Friday, 18 July 2008

“Lord of the Seas”

I leave you this fine evening with a column by Charles Krauthammer.

Dogs and Humans

I mentioned yesterday that after Shelbie finishes chasing a rabbit, she goes back to where she flushed the rabbit, hoping to find another one. It occurred to me today, while running, that I do the same. I always stop to pick up coins, which I save in gallon cider jars. Sometimes I have three or four coins by the time I get home. (My standing joke is that if I keep on running and walking Shelbie, I’ll get rich.) When I reach down to pick up a coin, I take a couple of seconds to look around for more, on the theory that there is more likely to be a coin there (in the vicinity of the first one) than somewhere else. Both coins and rabbits cluster. I said that Shelbie’s behavior has an evolutionary explanation. Is that true of mine?


Here is a scene from today’s stage of the Tour de France. Incredibly, British cyclist Mark Cavendish won again, which gives him four stage victories. Here is tomorrow’s stage.

Addendum: Here is the latest about Italian cyclist Riccardo Ricco, who was kicked out of the Tour for using a banned substance. I keep thinking about his parents. How must they feel to know that they raised a cheater? It used to be that family honor (not sullying the family name) meant something. No more.

Addendum 2: I read elsewhere that Ricco claims to have a naturally high hematocrit level. Gee. Where have I heard this before? I know! Floyd Landis claimed to have a naturally high testosterone level. Here’s what needs to be done. Just before a rider’s first amateur race, even if it’s at the age of 15, test him or her and save the blood or urine. Find out what the natural levels of each substance are. Then track the rider’s blood or urine throughout the remainder of his or her career. Expensive? You bet. Worth it? Yup.

Twenty Years Ago

7-18-88 . . . Ann Richards [1933-2006], the Texas state treasurer, gave the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention this evening. She cast several aspersions on Republican nominee George [Herbert Walker] Bush, claiming, for example, that he was born with a “silver foot in his mouth”. The Democrats are making as much as they can of Bush’s breeding and background. He was born into privilege and later added to it as a Texas businessman. Thus, he has an elitist image. He owns a summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine; he dresses in prep-school fashion; and he speaks with a nasal twang that tells blue-collar workers that he’s not one of them. This is a popular theme in American politics these days: attacking your opponent as a child of wealth and privilege. Robert Dole used this strategy against Bush during the Republican primaries. It was also used against Pierre DuPont, whose family is tremendously wealthy. Personally, I find it irrelevant whether a person was born rich or poor. What matters is the person’s views. That is why I support Ted Kennedy, even though he was born into wealth. His views are right. In any event, tonight’s convention was interesting. Richards was eloquent, passionate, and firm. I understand that she’s running for governor of Texas. If so, I’ll support her.

“Cautious, Patriotic Change”

Here is a fascinating op-ed column by David Brooks. As I have said in this blog many times (see here, for example), the difference between conservatives and progressives is not that conservatives are opposed to change while progressives are in favor of it. That cuts things too sharply. It’s that conservatives are opposed to radical, exogenous change. Conservatism is compatible with incremental, endogenous change—change that is respectful of tradition. If John McCain had any sense, he’d be preaching this message on the campaign trail. He can easily make Barack Obama seem rash and arrogant.

A Year Ago



Peggy Noonan is still on vacation. Here is Peg Kaplan’s latest post.

Bush-Hatin’ Paul

Paul Krugman¹ is confident that Barack Obama will be elected president this fall—so confident that he is offering economic advice to President Obama. I love it when Democrats are confident. It usually means they’re in for a terrible disappointment.


¹“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).

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Cholesterol Drugs for 8-Year-Olds” (editorial, July 10):

Eight-year-olds do not need to be put on cholesterol drugs. Cholesterol levels can be controlled by eating healthy food and getting exercise.

Humans, and most animals, produce cholesterol naturally, but the problem is when we “supplement” this biologically occurring substance.

Cholesterol is found only in foods derived from animals, like meat, cheese and eggs. All food that comes from plants is cholesterol-free, so a vegetarian or vegan diet does wonders for lowering cholesterol levels.

