Saturday, 30 June 2007

“A Sleek, Well-Funded, Power-Seeking Machine”

I leave you this fine evening with a column by Barbara Ehrenreich.


According to this news report (sent to me by an alert reader), a bishop of the Church of England says that summer flooding is attributable to God’s wrath about “pro-gay” legislation. Would it be impertinent of me to ask some questions? First, why would God punish people who have nothing to do with the legislation and not punish those who do? In other words, why the scattershot approach to punishment? Isn’t that unjust, and isn’t God supposed to be just? Second, why would God choose flooding as the means of punishment for “pro-gay” legislation? Why not, say, impotence? Third, how does the bishop know what God wills? It’s one thing to say that, for all we know, the flooding is God’s punishment; but to claim that we know this? Come on. Fourth, well, you get the idea. I respect religion, but this sort of claptrap makes it difficult for me.


The Tour de France begins a week from today—in London. Perhaps, in light of events in Great Britain during the past two days, the Tour organizers should move it to Paris. If I were a Tour participant, I’d be concerned for my safety. When you’re out on the road, either in the peloton or alone (in an individual time trial), you’re vulnerable to malicious people.

Addendum: I checked to see whether Tour organizers are changing anything. I found no mention of the terrorist attacks. I did find this video about Lance Armstrong, however.


In case any Major League Baseball players are reading this, I’m going to explain how to bunt when the objective is to move a runner up. (This is called a sacrifice bunt.) First, square up (with your feet) as the pitcher begins his windup. Your torso will be facing the pitcher. You can’t do this too early. Remember: Your objective is not to fool anyone; it is to get the goddamned bunt down. Second, hold the bat parallel to the ground. Third, rest the barrel of the bat in your upper hand. Grasp it (lightly) between your thumb and the side of your index finger. Keep these digits behind the bat, so that they don’t get crushed by the ball. Fourth, put the bat at the top of your strike zone. This is important, for if the pitch is above where you have your bat, it is, by definition, a ball. This prevents you from having to think too much. If the pitcher walks you, that is even better than a sacrifice, for a sacrifice, as the name implies, is an out. Fifth, never move the bat forward. In other words, never lunge for the ball. If anything, move it backward. But preferably, you do not move it at all, except downward, keeping the bat parallel to the ground at all times. Yes, downward. This forces the ball onto the ground, which is—are you ready?—where you want it. Think of yourself as catching the ball with your bat. Got it? Now get out there and do what every Little Leaguer learns to do, without compensation, during the first week of practice.

Addendum: Those of you who are not good with words may prefer this image.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

The decisions of the United States Supreme Court in the term just ended clearly illustrate the significant damage done to the court by Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush.

The nominations of the conservative Clarence Thomas, John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel A. Alito Jr. and their confirmation have now borne the bitter fruit that has been widely predicted as evidenced by the latest hard right turn from the bench.

As comparatively young men, these justices will determine the future of justice in America for many years to come.

The conservative cause may be in shreds because of the war, the failures of the Bush administration and the Washington legislative scandals, but after the ballots are counted in 2008, the decisions of these members of the court will continue to affect all of us.

It may be a long time before the damage to the court and our justice system can be undone.

Burton Kreindel
Newton, Mass., June 29, 2007

Note from KBJ: What we have is something progressives hate: a law-abiding, Constitution-respecting Supreme Court, a Court that does not sit as a superlegislature, engineering society in accordance with a progressive blueprint. As much as I disagree with President Bush on issues such as Iraq (I’ve argued for more than three years that, having removed Saddam Hussein from power, we should have gotten out) and immigration, I am grateful that he has nominated law-abiding justices. May we get at least one more before his term ends.


