Sunday, 23 September 2007


I leave you this fine evening with a blog post by Roger Kimball.

Twenty Years Ago

9-23-87 . . . In political news, Senator Joseph Biden has withdrawn from the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. This comes in the wake of disclosures that he used speeches of other politicians and that he committed plagiarism in law school. He also, apparently, said that he finished in the top half of his law-school class, when in fact he was near the bottom. Gosh. Mario Cuomo and Sam Nunn have decided not to run, Gary Hart and Joseph Biden have dropped out of the race, and Walter Mondale, the 1984 nominee, has been relegated to the scrap heap of history. That leaves only a handful of Democratic candidates: Paul Simon, Patricia Schroeder, Bruce Babbitt, Richard Gephardt, Albert Gore, Michael Dukakis, and Jesse Jackson. I’m already on record as supporting Simon and Schroeder. My third choice would be Dukakis. On the Republican side, the consensus is that Robert Dole and George Bush are the favorites, with Jack Kemp running a distant third. Heck, in just over a year, it’ll be election time. [George Herbert Walker Bush defeated Michael Dukakis in the 1988 presidential election. I voted for Dukakis.]


Twenty years ago yesterday, I wrote the following in my journal:

9-22-87 I’m not sure I ever commented on this, but I enjoy the slow, deliberate pace of a baseball game. This is true whether I’m there in person, listening to it on the radio, or watching it on television. But some broadcasters seem to think that a fast-paced baseball game is a better game. The cynical view of this preference is that they have airplanes to catch or places to go, whereas, to me, baseball is pure fun—entertainment. But I gather that some broadcasters genuinely like fast games. The other day, Dave Campbell, a San Diego Padres television announcer, said that he liked “crisp” games. But why? I just don’t understand this. If baseball is enjoyable, then the more there is, the better. Also, part of the attraction of baseball, at least to me, is its laid-back pace. This reflects the strategic element of the game. The pitcher shakes off the catcher’s sign; the manager replaces one player with another; the shortstop walks to the mound to discuss a hitter with the pitcher. All of this is interesting and important. So I disagree with Campbell and others like him: The best baseball game is slow-paced and reflective.

My views have not changed. There is nothing whatsoever wrong with a three-hour baseball game. The only people I’ve ever heard complain about the length of games are announcers and sportswriters, and their reasons are selfish. They want to get off work early. What do you think? (Please answer only if you’re a baseball fan. I don’t care what nonbaseball fans have to say.)

Health Care

Here is a revealing editorial opinion by the New York Times. Key paragraph:

The Democratic plans have far more similarities than differences. All three would move toward universal coverage and would rely heavily on mandates to do so. Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Edwards would require everyone to take out health insurance. That would bring young and healthy people into the system to help subsidize coverage for the more sickly, and would eliminate the problem of “free riders,” who show up uninsured at the emergency room and get very expensive care without paying. Mr. Obama would require parents to get insurance for their children but has no mandate for adults.

You read that right. The aim of requiring everyone to take out health insurance, which is totalitarian, is to redistribute wealth from the young and healthy to the old and unhealthy. This is not class warfare; it’s age warfare. Young people in particular should pay close attention to this issue. They’re about to get hosed.

A. P. Martinich on Hobbes’s Conservatism

For all of the novelty and innovation in his theories, Hobbes also had a deeply conservative strain. It led him to want to retain the traditional method of constructing geometrical objects using compass and straightedge, just as it led him to want to preserve the traditional Christian doctrines formulated in the creeds.

(A. P. Martinich, Hobbes: A Biography [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999], 288)


I’d like to wish everyone a happy equinox—autumnal in the Northern Hemisphere and vernal in the Southern Hemisphere. It hardly feels like fall here in North Texas. The daily high temperature has been in the 90s (degrees Fahrenheit) for the past nine days, after dipping into the 80s for four days. It can’t last. I’m looking forward to cool, dry air. I’m also looking forward to relief from my allergies, which are terrible. It’s ragweed season.

A Year Ago


From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

No Way Out” (editorial, Sept. 19) describes the desperate situation of Iraqis who have worked for the United States and who are now in danger for their lives. And you are absolutely right that it is our moral obligation to help save their lives by granting them admission into the United States.

Yet you point out that “so far only 900 refugees have made it to the United States this year.” In the meantime, while our government has endless excuses for not acting, Sweden, a small country with about nine million citizens, took in 9,000 Iraqi refugees in 2006, and is anticipating accepting as many as 20,000 this year!

