Saturday, 7 July 2007


I leave you this fine evening with a column by Michael Hirsh.


Just to rub it in, I’m going to keep tabs on the New York Yankees. Both the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox lost today. Boston (53-33) leads New York (41-43) by 11 games. If Boston wins 55% of its remaining games, which will be easy, New York will have to go 54-24 (.692) to tie. How can a team that has played .488 ball for more than half the season play .692 ball the rest of the way? Some theists won’t allow anything to count against the existence of God. Al Gore and his fellow global warmists won’t allow anything to count against global warming. Fans of the New York Yankees won’t allow anything to count against winning the East Division title.


You’ve got to love a man who says, “No way, no how should Iran be a nuclear power.”


1. Mark Spahn sent a link to this blog post from Freakonomics. I have followed the career of Lance Armstrong since he became a professional cyclist in the early 1990s. I have no reason to believe that he used forbidden substances. As for how someone could dominate cycling as he did, is it unheard of for athletes to dominate? Was Babe Ruth on drugs? Was Michael Jordan on drugs? Was Wayne Gretzky on drugs? Was Eddy Merckx on drugs? Was Jim Ryun on drugs? Was Muhammad Ali on drugs? Was Richard Petty on drugs? Was Bjorn Borg on drugs? Is Tiger Woods on drugs? Why can’t we accept that there are exceptional athletes? Are we that cynical? There are three facts about Armstrong that his critics conveniently ignore in their haste to indict him. First, he has a freakish cardiovascular system. Second, he revolutionized training. Third, he was dominating triathlons and bike races—beating people many years older than he was—long before he had access to performance-enhancing substances. Lance didn’t need drugs to win races. Other people needed drugs to compete with him.

2. Here is a scene from today’s stage (the prologue) of the Tour de France, won by Fabian Cancellara. The Swiss rider averaged 33.36 miles per hour on the 4.9-mile course. Here is the story. Here is tomorrow’s stage. To put Cancellara’s performance in perspective, consider that the rider (Spaniard Ruben Lobato) who finished last (189th) averaged 27.57 miles per hour. Here is the New York Times report.

Dell XPS M1210

I spent several hours this past Thursday getting my notebook computer up and running. The smaller keyboard has a different feel, so it’ll be a while before I get used to it. Windows Vista isn’t that different from Windows XP, fortunately. Wherever possible, I make it work (and look) like XP. I’m a creature of habit. I want a plain green desktop with just a few basic icons on it; I don’t want flash and dazzle. When I ordered the computer, I had a choice between Norton and McAfee for my Internet-security software. I had a bad experience with McAfee a couple of years ago, so I made sure I selected Norton. But I didn’t plan to use it. I use Windows Live OneCare for my security needs. My subscription allows me to use it on up to three computers. I’ve had good luck with it on my desktop computer (Dell Dimension 8200).

Almost as soon as I turned the notebook computer on, I started to receive pop-up messages from Norton SystemWorks. It said something about there being an error. The only thing I could do is close out the message, but a few minutes later it would reappear. I did everything I could to disable Norton, but to no avail. This infuriated me. Finally, I went to the Control Panel and uninstalled SystemWorks. No more pop-up message. But Norton doesn’t go away that easily. While installing OneCare, I got a message informing me that it had to uninstall Norton. “But I’ve already done that!” I screamed (or would have, if anyone had been listening).  I tried again. Same thing. Now I was really getting mad. It appeared that Norton was trying to thwart my attempt to replace it with OneCare.

Not knowing what to do, I did an Internet search for “Norton uninstall,” thinking I might get a tip or two from some blog or discussion thread. Incredibly, it turned up a page on Norton’s site that explained how to remove the program from one’s computer. I clicked it, followed directions, and tried once again to install OneCare. It worked! This time, I didn’t get the message informing me that it had to uninstall Norton. OneCare installed without a hitch and is now working to protect me. It’s wonderful to solve a computer problem on my own for a change. Usually, I have to ask someone for help. Has anyone had a problem like this with Norton? If so, perhaps this post will be of use.

