Thursday, 27 September 2007


I leave you this fine evening with a column by Susan Estrich.

Twenty Years Ago

9-27-87 . . . Today’s televised baseball game was so close and so tense that I had trouble watching it. First of all, it was crucial that the [Detroit] Tigers win it. Going in, they were three games behind the [Toronto] Blue Jays in the loss column. Winning would reduce it to two, and hence give the Tigers a chance to tie or win next weekend, when the Blue Jays come to Detroit for a season-ending three-game series. The Tigers had their late-season ace, Doyle Alexander, on the mound, and he was masterful for over ten innings. The Blue Jays led, 1-0, when Kirk Gibson hit a long home run to lead off the ninth. Later, in extra innings, Darrell Evans homered to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead. But the Blue Jays tied it in their half of the eleventh. Detroit got out of the inning with the bases loaded. Finally, in the thirteenth inning, the Tigers scored again on a single by Kirk Gibson and a good slide at home plate by Jim Walewander. Mike Henneman held off the Jays in the bottom of the inning and that was it. So Detroit salvaged one game of the four-game series, 3-2. Now the Tigers are two games behind in the loss column (96-60 for Toronto, 93-62 for Detroit). We need to beat Baltimore [the Orioles] at least three times in the next four games to stay close. I’m not sure how much more of this I can stand. [The Tigers went 5-2 the rest of the way. The Blue Jays went 0-6.]

It was a year ago today that David Cortner and I rode from downtown Bisbee to Chiricahua National Monument. What a delightful ride that was! At the time, I was worried about the cars, our bikes, and whether David would make it. Now, having filtered out the worries, I think only fond thoughts of the trip. The weather was great, the riding was easy, and the conversation, as usual, was good. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. In fact, I’d like to repeat the ride, but with my car out of commission and David back in Tennessee, the prospects are poor. Maybe Rob McLean would be interested. I haven’t talked to him in several weeks, but perhaps he’s been riding. If not, I doubt that he could survive the trip. A hundred and fifty miles in two days, with camping gear aboard, is a lot of work.

This morning I made two strawberry pies (the gelatin kind, not the traditional kind). Mom sent all of the ingredients except the strawberries, which I purchased in frozen form. I love this kind of dessert, though it’s fattening. I’ll have to ride my bike an extra few miles to burn off the calories. I had a nice chat—or rather argument—with Terry Mallory this morning. As expected, he teased me about the ill fortunes of the Tigers. Terry is an Oriole fan.

Kay S. Hymowitz on Libertarianism

Libertarians come in many flavors, of course, but they share certain enthusiasms beyond free-market economics. They are often great consumers of science fiction, with an avid interest in space travel. And they have an almost unlimited enthusiasm for biotechnology, especially for advances that might allow us to manipulate our natures and extend our lives. Taken together, these elements constitute what might be called the libertarian dream—the dream of shaping your own meaning, liberated from family, from the past, from tradition, from biology, and perhaps even from the earth itself.

Such utopian ambitions are difficult to satisfy or even contain in the mundane world of American politics. For some time to come, they are likely to make libertarianism the natural home of assorted cranks and crazies, and thus to continue to provide fodder for its at least partly deserved caricature.

(Kay S. Hymowitz, “Freedom Fetishists,” Commentary 124 [September 2007]: 50-4, at 54)

From the Mailbag

Keith, I read your blog regularly and enjoy your commentary. Your essay about your journey to conservatism describes pretty well my own experience, though my transformation was complete by the age of about 25. (I am now 52.) You invited readers to e-mail you for instructions on losing weight. I think I have the required discipline and my current weight is about 177 pounds (I am 5 feet 11 inches tall). I would like to lose about 12 pounds to get me back to my weight of about 5 years ago. Additionally I have a question that you may know the answer to. I am trying to trace a well-known quote that goes along the lines of “nowhere would the reins of government be worse employed than in the hands of a man with folly enough to think that he possessed the answers.” It sounds very like J. S. Mill but I can’t track it down and it is driving me crazy. Thanks  Mark [. . .], Sydney, Australia

Note from KBJ: I replied to Mark privately. I thought you might find his letter interesting. Does anyone know the author of the quotation? I’ll bet Bob Hessen does.


This economist—a practitioner of the dismal science—thinks people are stupid. I’m serious. Read it. What he identifies is not stupidity, or even false belief, but differential valuation. So who’s the stupid one? He writes:

They [typical citizens, including beginning students in economics] underestimate the benefits of markets. They underestimate the benefits of dealing with foreigners. They underestimate the benefits of conserving labor. They underestimate the performance of the economy.

People don’t underestimate the benefits of markets; they think some things are not commodities. People don’t underestimate the benefits of dealing with foreigners; they think one should show a preference for members of one’s own country. People don’t underestimate the benefits of conserving labor; they think work is essential for self-respect, self-esteem, self-sufficiency, and character development. People don’t underestimate the performance of the economy; they think other things matter besides the performance of the economy. Beware when someone with a Ph.D. degree tells you that you’re stupid. It usually means that your values are being rejected.


The editorial board of the New York Times is concerned about the possibility that Iran will build, or otherwise acquire, a nuclear weapon. Good. Everyone, including Europeans, should be worried about that. But the board refuses to entertain the possibility that violence will be necessary to achieve this end. Yes, everyone hopes diplomacy will suffice, but what if it doesn’t? What does the board endorse in that case? I guess I’m wondering what it will take for the Times (and other progressives) to endorse the use of force against Iran. The Times appears to be more worried about President Bush than about the president of Iran, which is, when you think about it, perverse.