Why is it that Sweden can find a way to help these people when this administration, which is responsible for their plight, can’t find a way to do the same?

James Polito
New Milford, Conn., Sept. 21, 2007

Note from KBJ: We have no moral obligation to let these people into our country.


Yesterday, in historic Bonham, Texas, I did my 20th bike rally of the year and my 416th overall. I’ve been going to Bonham since 1990. I missed two rallies during that time (one because of a conflict with the Waco rally), so yesterday’s Autumn in Bonham was my 16th in the past 18 years. It’s a long drive (96.8 miles) to Bonham, but well worth it.

None of my friends showed up (except Julius, whom I saw only at the finish), so I looked forward to a fast rally. Actually, I’m teasing them. My goal for the day was to take it easy, listen to music on my Zune, and enjoy the countryside. It was already warm by the time we got started, at nine o’clock. The sun was out and it was expected to be in the 90s by mid-afternoon. There was the usual mad dash at the start. I rolled out at my own pace, letting the gung-ho riders go. This year, we started at a multi-purpose complex outside of town and rode directly into the downtown area, where we turned north toward Oklahoma. Once we turned, there were quite a few riders around me. Despite my plan to take it easy, I fell in with them, figuring it would help with the wind.

You guessed it. I ended up hammering. We covered 21.1 miles during the first hour, which is almost as much as the 21.9 I covered a week earlier in Greenville. I actually wanted to drop out at one and a half hours. That’s when I usually stop for the first time. I wanted to eat a PowerBar, use the porta-potty, look at my map (it was a new course), and put my earphones in. But there was no rest stop at 90 minutes, so I continued with the pack. Incredibly, we covered 21.8 miles the second hour, which gave me an average speed of 21.45 miles per hour after two hours. Finally, just past the two-hour mark, we came to a rest stop, so I pulled over, letting the others go. (Apparently, I missed a rest stop somewhere in this 20-mile stretch.)

I took only one pull during the two hours. It was all I could do to stay in the slipstream. It appeared that only a couple of riders were doing the work, and they were strong. A man in a recumbent stayed off the front of our pack for a long time, serving as a rabbit. I’ve never seen a recumbent go that fast. Later, I passed him. He had a flat. Early on, as we were riding through Bonham, a man two bikes in front of me crashed. He went down hard, to my right. He must have touched the wheel in front of him. When you think about all the things that can go wrong while riding in a pack, it’s amazing that there aren’t more crashes. By the way, someone near me yelled “Are you all right?” as soon as the crash occurred. I chuckled. The fallen rider wouldn’t know the answer to that question for a few seconds. I hope he didn’t break anything. The way he hit the pavement, I wouldn’t be surprised if he broke his collarbone.

After the rest stop, I put my earphones in and listened to music for the remainder of the ride. The road surface was bad, at least by Texas standards. It was made of chip-seal. The rough surface keeps you from going fast, and the vibrations make your hands numb, especially when, like me, you don’t wear cycling gloves. There was also wind from this point to the finish, though it wasn’t strong. I wanted to keep my speed up so I would have a good average speed for the day, but it was difficult. I rode only 16.6 miles during the third hour, which knocked my average speed down to 19.83. There was no way I was going to break 20 miles per hour for the day. I averaged only 14.21 miles per hour for the final 20:16, which gave me an overall average speed of 19.26 miles per hour for 64.3 miles. That’s my second-fastest rally this year, behind only Cleburne (19.75 miles per hour). As expected, I’m getting stronger as the season progresses.

The riding was especially hard during the final hour. At first, I chalked it up to fatigue, wind, dehydration, hills, and rough roads—the usual suspects. But near the finish, I looked down at my front brake pads. Damn! One of them was rubbing my wheel. I have no idea how long this had been going on, or how it happened. I always adjust the brake pads at the start of a rally. I hope to hell it wasn’t rubbing the entire way, because that means I was working much harder than I should have been. I do know that my average heart rate was as high as it’s been all year: 129 beats per minute. My maximum was 150. From now on, I check my brake pads after every rest stop! By the way, this isn’t something that happens only to amateurs. Lance Armstrong discovered during a mountain stage of the Tour de France that his brake pads were rubbing.

All in all, I had fun and stayed safe. That’s the name of the game. I hope you had (or have) an enjoyable weekend.

Safire on Language