Thursday, 20 December 2007

Twenty Years Ago

12-20-87 Sunday. It’s generally agreed that the frontrunners for the Republican presidential nomination are Vice President George Bush and Kansas Senator Robert Dole. Both are experienced politicians, though both have previously run for president and failed to get the nomination. Tonight I watched an interview of Bush by David Frost. The setting was an oceanfront home, perhaps Bush’s estate in Kennebunkport, Maine. Bush came across as a witty and charming person, I must say, but behind the veneer I detected manipulation. For one thing, he seems determined to shed his “wimp” image. To do this, he talked about patriotism and how it drove him to join the military as an eighteen year old. He was shot down while flying an airplane. But he didn’t want to sound too hawkish and macho, so he talked about the death of an infant daughter many years ago. This brought a tear to his eye. I hate to be cynical, but I got the feeling that this was programmed. The appeal to patriotism; the appeal to family; the calculated tear. Not once did I hear discussion of political issues. What I want to know is: Can Bush reason? Does he have a good memory? What are his positions on social and international issues? Does he work well with others? What, if anything, grounds his moral judgments? None of these questions was asked or answered during the interview.

Health Care

Barack Obama has some fun with Paul Krugman, who never met a contradiction he didn’t like.


Here is a New York Times story about caloric expenditure. My bicycle computer computes calories, which I duly report in my blog, but I don’t use the figures for anything. I limit myself to 2,200 calories per day, however many calories I expend. Why 2,200? Because it keeps my weight at 154 pounds, where I want it.


Bush’s brain speaks.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Paul Krugman’s Dec. 17 column, “Big Table Fantasies,” labels as “unrealistic” Senator Barack Obama’s plan of inclusiveness to address the nation’s health care finance problem. Instead, Mr. Krugman claims that the solution must exclude insurance and drug companies, because they are the cause of the problem.

Many progressives would agree that the wealthy and corporate interests have undue influence over public policy, and that bold action is necessary to minimize that influence and change public policy for the better.

But there is no consensus that we should move to a national one-payer health care system, or that we must eschew the benefits of technology and drug innovation to improve health care availability. So it is not clear that the politics of exclusion will produce a solution that works or is desirable.

F.D.R.’s authoritarian approach may have worked in a crisis, but it is not the only effective leadership style when bold action is called for. Lincoln, Kennedy and Johnson all practiced the politics of inclusion to overcome the ills arising from the factionalism and the special and corporate interests of their time.

The true test of public policy is its sustainability. Policy change aligned with the interests of all stakeholders is likely to be most sustainable, and thus consistent with Mr. Obama’s brand of progressivism.

Tim Platt
Concord, N.H., Dec. 18, 2007

Note from KBJ: The letter writer’s mistake is thinking that Krugman* wants solutions. Like all progressives, he doesn’t want solutions, for that requires compromise, negotiation, good faith, and, most importantly, civility. He wants victory. He’s a totalitarian, interested only in imposing his will—his utopian vision—on everyone else. Why do you think he’s so intellectually dishonest? He has an end. That end, in his view, justifies the means.

* “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).

Capital Punishment

I can’t speak for the other countries who punish murderers with death, but we here in the United States kill murderers because we value innocent human life. We demonstrate this value in two ways: first, by exterminating those who destroy innocent human life; and second, by preventing additional murders. What’s barbaric is not killing murderers but valuing the lives of murderers as highly as, or more highly than, the lives of the innocent.

Best of the Web Today

Here. It must kill James Taranto that a significant majority of Americans, and probably the overwhelming majority of his readers, agree with Tom Tancredo on immigration. About all Taranto can do is insult them by calling them “nativists.” If nativism is wanting an orderly immigration system, rather than the chaos we’ve had; if nativism is wanting to enforce the immigration laws that are already on the books, thereby vindicating the rule of law; if nativism is worrying about the effects of illegal immigration on our culture (including our language); if nativism is refusing to allow businesses to put their profits ahead of national security; then I’m proud to be a nativist.


Here (in the first column) are my bowl picks (against the line):

     Navy +7.5                   Utah
     Memphis +2.5                Florida Atlantic
     UCLA +5.5                   BYU
     New Mexico                  Nevada +2.5
     Southern Mississippi +11    Cincinnati
     Boise State                 East Carolina +10.5
     Purdue                      Central Michigan +8.5
     Texas                       Arizona State +2.5
     Boston College              Michigan State +3.5
     Oregon State                Maryland +5
     TCU                         Houston +4
     Texas A&M +5.5              Penn State
     Central Florida             Mississippi State +3
     Wake Forest                 Connecticut +2.5
     Colorado +3.5               Alabama
     California                  Air Force +3.5
     Auburn +2.5                 Clemson
     Georgia Tech                Fresno State +6
     Oklahoma State              Indiana +4
     Florida State               Kentucky
     South Florida               Oregon +6.5
     Michigan +10.5              Florida
     Missouri                    Arkansas +3
     Virginia +6                 Texas Tech
     Wisconsin +2.5              Tennessee
     USC                         Illinois +13.5
     Georgia                     Hawaii +7.5
     Oklahoma                    West Virginia +7.5
     Virginia Tech               Kansas +3.5
     Rutgers                     Ball State +10
     Bowling Green +5            Tulsa
     Ohio State +4               LSU

The betting lines are supposed to equalize the games, so anything better than 16-16 demonstrates knowledge of the game. If you think you know more about college football than I do, bring it on! Post your picks as a comment. (Obviously, to make it meaningful, you must use the same betting lines I did. I got the lines from today’s edition of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.)

Addendum: Red font indicates the winning team.

Addendum 2: Congratulations to the LSU Tigers, who defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes, 38-24, in the BCS title game. I finished 17-15 in my predictions. Since I made my picks against the line, which is designed to equalize the games, I did only slightly better than I would have if I had flipped a coin—or consulted a monkey.

Thomas Nagel on Inviolability

Those who hold political power are usually inclined to use it to push people around. This can take more or less outrageous forms. Shooting demonstrators in Tienanmen Square is not in the same category as outlawing marijuana or making it illegal to deny that the holocaust [sic] took place. Still, these exercises of force by the state all destroy individual freedom under the authority of some misguided idea of legitimacy. We shouldn’t be asked to trade in our autonomy completely in exchange for the benefits of political society: It is not, contrary to what Hobbes thought, necessary.

One of the things that prompts this discussion is a wish to account for the level of indignation provoked (at least in me) by exercises of state power that do not have terribly harmful effects. My objection to the censorship of pornography or holocaust [sic] denial is quite out of proportion to the actual harm done by such prohibitions. It is like the reaction when someone cheats you out of a sum which, in itself, you can easily afford to lose. A sense of wrong disproportionate to the resulting loss is a good sign that a sentiment of justice, fairness, or right has been aroused. I am aware that life without pornography is perfectly livable, and that the prosecution in Europe of negationists or sellers of Nazi memorabilia is overwhelmingly merely ridiculous. But that is just the point. It is not the consequences, but the idea that state power may be legitimately used in such ways that seems grossly wrong; instances of such use seem like serious injustices, however modest their actual costs, or even if there is a net gain. They simply have no right to control people in that way. In advancing this conception of inviolability, I shall concentrate on freedom of expression and sexual freedom.

(Thomas Nagel, “Personal Rights and Public Space,” Philosophy & Public Affairs 24 [spring 1995]: 83-107, at 95 [italics in original])

Note from KBJ: It’s too bad Nagel doesn’t feel violated by taxation. Many people do.

A Year Ago