Sunday, 26 August 2007


I leave you this fine evening with a column by Jonathan Martin.

A. P. Martinich on Hobbes’s Theory of Government

Let’s distinguish between one-step and two-step theories. In a one-step theory, the origin of government does not involve any independently existing entity intermediate between the prepolitical and political states. Such theories may include a transitional entity in the explanation of the change from the prepolitical to the political state. In a two-step theory, there is an entity that exists on its own and is neither the government nor any purely natural object. Typically, two-step theories call the intermediate entity ‘the society’, ‘the community,’ [sic] or ‘the people’. John Locke, for example, is a two-step theorist. His first step consists of the contract among people that establishes a society or community; the second step is the society’s action of establishing a government. Two-step theories make civil war a less radical breakdown and hence more palatable: A civil war may destroy the government but not the society itself. They also bolster theories of limited sovereignty. The society has a political authority that can check abuses by the sovereign. Because Hobbes wanted to make civil war sound as unpalatable as possible and because he does not want there to be any check on the sovereign, he adopts a one-step theory: He has the state of nature and then the civil state.

(A. P. Martinich, Hobbes: A Biography [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999], 155)

Food for Thought

I want everyone to ponder this question tomorrow while at work: Suppose it were discovered, in unimpeachable scientific research, that baseball caps, especially those worn backward, render their wearers impotent at the age of 30. What percentage of baseball-cap-wearing men would continue to wear them?


This is one of my students from my days as a teaching assistant at the University of Arizona. Sam made it into my journal many times. He was quite a character. I should have known he’d make something of himself. I doubt that he remembers me, but I remember him.

Addendum: Here is another of my students—from the same class! They did well for themselves in spite of me, not because of me.

Addendum 2: And of course there is this guy, who took my Introduction to Philosophy course in the spring of 1986. This is still the best course I’ve ever taught. Michael and I have kept in touch over the years. In addition to being a magnificent musician, he was a brilliant student and is one of the funniest and best-natured people I’ve ever known.

Twenty Years Ago

8-26-87 Wednesday. I know this sounds ridiculous, but in all my years of schooling, I’ve thought of it as temporary or abnormal. “Now I’m in school,” I thought, “and eventually I’ll be out. Then my real life will begin.” The absurdity of this line of thinking reveals itself when I reflect that I’m thirty years old. If everything up to this point has been unreal, then there isn’t much in the way of reality left! The interesting question is why I ever thought this. I guess it’s because of all the stimuli in my environment. There are no television shows or novels about graduate students, after all. People are never shown reading, writing, or thinking. They’re always depicted as being out there, doing things: working on electrical lines, selling clothing, driving cabs. Academia seems unreal and temporary compared to these occupations. So while I believe that academia is every bit as difficult and important as other professions, it doesn’t have popular reinforcement. I live in a society that doesn’t understand or value intellectual life.

I had a close call on my bike this afternoon. After spending the morning hours drafting journal entries and revising my essay “Subjective Grading” for my fall students, I rode my bike five miles to a computer shop on Speedway Boulevard. I needed a new [printer] ribbon. On the way back, as I approached an intersection, I squeezed my way through a line of cars near the curb. I always worry about cars making righthand turns in front of me, so I look for turn signals as I approach. At this particular intersection there were no signals, so I began to enter it. Just then, the car beside me began a right turn. I hit the brakes, but it was too late. My front tire struck the car and began rubbing along it as the car turned. When the car cleared, my body weight thrust the bike sharply to the left, into the lane. Fortunately I stayed up and the car behind had not yet reached me. I could easily have fallen to the ground because my toe clips kept me from sticking my legs out. As I made my way through the intersection, I cursed the driver of the car. Also, it was a new and expensive vehicle (perhaps a Jaguar), so I hoped that I had scratched it in some way. Isn’t that awful?