Addendum: Does it seem to anyone else that the editorial board is floundering? Iran doesn’t fit its script, which runs like this: “Imperialist George W. Bush, doing the bidding of the Israel lobby, wishes to impose his will on everyone, including innocent peoples; to do so, he demonizes those he wishes to dominate, which so riles the American people as to force their representatives to authorize the use of force.” The problem with this script is that it doesn’t apply to Iran, which is run by thugs and fanatics who are themselves intent on imposing their will on everyone. Progressives don’t know what to do when things don’t go according to script.


Which sport is best for your body type? This New York Times story will give you a clue. The story is misleading in suggesting that small bodies are best for cycling. Yes, Levi Leipheimer is small, and so was 1998 Tour de France winner Marco Pantani (5’8″, 126 pounds). But Miguel Indurain (6’2″, 176), who was nicknamed “Big Mig,” won five consecutive Tours. Which body type is best depends on what sort of race it is. In one-day races with steep climbs, small or medium-sized bodies are best. In long one-day races without many steep climbs, big bodies are best. In stage races such as the Tour de France, bodies such as Lance Armstrong‘s (5’9.5″, 163) are best. He’s not as big as Indurain, but not as small as Pantani. To win a stage race, you must be both small enough to do the climbs and big enough to do the time trials. Even sprinters vary in size. Some, such as Thor Hushovd (6’0″, 178) and Tom Boonen (6’3.5″, 180), are large. Some, such as Robbie McEwen (5’7.5″, 147), are small. As for running, size matters. This is why footraces have Clydesdale categories. If you’re a big man, for example, you can sign up for the Clydesdale category. Suppose you’re 49 years old. Instead of competing by age (in the 45-49 age group), you compete with other men—of any age—who weigh what you do.

Addendum: I’m 5’11” tall and weigh 153 pounds (as of this morning). I’ve been as high as 177 pounds (on 1 July 2005). Imagine how much easier it is on my bones and joints when I run. Every step has 24 fewer pounds bearing down on it. Even my bicycling has improved as a result of losing weight, and not just because I’m able to climb hills better. I have as much muscle mass as before, but less weight to haul around. When Lance Armstrong recovered from cancer, his body was reshaped. I feel like the same thing happened to me. If you want to lose weight, send me an e-mail. I can get the weight off you in no time—provided you’re disciplined. If you’re not disciplined, don’t waste my time.


Here is a New York Times story about Genesis, which is one of my favorite musical groups of all time. I have almost all of the band’s albums on compact disc. While it would be hard to pick a favorite album from the bunch, I have always been partial to The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974). I was 17 years old when it was released, but didn’t “discover” it until years later. I consider Peter Gabriel a genius. Here are the lyrics to “Fly on a Windshield”:

There’s something solid forming in the air,
And the wall of death is lowered in Times Square.
No-one seems to care,
They carry on as if nothing was there.
The wind is blowing harder now,
Blowing dust into my eyes.
The dust settles on my skin,
Making a crust I cannot move in
And I’m hovering like a fly, waiting for the windshield on the freeway.



If you drink Miller beer, you might want to reconsider.


Do you suppose we can send progressives to one of these other universes?


I started law school in August 1979. Since then, I have read thousands of United States Supreme Court opinions and much commentary, both academic and popular. No Supreme Court justice has been as unfairly treated as Clarence Thomas, especially in the legal academy. As for why this is, I think it has to do with the fact that he doesn’t toe the line on issues such as affirmative action. He’s a black man with what progressives consider “white” views. (Do views have colors?) Brian Leiter, the academic thug from UT-Austin, routinely refers to Justice Thomas as a “lunatic.” Why is Justice Thomas a lunatic? Because he doesn’t share Leiter’s views. Why doesn’t he share Leiter’s views? Because he’s a lunatic. (Leiter has philosophical training, but no philosophical aptitude.) Fortunately, not all law professors are thugs. Eugene Volokh, who teaches law at UCLA, takes issue with a new book’s treatment of Justice Thomas. See here.

Best of the Web Today


From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

In Turnaround, Industries Seek U.S. Regulations” (front page, Sept. 16) points out that industry is engaging in a form of unenlightened self-interest as it pushes for mild federal regulation that blocks stricter state standards and limits consumer rights while doing nothing to address the real dangers posed by their products. This effort is particularly dangerous when it comes to global warming, which Congress may get serious about for the first time this fall.

To meet the challenge of global warming, Congress must act quickly and decisively to pass strong, science-based legislation that reduces global warming pollution fast enough to protect future generations.

The Earth’s climate is close to a critical tipping point, and even moderate additional warming could lead to severe consequences. Climate scientists warn that there is a very short window of time to begin the serious emission reductions we need to have a decent chance of avoiding dangerous impacts.

To prevent such impacts, the United States must halt increases in emissions now and reduce emissions by at least 15 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050. As Congress turns its attention to global warming, our leaders must resist industry attempts to push for half-measures. Instead, we need bold action that will protect our environment, economy and future generations.

Erin Barnes
Environmental Advocate, Global Warming Program U.S. PIRG
Washington, Sept. 20, 2007

Note from KBJ: The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

A Year Ago


From the Mailbag


Possibly you will find it interesting to read this “fisking” of a “Freedom in the Classroom” report by the American Association of University Professors.

Mark Spahn (West Seneca, NY)

P.S. Is it just my impression, or is fisking a more frequent form of argumentation than it used to be? Inserting your own commentary text into someone else’s document is easier to do now than it was in the days of, say, Benjamin Franklin.