Tuesday, 15 May 2007

All Fred, All the Time

I have only one word for this: Wow.

Elephant Talk

There will be a televised Republican “debate” this evening (9:00 Eastern Time) on Fox. It’ll be my first debate of the campaign season. It would be nice if Fred Thompson and Newt Gingrich were in attendance, but there’s plenty of time left before the first caucus or primary. I’m pretty sure Thompson will jump in. I’m not sure about Gingrich, who’s somewhat of a tease. By the way, Gingrich, a trained historian, has a new book: a “novel” about Pearl Harbor. I don’t get it. If you want to write a novel, write a novel. Make stuff up. If you want to write about Pearl Harbor, which is an important event in our nation’s history, hew to the facts. I frankly do not grasp the concept of an “historical novel.” A book can be historical or a novel, but not both.

Addendum: Please don’t say that James Michener’s Centennial (1974), which I love, is an historical novel. It’s a novel, plain and simple. The characters and events, as well as the town, are fictional. It just so happens that it’s set in the American West. If Gingrich wanted to do something similar to this, he would have created a fictional place, not used an actual place.

Addendum 2: I stole the title of this post from King Crimson. The guitarists in the clip are Tony Levin (bass), Robert Fripp (rhythm), and Adrian Belew (lead). All three, in my opinion, are musical geniuses.

Addendum 3: While surfing YouTube for video clips of King Crimson, I came across this classical rendition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Edgar Cruz. It’s unbelievable. I’ve always thought that this song has a beautiful ending.

Addendum 4: One more link before I watch the debate. Pat Metheny’s “Are You Going with Me?” is one of my favorite songs of all time. Here it is. Stay with the song until the end, for it goes through several changes. The ending is fabulous. I think of the song as a summary of my life.

Addendum 5: This post rambled, didn’t it? It started out as a political bulletin, became a rant against “historical novels,” and settled into a celebration of music. Let me return to politics. I just watched the Republican debate (but none of the post-debate spin). Here is my ranking of the 10 candidates in terms of which of them I would like to have as my president:

1. Mitt Romney
2. Duncan Hunter
3. Tom Tancredo
4. John McCain
5. Rudy Giuliani
6. Mike Huckabee
7. Tommy Thompson
8. Jim Gilmore
9. Sam Brownback
10. Ron Paul

Feel free to make your own list.

Thank You, Orville Redenbacher

I had a hunch that popcorn was good for me. Now I know. By the way, I make the world’s best popcorn. I’m not the best philosopher, the best lawyer, the best bicyclist, the best runner, the best housekeeper, the best friend, the best softball player, or the best lover, but, by God, (1) I’m the world’s best driver and (2) I make the world’s best popcorn (with a little help from my friend Orville).


Today is a rest day in the Giro d’Italia. Take a look at tomorrow’s stage, with its mountaintop finish. I like the second map, which shows elevation.

Best of the Web Today


Be Like Chuck

Here is philosopher Stephen Webb’s review of biologist David Sloan Wilson’s new book on evolution. Webb thinks evolution doesn’t explain everything, and therefore doesn’t explain anything. I disagree. It explains everything, from parental love to religion to morality, but it doesn’t justify anything. That there is an evolutionary explanation for parental love, for example, does nothing to undermine its value. That there is an evolutionary explanation for religion does nothing to falsify religion. That there is an evolutionary explanation for morality does nothing to undermine morality’s claims on us. What we’re seeing in books such as Wilson’s is scientism: the encroachment of scientific concepts, methods, and norms into nonscientific areas. Scientism, unlike science, is an ideology, no different in principle from feminism, Marxism, or libertarianism. It should be treated as such.

Joseph Bottum on George W. Bush

Conservatives voted for George W. Bush in 2000 because they expected him to be the opposite of Bill Clinton—and so, unfortunately, he has proved. Where Clinton seemed a man of enormous political competence and no principle, Bush has been a man of principle and very little political competence.