Odds and ends: (1) My letter to the editor of The Arizona Republic (on Robert Bork and constitutional adjudication) appeared today. Interestingly, the editor changed the word “hateful” to “fearful.” Obviously, these words have different meanings. I wonder why the change was made. (2) Mom called this evening to report that the [Detroit] Tigers had come from behind in their game against Minnesota [the Twins]. Coincidentally, I was cursing my luck at the time because I had no way to find out who won until the ten o’clock news. As we talked, Mom reported what was happening. The Tigers won, 10-8, after trailing, 6-5, in the ninth inning. . . . (3) Paul Molitor’s hitting streak is over. He hit in thirty-nine consecutive games, seventeen short of the major-league record. Overlooked in the hoopla about the streak is the fact that his team, Milwaukee, is playing great baseball. In fact, I wouldn’t rule the Brewers out of contention, even though three teams (Detroit, Toronto [the Blue Jays], and New York [the Yankees]) remain in front of them. [The Tigers won the division by two games over Toronto. Milwaukee finished seven games behind and New York nine. The Yankees suck. They did then, they do now, and they always will.]


Michelle Malkin deserves a great deal of credit for keeping her many readers informed of the appalling behavior of the open-borders crowd. See here for her latest post on the topic. Illegal immigration is going to be The Issue of the 2008 presidential campaign, and Democrats are (as usual) on the wrong side of it. Between now and election day, you will hear bitter cries of “Divisiveness!” and “Cruelty!” This is absurd. Americans want the law enforced. Since when is it divisive or cruel to expect people to obey the law? Once our borders are secure and illegal aliens deported, which may take many years, we’ll sit down and talk about which people to allow in—and how many. By the way, there’s a simple solution for the problem of “sanctuary cities.” When illegal aliens commit crimes, sue the elected officials. Put the fear of bankruptcy into them.

Blogospheric Cowards

This is too precious to keep to myself. Yesterday, while scanning the comments to this blog, I noticed one from “Joe.” No last name was given, so it could not be approved under my ass-kicking full-disclosure policy. I read the first couple of sentences of Joe’s long comment before deleting it. Joe said that he has been reading my blog for some time and doesn’t like me. One bit. Think about that. There are millions of blogs in the blogosphere, and lots of other Internet sites besides, and this guy reads me every day. It must give him indigestion! What would prevail upon a person to read someone one detests? I don’t get it. Remember, Joe: If you read me, I own you. I own you, dude! I have your attention, your time, your emotional energy, and your mind (although not—yet—your money). I’m not surprised that Joe didn’t identify himself, given the tenor of his comment. He acts like a child. He knows who I am, and can thereby hold me responsible for what I say. I’m a grown-up, a man, a citizen. Joe isn’t confident enough in the quality of his mind to take responsibility for the things he says and does on the Internet. I feel sorry for Joe. Perhaps one day he will grow up and become a man.

From the Mailbag

Does anyone doubt that there are far more women in heaven than men?

Will Nehs

Note from KBJ: Are you implying that it would be unjust if there were? What if women are morally superior to men, as many feminists believe? Shouldn’t they be rewarded for this excess of virtue? Who starts the wars? Who does the vast majority of the murdering? Who rapes, robs, burgles, kidnaps, pillages, plunders, and maims? Who does almost all the farting, belching, and urinating in public? Wouldn’t a world without males be heaven on earth?

All Fred, All the Time

Will Nehs sent this. Politics is an expectations game. Mike Huckabee (I know: who?) appears to be trying to raise expectations about Fred Thompson. The higher the expectations, the less likely that Fred will meet them. Huckabee obviously hasn’t been paying attention. Expectations adjust themselves to Fred, not the other way around. See here.