I suppose you can say that I started to control my cholesterol level 17 years ago when I was a young woman. That is when I went vegetarian. My cholesterol levels have always made my doctors happy. I’ll take a veggie burger over a handful of pills any day.

Anna West
Richmond, Va., July 10, 2008


Here are the top 10 states for excess fat, with percentage of residents reporting being obese:

1. Mississippi (32.0)
2. Alabama (30.3)
3. Tennessee (30.1)
4. Louisiana (29.8)
5. West Virginia (29.5)
6. Arkansas (28.7)
7. South Carolina (28.4)
8. Georgia (28.2)
9. Oklahoma (28.1)
10. Texas (28.1)

It’s the curse of the Confederacy!

Addendum: Texas’s percentage will decrease as a result of Brian Leiter‘s move to Illinois.

John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography, Paragraph 51

I am disposed to agree with what has been surmised by others, that the opportunity which my official position gave me of learning by personal observation the necessary conditions of the practical conduct of public affairs, has been of considerable value to me as a theoretical reformer of the opinions and institutions of my time. Not, indeed, that public business transacted on paper, to take effect on the other side of the globe, was of itself calculated to give much practical knowledge of life. But the occupation accustomed me to see and hear the difficulties of every course, and the means of obviating them, stated and discussed deliberately with a view to execution; it gave me opportunities of perceiving when public measures, and other political facts, did not produce the effects which had been expected of them, and from what causes; above all, it was valuable to me by making me, in this portion of my activity, merely one wheel in a machine, the whole of which had to work together. As a speculative writer, I should have had no one to consult but myself, and should have encountered in my speculations none of the obstacles which would have started up whenever they came to be applied to practice. But as a Secretary conducting political correspondence, I could not issue an order or express an opinion, without satisfying various persons very unlike myself, that the thing was fit to be done. I was thus in a good position for finding out by practice the mode of putting a thought which gives it easiest admittance into minds not prepared for it by habit; while I became practically conversant with the difficulties of moving bodies of men, the necessities of compromise, the art of sacrificing the non-essential to preserve the essential. I learnt how to obtain the best I could, when I could not obtain everything; instead of being indignant or dispirited because I could not have entirely my own way, to be pleased and encouraged when I could have the smallest part of it; and when even that could not be, to bear with complete equanimity the being overruled altogether. I have found, through life, these acquisitions to be of the greatest possible importance for personal happiness, and they are also a very necessary condition for enabling any one, either as theorist or as practical man, to effect the greatest amount of good compatible with his opportunities.

Note from KBJ: (1) Mill was learning how to be part of a team. He must have known something of this, having grown up in a large family, but since he was educated at home, by his father, he didn’t have to learn how to get along with other children at school. Most of us learn such things as turn-taking in kindergarten. Submitting your ideas to others for consideration is a form of turn-taking. Sometimes your ideas prevail; sometimes they don’t. (2) I thought of academia as I read this paragraph. Scholars must submit their work to their peers, who must approve it prior to publication. It’s a disciplining process. No, it’s not always fair (scholars have axes to grind and carry personal and professional grudges), but for the most part it works. (3) This paragraph shows the importance of combining theory and practice. Mill learned a lesson that escapes many progressives, namely, that good intentions aren’t enough. Sometimes good intentions go awry, making things worse. (The road to hell is paved with good intentions.) Think of the bad effects of such progressive programs as welfare, the minimum wage, and affirmative action. This doesn’t mean these programs are unjust; it means that they have costs as well as benefits. A wise person takes both costs and benefits into account in deciding what to do. (4) Mill says that he was forced to articulate his ideas in a way that made them accessible to his audience. This is important. If I’m talking to a judge, I’ll speak legalese, for I know that the judge, who is trained as I am, will understand. But if I’m in my office talking to a client, I will speak ordinary English. To be effective, one must communicate, and that requires attending to one’s audience. In my role as a teacher, for example, I seek to be the intermediary between the authors (such as Kant) and my students. My aim is to translate Kant into a language my students can understand.