Friday, 25 May 2007


Here is a scene from yesterday’s epic stage of the Giro d’Italia, won by Italian Danilo Di Luca. Here is a scene from today’s stage, won by Italian Marzio Bruseghin. Today’s stage was a brutal individual time trial. Bruseghin won it by one second over his compatriot Leonardo Piepoli. He lies in second place overall, 55 seconds behind Di Luca. There are many miles yet to be ridden in this year’s Giro, so don’t count anyone out. Alas, American George Hincapie has already dropped out, perhaps in order to focus his training on the Tour de France.

Addendum: In case you’re wondering, Bruseghin averaged 16.2 miles per hour on the 7.8-mile climb. I hate to think what my speed would be. Eight?

Addendum 2: According to this New York Times story, Bjarne Riis (a native of Denmark and now the owner/manager of the CSC cycling team) has admitted to using steroids and other performance-enhancing substances during the 1996 Tour de France, which he won (ending Miguel Indurain’s streak of five consecutive Tour victories). It infuriates me that the reporter failed to answer the most important question of all, namely, whether these substances were banned at the time Riis used them. Yes, they’re banned now, but were they in 1996? If they weren’t, then Riis conformed to the rules, in which case, where’s the story? I might add that Riis’s victory was always suspect. This was the only big race he won. Great cyclists, such as Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Greg LeMond, Miguel Indurain, and Lance Armstrong, prevail repeatedly in their sport’s biggest races. Of that group, only Armstrong has been dogged by accusations of cheating, and that I attribute more to anti-Americanism than to any evidence against him.

R. M. Hare (1919-2002) on Fiction

That is why it is very important not to take all the examples in one’s moral thinking out of fiction, as the young and those who have led sheltered lives are apt to do. For story-books, though they help to stimulate our imaginations, do not by themselves help us, very much, to separate what is really likely to happen from what is not, nor to assess the probable frequency of its occurrence. For this, some experience of actual moral perplexities, and of the actual consequences of certain moral choices, is a necessity. A few months spent as a coolie building the Burma railway is worth more to one’s moral thinking than the reading of a great many novels or even factual reports about underdeveloped countries.

(R. M. Hare, Freedom and Reason [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963], 183)

Note from KBJ: This is not idle talk on Hare’s part. He was captured by the Japanese during World War II and made to serve as a coolie on the Burma railway. See here.


Here is Peggy Noonan’s latest column. Here is Peg Kaplan’s latest post.

Addendum: Noonan, most of whose column I agree with, says we won’t deport illegal immigrants. I think she means we shouldn’t. But why shouldn’t we? Do we refrain from punishing ordinary criminals because it would be a hardship for their families? These are criminals, Peggy. They broke into our country—just as burglars break into houses. They must be punished. The fitting punishment for this crime is deportation. That’s actually being merciful. What these lawbreakers deserve is a term of imprisonment followed by deportation.


Here is a touching story about an amateur historian.

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Can a woman win the Indianapolis 500? Three of the 33 drivers in this year’s race—Sarah Fisher, Danica Patrick, and rookie Milka Duno—are women. See here. One thing women have going for them is that they weigh less. That makes a significant difference, as we learned a year or so ago when one of the male drivers (I forget who) complained that Danica Patrick had an unfair advantage on her rivals. We know that women are competitive, but are they as competitive as men? (Competitiveness, like ambitiousness, is a matter of degree. Some people have more of it than others.) Are women as competitive as men in physical contests, where bodily injury or death could result? Would a woman risk her life to win a race? There are many men who would. Can you think of other sex differences that might make a difference in an automobile race such as the Indy 500?

Addendum: Here is the starting grid for Sunday’s race. How many of you will be watching? I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I get chills when I hear the engines start. I have chills right now just thinking about the chills I will have.

Addendum 2: Having given it a great deal of thought (all of three minutes’ worth), here is the order of finish: First, Michael Andretti; second, Tony Kanaan; third, Helio Castroneves. Michael Andretti gets his first Indy win. Feel free to make your own feeble predictions in the comments section.

