Sunday, 18 May 2008

Twenty Years Ago

5-18-88 Wednesday. Attorney General Edwin Meese remains under fire. He has been implicated in numerous illegal or unethical schemes, but has yet to be charged, tried, or convicted. Many observers think that if he stays in office it will destroy George [Herbert Walker] Bush’s chances of becoming president. Why? Because people will associate Bush with a tainted Reagan administration. Also, it keeps Meese in the headlines and Bush out of the headlines. Meese, however, is adamant about staying on. He says that stepping down implies that he is guilty of something, when he’s not. In a way, I admire his stand. Charges are, after all, just charges. But it appears that the accusations are interfering with Meese’s ability to perform his duties. Perhaps he should step down so that the business of government can go on unimpeded. President [Ronald] Reagan, ever the loyal friend, says that he will not ask Meese to resign. Privately, however, one wonders how he views things. He must realize that Meese is embarrassing the administration and perhaps even jeopardizing its place in history. The battle goes on.


Here is a brief history of the meter (or, if you’re a cheese-eating surrender monkey, a metre).

Science and Religion

Here is your Sunday reading. Only someone who thinks religious belief false will try to explain it in scientific terms. (Is anyone trying to explain scientific belief in scientific terms?) To a philosopher, the question is whether it’s false. What this shows is that the scientific explanation of religious belief is a parlor game among atheists. Theists must find it amusing.

“Ritualized Indignation”

Here is George Will’s latest column. Will has a wonderful way of putting things in perspective.


Is Barack Obama willing, able, and experienced enough to do what is necessary to protect Americans in this dangerous world? That is the question voters will have to answer on 4 November (assuming he’s the Democrat nominee). See here for a New York Times story about Obama’s alleged weakness on terror. Key paragraph:

“It would be a wonderful thing if we lived in a world where we don’t have enemies,” Mr. McCain said. “But that is not the world we live in, and until Senator Obama understands that reality, the American people have every reason to doubt whether he has the strength, judgment and determination to keep us safe.”

I’m looking forward to the fall campaign. How about you?


Here is a scene from today’s stage of the Giro d’Italia. Tomorrow is the first of two rest days. Here is a map of Tuesday’s individual time trial. Look for American cyclist Levi Leipheimer to assert himself.

“Talking Talking Talking”

Here is Mark Steyn‘s latest column. Add Steyn to the (short) list of decent things to come out of Canada.

Ronald Dworkin on Abortion

Many conservatives say that abortion is murder, and the fervor of their opposition—some conservatives have killed doctors who perform abortions—testifies to that belief. A political community must somehow decide collectively, through courts or legislatures, whether abortion is murder; if it is, then outlawing abortion is necessary on distributive rather than judgmental grounds and constitutes no offense to liberty. If abortion is not murder, however, then it can be said to be wrong only on personally judgmental grounds, which a society dedicated to liberty must avoid. Whether abortion is murder does not depend, in my view, on whether a fetus is a human being at some very early point after conception—of course it is—but on whether it has interests and so rights to protect those interests at that early stage.

I have argued, elsewhere, that it does not. No creature has interests who has not had a mental life that has generated those interests. It makes sense to say that people who are now dead or permanently unconscious still have interests. We mean that their lives will have been more successful if the interests they formed while alive and conscious flourish when they are unconscious or dead. My life will have gone better if, as I very much hope, my family prospers after my death, for instance. But creatures who have never felt pain or made plans or formed attachments of any kind have developed no interests to fulfill or frustrate. So I do not believe that early fetuses have rights or that abortion is murder, and I therefore believe the Supreme Court was right to hold that making early abortion a crime is inconsistent with respecting personal responsibility.

(Ronald Dworkin, Is Democracy Possible Here? Principles for a New Political Debate [Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2006], 78-9 [endnotes omitted])

Note from KBJ: “Therefore”?

A Year Ago


From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

While you urge Congress not to “give up on biofuels” to help “reduce the country’s dependence on imported oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” your policy prescriptions would undercut this vital national goal.

The current corn-based ethanol industry is not only keeping gasoline prices lower than they otherwise would be—Merrill Lynch estimates gasoline prices would be 15 percent higher without biofuels—but also only minimally contributing to higher food prices.

Curiously, The Times itself has reported that the major factors behind rising world food prices—which some self-interested parties want to blame on ethanol—are sky-high oil prices, growing demand in China and other developing nations, droughts in Australia and elsewhere, commodity speculation and the falling dollar.