Pot, meet kettle. The editorial board of The New York Times accuses opponents of the immigration bill of using “rhetorical distortions.” All of the following highly-charged terms appear in this editorial opinion:

disconnected from reality
hot wind blowing
elephant herd
bloated bill
toppled into a ditch

I see nothing resembling rational argumentation, in which reasons are cited in support of the bill. Nor do I see any attempt to engage the arguments of the bill’s opponents. What I see are (1) hyperbole, (2) cynicism (i.e., questioning the motives—and sometimes the intelligence—of the bill’s opponents), (3) name-calling, (4) innuendo, and (5) angry rhetoric. The Times may think that nothing it says is going to persuade opponents of the bill. That may be true, but the target audience should not be people whose minds are made up. It should be people whose minds are not made up. Nothing in this editorial opinion has any tendency to persuade these people. It reads like a primal, self-righteous scream.

From the Mailbag

Have you had the opportunity to “meet” William Dyer, a lawyer from Texas that blogs here? I think you might find his views interesting.

Jean Robart


Will Nehs sent a link to this column by Robert Novak, in which Novak reports that Newt Gingrich is waiting to see how Fred Thompson does before deciding whether to run for president. I’m pleased. It’s like having a star player on the bench, in case the starter falters.

A Year Ago


Friday, 29 June 2007


Yesterday, in Houston, 41-year-old Craig Biggio of the Astros became the 27th player in the history of Major League Baseball to get 3,000 hits. He went 5-6 in the Astros’ 11-inning victory over the Colorado Rockies. See here for the story. I have always felt a connection with Biggio for the following reason. In August 1988, I moved from Tucson, Arizona, where I had attended graduate school, to College Station, Texas, to take a one-year teaching position at Texas A&M University.  (I was ABD.) Craig Biggio was a rookie catcher in 1988. I read the Houston Chronicle during my year in College Station and listened to the Astros’ games on the radio. You might say that Houston was my adopted team, just as the Texas Rangers now are. Never would I have dreamed that, 19 years later, Biggio would still be playing, but here he is. He is a shoo-in for the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Have you ever heard the slightest negative thing about Biggio? He is a class act. If I had a son, I’d point to Biggio and say, “Be like him.”

Addendum: Here is the video of Biggio’s 3,000th hit. It gives me chills.


Here is Richard Dawkins’s review of biochemist Michael Behe‘s new book. I’m pleased to see Dawkins in his realm, which is biology, which is a science, instead of mucking around in philosophy. In case you missed it, here is what a philosopher (Thomas Nagel) had to say about Dawkins’s book The God Delusion. Nagel calls it “amateur philosophy.” Ouch.


Most people think of libertarianism as a right-wing political morality, but there are people (including some prominent philosophers) who defend a left-wing version of it. See here for an essay in which the author, Mathias Risse, questions the coherence of left-libertarianism. If you want a book-length defense of left-libertarianism, see here. Tom Palmer reviews the book here. Ian Carter reviews it here. David Gordon reviews it here. Gopal Sreenivasan reviews it here.

I Wouldn’t Want to Live in a World Without . . .

1. Dogs.

2. Jif peanut butter.

3. Baseball.

4. Books.

5. Philosophy.

6. Cake.

7. Coffee.

8. Fireplaces.

9. Newspapers.

10. Progressives.


Yesterday, while browsing YouTube, I found the video of “King,” by the Houston band King’s X. It appears on Out of the Silent Planet (1988). I don’t recall how or where I first heard it, but when I did, about two years ago, it floored me. The guitar is clean, innovative, and powerful. I knew immediately that I was in the presence of musical genius. Why this band hasn’t made it big is beyond me.


I paid off my 2007 Honda Accord SE V-6 in three months. Today, I received a check from Honda for $1.50. It says “Loan Overpayment.” Has anyone received a smaller check than that? It confronts me with a dilemma. I would have to drive about six miles (round trip) to deposit the check in my bank. Is it worth it?

Addendum: Here is the color (Moroccan Red Pearl) I chose. (When you click the link, click the reddish color.) Which color do you like best? Truth be told, I don’t much care what color my car is. Henry Ford would have loved me. When I bought my 1989 Pontiac Grand Am, the salesman asked me what color I wanted. I told him it didn’t matter. He was flabbergasted. I took the car that was closest to where I was standing. I’m serious.