J. J. C. Smart on Ethics

So far I have not said much about ethics. Ethics is part of philosophy not only for obvious historical reasons (because Plato, Aristotle, et al., wrote about it) but also because it gives rise to many conceptual problems. Suffice to say that I have been interested to defend act utilitarianism, which has the sort of universality and generality which can appeal to one who is concerned with the world sub specie aeternitatis. Its supreme principle would be as applicable if we had to deal with beings from Alpha Centauri as it is in dealing with members of Homo sapiens, as well as horses, dogs, etc. Act utilitarianism appeals as a possible “cosmic ethics.” (It is, of course, not necessarily the only system of ethics that does so.)

(J. J. C. Smart, “My Semantic Ascents and Descents,” chap. 2 in The Owl of Minerva: Philosophers on Philosophy, ed. Charles J. Bontempo and S. Jack Odell [New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1975], 57-72, at 69-70)

From the Mailbag


(i) You sometimes say bizarre things about baseball (almost as bizarre as your seemingly and thankfully dissolved flirtation with the idea that Hillary might make a sensible candidate for president), for instance:

but groundless optimism is a vice, not a virtue, and there are no grounds for thinking that the Yankees will make up 12 games on the Boston Red Sox in half a season.

How could optimism or pessimism on a fan’s part about a baseball team be a vice, or a virtue. It seems to me to just be a trait.

Second, you are of course entirely right about the statistical problems involved in imagining the Yankees could catch the Red Sox this year, given the current standings, even though they have a gained a little since you wrote. But that aside, the Yankees have a further problem. The reasons they have played so badly are at least two . . . one, hitters who one could have expected to perform better, have not, Abreu, Cano, Damon (disastrous pick up), to name three. But more fundamentally, their pitching is awful . . . they have one reliable starter, Wang, and he has been less good than expected. The hitting will probably improve some, but there is no way to win with miserable starting pitching and unreliable relief, and even Rivera has been mediocre and is obviously way past his prime. The expectation was that the pitching would be better if not great and that super hitting would overcome the problems (like it did last night), at least in the regular season (overcoming bad pitching in playoffs almost never happens).

So barring miracles, the Yankees are going nowhere on merit.

(ii) You have said that the problem with the immigration situation involves illegals and that you are for legal immigration. But this is vague at best. It ignores the question of numbers, which is overwhelmingly important. One can be positive about legal immigration without being positive about e.g. importing tens of millions of e.g. Bangladeshis. One can be positive about legal immigration without being positive about importing large numbers of Muslims, many of whom (but we have no way of telling which) will be supporters of sharia and jihad and some of whom will likely try to act out violent fantasies. So the illegal issue is real and important but only part of the overall question. One cannot avoid dealing with issues of numbers and of selection. Britain in particular has avoided open discussion of both and now faces enormously difficult and perhaps insoluble problems. Why should we go there?

Best wishes,

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

The Founding Immigrants,” by Kenneth C. Davis (Op-Ed, July 3), is a nonsequitur [sic] in relation to the primary issue facing Americans.

The principle of accepting immigrants seeking freedom, security and opportunity is not challenged. The primary issue, which Mr. Davis does not mention, is illegal immigration. Regardless of the number or ethnic background, the entry of illegal immigrants is, according to our laws, unacceptable.

Everyone who wishes to become an American citizen is welcome to apply for the status of a legal immigrant. Lady Liberty still lights the way for those who follow the appropriate procedures.

Jack D. Spiro
Richmond, Va., July 3, 2007

Note from KBJ: Exactly. Could there be a more basic distinction than that between doing something legally and doing it illegally? As for why the conflation occurs, it’s simple. Those who support the immigration bill want to tar their opponents as bigots, xenophobes, and nativists. They can’t very well do this if opponents are opposed only to illegal immigration. Just to repeat: I am not opposed to immigration. Indeed, I support it. We should have an orderly flow of immigrants to this country. I am opposed to circumvention of the law, i.e., cheating. If you want to come to this country, get in line and play by the rules!

A Year Ago