Thursday, 29 November 2007


Will Nehs sent a link to this column about Rudy Giuliani. I could vote for Rudy, and may yet do so, especially if he’s running against Hillary, but I’d prefer to vote for Fred Thompson. I have a question for you. If you could single-handedly elect one of the announced candidates, Republican or Democrat, which one would you put in the White House, and why?

Overdrawn at the Caloric Bank

Body weight is a function of three things: metabolism, caloric intake, and caloric expenditure. There is little that one can do about the first of these, but the second and third are well within one’s control. I like my weight where it is (154 pounds). To stay there, I must expend as many calories as I take in (or, conversely, take in no more calories than I expend). Yesterday’s 6.6-mile run, for example, burned off 726 calories, which allowed me to eat a piece of cake in addition to my regular food. If I began taking in more calories than I expended, I’d gain weight. Today, I thought of an analogy. If you spend more money than you earn, you go into debt. Many people are deep in debt to credit-card companies. They lack discipline. Many people are obese. They lack discipline. In both cases, the trick is to live within one’s means. If you want to spend more, earn more. If you want to eat more, exercise more. Then again, maybe you don’t mind being in debt (which means paying interest) or overweight (which means risking various diseases). That’s fine. Each of us must make choices. There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.

Addendum: Here is the Caloric Needs Calculator that I use.

Addendum 2: Here is a New York Times story about obese football players.

A Year Ago


“The Burkean Temperament”

Here is a review of Michael Gerson’s new book. Key paragraph:

For all its Christian urgency, there is not much humility on view in “Heroic Conservatism.” The book has a hectoring tone, blithely claiming the moral high ground and ignoring a great deal of chastening experience. Such self-satisfied thinking runs counter to the Burkean temperament, which is painfully aware of the limits, and potential flaws, of even well-intentioned men. For traditional conservatives, societies evolve in an almost geological way—formed by the immense weight of history and culture over vast stretches of time. Grand schemes, even grand religiously driven schemes, do not suddenly “direct” history or solve long-festering problems or, for that matter, remake the world.

The great divide in political philosophy is between conservatives and progressives. The former are skeptical of the power of abstract reason to improve society. They believe that abrupt (exogenous) change is likely to make things worse rather than better. Change should be gradual and endogenous. They have a pessimistic view of human nature. The latter are eager to engineer society in accordance with their utopian blueprints. They have little or no respect for the past and view resistance to change as mere dogmatism and prejudice. They have an optimistic view of human nature.

Another Dr Ray in the Offing

Proving that the apple never falls far from the tree, Dr John J. Ray’s son received perfect scores in his college mathematics courses and is off to work on a doctoral degree. See here. Congratulations to both of them!

Best of the Web Today


From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “The Immigration Wilderness” (editorial, Nov. 23):

It’s sad that anti-immigrant sentiments are now fast escalating in the United States, a country where election-year politicians sing praises of its history of immigration, assimilation and diversity.

Since the Senate immigration bill fell apart in June, right-wing xenophobia has added fuel to government persecution of people whose only crime has been their desire to live and work with dignity.

From a moral point of view, separating a mother from her breast-feeding child, raiding a factory and severing parents from their wages, and denying a working family its all-important driver’s license are anything but American.

All of the above are gross violations of civil and human rights—rights that we earned through centuries of struggle and sacrifice. How can we be so oblivious to that precious history?

Partha Banerjee
Brooklyn, Nov. 23, 2007

Note from KBJ: (1) I don’t know anyone who’s anti-immigrant. I know lots of people who are anti-illegal alien. It’s a simple distinction, really. Why so many people fail to grasp it is beyond me. (2) If those who opposed the immigration bill are xenophobic, then those who supported it (such as the letter writer) are xenophilic. Why would only one side of a debate such as this be improperly motivated? Either both sides are, or neither side is. Incidentally, many supporters of the immigration bill, such as President Bush and John McCain, are right-wingers. They are closer to xenophilia than to xenophobia. Maybe this is too subtle a point for the letter writer to grasp, or maybe it upsets his or her simplistic categories of “conservatives bad” and “progressives good.” (3) Is it persecution to expect people to obey the law? Let’s hope not. (4) What’s immoral is cutting in line. Most of us learned in kindergarten that it’s unacceptable. (5) If you’re in this country without permission, you have no civil rights. We’re going to track you down and deport you.

Zip Skinny

Mark Spahn sent a link to this interesting site.

Arthur B. Robinson, Noah E. Robinson, and Willie Soon on Climate Change

There are no experimental data to support the hypothesis that increases in human hydrocarbon use or in atmospheric carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are causing or can be expected to cause unfavorable changes in global temperatures, weather, or landscape. There is no reason to limit human production of CO2, CH4, and other minor greenhouse gases as has been proposed.

We also need not worry about environmental calamities even if the current natural warming trend continues. The Earth has been much warmer during the past 3,000 years without catastrophic effects. Warmer weather extends growing seasons and generally improves the habitability of colder regions.

As coal, oil, and natural gas are used to feed and lift from poverty vast numbers of people across the globe, more CO2 will be released into the atmosphere. This will help to maintain and improve the health, longevity, prosperity, and productivity of all people.

The United States and other countries need to produce more energy, not less. The most practical, economical, and environmentally sound methods available are hydrocarbon and nuclear technologies.

Human use of coal, oil, and natural gas has not harmfully warmed the Earth, and the extrapolation of current trends shows that it will not do so in the foreseeable future. The CO2 produced does, however, accelerate the growth rates of plants and also permits plants to grow in drier regions. Animal life, which depends upon plants, also flourishes, and the diversity of plant and animal life is increased.

Human activities are producing part of the rise in CO2 in the atmosphere. Mankind is moving the carbon in coal, oil, and natural gas from below ground to the atmosphere, where it is available for conversion into living things. We are living in an increasingly lush environment of plants and animals as a result of this CO2 increase. Our children will therefore enjoy an Earth with far more plant and animal life than that with which we now are blessed.

(Arthur B. Robinson, Noah E. Robinson, and Willie Soon, “Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide,” Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons 12 [2007]: 79-90, at 90 [parenthetical reference omitted])

The Logic of Torture

Here is my latest Tech Central Station column.