Washington was a hands-on president, and yet his stunning success in establishing a firm and vigorous executive branch of government was not his achievement alone but rather the achievement of the collective leadership of a small, radiant galaxy of men of outstanding intelligence, creativity, and integrity—Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, and Madison.
(James MacGregor Burns and Susan Dunn, George Washington, The American Presidents Series, ed. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. [New York: Times Books, 2004], 73)
We're in the heat of summer here in North Texas. Today, for example, there is a heat advisory. High humidity plus high temperatures make for dangerous conditions. Undaunted, I rode my bike 30.6 miles. The heat index was 94º when I left (at 11:06, when the Rush Limbaugh show began) and 101º when I returned, just short of two hours later. My riding time was 1:41:52, which gave me an average speed of 18.02 miles per hour. I averaged 19.37 miles per hour for the first 14 miles and 17.02 thereafter. The wind made the difference in speed, because I worked just as hard coming as going. I lost 3.2 pounds of body weight during the ride. No snakes; no bobcats; no armadillos. The animals have enough sense to stay out of the sun.
An acquaintance described Pope Francis’s remarks about gay people as showing “progressive” leanings. This is far from the case. The pope made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that while homosexual desire is not a sin, homosexual acts are. Thus, according to the Catholic Church, a gay person is still “less than” a heterosexual, who is sanctioned to participate in and to enjoy fully the love—in all its spiritual and physical aspects—of another person.
This is not a departure from Catholic teaching, and there is nothing progressive or revolutionary about it. If you’re gay, according to the church, love is off limits.
GRAHAM COURSEY Mount Vernon, Ohio, July 30, 2013
Note from KBJ: No church can stop two people from loving one another. What the letter writer wants is the endorsement, by the church, of conduct that the church considers sinful. If you don't like the church's stance, leave the church. If you're not a member of the church, shut up about it.
While [Adam] Smith's example of infanticide remains sadly apposite today, though only in a few societies, some of his other examples have relevance to many other contemporary societies as well. This applies, for instance, to his insistence that 'the eyes of the rest of mankind' must be invoked to understand whether 'a punishment appears equitable'. I suppose even the practice of lynching of identified 'miscreants' appeared to be perfectly just and equitable to the strong-armed enforcers of order and decency in the American South, not very long ago. Even today, scrutiny from a 'distance' may be useful for practices as different as the stoning of adulterous women in the Taliban's Afghanistan, selective abortion of female foetuses in China, Korea and parts of India, and widespread use of capital punishment in China, or for that matter in the United States (with or without the celebratory public jubilations that are not entirely unknown in some parts of the country).¹
¹Amnesty International reports that of the 2,390 people known to have been executed in 2008, 1,718 were in China, followed by Iran (346), Saudi Arabia (102), the United States (37) and Pakistan (36). In the whole of the two continents of North and South America, there is 'only one state—the United States—[that] consistently executes' ('Report Says Executions Doubled Worldwide', New York Times, 25 March 2009).
(Amartya Sen, The Idea of Justice [Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2009], 404-5 [endnote and two footnotes omitted; second set of brackets in original])
Note from KBJ: This paragraph and footnote are, in a word, scandalous. First, Sen never engages the arguments for capital punishment or the criticisms of the arguments against it. He simply assumes that it is wrong. If capital punishment deters crime, as many studies suggest it does, then there should be more of it, not less. He has done nothing to show that it fails to deter. Nor has he engaged the argument that murderers (or, more particularly, mass murderers) deserve to die. Second, he makes it seem as though capital punishment is arbitrarily meted out in the United States. In fact, we bend over backward in this country (in those states that allow capital punishment) to see that defendants get the benefit of every doubt. We execute only the very worst murderers: those who have demonstrated, though their voluntary choices, that they are unfit to live among civilized people. Third, Sen makes it sound as though there are celebrations in this country whenever someone is put to death. What planet is he living on? What we see are vigils (and crocodile tears) for the murderers! And what would be wrong with celebrating the execution of a murderer? Justice consists in giving people their due. Justice is a good thing, and, as such, a cause for celebration.
If I may make a general comment about Sen's book, it was an utter waste of my time to read it. I learned nothing from it. Sen is an incorrigible name-dropper and ass-kisser. His love affair with John Rawls is sickening. His writing is mushy and repetitive. He is self-congratulatory, clubby (with the Philosophy & Public Affairs crowd), and politically partisan. Think I'm kidding about Sen being self-congratulatory? I took the time to count up his self-references. He referred to his own work 136 times in the footnotes and 132 times in the endnotes, for a total of 268 self-references in 415 pages. This does not include internal references to The Idea of Justice, which are appallingly and annoyingly frequent. Don't waste your time with this book. I will read nothing else by Sen for the rest of my life. He isn't worth another minute of my time.
Note 2 from KBJ: Note that Sen is outraged by "selective abortion of female foetuses," but seems unperturbed by abortion of male fetuses (in the United States or elsewhere). Why would that be? Does not an abortion end the life of the fetus, whether male or female? Are females more valuable than males? Are their lives more important than those of males? I think you know the answer. Sen is outraged (or feigning outrage) because he's sucking up to feminists. He is a soft-headed old man who is well past his use-by date.
