Friday, 13 July 2007

Yankee Watch

Both the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees lost today. Boston’s magic number to eliminate New York is down to 65.

Twenty Years Ago

7-13-87 Monday. The highest recorded temperature in Tucson is 111 degrees [Fahrenheit]. Today we came within one degree of it: 110. I went outside only a handful of times—to get the mail, wash clothes, and buy a newspaper [The Arizona Republic]—but I could tell that it was oppressive. Still, I have no reluctance whatsoever to be out in such weather. In fact, I consider it a badge of honor to ride my bike under such conditions, for it means that I’ve adapted to the environment and that I have stamina. This, incidentally, was the thirty-seventh consecutive day of temperatures at or above 100 degrees. Thirty-seven days! The monsoon season has not yet started, but it can’t be far away. When it starts, we’ll have tremendous rainstorms on an almost daily basis. That’ll be a nice change. I intend to sit on my balcony, reading, during some of them.

I hate to admit it, because it’s so unproductive, but I spent six hours watching the Iran-Contra hearings today. Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North is still the witness, and today we heard several short speeches by members of Congress. I was particularly impressed by Senator George Mitchell of Maine and Representative Thomas Foley of Washington. Both lectured North on the meaning of patriotism. North has stated or implied repeatedly that opposition to the administration’s policies in Central America is evidence of nonpatriotism. Mitchell rightly denied this, arguing that patriotic, reasonable people of good will can disagree on the question of aid to the Contras. Like most people, I find North a compelling personality. He’s confident, articulate, and apparently forthright. But I don’t let this obscure my judgment of what he did or the policies that he sought to implement. Some of his actions were unjustified and many of the policies that he sought to implement were outrageous. That’s why these hearings are fascinating—not just legally, but politically.


Here is a scene from today’s stage of the Tour de France, won by Tom Boonen. The Belgian rider averaged 23.17 miles per hour on the 123.9-mile course. Here is the story. Here is the New York Times report. Here is tomorrow’s stage. The Tour enters the Alps tomorrow. It’s time to separate the pretenders from the contenders. My pick to win tomorrow’s stage—on Bastille Day—is Frenchman Christophe Moreau.


Don’t look now, but the Chicago Cubs are snarling. They’ve won 13 of their past 17 games. Lou Piniella is god. Any Cub fans out there? I hate almost all Major League teams other than my beloved Detroit Tigers and my adopted Texas Rangers, but I’ve never been able to work up a good animosity toward the Cubbies. How could you hate such lovable losers?

From the Mailbag


We’ve heard of the “ad hominem” attack and the “ad Hitlerum” attack, but today I discovered a new species of “ad h___” attack: the “ad hominid attack.” Here’s a quotation from Jihad Watch:

I’d truly respond to your posting, but it’s just an ad hominid attack against Mr. Spencer, there is neither substance nor facts to discuss, it is just your typical vile bile you see on a playground.

Come to think of it, it was 1968 when I heard my first-ever ad hominid attack: “Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!” It was spoken by Charlton Heston in the movie Planet of the Apes.

Mark Spahn (West Seneca, NY)

Note from KBJ: Greatest movie ever made, with the possible exception of The Jerk.


If this isn’t the best album ever made, then I’m a marmot‘s son.

Addendum: Here is a video of “(There’s Gonna Be A) Showdown,” with the band’s lead singer, David Johansen, on vocals. Here is a video of “Chatterbox,” with guitarist Johnny Thunders (R.I.P.) on vocals. Johansen later became Buster Poindexter. I kid you not. By the way, the first rock concert I attended, in about 1973, featured Kiss and The New York Dolls.

Addendum 2: A friend sent this song by Cake. It’s a cover of an old favorite by Black Sabbath.


That I don’t walk through the door in front of me doesn’t mean that the door is closed. See here for a spectacular fallacy.

