Monday, 7 May 2007

Proof That God Has a Sense of Humor

Christopher Hitchens, who writes better than he thinks, debates Al Sharpton, the race hustler, on the existence of God. I give the bout to Sharpton, 101-87.

Baseball Notes

1. Roger Clemens has rejoined the New York Yankees. It must be nice to be able to play half a year and still earn many millions of dollars. Red Sox fans are outraged, since they hoped to sign the Rocket themselves; but hey, it’s only fair, since Boston prevailed over New York in the competition for Daisuke “Gyroball” Matsuzaka this past off-season. If the Red Sox beat the Yankees this year, it will be all the sweeter, now that Clemens is a Bronx Bomber.

2. The Cleveland Indians are playing like gangbusters. My Detroit Tigers are going to have their work cut out for them if they’re to win the Central Division title this year. Don’t count out the Minnesota Twins or the Chicago White Sox, either. This may be the best division in baseball. It used to be called Comedy Central.

3. The Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets are going to kill each other this year. There’s nothing like a pennant race.

4. I used to like the designated hitter, which was implemented in 1973, but now I wish it would go away. What do you think? By the way, there’s a parallel here to constitutional law. Suppose you believe that the designated-hitter rule should never have been implemented. Is there a presumption in its favor, given how long it’s been in existence? Suppose you believe Roe v. Wade (1973) to be wrongly decided. Is there a presumption against overruling it, given how long it’s been in existence? My own view is that mistakes are mistakes, even if old, and should be corrected as soon as possible. Isn’t it interesting that both mistakes occurred in 1973? What the hell were they thinking?

5. If I were commissioner for a day, I would abolish armor. Batters should have no protection other than helmets, athletic cups, and shin guards (the latter to protect against foul balls). They should have no protective plastic on their arms. I don’t even like batting gloves, but at least they don’t give batters an undeserved advantage over pitchers. Speaking of batting gloves, I can count the batters who don’t wear batting gloves on two hands. (Sorry.) Two of them—Jorge Posada and Doug Mientkiewicz (pronounced “min-KAY-vitch”)—play for the Yankees. Did I mention that I hate the Yankees? It can’t be said too often, too firmly, or too loudly.

Twenty Years Ago

5-7-87 Two down, one to go! I wrote my minor preliminary exam this morning from 8:35 to 11:35. As expected (and hoped), I had a choice of questions. I chose to answer questions on the relation between rights and utilitarianism, natural rights, and the rights of animals. This latter question blew me away. Can you imagine, giving me a chance to write on animal rights!? I’ve only been thinking and arguing about this subject for years, and have taught it in several of my courses. I think I did well on the other questions, too, but one can never be sure. The questions were worded in such a way that I’m not sure I addressed all the issues that Henning [Jensen] or Julia [Annas] had in mind. But my answers were solid; I would be very surprised if I failed any of them. Afterward, I packed up my [Kaypro II] computer for the last time and brought it home. As I was doing so, Bob Schopp and David Cortner stopped by to chat. Both assured me that I had done fine. I hope they’re right.


King Herod‘s tomb has been discovered. Thanks to George Jochnowitz for the link.


What is a Blackberry? Why do people have them? How is the world better for their presence? (I’m not playing dumb. I have no idea whether a Blackberry is a cellphone, a small computer, a music player, or something else. I’ve never seen, touched, smelled, tasted, or heard one.) Now the fruit, that’s different. My brothers and I used to pick blackberries off the vine in Michigan. They grew alongside the roads, in the woods, in the meadows, and in the nearby sand pits. I remember the berries being so thick on the vine that you could put your pail under a cluster of them and either rub or shake them into it. My mother made blackberry pie and blackberry jam, which were, as you can imagine, delicious. I’m getting hungry just thinking about them!


John Hawkins of Right Wing News interviews Angela McGlowan, author of Bamboozled: How Americans Are Being Exploited by the Lies of the Liberal Agenda.


Here is John Fund’s latest column. It appears that Europe may be coming to its senses after experimenting with egalitarianism and open borders.

Best of the Web Today


Stephen M. Barr on Mind and Matter

As long as only physical structures and mechanisms are involved, however complex, their behavior is described by equations that yield only probabilities—and once a mind is involved that can make a rational judgment of fact, and thus come to knowledge, there is certainty. Therefore, such a mind cannot be just a physical structure or mechanism completely describable by the equations of physics.

(Stephen M. Barr, “Faith and Quantum Theory,” First Things [March 2007]: 21-5, at 23)

What You Need

Shortly after midnight, I watched the 12th of 156 episodes of The Twilight Zone. (I know: I need to pick up the pace.) This one is entitled “What You Need.” Does anyone remember it? An elderly street peddler sells people what he says they need, even though they don’t have the foggiest idea why they need it. Sure enough, they end up needing the items. In one case, a man was sold (or given, for you don’t see money changing hands) a pair of scissors. Not long thereafter, his muffler got caught in an elevator door. Just before he was strangled, he managed to cut it—with the scissors. He proceeds to coerce the old man into giving him other things he needs, such as wagering tips. When the old man finally resists the coercion, the thug takes a pair of shoes from the old man’s display case. After putting them on, he slips on the roadway while trying to get away from an oncoming car. He is killed. Unjust? Not necessarily. The old man never told him that he (the thug) needed the shoes. If anything, it was the old man who needed the thug to wear the shoes, so as not to be killed by him; for the thug was getting more dangerous by the day. Interesting episode. I love the black-and-white film, which forces you to attend to gradations of light.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Matters of Faith Find a New Prominence on Campus” (news article, May 2):

What’s lacking at most universities is the commitment to introduce students to the academic study of religion.

Of course, students can take an introduction to religion course as an elective or to satisfy a humanities requirement, but an introductory course in world religions should be a requirement at any university, and not just because many of the world’s current conflicts have a religious component.

The fact is that not knowing anything about Buddhism or Islam, for example, is not the same as not knowing anything about Nietzsche or Plato.

You just can’t be educated today without knowledge of the world’s religions. It’s time universities make the academic study of religion a requirement for all students.

Ivan Petrella
Miami, May 3, 2007
The writer is assistant professor of religious studies at the University of Miami.

All Fred, All the Time

Robert Novak was not impressed by Fred Thompson’s speech the other day in California. Truth be told, neither was I. Thompson was not as forceful as I had hoped. Starting off with several minutes of lighthearted banter did not set the proper tone. This country has serious problems, from terrorism to the war in Iraq to illegal immigration to a lawless judiciary. We need serious men and women in office. I’m sure Thompson is reading the reviews of his speech. Let’s hope he takes a more forceful approach from now on.

A Year Ago