Daniel Henninger's "Immigration's Brown Herrings" (Wonder Land, July 18) is atypically off the mark. It may be factually correct to state, "There has been no significant presence of American workers in California's farm fields since at least the 1950s." But Mr. Henninger should ask, "Why not?" The answer is that California farmers found cheap manual labor from south of our border. They never felt the need to mechanize, raise wages to necessary levels for American workers or provide reasonable working conditions. Instead they used cheap immigrant labor to push American workers off those farms.
Yes, the U.S. needs a "healthy, functioning labor market," but not one based on cheap labor from illegal immigrants. It is not a healthy labor market that uses illegal immigrants to hollow out living standards for America's working and middle classes. We don't need to accommodate illegal immigrants to provide cheap labor. We have our own high-school dropouts who need those jobs.
Limiting any related immigration is both necessary and reasonable. Legal immigrants are a positive force and bring much-needed skills and talent, culture and world views. Legal immigrants are indeed the backbone of America. But there is a clear and distinct line between legal and illegal, and for that we need a secure border.
Note from KBJ: Amen. We must not let agribusiness sell us out. Corporate farmers would happily allow the destruction of our culture, language, and traditions to make a buck.
Of Logic I venture to say, even if limited to that of mere ratiocination,
the theory of names, propositions, and the syllogism, that
there is no part of intellectual education which is of greater value,
or whose place can so ill be supplied by anything else. Its uses, it is true, are chiefly negative; its function is, not so much to teach
us to go right, as to keep us from going wrong. But in the operations
of the intellect it is so much easier to go wrong than right; it
is so utterly impossible for even the most vigorous mind to keep
itself in the path but by maintaining a vigilant watch against all
deviations, and noting all the byways by which it is possible to go
astray—that the chief difference between one reasoner and another
consists in their less or greater liability to be misled. Logic points
out all the possible ways in which, starting from true premises, we
may draw false conclusions. By its analysis of the reasoning process,
and the forms it supplies for stating and setting forth our reasonings,
it enables us to guard the points at which a fallacy is in
danger of slipping in, or to lay our fingers upon the place where it
has slipped in. When I consider how very simple the theory of reasoning
is, and how short a time is sufficient for acquiring a thorough
knowledge of its principles and rules, and even considerable expertness
in applying them, I can find no excuse for omission to study it
on the part of any one who aspires to succeed in any intellectual
pursuit. Logic is the great disperser of hazy and confused thinking:
it clears up the fogs which hide from us our own ignorance, and
make us believe that we understand a subject when we do not.
Katherine and I are watching the Academy Award-winning movies in chronological order, beginning with Midnight Cowboy in 1969. Yesterday evening, we watched Unforgiven (1992). What a relief this was, coming after the godawful, nightmare-inducing Silence of the Lambs (1991)! I'm a Clint Eastwood fan from way back (at least to the days of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly ). I saw Unforgiven many years ago, so some (but not all) of the scenes were familiar. I was definitely ready to watch it again.
I'm a simple man (some would say a philistine). All I ask for in a movie is a comprehensible plot, good character development, pleasant scenery, and decent acting. This movie has it all. The plot is straightforward; Eastwood's character is adequately developed, despite its complexity; the scenery is gorgeous; and the acting is superb. The kid was annoying, but that's how some people are. Morgan Freeman played his usual role of helping white people. Richard Harris was excellent as English Bob. Gene Hackman's character was, well, despicable, so much so that you couldn't wait for Eastwood's character to put a bullet in him. Eastwood was magnificent.
All in all, I enjoyed the movie. Perhaps in 10 years I'll be ready to watch it again.
I always find it hilarious when politicians tell journalists self-aggrandizing stories with the naïve hope that they will impress people with the extent of their power.
Politicians have such big egos that they do not have the same sense of ridicule as the rest of us.
The latest proof of the effect of overinflated self-esteem on a politician can be found in your article about Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey.
Chris Christie is really proud to have participated in a confidential meeting with a bunch of billionaires trying to decide our country’s fate. It is ridiculous, at best, that an elected official would brag about having private meetings with would-be aristocrats to make decisions that would affect all of us.
Governor Christie should be careful; his ego and his bluntness might be the biggest obstacles to a national career.
STEPHEN CLYDE Berlin, N.J., July 25, 2013
Note from KBJ: Chris Christie is the epitome of pomposity. He is Barack Obama writ large (very large). I wouldn't vote for him in a million years.
You are the leader of a small group of soldiers. You are on your way back from a completed mission deep in
enemy territory when one of your men has stepped in trap [sic] that has been set by the enemy and is badly
injured. The trap is connected to a radio device that by now has alerted the enemy to your presence. They will
soon be on their way.
If the enemy finds your injured man they will torture him and kill him. He begs you not to leave him behind,
but if you try to take him with you your entire group will be captured. The only way to prevent this injured
soldier from being tortured is to shoot him yourself.
Is it appropriate for you to shoot this soldier in order to prevent him from being tortured by the enemy?
Josh Hamilton is earning $17,000,000 this year to play a kids' game. That works out to $1,940.63 per hour, for every hour of the year (of which there are 8,760). Today, in a game in which his team blew a five-run lead, losing, 10-6, he went zero for five with three strikeouts. He is hitting .220. His team, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, is in fourth place in a five-team division. Ya gotta love this country.