Saturday, 4 August 2007


I leave you this fine evening with a column by Rich Lowry.


It’s refreshing to see that Democrats are still beholden to the people. Long live democracy! Here is my favorite paragraph from the story:

Other Republicans called for swift House action as well. “I can’t imagine they [mainly Democrats] would take a monthlong vacation without fulfilling their obligation to keep America safe,” said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader.

That, folks, is hardball politics. I love it.


Which is correct, “fill the bill” or “fit the bill”? I’ve seen both. Here’s a headline from today’s Fort Worth Star-Telegram: “Wade Doesn’t Fit the Bill, Which Isn’t Bad.”

Addendum: According to the Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., it’s “fill the bill.” Here is one of two mentions (under “fill”):

c. slang. to fill the bill: (a) Theatrical: see quot. 1891.  (b) U.S. To do all that is desired, expected, or required; to suit the requirements of the case (Cent. Dict.). See also bill n. 3 8d. 1882 Chicago Tribune, Affable Imbecile would about fill the bill for you. 1891 Farmer Slang Dict., Fill the bill, to excel in conspicuousness: as a star actor whose name is ‘billed’ to the exclusion of the rest of the company.

Here is the other (under “bill”):

d. to fill the bill: to fulfil the necessary requirements; to come up to the requisite standard. orig. U.S. (Cf. fill v. 7c.) 1861 Trans. Ill. Agric. Soc. 1860 IV. 471 Austin..Seedling, Dr. W. hopes well from because of its great vigor, but doubts if it fills the bill. 1880 A. A. Hayes New Colorado (1881) ii. 23 With this requirement in view does Colorado ‘fill the Bill’? 1890 Harper’s Mag. Feb. 441/1 They filled the bill according to their lights. 1904 W. H. Smith Promoters i. 20, I don’t think I ever saw a word used that..filled the bill quite so completely as this word ‘experimentally’ will do for us. 1954 W. S. Maugham Ten Novels iv. 75 He felt that he owed it to himself to have a mistress he could love, and whose position would add to his prestige. He decided that Alexandrine Daru, Pierre’s wife, would fill the bill.

From now on, it’s “fill the bill” for me.


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

Addendum: I have five college degrees, but the review makes no sense to me. Talk about bullshit!


This New York Times story hits home. I don’t like this growing-old business one bit. In fact, I’m thinking of suing the person or persons who set things up this way.


If Congress does more bad than good, or is more likely to do bad than good, then gridlock is good, not bad. See here.

Baseball Notes

1. Alex Rodriguez hit his 500th home run today for the hated New York Yankees. See here for the story and a video clip. I was privileged to see 156 of his home runs while he played for my adopted Texas Rangers. I believe A-Rod will break Barry Bonds’s all-time home-run record in due course. (Bonds is still one home run shy of Hank Aaron’s record of 755. I think he’ll get it tonight against the San Diego Padres.) That will be good for baseball, because A-Rod, unlike Bonds, hasn’t been accused of using performance-enhancing substances. A-Rod is the youngest player in Major League Baseball history to reach 500 home runs. He just turned 32.

2. If you want to know why the Chicago Cubs haven’t won anything in a long time, look no further than Kerry Wood. According to this site, Wood earned $42,875,000 in salary through the 2006 season. He has won 71 games in his career. The Cubs have therefore paid him $603,873 per victory. That money could have purchased many more victories had it been spent wisely. What’s funny is that, if Wood weren’t a pitcher, he’d probably be a plumber, a high-school principal, or a truck driver. To put Wood’s earnings in perspective, consider that through the 2005 season, Roger Clemens had earned $121,001,000 and won 341 games. That’s $354,841 per victory.

Addendum: Bonds did indeed hit his 755th home run that evening. (I’m writing this the following day.) See here.

Canine Inequality

In terms of welfare (i.e., overall well-being), there is great inequality among dogs. Some, such as my niece’s Tag, are utterly spoiled. They have the best food money can buy, climate-controlled shelter, comfortable bedding, ample exercise, liberty to move about, toys to play with, and medical care (including control of parasites). Some dogs have their basic needs satisfied, but little more. Some, sadly, do not have their basic needs satisfied. (This latter category includes those that are abused.) Should we be concerned with this inequality? I don’t see why we should. What we should be concerned with is not the gap between “rich” dogs and “poor” dogs, but the absolute welfare level of dogs. No dog should have its basic needs unsatisfied. Think of it as creating a floor below which no dog is allowed to fall. Once we create this floor, who cares whether some dogs are above it? Who cares that some dogs are spoiled when every dog has a decent life? Do you see the distinction I’m drawing? Inequality per se is morally irrelevant. What’s important is welfare.

Now let’s focus on human beings. Does anything change? It seems to me that it doesn’t. One difference between human beings and dogs is that human beings can see how others live, can measure the gap between their own resources and those of others, and can envy those who have more. But why should any of this matter? Should we base public policy on envy? If people who have their basic needs satisfied are pained at the sight (or thought) of others who have more than they need, they have a problem; but it’s not a problem for which there is a public solution. In other words, it’s not a matter of justice. You hear a lot these days about the “gap” between rich and poor, and about how the gap is increasing rather than decreasing. How many of the poor for whom crocodile tears are being shed have their basic needs unsatisfied? How many are suffering for lack of food, fuel, shelter, clothing, or medical care? If any of them are, then we should be concerned with that, not with (1) how far they are from others or (2) whether they’re getting farther from others.

