Saturday, 29 September 2007


The editorial board of the New York Times is ridiculous. Read this. My favorite sentence is this one: “The division into rigid blocs is unfortunate, because it makes the court seem more like a political body than a legal one.” Actually, what makes the court seem more like a political body than a legal one is the Times itself, which (1) repeatedly criticizes rulings on the basis of whether they accord with progressive values and (2) opposes or supports judicial nominees based solely on their (supposed) political morality. The Times is result-oriented, which is to say, lawless. Law is about process, not outcomes.


Newt says no. If he gets behind Fred Thompson, he could be our next vice president. Would Newt accept such a position? It would put him a heartbeat away from the presidency. It would also give him access to the president, who is the most powerful person in the world. Newt is brimming with ideas, many of which, I am sure, he would like to see become policy.


During today’s bike rally in Waco (report to come), my friends and I stopped at the Mars factory, which sponsors a rest stop. Employees of the factory set up tents and tables on the grass to supply goodies to the riders. There are boxes of M&Ms, Snickers bars, Skittles, Starburst, and other sweets. I ate two small bags of M&Ms with nuts. I stuffed a couple of other items in my jersey pocket. On the way home, cruising along Interstate 35W with my air conditioner on, I ate the Starburst candies (having already consumed my Taco Bell bean burritos). I allow myself candy once a year—at this rally. One of the albums I played on my car’s compact-disc player was the first Beatles album, Please Please Me (1963). The songs are short and sweet, like the Starburst candies I was eating. Here is a song list:

I Saw Her Standing There
Anna (Go to Him)
Ask Me Why
Please Please Me
Love Me Do
P.S. I Love You
Baby It’s You
Do You Want to Know a Secret
A Taste of Honey
There’s a Place
Twist and Shout

Some of these songs, such as “I Saw Her Standing There” and “Love Me Do,” brought back pleasant memories. I was only six years old when the album was released, but I heard the songs many times while growing up. I have the first five Beatles albums on compact disc. I need to buy the others.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Yankee Watch

The Boston Red Sox won today, while the New York Yankees lost to the lowly Baltimore Orioles (after blowing a five-run lead), so Boston has eliminated New York. I want Yankee fans to do two things. First, admit defeat. Second, congratulate the Red Sox. Show some class for a change.

Addendum: It’s Saturday evening, nearly 24 hours after Boston clinched the East Division title. I’m disappointed (but not surprised, frankly) that no Yankee fan—not one—has congratulated the Boston Red Sox publicly. This reflects badly on Yankee fans, who are not known for their classiness. As for the Yankees not being eliminated from anything, they most certainly have. The race for the East Division title is over. Boston won; New York was eliminated. That’s the point of a magic number: to eliminate someone from contention for the title. It will be Boston, not New York, that has a banner showing that it won the East Division title in 2007. New York’s streak of East Division titles has come to an end. As for the rest of the playoffs, that’s to come. Why have Yankee fans all of a sudden become consequentialists? To a consequentialist, all that matters is how things come out. What happens along the way is irrelevant. I don’t understand that sort of thinking. How one gets to a destination is as important as, if not more important than, getting there. Is it permissible to lie, cheat, or steal, provided it maximizes overall happiness? I assume even Yankee fans say no. My heart is still broken that the Detroit Tigers lost the Central Division title a year ago. That they made the playoffs as the wild-card team did not begin to make up for it, and never will. Had the Tigers won the World Series, it would have been tainted.

Twenty Years Ago

9-28-87 . . . Patricia Schroeder, a Harvard Law School graduate and United States Representative, has decided not to run for president. She made the announcement today in her home state of Colorado. In the film clip that I saw on the news, Schroeder’s voice cracked and she appeared to be weeping as she spoke. That’s bad news for an American politician, especially someone who wants to be president. In 1984, Vice Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro was said to be too inexperienced and too weak to go “head to head” with Soviet leaders. Many males think that females are inherently weak and emotional, perhaps because of their monthly menstrual cycles  So I hated to see Schroeder become emotional in her speech. It supports the claim of male chauvinists that women in general, and Schroeder in particular, are unfit for high political office. But I’m sad to see her drop out of the race. As of this moment, there is no female running for president, or even, I believe, considering it. My choice is still Paul Simon, a United States Senator from Illinois. Simon and the other candidates have been campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire for many months.