Finally, there are many studies that document the global warming benefits of burning ethanol versus gasoline. How is it that you would rather support a policy that would result in more, rather than less, oil consumption?

John R. Block
Washington, May 14, 2008
The writer was secretary of agriculture, 1981-86.

Note from KBJ: Progressives are not known for their intelligence. They emote well, but cogitate poorly. It’s why we have terms such as “do-gooder,” “bleeding heart,” “self-defeating,” and “unintended consequences” in our vocabulary.

Flower Mound

Yesterday, in Flower Mound, Texas, I did my seventh bike rally of the year and my 428th overall. As was the case a year ago, the rally started and ended inside the Texas Motor Speedway (which is 29.2 miles from my Fort Worth house). Unlike a year ago, there was no rain at the start, so I rode high on the banking as we circumnavigated the track. I’m still amazed by the steepness of the speedway. Even though the surface was dry, I felt as though my bike were going to slip out from under me as I pedaled. When I came down off the embankment, it felt as though I were falling off a cliff. Before I knew it, we had completed our lap and left the track for the North Texas countryside.

All of my home boys were present. Joe, who has been riding with his son Jason and other Boy Scouts as part of a merit-badge project, was doing the 50-mile route. Phil and Randy were there, as was our Bad Czech, Julius. The turnout wasn’t what it was a year ago, probably because there was another rally taking place in Richardson (north of Dallas). I wish the rally organizers would cooperate with one another. There is no rally on 31 May, for example. One of these rallies could have been moved to that day. Do the organizers not want to make money? It would seem an easy matter to get together every year and divvy up the dates.

Once again, we had beautiful weather for cycling. The temperature was in the mid-60s at the start (with low humidity) and reached a high of 87º later in the day. The clouds burned off after an hour or so and we finished in bright sunshine. Our first hour was fast. We covered 20.2 miles. The Flower Mound course is flat, as rally courses go, which played to my strength. I felt good and rode hard. Phil is riding well, as he has all spring, and Randy (affectionately known as “Sack of Potatoes”) is finally getting into shape. He took many turns at the front, as Phil and I did. It was great to see him riding so well. About halfway into the rally, Julius caught us. He said he had been chasing for many miles. I thought he was ahead of us. Before long, he was riding away from us with a small pack. We saw him coming the other way on the out-and-back portion of the course. For a 61-year-old man, he is riding fabulously well.

We stopped only once, for about 10 minutes. When I reached the three-hour mark, I clicked my bike computer and saw that I had covered 57.1 miles. Damn! That meant I had to ride hard the rest of the way to get an average speed of 19 miles per hour for the day. There was no way I was going to write “18.9” in my log. I told Phil and Randy that we were at 19 miles per hour and that I was determined to keep it. We rode like banshees the rest of the way, despite a headwind, a crosswind, and some small hills. I averaged 20.2 miles per hour for the final 15:42, which gave me an average speed for the day of 19.13 miles per hour for the 62.4-mile course. This is my highest speed since September. I seem to get stronger and faster with each ride I do. At this rate, I will win the Tour de France in July.

After the rally, we sat at folding tables in one of the open-air racetrack buildings, telling war stories, eating, drinking, and waiting for Joe and his Scouts. Just as I was about to leave, I spotted Jason. Joe was bringing up the rear, ensuring that everyone got in safely. We spent another 30 minutes talking to them. We teased Joe about getting dropped by his Scouts. Maybe he’ll ride with the big boys next time.

Statistically, my maximum heart rate for the day was 162. My average heart rate was 132, which means I worked hard during the ride. My maximum speed was 35.4 miles per hour and I burned 2,171 calories. The rally ranks 86th of 428 in terms of average speed, which puts it into the top 20%. I’ve always enjoyed doing rallies, but this year has been special. I hope my home boys and I have another 10 years to kick each other’s butts on the bike.


I love this song. It’s a perfect soundtrack for my Sunday morning.

From the Mailbag


Here is an interesting map of the United States showing the areas where annual births outnumber annual deaths, and vice versa.

The population decline of western Pennsylvania and West Virginia is a surprise to me. I can think of a reason for some of the dark births-outnumber-deaths regions (Utah: Mormons, Rio Grande: Hispanics, northern Alaska: Eskimos?), but why the high-birth island in South Dakota? And in northern New Mexico, why is a high-birth region adjacent to a more-deaths region? Are the high-birth regions of South Dakota and New Mexico accounted for by Indian reservations?

Mark Spahn

Safire on Language