Sidney Hook (1902-1989) on Philosophical Agreement

Scientists do not disagree about the validity of specific laws that have been established, nor do mathematicians disagree about the validity of specific theorems. But there is not a single piece of philosophical knowledge, not a single philosophical proposition, on which philosophers are all agreed.

(Sidney Hook, “Philosophy and Public Policy,” chap. 3 in The Owl of Minerva: Philosophers on Philosophy, ed. Charles J. Bontempo and S. Jack Odell [New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1975], 73-87, at 73 [essay first published in 1970])


Here is a review of two new books about Hillary Clinton.

Cognitive Dissonance

Here is a New York Times story about Native Americans and lacrosse. The following paragraph raised a red flag:

For instance, the Onondaga Red Hawks and the Tonawanda Braves do not allow girls to play, and male players on some other teams forbid women to touch their sticks for fear such contact could cost them the protection of the Creator during games. If a stick has been touched by a woman or girl, some native lore says it must be put away for seven days, and some Tonawanda players have been known to discard or give away such sticks.

Progressives are in a bind. On the one hand, they want to refrain from criticizing Native Americans. It’s not politically correct to do so. Native Americans are victims of whites; they are not to be held responsible for their conduct, however unacceptable it may be by progressive standards. On the other hand, they want to criticize Native Americans for being sexist. How dare these teams exclude girls! How dare they imply that girls are bad medicine! Something must give. I predict that feminism will trump multiculturalism on this occasion. Within two days, you will see a spate of letters taking the tribe to task for being sexist.


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

Addendum: Noonan says “by inference,” but she means “by implication.” This is a sophomore’s mistake.

Things That Work

How many times have you bought something that didn’t work as advertised, or didn’t work as well as advertised? I regret to say that this has happened to me on many occasions. Name some things that work exactly as advertised and that are, therefore, worth their price. You may list a type of object, such as air compressor, or a particular brand, such as Maglite flashlights. One aim of this post is to spread the word about good products.

Addendum: While looking at the Maglite page, I thought of a Mad TV skit in which flashlights were used. Sure enough, the video is available on YouTube. It’s hilarious.

Best of the Web Today


Liberty and Security

Everyone values both liberty and security, but different people value them to different degrees. Some people value liberty more highly than security; some value them equally; some value security more highly than liberty. Each society must strike a balance between these values. There is no reason the balance must be struck once and for all. There may be a period in which liberty gets pride of place, then a period in which security gets pride of place, and so forth. Germany appears to be striking a new balance, just as the United States did after 9-11. See here.

Addendum: I should probably qualify my first sentence. There could be someone—an anarchist—who values liberty but not security, just as there could be someone—a totalitarian—who values security but not liberty. I assume that there are few anarchists and totalitarians. A libertarian values liberty significantly higher than security. An egalitarian values security significantly higher than liberty.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

“Courage Without the Uniform,” by Timothy Egan (column, June 30), suggests that Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon is courageous for now questioning the war and reaching out to some of its victims.

Senator Smith’s war skepticism, however, only developed years after this fiasco began, and after its utter failure was obvious to most rational individuals.

This country doesn’t need the type of “courage” demonstrated by Senator Smith that comes after the fact; it needs the type of courage demonstrated by Russ Feingold, Dennis Kucinich, a diverse set of academics and many veterans, who all stood up and said that this war was insane and illegal before it ever began.

Senator Smith is right to feel shame and remorse. But his belated response to these feelings demonstrates at best, recognition of responsibility, not courage. The label of “courageous” should be reserved for those who spoke out at the beginning, when everyone else was marching toward war.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said that “the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

The time of challenge and controversy came in the days after 9/11 and during those weeks as this administration lied its way into an illegal war. At that moment the senator sat with his hands in his lap.

Jon Daehnke
Portland, Ore., June 30, 2007

Note from KBJ: There again is the “Bush lied” meme. I have seen no evidence that President Bush (or anyone else in his administration) lied about anything.