Monday, 10 September 2007

The Rule of Law

I leave you this fine evening with a column by David Cole and Jules Lobel. To paraphrase Ronald Dworkin, what’s shocking is not that the authors think the rule of law counts, but what they count as the rule of law.


Europeans appear to be coming to their senses. Will they have the backbone to act?

Yankee Watch

The New York Yankees didn’t play today, and the Boston Red Sox were shut out, 1-0, by Scott Kazmir of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, so Boston’s magic number to eliminate New York is still 14. There’s been an interesting turnaround by Yankee fans. Has anyone noticed? Originally, they were saying that it’s crucially important to win the East Division title for a 10th consecutive year. The hated Red Sox must not prevail! If nothing else, making the playoffs as the wild-card team means not having the “home-field advantage.” Once it became clear that the Yankees would not win the East Division title, Yankee fans changed their tune. It didn’t matter at all whether the Yankees won the East Division title, as long as they made the playoffs. Now that the Yankees have pulled to within four games of the Red Sox in the loss column, I expect Yankee fans to once again tell us how very important it is to win the East Division title. Yankee fans are pieces of work.


This past Saturday, in Crowley, Texas, I did my 18th bike rally of the year and my 414th overall. I’m looking forward to cool, dry weather after a hot, humid summer, but it was still muggy. Randy had a church obligation, so he could not ride with Joe, Phil, and me. It was remarkably peaceful—heavenly—without Randy’s incessant whining. (How do you know when Randy is whining? His lips are moving.) Phil took up the slack by whining more than usual, but Joe and I ignored him. (If you acknowledge whining, you get more of it.) Even Joe, who rarely complains about anything, did some whining. I alone avoided it, but that’s in keeping with my rocklike character. (The antidote to whining is reading the journals of Lewis and Clark.)

But seriously, we had fun. I pushed the wrong button on my bike computer again (dammit), so afterward I had to reconstruct the data. I rode 53.3 miles at an average speed of 17.82 miles per hour. The course is usually 10 miles longer than this, but a loop had to be eliminated because of road construction. I didn’t mind. By the time we finished, it was hot. (The official high temperature for the day at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport was 95° Fahrenheit.) I may still have been feeling the effects of the 5K footrace I did the previous Monday. Either that or I got dehydrated during my run the day before the rally. Joe and Phil joined me at a local Taco Bell for burritos and small talk afterward. I am blessed to have such good friends, especially when you consider that they are Christian gentlemen and I am a dirty rotten atheist. May we (including Randy the whiner) have many more years to ride together.

Most bike rallies are well-organized, but there was a serious problem in this one. Picture a straight road. Another road intersects it at a right angle. We’re riding along the straight road. When we reach the intersecting road, we are to turn left and do a small loop, eventually returning to the straight road. On the right, in the grass across from the intersecting road, is a rest stop. When we arrived at the intersection, it was a madhouse. Some riders didn’t want to stop at the rest stop, so they turned left. Some riders stopped at the rest stop and then went straight across to do the loop. Riders who had completed the loop were turning left at the intersection. There were riders everywhere, going in every direction! As if this weren’t bad enough, there were motor vehicles lined up on the straight road. The lines were absurdly long. The police officers were accommodating bicyclists and ignoring motorists. Even though I was riding rather than driving, I identified with the motorists. I would have been infuriated if I were in that long line of cars.

What were the police officers thinking? This wasn’t a race. There was no reason bicyclists couldn’t wait their turn before proceeding through the intersection. The officers should have alternated. First, stop the vehicles and the bicyclists returning from the loop. This would allow the motor vehicles on the straight road to clear the intersection. Then stop the vehicles on the straight road for a couple of minutes while the assembled bicyclists passed through the intersection. The officers acted as though every bicyclist had the right of way. Since the bicyclists were strung out, vehicles stacked up. I heard at the finish that tempers flared. Someone got out of a vehicle to yell at (or challenge) a bicyclist. A bicyclist squirted water at a car. I’m glad I wasn’t there, for it sounds nasty. As I told Joe and Phil, much of the congestion could have been avoided if the rally organizers reversed the course. Instead of going clockwise, we should have gone counterclockwise. It would also help if the rest stop were relocated.

In case you’re wondering, I conveyed all this to the rally organizer by e-mail. I hope changes are made for next year. Many motorists will bear grudges against bicyclists for years to come as a result of the inconvenience they experienced. I can even envision citizens complaining to their city council, which could result in the rally being discontinued. Please note that I’m not blaming the bicyclists. They were simply following orders. If a police officer waves you through an intersection, you ride through. The problem was caused by incompetent police officers. I sometimes think that half the problems in the world are caused by incompetence.

A. P. Martinich on Hobbes’s Science

Hobbes and White were among the most brilliant people of their day, and yet most of their scientific hypotheses about such things as the causes of wind, tides, ocean currents, the motion of the moon, gravitation, the position of the earth’s axis, interaction between the sun and moon, and the rotation of the earth and moon would strike us as ludicrous today. They did not happen to fix on what proved to be the right course. Scientific greatness is partially a matter of luck.

(A. P. Martinich, Hobbes: A Biography [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999], 193)

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I went to the Ballpark in Arlington yesterday with my friend Jay (a former student who’s now a practicing lawyer). Earlier this year, Jay and I got caught in a hailstorm on the way to the ballpark. It misted on us during the game, which chilled us to the bone. Jay must be bad luck, because no sooner had I picked him up yesterday than it began to sprinkle. By the time we got to the ballpark, it was raining. Once we got seated, we were fine, since we sit under an awning at the very top of the ballpark. The game was delayed at the start and again in the second inning. By 5:30 or so, having been in the ballpark for four hours, we decided to leave. We saw Sammy Sosa hit his 607th career home run. What a wallop! The Texas Rangers were way ahead of the Oakland Athletics when we left. By the time I got home and turned the television on, it was 9-8, Texas. The Rangers held off the Athletics to win, 12-9. The two teams are battling to stay out of the West Division cellar. Sometimes these battles are as fierce as those for first place!

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “With a New Speech, Clinton Lays Out Goals as President” (news article, Sept. 3):

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, in the latest string of banalities that her campaign is touting as a major policy statement, announces that she is willing to “work within the system,” since it’s not “just about the dream, it’s about the results.”

Has anyone ever thought of Mrs. Clinton as outside “the system”? And when in American history were great social advances ever wrested without great dreams?

Christopher Phelps
Mansfield, Ohio, Sept. 3, 2007
The writer is an associate professor of history at Ohio State University at Mansfield.

Note from KBJ: Hillary Clinton is not progressive enough for this academic (which tells you everything you need to know about academia).

A Year Ago