Wichita Falls

Yesterday, in Wichita Falls, Texas, I did my 16th bike rally of the year and my 412th overall. I’ve been doing the Hotter ’n Hell Hundred since 1990, when I was 33 years old. I did the 100-mile course the first 12 years; then I did a 74-mile course of my own devising for five years; and this year I returned to the 100-mile course. It’s hard to describe this event. Suffice it to say that there is no other bike rally that comes close to it in terms of organization, difficulty, or scope. I read somewhere that more than 10,000 riders participated this year. During my ride, I asked a few people where they were from. The first couple (on a tandem) was from Tulsa, Oklahoma. The second person (a woman on a single bike) was from Springfield, Missouri. The third couple (on a tandem) was from Wichita, Kansas. The fourth person (a man on a single bike) was from Boerne, Texas, which is near San Antonio. People come from every state and many foreign countries to participate in this event. (I was tempted to ask the third couple whether they’ve heard of Pat Metheny’s album As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls [1981]. What a great title!)

As usual, it was a long day for me. I rose at 4:00 after a fitful night’s sleep and pulled out of my driveway, in the dark, at 4:27. Amazingly, my newspaper was already here. I drove at 70 miles per hour (the speed limit) for almost two hours, reaching Wichita Falls at 6:20, which was right on schedule. It took a few minutes to find a parking space, which was annoying, since I always park in the same spot; but it turned out to be a good spot, maybe better than the other one. I got the bike out of the trunk, put the wheels on, and did the other necessary preparations. It was still dark. I stretched, locked the car, answered nature’s call in the nearby weeds, and got on the bike. I reached the flagpole of the convention center at 6:40, which was five minutes early. My friends, who drove up the day before and spent the night in town, were waiting for me. The sun was coming up.

For many years now, we have left early. The USCF racers leave at 6:40, while the rally riders leave at 7:06. We rolled onto the course ahead of the assembled riders at about 6:45, thinking the racers had already departed. Wrong! Within seconds, a police car with flashing lights approached us from behind, followed by a pack of about 50 riders. This was the fastest race group, the professionals and Category 1 and 2 racers. As soon as they passed, we resumed our ride out of town. Usually, there are only a few people who leave early, but this year there were hundreds. I guess people got tired of waiting in a huge throng and having to pass hundreds of slower riders on their way out of town. My friend Joe said there should be an open start, with people leaving whenever they’re ready. I agree.

My goal for the day was simply to ride 100 miles. Speed was no object. I haven’t ridden 100 miles in six years (since the 2001 Hotter ’n Hell Hundred). The course is 102 miles in length, so I was secretly hoping to finish in six hours, which would be 17 miles per hour. I’ve done worse on the 100-mile course, believe me. (I’ve also done much better; my fastest HHH was 21.69 miles per hour.) Joe and his son Jason always ride 100 miles on their tandem. I decided to ride with them the entire way, stopping when they did. We were joined this year by Phil and Randy, whom I have mentioned many times in this blog, and by Joe’s old friend Dave and Dave’s 14-year-old son Jacob (on a single bike). It felt like a little platoon. As we pedaled out of Wichita Falls, thanking the spectators for their applause and the police officers for stopping traffic for us, we chatted about what was to come and did the usual teasing. (Phil and Randy are eminently teasable, and I, of course, am the Big Teaser/Taunter/Tormentor, as Yankee fans have no doubt noticed.)

Joe and I always stop at the rest stop about 20 miles in so that Joe and Jason can have a Polaroid snapshot made. This is just one of our many traditions. As soon as we got going again, I messed up my computer by pushing the wrong button. Damn! I love having accurate data for this rally. A year ago, as you may recall, my computer stopped working on this rally. Oh well, at least I didn’t have a flat tire at the same time my computer stopped working, as in 2006.

On we pedaled. We had to restrain ourselves from hammering, because we knew we’d be on the bikes for six hours. The easier you take it early on, the easier it’ll be at the end. What’s nice about this course is that it’s flat. That means no pressure on the legs while climbing hills. I don’t ride enough to have leg muscles. I ride primarily on my heart and lungs, which are strong from all the running I do. I can ride forever on flats. I get dropped on hills. If you can believe it, this rally was my 16th bike ride—the 16th time I have been on the bicycle—since 18 November, when I did the Denton Turkey Roll. That’s an average of one bike ride every 17½ days.

