrat gains the nomination, whether it’s pretty-boy hypocrite John Edwards, harridan Hillary Clinton, or smooth-talking but empty-headed Barack Obama. Please run, Fred. The White House is yours for the taking.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

You’re worried that religious groups might “dictate who can and who cannot be married by the state” (editorial, April 24)?

Consider this: my Christian faith profoundly informs the way I vote. If I believe that a legislative proposal threatens the common good, I will vote against it and encourage others to do the same.

That’s not dictatorial. That’s democracy.

(Rev.) James D. Miller
Tulsa, Okla., April 25, 2007
The writer is pastor of the First Presbyterian Church.

Note from KBJ: Exactly. Let the people of each state—and not judges—decide whether to change the definition of “marriage.”

Sunday, 29 April 2007

“Technical” Virginity

Is it possible to regain one’s virginity? That depends on what “virginity” means. If it means never having had sex, then no, for you can’t undo the past. If it means having an intact hymen, then yes. See here.

The Harmfulness of Religion

Wait. Haven’t atheists such as Bertrand Russell, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett been telling us ad nauseam that religions such as Islam are harmful as well as false? Ian Buruma says that “Islamist terrorists use the Koran to justify murderous actions, but the actual reasons for their holy war are generally political and not theological.” If this is so, then the harm these Jihadists do is not attributable to religion in general or to Islam in particular. It is attributable to politics in general or to their political views in particular. That S is both a murderer and an adherent of religion R doesn’t mean that R caused S to murder.

Addendum: After I composed this post, I discovered this essay by psychologist David P. Barash. Suppose your goal is to explain the pervasiveness of religious belief. You might try to discover some benefit that it confers. But can’t it just as easily be said that the best explanation of the pervasiveness of religious belief is that it’s true? It seems to me that atheists such as Dennett (author of Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon) beg the question against theism. They assume (without argument) that it’s false and try to explain it in naturalistic terms. Maybe it’s not false! Whatever scientists are doing, philosophers should restrict themselves to arguments for and against religious belief. Philosophers, as such, are interested in the grounds of belief, not in the causes of belief. There could not be a more fundamental distinction.

Equal Pay

Feminists are ideologues. Their aim is to engineer society so that it conforms to their utopian blueprint. If this means distorting facts, so be it. See here.


Yesterday, in Muenster, Texas, I did my fourth bike rally of the year—and 400th overall. My goal, as I wrote some time back, is to do 1,000 rallies. Why not? I enjoy them as much as ever, and it’s a great way to stay in shape and get out into the countryside with friends. Yesterday I rode with several friends: Joe Culotta, Julius Bejsovec, Phil Kevil, and Randy Kirby. We had a ball. The weather was gorgeous (it reached 84° Fahrenheit, but was in the 70s during the ride). Even the wind cooperated. The Muenster rally starts later than any other—at 11:00—so the wind is usually stiff by then. Sometimes it’s out of the north; sometimes it’s out of the south. I prefer north, because that means we have a tailwind rather than a headwind for the final eight miles.

As expected, I’m getting stronger by the week. You may recall that I averaged only 13.67 miles per hour two weeks ago in Lancaster. Yesterday, by contrast, I averaged 16.87 miles per hour (for exactly 60 miles), and the course is much tougher. Muenster has more climbing than any other rally. One hill near the end is a backbreaker. It was all I could do to stay on the bike. Some people have to dismount and walk. My legs remained strong for over two and a half hours. I think the leg exercises I’ve been doing on my Soloflex machine are helping. To get up hills, you need strong quad muscles. My heart and lungs are in superb shape. My maximum heart rate yesterday was 152. My average heart rate—for more than three and a half hours of riding—was 125. I burned 2,115 calories during the ride, which is an average of 594.9 per hour and 35.2 per mile. For the sake of comparison, I burn 85 to 90 calories per mile while running. Running is hell. That I do it is a testament to my masochism.

There’s an ebb and flow to bicycling. There are points during a rally where you feel strong and points where you feel weak. Just past Saint Jo, Phil was struggling. I could hear him gasping for air as he rode behind me in a paceline. I was worried that he would get dropped, so I told him to rest for a couple of rotations. What does he do? He rides away from Randy and me at the end! The sandbagger. Julius, too, looked to be struggling early on, but he finished strong. Many of the bicyclists go to the Germanfest grounds after the rally, but it’s so late in the day, and the drive home is so long (85.5 miles), that I head for home immediately. I’m enjoying my new Honda Accord. It has a good air conditioner and the CD player is wonderful. I listened to Black Sabbath’s Vol 4 (1972) on the way to Muenster. It had me pumped up by the time I arrived.

There’s a steep descent north of Saint Jo. I’ve gone as fast as 48 miles per hour on it in years past, but yesterday I got up to only 41.8 miles per hour. The headwind slowed my pace. I shouldn’t do it, but I got into my Pantani tuck position to increase my speed. The Pantani tuck involves putting your stomach on the seat. Your rear end is just centimeters from the rear tire. The idea is to get as low a profile as possible. It’s exhilarating. You just hope you don’t blow a tire at that speed. It would be horrifying. We paid for this exhilaration later, while climbing the big hill I mentioned earlier. What goes down must come up.

All in all, it was a great day. Friends, beautiful weather, spectacular Texas countryside, bean burritos. With any luck, I’ll get to do it 600 more times.