(Joseph Bottum and Michael Novak, “The Leadership of George W. Bush: Con & Pro,” First Things [March 2007]: 31-5, at 33)


Politics makes strange bedfellows, but this is ridiculous. Don’t progressives realize that, if Muslims gain control of the state, their first targets (i.e., the first people they persecute) will be progressives (including homosexuals, feminists, Marxists, and atheists)? What this shows is that the Left’s antipathy to the United States (and Israel) is so intense that it has clouded its judgment. (Thanks to Dr John J. Ray for the link.)

Homosexual “Marriage”

If you had any doubt about the ultimate goal of homosexuals, read this (especially the final three paragraphs). The goal is not, as homosexuals often say, to get the same bundle of rights and responsibilities that heterosexual couples have. It is not even to secure tolerance of a deviant lifestyle. It is affirmation, acceptance, and approval. The problem is that these things cannot be conferred by authority, including legal authority. They depend on individuals. That my state calls you married doesn’t mean that I or anyone else must affirm, accept, or approve of your relationship. Let me speak bluntly: Homosexual “marriage” is about ramming homosexuality down people’s throats.


Here is a New York Times story about a man who, in spite of—or perhaps because of—his artificial legs, runs very fast. Cases such as this will force us (if performance-enhancing drugs haven’t done so already) to rethink the nature and purposes of sport. They may even force us to rethink the boundary—which goes well beyond sport—between the natural and the artificial (as well as that between body and technology).


Here is Thomas Sowell’s latest column. I addressed the same general topic more than three years ago. I recall getting a lot of nasty e-mail about it.

Progressive Tension

Many progressives gloss over the distinction between intending to bring about a certain result (such as someone’s death) and knowingly bringing it about. They say it’s an irrelevant distinction, since in both cases someone ends up dead. One application of this glossed-over distinction is warfare. Progressives condemn the United States military for killing civilians even when their deaths are unintended. Dead civilians are dead civilians, they say; why should it matter whether the death was intended (as opposed to accidental)? Compare this line of thought to the progressive concern (some would say obsession) with hate crimes, where the only difference between acts is the motive. If you kill someone (a homosexual, for example) out of hatred, that’s supposedly worse than killing someone for money or revenge. Why does the mental state of the actor matter in the second case but not in the first? Why are progressives concerned only with results in the first case but not in the second? Surely it’s not because progressives are biased!

From the Mailbag

As defined, a miracle is “a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.” God.

Therefore changing water into wine and a fat man sliding down chimneys are both miracles, no?

For either to actually happen God had to have intervened.

Thus it takes the same leap of faith to believe a fat man in a red suit can slide down my chimney or a bearded man in robes and sandals can change water into wine.

At an early age we are told one of our “miracles” is silly and the other is just peachy. We are told to “outgrow” our belief in silly Santa but not the notion that water can be changed into wine. THAT is somehow more worthy of belief.

IF you believe in miracles you must also believe it is possible that a fat men [sic] can slide down chimneys—that if God wished it, a fat man COULD slide down my chimney. Silly? No sillier than water changing to wine.


From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Giuliani Takes On G.O.P. Orthodoxy on Social Issues” (front page, May 12):

Can the Republican Party support Rudolph W. Giuliani with a straight face? In good conscience, is getting an electable candidate out there more important than standing up for its cherished beliefs?

Is winning everything?

Ronald Kaprov
Bronx, May 12, 2007

The Four of Us Are Dying

Yesterday evening, I watched episode 13 of The Twilight Zone. A man has the ability to change his face. He uses this bizarre ability in nefarious ways—for example, to (1) seduce a dead man’s girlfriend (who thinks her beau survived the accident) and (2) extract money from the mobster who ordered him killed. It reminded me of Plato’s story of Gyges, the shepherd who found a ring that would make him invisible. The question posed by this story is whether one has reason to restrain oneself when there is no fear of punishment for breaking the rules. Here was a man who could use his face-changing ability to seduce women, steal money, and so forth. Would he do it? Damn betcha he would. But he met a bad end, so perhaps the moral is that crime doesn’t pay. Does anyone remember this episode? It aired originally on 1 January 1960, when I was two years old.