Tonight, after proctoring the midterm exam, I came home and called Mom to see how the [Detroit] Tigers did. They lost, but so did the [Toronto] Blue Jays. Unfortunately, we cannot simply mimic Toronto. We’ve got to gain on the Blue Jays. Jack Morris lost another crucial game for the Tigers.


Here is a review of a new biography of Henry Morton Stanley, the great African explorer. Many years ago, I watched the movie Stanley and Livingstone (1939) on television, in black and white. I loved it. If I were an historian, I would specialize in the history of exploration.


Paul Krugman* won’t like this.

* “Op-Ed columnist Paul Krugman has the disturbing habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers in a fashion that pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to substantive assaults” (Daniel Okrent, “13 Things I Meant to Write About but Never Did,” The New York Times, 22 May 2005).

Religion and Politics

Here is the latest grab bag from one of my favorite writers. It’s sad that his publication, First Things, screwed me. It shows that there is no necessary connection between religion and morality.

Frederick C. Copleston (1907-1994) on Philosophical Revisionism

A philosopher can of course try to alter our way of seeing the world by developing what P. F. Strawson has described as a revisionary metaphysics. Such an attempt obviously presupposes the judgment that our way of seeing the world ought to be altered or that another way of seeing it would be truer or more valuable. (But all philosophical inquiry, of any kind, presupposes a judgment of value.) And “the world” can be understood as including human life and history and the social-political sphere. If people complain that philosophers offer no “visions,” this may be empirically true in a great many instances; but it is obviously not necessarily true, even if we are none too enthusiastic about the effects of apocalyptic thinkers such as Nietzsche and Marx. Philosophers can be “prophets.” They can be, because they have been. It is indeed understandable if a good many philosophers turn with relief to a rather dry conception of philosophy and studiously avoid what they regard as wild and uncontrolled speculation, disguised poetic visions, religious edification, social-political propaganda, and what not. I sometimes feel that way myself.

(Frederick C. Copleston, “Philosophy as I See It,” chap. 9 in The Owl of Minerva: Philosophers on Philosophy, ed. Charles J. Bontempo and S. Jack Odell [New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1975], 153-61, at 161)


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

Best of the Web Today


“From the Government”

In other words, from you.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

David Brooks (“The Center Holds,” column, Sept. 25) repeats the familiar criticisms of the supposedly angry, “marginal” Democratic Party left. The fact is that without a highly motivated minority, with a strong intellectual and moral point of view, focusing on the long term and on holding the high ground, rather than only winning the very next vote, a mass party will be spineless. This has been perfectly clear in observing Republican strengths, as well as Democratic weakness.

In fact, it was Bill Clinton’s attacks on the left that opened the way for the right of the 90s. Without a left, the Democratic Party looks like what it otherwise is: professional politicians and interest groups.

Eli Zaretsky
New York, Sept. 25, 2007

Note from KBJ: Just what I like to hear: To progressives, purity is more important than potency. May the Democrat Party always remain pure as the driven snow—and therefore impotent.

Weight Loss

Three people have asked for advice about weight loss, in response to this post. It’ll be more efficient if I write up a blog post. The first thing you must realize is that there is no magic way to lose weight. Your weight is a function of three things: (1) your metabolism; (2) your caloric intake; and (3) your caloric expenditure. I don’t take drugs. I do everything the natural way. My aim in writing this post is not to persuade you to lose weight; it is to help you lose weight, given a desire on your part to do so. If you don’t want to lose weight, stop reading and do something else.

