Sunday, 14 October 2007


I leave you this fine evening with a column by James W. Ceaser.

Twenty Years Ago

10-14-87 . . . I’m still shaking my head about the Tiger defeat at the hands of the Minnesota Twins. Detroit had the best record in baseball, crippled the powerful Toronto Blue Jays on the last weekend of the season, and then lost in humiliating fashion to the lowly Twins. But that’s how it goes sometimes in baseball. I was also disappointed by tonight’s National League playoff game. St Louis cruised past San Francisco, 6-0, to win the series, four games to three. The Giants were ahead, three games to two, but lost both games (by shutouts) in Busch Stadium. So it’s St Louis and Minnesota in the 1987 World Series. I was hoping for a Sparky Anderson-Roger Craig managerial duel, but as it turns out, neither of them made it this year. (Roger was Sparky’s pitching coach during the 1984 season, when Detroit won it all.) Here’s to a good World Series. St Louis would be a prohibitive favorite were it not for two things. First, the Cardinals have injuries to Jack Clark and Terry Pendleton; and second, the Twins will have had four full days of rest by the time the series begins (Saturday). Also, Minnesota plays well at home, and this year four games are scheduled for the American League park. Nonetheless, I predict that St Louis will win the World Series in seven games. [Minnesota won in seven games.]


John “Open Borders” McCain is catching hell on immigration, and rightly so. Three things McCain fails to address in his canned response are (1) whether this country is already overpopulated, relative to its resources and wild places; (2) whether the people coming in are willing to assimilate; and (3) what effect immigration is having on American culture, including our language. When McCain says that he “loves” the people who come to the United States, he is implying that those who oppose open borders hate them. This is scurrilous. One can love people without welcoming them into one’s house. The issue isn’t love or hate, benevolence or malevolence, but protecting our way of life, which we have not only a right but a duty to do. By the way, I’m not talking here about illegal immigration. I’m talking about immigration. I have always said that the first thing we must do is end illegal immigration, deporting those who are here without authorization. Once we do that, we must decide how many (and which) people to allow in. I think there should be a moratorium on immigration for at least a generation.

Ayn Rand

Will Nehs sent a link to this column about Ayn Rand. Key paragraph:

Conservatives, she’d come to believe, were insufficiently principled in their defense of a free society and once the novel was out, the official conservative movement turned its back on her.

What Rand should have said—and would have said, if she were more philosophical—is that conservatives are insufficiently one-dimensional. Conservatives are every bit as principled as libertarians. The difference between conservatives and libertarians is not that the latter are principled and the former not. The difference is that conservatives subscribe to more than one principle. Individual liberty, in their view, is one of many valuable things, and must sometimes give way. Rand confuses (1) being principled with (2) having a single absolute principle. She was a monist and an absolutist. Conservatives are pluralists and nonabsolutists.


The Nobel Prize in Economics (technically “The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel”) will be announced tomorrow. I predict that federal appellate judge Richard A. Posner will win the prize for his work in economic analysis of law. Don’t laugh. If Al Gore can win the Nobel Peace Prize, then a lawyer can win the Nobel Prize in Economics. It’s also possible that Paul Krugman* will win the prize, in spite of—or perhaps because of—his thuggery. See here for speculation.

* “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).

Addendum: Here are the winners. Thank God it wasn’t Bush-hatin’ Paul.

Glen Rose

Yesterday, in beautiful, rustic Glen Rose, Texas, I did my 23d bike rally of the year and my 419th overall. This was my first visit to Glen Rose for the Paluxy Pedal, although I did rallies in Glen Rose on 10 March 1990 and 17 October 1992. I’ve also ridden through downtown Glen Rose many times on the Cleburne rally, which is in late July. I have always loved Glen Rose. The terrain reminds me of New Mexico or Colorado. Many of the houses and fences in the vicinity are made of indigenous stone, which gives them a rustic appearance. The entire area has a storybook feel to it. It’s the most beautiful rally I’ve done—which is saying a lot, because many of the rallies I do are quite beautiful.

My friend Randy lives in nearby Granbury, so I knew he would show up. Phil is still on vacation in the northeast, and Joe is training for the White Rock Marathon. During the ride, I happened upon other people I knew, which was nice. Randy had warned me about the course, saying that it was hilly. He was particularly eager to describe “The Wall.” I’ve climbed mountains in Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado, so I wasn’t worried. If I were racing, I would have been worried, because it would have been important to stay in the pack; but with no pressure to get to the top quickly, I wasn’t concerned. Randy told me that there were many smaller hills leading up to The Wall, so every time we came to one, I said, jokingly, “The Wall wasn’t so bad, Randy.” He laughed and replied, “That wasn’t The Wall” (or words to that effect).