The ride was fairly unremarkable, which, when you consider how many things can go wrong, is good. We came upon two accidents, one of which occurred just in front of us. Riders do stupid and dangerous things. One of them is to cut in front of slower riders as they pass. For example, I was riding to the left of Joe and Jason in the right lane of a two-lane road at about the 25-mile mark. Small groups were flying past us. As they did so, they would be only inches from my handlebar. No sooner would they pass me than they would veer in front of me, trying to stay on the wheel of the person in front. All it would take is a touch of handlebars and both of us, plus many others, would be on the pavement in an instant, wondering what happened. I’m pretty sure that’s what happened to the riders who were getting up from the pavement when we came upon them. One of the bikes was still in the road. It looked like it was broken in half. As in driving an automobile, you have to ride defensively. Idiots can bring you down. Literally.

I expected to tire after four hours of riding, since I haven’t been on the bike for more than four hours at a time in several years, but for some reason I didn’t. (It must be the performance-enhancing drugs.) Phil turned off in Burkburnett, which is what I did the past five years. I’m glad he did, because, had he continued with us, we would have had to (1) wait for him and (2) listen to his infernal whining. (Just kidding, Phil. I hope you made it in safely and had a good ride.) I thought Randy might wimp out on us as well, but when we turned the corner at Hell’s Gate, there he was, with Joe, Jason, and me. (Dave and his son had long since been dropped.) So now it was four of us against the elements. It was getting hot. I remarked to Joe that usually the fields are brown during this rally. They were green. There must have been more rain than usual in Wichita Falls this year. Although everyone who was on the course at this point was riding 100 miles, there were quite a few riders around us. This made for good pack riding. It was especially important to ride in a pack when we turned into the wind, which was stiff. I took my turn at the front many times, and always enjoyed it when I slipped back into the pack.

Joe decided to skip the 85-mile rest stop, which was a mistake. I was almost out of water, and Randy needed a rest. We continued to the 92-mile rest stop. With only 10 miles to go, we knew we were in good shape. We stayed there for half an hour, sitting in lawn chairs under an awning, eating dill pickles and other goodies, drinking water, and commiserating. It was here that our old friend Julius joined us. We knew he was at the rally, and were pretty sure he was behind us, but didn’t expect to see him until the finish. Randy’s feet were sore, so I told him to take his shoes off, which he did. I noticed as we were sitting that there were several boxes of pizza on a bench. I don’t eat meat or cheese, but I needed something solid in my stomach (I had already eaten three PowerBars), so I asked a rally volunteer whether the pizzas were for the riders. She said yes, so I found a piece without much meat on it, removed the meat, and ate the crust. Later, I learned that the pizzas were for the volunteers, not the riders. Oops! Before leaving, I saw other riders eating pizza, so I guess it was okay.

When I reached down to pick up my bike after this refreshing stop, I noticed that the rear tire was flat. Damn again! Joe, Jason, and Randy were on their bikes, ready to roll, so I told them to go on without me. I replaced the tube in five minutes and headed out on my own. I was feeling strong as a bull for some odd reason (the aforementioned drugs?), so I fell in with other riders and hammered. We caught Randy within minutes. He was feeling the heat. I dropped out of the pack to wait for him, and we finished the ride together. I made sure Randy got his finisher’s pin, because this, despite his advanced age, was his first 100-mile ride. I had a long drive ahead of me (122.4 miles), so I said goodbye to everyone and rode to my car. By this time it was quite hot, and the sun, which had been obscured by clouds most of the morning, was shining brightly. I noticed that the wind had shifted direction considerably since the start.