The first thing to do is figure out how many calories per day you need to sustain your present weight. Go here and type in the information, including your activity level. Write down the number of calories you need, per day, to sustain your present weight. Put it in a prominent place in your kitchen. My advice is to subtract 200 from the number and limit yourself to that many calories per day. The weight will come off. Be patient. Do not cheat on your activity level. If your activity level is moderate, don’t select “very.” The idea is to take in 200 fewer calories than you need each day. You should recalculate your caloric needs regularly, as your activity level and weight change. Always subtract 200 from what you get, and use that as your daily limit.

You’re probably thinking, “That’s it?” What did you expect, magic? You weren’t born as big as you are. You put the weight on gradually. It will have to come off gradually. Here are my answers to other questions you may have:

1. How do I know how many calories I consume? You count them. Meticulously. I put a stick-on pad on my kitchen counter every morning. Before anything goes in my mouth, I write down how many calories it is. (I also keep track of protein on a separate stick-on pad.) Every food item you buy in a grocery store has the calories on it. I eat a lot of saltine crackers, for example. I limit myself to 20 crackers at a time, which I have calculated to be 240 calories and four grams of protein. Whenever I have soup, I count out 20 crackers and write down “240” and “4.” If you’re not patient enough to do this, then you don’t really want to lose weight, in which case, stop reading.

2. Will I get hungry? Yes. There is nothing wrong with hunger. Eventually, you will interpret hunger as a good thing. It means your body is burning stored fat instead of food. But if you plan properly, you won’t feel hungry often. If you know that you have only so many calories each day, you will spread them out. You will ensure that you don’t consume all of your calories by, say, mid-afternoon, for then you’ll be hungry all evening. This forces you to eat smaller meals, which is good.

3. Does it matter what I eat? No. Eat whatever you want, as long as you count the calories. Obviously, if you get all your calories from beer or soft drinks, you won’t be getting other things you need, such as protein. The discipline imposed by your caloric limit will force you to be more thoughtful about your diet as a whole. You will soon learn that certain foods are worthless, even if they taste good. I was shocked to discover that two foods I like, mayonnaise and peanut butter, are high in calories. I used to slather them on my sandwiches. Now I eat them in small quantities. Moderation is the key; but then, we’ve known that since at least the time of Aristotle.

4. Must I retain the caloric limit forever? No. Once you see how fast the weight is coming off, you can increase the caloric limit if you want to slow the weight loss. Eventually, when you reach your desired weight, you can play around with the limit until you find an equilibrium.

5. Does it matter when I consume the calories? No, with one exception. You should not eat during the two-hour period before you go to sleep. You should be hungry when you go to sleep. You will not feel hungry while you sleep, believe me.

6. May I backslide? Only if you want to defeat the purpose of the diet. Suppose you’ve been consuming 200 fewer calories than you need for five days. If you gorge yourself on the sixth day, consuming 1,000 extra calories, then you’ve made exactly zero progress in that six-day period. Note that if you eat 100 fewer calories today, then you get to eat 100 more calories the next day. It also goes the other way. If you eat 100 more calories today, then you must eat 100 fewer the next day. Calories are cumulative.

It takes discipline to follow this weight-loss plan. I have discipline in spades. I started out with a 2,000-calories-per-day limit and, after several months, increased to 2,100. Later, when I reached my desired weight, I increased it to 2,200 calories.  That’s where I’ve been for over a year. I’m in equilibrium. I weigh 153 pounds. Many people have no discipline at all. If you stay disciplined long enough to see results, you may find that you’re more disciplined in other aspects of your life. Virtues, as Aristotle pointed out long ago, must be exercised.

Addendum: If you need to know how many calories particular foods contain, see here. You’ll need a scale, a calculator, and measuring cups. If there are foods you eat regularly, such as baked potatoes, figure out how many calories there are per ounce of potato, write it down, and post it in a conspicuous place, such as the front of your refrigerator. Then you can quickly calculate the calories when you bake a potato. Really, everything I have said in this post is common sense.

A Year Ago