Progressives (i.e., egalitarians) are trying to shift the debate from welfare to equality, because they know that, as regards human beings, they have lost the welfare argument. The best sign of this is the obesity epidemic among those at lower income levels. Far from having too little food, they have too much!

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “At State Level, Obama Proved to Be Pragmatic and Shrewd” (front page, July 30): In many ways, Barack Obama reminds me of Bill Clinton. He’s likeable, ambitious and willing to compromise to make deals. This personality, while attractive domestically, concerns me on international matters. Just how much would Mr. Obama be willing to compromise to be able to say he sealed a deal with, say, Iran? Has there ever been someone with whom he does not feel he can negotiate?

Talking is important, but having an unflinching position might be more in order for dealing with extremists.

Andrea Economos
Scarsdale, N.Y., July 30, 2007

Note from KBJ: The letter writer is correct. There are people you can talk to and people you simply have to kill.

Twenty Years Ago

8-4-87 Tuesday. Last night there was a panel discussion on the local public television station, KUAT. The subject was financial and military assistance to the Nicaraguan Contras, who are fighting the ruling Sandinista government. Viewers were invited to call in with questions for the four panelists, so I asked the local Republican party chairperson, Bob Stash, this two-part question: “First, are the Sandinistas communists; and second, what, exactly, is wrong with communism?” When I stated the question to the operator, she seemingly couldn’t resist a comment. “It probably has to do with all the killing.” This shows how misunderstood communism is. First of all, communists are as opposed to killing as anyone—indeed, probably more so, since they’re concerned with human needs and changing people’s attitudes toward each other. But more importantly, if we’re talking about the Sandinistas, why did the operator ignore the killing on the other side, that being perpetrated by the Contras? It’s a war, after all. Both sides have committed and continue to commit atrocities. So besides being out of line in commenting on my question, she revealed herself to be uninformed and stupid. I didn’t respond to her comment.

When my question was put to the commentators, the first part was taken up by a war veteran, who skirted the issue by talking about the domino theory and how communists are trying to take over the world. Bob Stash responded to the second part as follows: “What’s wrong with communism?! There’s a lot wrong with communism. For one thing, it undermines people’s right to free speech. Also, people should be able to move around at will and take whatever jobs they want. But communists make these decisions for people. They also outlaw religion.” As you can see, Stash is confusing communism with something else, perhaps totalitarianism. There’s nothing about the theory or practice of communism which requires that free speech or religion be stifled or that individual choices be interfered with. Communism is a form of economic organization, not political structure. It’s funny, really, because I knew that Stash would make this mistake. Almost everyone does. I just wanted him to make it in public, for all to see. Idiocy ought to be exposed at every opportunity.

I set out this afternoon for Mt Lemmon, but made it only as far as Windy Point; and it’s a good thing I did! As I neared my apartment after flying down the Catalina Highway, I saw a tremendous storm in the mountains where I had been. The sky was dark blue, lightning flashed, and a wall of rain stretched from sky to earth. Had I gone further, I would undoubtedly have been caught in the rain, and this would have made my descent both dangerous and uncomfortable. As it turned out, not a drop of rain hit me. I was lucky. As for the biking itself, it was intense and difficult, but nonetheless enjoyable. I averaged 12.82 miles per hour for the 45.77 miles, a bit higher than my first average speed to Windy Point on 18 March 1987. (The temperature difference was considerable. It was officially seventy-three degrees [Fahrenheit] then, but a hundred today.)

A Year Ago



James Drake sent a link to this interesting column by a professor of political science. Although John Rawls (1921-2002) entitled one of his books “Political Liberalism,” he was not a liberal, at least in the classic sense. He was a progressive. In A Theory of Justice (1971), Rawls argued for egalitarianism and against utilitarianism and libertarianism. Deviations from equality (social as well as economic) are permitted only when, and only to the extent that, they redound to the benefit of the least well off. As Rawls put it:

All social primary goods—liberty and opportunity, income and wealth, and the bases of self-respect—are to be distributed equally unless an unequal distribution of any or all of these goods is to the advantage of the least favored. (A Theory of Justice, 303) 

The key word is “unless.” Rawls’s theory of justice rests on two less-than-admirable features of human personality: timidity and envy. In the original position, individuals are risk-averse. This is why they reject utilitarian and libertarian principles of justice. In real life, not everyone is risk-averse. Some people (gamblers) are risk-preferring. Gamblers would choose a libertarian principle of justice. Most people, I suspect, are risk-neutral. These individuals would choose a utilitarian principle of justice. If you assume that individuals are risk-averse, as Rawls does, you get—ta da!—an egalitarian principle of justice. The original position is rigged to get the results Rawls wants. As for envy, Rawls denies that he gives it any role in his theory. It’s hard to read his book and agree with him.

As for why Rawls’s book has been successful, let’s first note that its success is limited to academia. Hardly anyone outside the academy has heard of it, much less been influenced by it. Why has Rawls’s book been successful in academia? It’s simple: Most professors are timid and envious. If they weren’t timid, they’d be out in the world doing things, such as practicing law, running a business, or practicing medicine, instead of burying their noses in books. The envy is a result of realizing that society attaches low value to their work. When academics compare their own salaries to those of entrepreneurs and other professionals, they are green with envy. Rawls gives these individuals a theory that embodies their dominant emotion. A better title for his book would be “A Theory of Justice for the Timid and the Envious.”

Addendum: Dan’s link (in his comment) is defective. I believe this is the essay by Robert Nozick (1938-2002) to which he linked. Am I right, Dan?