Half the fun of doing the Hotter ’n Hell Hundred is compiling statistics. Although my computer messed up early on, it saved most of the data in a file called “Today’s Totals.” I was delighted to discover that I had everything except heart rates, and even that was tolerable, because I noticed during the ride that my maximum heart rate for the day was 156 (during one of my stints at the front in a headwind). I ended up with an average speed of 18.26 miles per hour for 102.6 miles. (That’s my average speed for riding time [5:37:01]. We were stopped for about an hour, altogether.) I burned 3,055 calories. My maximum speed for the day was 31.3 miles per hour. It’s hard to go any faster on this course. When I say it’s flat, I mean flat. The rally in Cleburne a few weeks ago was much hillier. Weather-wise, the temperature was 79° Fahrenheit when we started riding and 92° when we finished. The official high for the day in Wichita Falls was 94°. The average wind speed was 10.6 miles per hour. As Joe pointed out, it was a typical late-August day in Wichita Falls: not excessively hot; not unseasonably cool. I’ve seen just about everything during my 18 HHHs.

All told, I had a wonderful time. I’m usually tired on the long drive to Fort Worth, but the air conditioner in my new car is so good that I stayed wide awake. I also had good music playing on my CD player, such as Re-Flex’s The Politics of Dancing (1983). I used the car’s cruise control for the first time yesterday. It worked splendidly. Thank you, Honda!

Did I mention that living well is the best revenge?

Addendum: Here is the story from the Wichita Falls Times Record.

Yankee Watch

The Boston Red Sox won today, while the New York Yankees lost to my beloved Detroit Tigers for the second time in three days. (See here for the New York Times story.) Boston’s magic number to eliminate New York is down to 25. I expect the Yankees to be eliminated by the middle of September. If they don’t start playing better, they’ll be eliminated from the playoffs just as soon. Is there anything quite as nice as a postseason without the Yankees?

A Year Ago



George Jochnowitz thinks it’s rude of me to refer to the Democrat Party as “the Democrat Party.” Let’s think this through. First, even if I thought there were a principle that prohibited rudeness, it’s not absolute. Suppose the party chose the name “the Republicans-Suck Party.” Would everyone have to use that name? Suppose there were a party called “the Cunt Party.” Would George, in an attempt not to be rude, use its name, and would it be wrong of him if he didn’t? The point is, there are other things to be taken into account besides getting another’s name right (in the sense of using whatever name the other prefers). Different people will weight these considerations differently, leading to different decisions about which name to use. Some people, such as George, will assign great weight to the nonrudeness principle. Others will assign less weight to it, which makes it easier to be outweighed by other considerations.

Second, democracy is a good thing—indeed, to those of us in the contemporary West, a very good thing. To say that something is democratic is to commend it. Note the similarity between the “the democratic party” and “the Democratic Party.”  The deserved favorable connotation of the former (I agree that democracy is a good thing) rubs off on the undeserved favorable connotation of the latter. (Parties must earn their reputations the old-fashioned way, by formulating good policies and electing good candidates.) I refuse to allow the Democrat Party to have this undeserved advantage. That others allow it, or that most people until now have allowed it, or that members of the party prefer it, is neither here nor there, as far as I’m concerned. I do what I think is right.

So even if I accepted a nonrudeness principle, it would not be absolute. It would merely have some weight in my deliberations. I would still have to take other things into account before deciding whether, all things considered, to be rude. (I assume, for the sake of argument, that it’s rude not to use another’s preferred name.) I also accept a principle of justice according to which individuals and organizations should not have undeserved advantages. (Justice consists in giving each person his or her due.) When I apply these principles to the case of the Democrat Party, I get “the Democrat Party.”

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

What? An editorial against noise that doesn’t mention car alarms? There is no source of noise that is more annoying. There is no quality-of-life problem that is easier to solve.

If Mayor Bloomberg “took office determined to introduce sensible measures to improve the quality of daily life,” he should outlaw car alarms. The sale, manufacture and possession of these alarms should be illegal.

George Jochnowitz
Greenwich Village

Note from KBJ: The letter writer suffers from Noise Derangement Syndrome.

Safire on Language


Addendum: William Safire commits numerous use-mention confusions in every column. How he reached an advanced age without knowing the distinction between using a symbol and mentioning a symbol is beyond me. Would he confuse using a toaster with mentioning a toaster? Big difference! If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, read this.