Sunday, 13 April 2008


According to this report, the Clintons believe that John McCain would win a landslide victory over Barack Obama. For once, the Clintons are right. Practice saying “President McCain.”


If you’re looking forward to retirement, then you didn’t play your cards right. See here for George Will’s column.


Here is a scene from today’s 106th Paris-Roubaix. Belgian cyclist Tom Boonen won a three-up sprint for his second Paris-Roubaix victory. (He has also finished second and third.) His average speed was a ridiculous 26.97 miles per hour. American George Hincapie finished ninth.

Ronald Dworkin on Liberty

We must talk about liberty, and I must first clarify my vocabulary. I shall use the word “liberty” to describe the set of rights that government should establish and enforce to protect people’s personal ethical responsibility properly understood. I shall use the word “freedom” in a more neutral way, so that any time the government prevents someone from acting as he might wish, it limits his freedom. Defined in that way, freedom is not a political value. There is nothing to regret when I am prevented from kidnapping your children—no wrong has been done to me, even one that might be deemed necessary or excusable. But liberty defined as I defined it is of course a political value; it identifies those areas of freedom that government does do wrong to limit or invade.

(Ronald Dworkin, Is Democracy Possible Here? Principles for a New Political Debate [Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2006], 67)

Note from KBJ: Dworkin has a history of conflating concepts (such as liberty and equality). In this passage, he conflates not two but three concepts: liberty, rights, and responsibility. Liberty is a condition (that of being unconstrained). Whether liberty is a good thing (and why), how good it is (compared to other good things), and whether and under what circumstances individuals have a right to it are normative questions. A right, by contrast, is an entitlement. It is essentially normative. Responsibility is the condition of being answerable (to others) or accountable (for one’s conduct). By conflating these important concepts, Dworkin effectively removes himself from the conversation.

A Year Ago


Twenty Years Ago

4-13-88 . . . Former presidential press secretary Larry Speakes, now in private life, admits in a new book that he “manufactured quotations” for President [Ronald] Reagan during the superpower summit in Iceland a few years ago. Speakes says that Reagan didn’t say anything earthshaking, and he wanted to put the summit in the best possible light, so he made up some statements and read them to the press, attributing them to Reagan. Reagan says he wasn’t aware of this until now. But either way, it reflects badly on him. If he knew and didn’t do anything about it, then he’s lying now and was derelict in his duties then. If he didn’t know, he should have, since the statements were widely reported. This implies lack of awareness. In short, Reagan is a dolt.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “In a New Generation of College Students, Many Opt for the Life Examined” (news article, April 6):

As a philosophy professor at Brown University, I was interested to read that the executive director of the American Philosophical Association, David E. Schrader, claims that philosophy helps students become “quick learners,” and that the Rutgers philosophy department encourages philosophy as a pre-law track “by pointing out that their majors score high on the LSAT.”

I hope that philosophy students will use their “verbal and logic skills” to ask for hard evidence that philosophy courses are more helpful than other courses in producing quick learners, and that philosophy courses improve LSAT scores rather than simply attracting the sorts of students who do well on such tests.

Shouldn’t the claims of philosophy salesmen be scrutinized as critically as those of used car salesmen?

Felicia Nimue Ackerman
Providence, R.I., April 7, 2008

From the Mailbag


Maybe you will enjoy browsing through this opinionated glossary of Japanese baseball terms.

Mark Spahn

Note from KBJ: They shouldn’t be playing baseball in Japan. It’s an American sport.

Safire on Language



Just to show that I’m a man of honor, I’m going to desist from tormenting Yankee fans until my beloved Detroit Tigers get to .500. Yankee fans, I’m sure, will be hoping that never happens.

Addendum: Big game tonight. The Yankees play the Red Sox in Fenway Park at 7:00 Central Time, on ESPN. Both teams are 6-6 and struggling. There will be a playoff atmosphere. It will be cold and rainy. I detest both teams and their fans, but I wouldn’t miss this battle for the world.


Yesterday, in Lancaster, Texas, I did my 2d bike rally of the year and my 423d overall. This is usually the first rally in which we see bluebonnets. There comes a point in the rally where, after a sharp turn or two, we descend into a low-lying area. Directly ahead of us as we descend is a hillside. In years past, the hillside has been blue—so much so that it looks like a pond. Yesterday, to my surprise, there wasn’t a single bluebonnet on the hill. The flowers are late this year. This is not to say that there were no bluebonnets on the course, only that their numbers were much reduced.

Three of my home boys showed up: Phil (whom I’ve known for more than 15 years), Randy (whom I met through Phil), and Julius (our bad Czech). We didn’t see Julius until we were well into the ride. All of a sudden, as we were yakking away, he comes alongside us. He had been hammering. The old man hasn’t lost it. It was great to see him. We rode together for many miles, catching up on each other’s lives and reminiscing about previous rides. Julius is 61. I just turned 51. I’d be delighted to be riding at his level a decade from now. As for Phil and Randy, they slowed me down terribly. Riding with them is like wearing a heavy backpack while running. Just kidding. They’re good riders. The thing I like best about them is that they put up with my incessant chattering.

Weatherwise, the day was gorgeous. I know I say that a lot, but we’ve been blessed with good riding weather this year. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky all day. The air was cool (50s and 60s) and crisp. The only thing I would have changed is the wind; it was quite stiff out of the northwest. This helped us for the first half of the rally. It hurt us during the second half. Take a look at my one-hour splits and you’ll see. I rode 19.3 miles the first hour and 18.1 the second, for an average speed of 18.7 miles per hour. I rode only 15.1 miles the third hour, which knocked my average speed down to 17.5 miles per hour. My average speed during the final 46:09 of the ride was 14.1 miles per hour. Overall, I averaged 16.82 miles per hour for 63.4 miles. I had hoped to break 17, but I’ll take it. A year ago, as you may recall, I averaged only 13.67 miles per hour in cold, windy conditions. That’s my slowest rally ever.

I felt great for most of the day (before my legs weakened). I got my heart rate into the 150s many times, topping out at 159. My average heart rate for the ride was 122. My top speed for the day was 33.3 miles per hour. I burned 2,197 calories. Afterward, Phil, Randy, and I ate lunch at On the Border. Our friend Joe was busy with his son’s Boy Scout troop. He missed a good rally. Unless he’s been riding on his own, he’s going to suffer mightily in Muenster, which is hilly. The rest of us are going to enjoy watching him suffer, because he’s been hurting us for many years. What goes around comes around.