Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Twenty Years Ago

5-8-87 . . . There was shocking political news this morning. Gary Hart, acknowledged Democratic frontrunner in the 1988 presidential sweepstakes, withdrew from the race because of the growing scandal concerning his extramarital affairs. Hart was found to have spent a weekend with a young woman [Donna Rice] in his Washington townhouse. The media badgered him until finally, this morning, at a news conference, he called it quits. Now the Democratic nomination is up for grabs. Of the many issues being debated in the press, the one I find most fascinating is that of relevance. Some people say that Hart’s extramarital affairs are politically irrelevant, something that people either don’t need to know about or shouldn’t know about.  I disagree. Politicians are not just bundles of positions on the issues; they are living, breathing human beings with moral characters, personalities, and attitudes. As a voter, I want to know a great deal about these things. They help me assess a candidate’s ability to deal with unforeseen crises and handle tense situations.

As for Hart in particular, I believe that the recent incident with the young woman sheds light on several important characteristics: fidelity (to his wife, and generally), trustworthiness, and honesty. Rather than admit that he had been unfaithful, he attacked the press and denied wrongdoing. Then, this morning, he continued the assault and refused to be humble, claiming that candidates for the presidency should be immune to certain sorts of scrutiny. He called the press “hunters” and the candidates the “hunted.” Usually, I’m the worst critic of the press, but in this incident they did a good job. It’s a dirty world, American politics. Candidates should be scrutinized, probed, analyzed, questioned, and observed so that we, the voters, can make an informed decision at election time. So long, Gary Hart. I now expect things to get interesting. My current favorites are Paul Simon of Illinois and Joseph Biden of Delaware, both liberals. [Biden is running for president again, 20 years later.]

It was payday, so I drove to school to pick up my check. On the way, I stopped at the law-school library to copy three articles for my presession course [Sex, Ethics, and the Law]. Here’s what I’ve decided to do. First, I’ll select five or six topics. I’ve tentatively decided on (1) marriage; (2) childbearing; (3) homosexuality; (4) pornography; (5) violence; and (6) nudity. Ideally, I’d present three perspectives on each topic: liberal, conservative, and radical. Most of my students, I suspect, will be liberals, the sort who claim that the state should not criminalize sexual activities unless they harm or offend others. The conservative and radical views would then constitute two kinds of criticism of the liberal position. But there just isn’t time to do all of this in forty-five hours, at least if I hope to cover six topics, so I’ve decided to emphasize the radical position. We’ll start with Joel Feinberg’s liberal framework and then ask whether it is adequate to a range of issues: adultery, group marriage, abortion, sodomy, pornography, rape, and so forth. I’ll tell the students in advance that we’ll be examining primarily the radical position. Today I copied three articles written by feminists.


I leave you this fine evening with a column (by Steve Sailer) about ethnic bias in America’s game.


It’s time to destroy Iran’s nuclear capacity. What are we waiting for?


Is poker a game of chance? See here. Only someone who has never played poker could think it is.

Addendum: It occurs to me that there is an ambiguity in the expression “game of chance.” It could mean either “game in which skill plays no role” or “game in which chance plays some role.” Someone said on the Freakonomics blog (in a comment) that blackjack is a game of chance. This is true on the second meaning, but not on the first. The same is true of poker.

The Justly Maligned Newspaper

Mark Spahn sent a link to this hilarious spoof by Iowahawk.


This is interesting. Is CBS trying to protect Barack Obama from criticism? I hope we’re not seeing the beginnings of a double standard for presidential candidates: anything goes for white candidates, but kid gloves for black ones. What’s next? Prohibiting criticism of black candidates? Turning name-calling and mudslinging into a hate crime?


Ivan Basso admits to “attempting” to use drugs, but denies using them. See here. I wonder how much of the drug use in professional cycling was caused by Lance Armstrong. He was so far ahead of his rivals that they may have decided that the only way to beat him was to cheat.


I always enjoy Michael Barone’s columns. Here is his latest. Barone is (1) a Michigander, (2) a graduate of Yale Law School, and (3) a blogger.

Making It Big

I noticed that I had a few visitors from The New York Times, so I did some investigation. Sure enough, someone at the Times linked to me. See here.


If this isn’t the best album ever made, then I’m a dingo‘s mother-in-law. By the way, lead singer Rob Halford is gay. More support for the hypermasculinity thesis.

Best of the Web Today



Should men and women have their own television networks? Oh, wait; they do. Men have ESPN; women have Lifetime, ABC, NBC, CBS, Home Shopping, &c, &c, &c.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

It should come as no surprise that the Liverpool, N.Y., school board president concluded that after seven years “there was literally no evidence” that computers “had any impact on student achievement.”

The good news is that the personal laptops issued by the school didn’t negatively affect student achievement. The bad news is that taxpayers wasted a whole lot of education money providing students with laptops.

There’s a lesson here: Schools and parents must get back to teaching our children the basics instead of resorting to technology to revive our failing education system. We need to teach theory, facts, rules, thought processes and critical thinking first. Only then will students be able to use computers for anything other than entertainment and socialization.

But this requires hard work and discipline by students and parents. You simply can’t substitute easy and fun “stuff” like computers and phonics for the real thing.

The rest of the world’s kids and parents are now busy doing the hard work . . . just as we used to do.

Peter J. Hellermann
Huntington, N.Y., May 4, 2007

Note from KBJ: We need two things: first, more critical thinking; and second, more cowbell.

Against Law and Order

It’s official: The New York Times is against law and order.

“Bush Lied”

Every now and then, I hear from someone whose New York Times letter I posted. I wonder how they find my posts. Today, Erec Stebbins posted a comment, which I approved, since he was civil.