Addendum 3: Rain played havoc with the race. It was stopped for about two hours midway through, and then shortened when the rain began again. Scotsman Dario Franchitti won the race. Michael Andretti finished 13th. Tony Kanaan finished 12th. Helio Castroneves finished third. The top female finisher was Danica Patrick, in eighth place.


The minimum wage is about to be increased by 40.7% (from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour). Imagine an employer who has workers earning the minimum wage. There are three scenarios. First, the employer retains the workers and passes the increased cost on to customers. Second, the employer retains the workers and earns less profit. Third, the employer lays off the workers. The first is a transfer of wealth from consumers to unskilled or low-skilled workers. The second is a transfer of wealth from employers to unskilled or low-skilled workers. The third hurts the very people it is intended to benefit. Some of them, as a result, will fail to acquire the skills and habits that would have allowed them to work their way up in the firm or in the marketplace generally. Where is the argument for a transfer of wealth? Doesn’t coercion require justification? Where is the analysis of the effect of the wage increase on the workers themselves? After all, progressives are well known for supporting self-defeating policies. Why should we think that this progressive policy will be any different from the others? If you read the New York Times story, you get the sense that nobody pays for the wage increase, in which case the only reason for opposing it is . . . meanness. But somebody always pays. There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.

Addendum: Wouldn’t it be nice if the Times employed a credentialed economist to explain these basic economic concepts and processes to the lay public? Oh wait. The Times does employ an economist—Paul Krugman—but he’s too busy bashing the president, railing about health care, ranting about the war in Iraq, raving about foreign policy, ridiculing Republicans, and trying to implement egalitarianism to devote any space to economics. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

Third from the Sun

I watched episode 14 of The Twilight Zone yesterday. I had never seen it, even in rerun. Two married couples and the daughter of one of them commandeered a spaceship to escape an imminent nuclear holocaust. The twist is that the planet to which they were escaping was . . . Earth. I have to admit: I didn’t see it coming. This episode aired originally on 8 January 1960. That must seem like the distant past to some of the younger readers of this blog, but I was two years old!


If someone broke into your house and proceeded to eat your food, wear your clothes, sleep in your bed, and use your appliances, what would you do? The last thing I’d do is perform a cost-benefit analysis to see whether he or she is worth keeping. See here. My opposition to illegal immigration is that it’s illegal, not that it’s costly.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Why This Scandal Matters” (editorial, May 21):

The Department of Justice scandals under the leadership of Alberto R. Gonzales are not only significant in their own right, but they are also symbolic of how the Bush administration has damaged the ideals that we hold so dear as “American.”

The concepts of innocent until proved guilty, habeas corpus and a slew of other values have been ignored outright. Almost everybody with any degree of moral authority is calling for Mr. Gonzales’s resignation, whereas in fact the root of the problem lies with his boss, who champions the blatant support of values that are so clearly un-American.

President Bush is the man who should be the focus of our ire. His underlings just do his bidding.

Bahram Keramati
Saratoga Springs, N.Y., May 21, 2007

Note from KBJ: Here is my favorite sentence from the editorial opinion: “It is hard not to see the fingerprints of Karl Rove.” It is hard for the Times not to see the fingerprints of Karl Rove on the latest hurricane, forest fire, school shooting, and traffic pileup. By the way, President Bush doesn’t “ignore” the “concepts” mentioned by the letter writer. He simply believes (with good legal reason) that they’re inapplicable to combatants in a time of war. Why is that so hard for people to understand?


If you like movies, you’ll like this (courtesy of Greg).

All Fred, All the Time

Will Nehs keeps me abreast of news about Fred Thompson. Here is the latest. I should add that I have never seen Thompson in a movie or on television. I had never even seen him until a couple of months ago, when one of the news stories about him carried a photograph. Is he a good actor? He appears to have a good sense of humor, which is essential in a president.

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