A little over an hour into the ride, we hit The Wall. It was every bit as steep as Randy described, if not more so. In fact, I’m confident that it’s the steepest hill I’ve climbed in Texas. Mercifully, it wasn’t very long. Almost as soon as we hit it, I saw people dismounting. Some were already walking their bikes. There was no way in hell that I was going to get off my bike. I never have and never will. Early on, as I pushed and pulled on the pedals, my front wheel came off the road. I eventually got out of the saddle. Randy had told me that there was a rest stop at the top. After several minutes of intense effort, during which I was gasping for air, I saw the top of a tent amidst the trees. “Thank goodness,” I thought. I redoubled my effort and made it to the top a few feet behind Randy. My heart rate reached 160 during the climb, which is the highest I’ve seen it on the bike in 17 months. (It gets higher on runs.)

Rally volunteers were handing out cloth patches near the tent. I put one in my jersey pocket and later stashed it away with other pins and patches I’ve received. The patch says The Wall is a 19% climb. I believe it. I noticed when I got off the bike that I was in my next-to-smallest gear (of 14). That means I could have geared down if I had needed to. I don’t think I’ve ever been in my smallest gear, even while climbing mountains out west. I can’t wait to do this rally again. I was tentative on The Wall this time, since I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t want to go too hard at the bottom and end up anaerobic. Next year, I’ll be able to gauge my effort better. Prepare to have your ass kicked in 2008, Randy.

As if the hills of the course weren’t bad enough, it was windy. The average wind speed for the day, at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, was 13.7 miles per hour, with gusts up to 25. I assume it was close to that in Glen Rose. Yes, there were times when the wind helped us, but there was just as many times when it hurt us. It won’t surprise you to learn that I averaged only 16.68 miles per hour for the 57.3-mile course. (We decided at the start not to do the 73-mile course.) Only three rallies this year—the first three—were slower. Randy thinks Muenster is hillier than Glen Rose. I think Glen Rose is hillier. Certainly no hill in Muenster compares to The Wall, although one comes close. I hope Phil and Joe go to Glen Rose with Randy and me next year. They’ll have a ball, as I did.

There was a funny incident early in the rally. Randy and I came upon a young rider who must have gone out hard. As I passed him, I asked, “How old are you?” He said he was 13. “I have underwear older than that!” I exclaimed. Randy laughed. I told the kid that I’m 50 and that Randy is “almost 70.” Actually, Randy is 56, but sometimes he rides like a 70-year-old. He certainly whines like a 70-year-old. For that reason, I call him “Grumpy Old Man.” I hate to think how grumpy he’ll be when he reaches 70.

To show you the effect aging has on speed, consider that in 1990, when I did my first Glen Rose rally (at the age of 32), I averaged 18.39 miles per hour on a 72.8-mile course. I had been riding all winter with two young friends (David Loggins and Eric Grundman) and was in great shape. At the time, I thought I had gone slowly. Ha! I did my second Glen Rose rally when I was 35. I averaged 18.02 miles per hour on a 64-mile course. I don’t recall the courses we rode, but if they started and finished in Glen Rose, they were hilly. There wasn’t a single flat stretch yesterday. It was either up or down, all morning.

I should point out, for the record, that yesterday’s mileage (57.3) was given to me at the finish by two other riders. My computer didn’t record mileage, for some reason. It recorded the time and the heart rate, so it must have something to do with the wheel sensors. Maybe there was too much of a gap between the sensors, in which case I will have to pay more attention to it next time. The rally brochure said the course was 60 miles. If it was, then Randy and I averaged 17.46 miles per hour instead of 16.68. I’d rather err on the low side than on the high side. In other words, I’d rather cheat myself than cheat.

Thanks for a good ride, Grumpy Old Man!

A Year Ago


From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

You raise troubling questions about the increasingly close relationship between secular culture and the religious practices of some branches of American Protestantism. The drive to be culturally relevant is not limited to Halo Nights and altar calls via X-Box.

Christian churches, from evangelical to mainline Protestant, have been borrowing all sorts of ideas and practices from secular culture in order to be relevant or to attract new members, often doing so with little discussion of how the use of PowerPoint and rock bands or corporate America’s latest marketing techniques may adversely affect the religion.

Why does a religion that has been countercultural from its inception so desperately seek to be culturally relevant? I suspect that the answer may be related to the imperative for membership growth inherent in the voluntary organization and reinforced by our culture’s ideal of bigger is better as well as in the penchant among many church bodies to reduce the rich complexity of the faith down to the conversion and saving of souls.

Stephen Ellingson
Clinton, N.Y., Oct. 7, 2007
The writer is an assistant professor of sociology at Hamilton College and the author of a book about megachurches.

Note from KBJ: Does the end (saving souls) justify the means? (This is not a rhetorical question. In other words, I am not asserting that the end of saving souls does not justify the means. I’m asking whether it does.)

John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography, Paragraph 10

But though these exercises in history were never a compulsory lesson, there was another kind of composition which was so, namely, writing verses, and it was one of the most disagreeable of my tasks. Greek and Latin verses I did not write, nor learnt the prosody of those languages. My father, thinking this not worth the time it required, contented himself with making me read aloud to him, and correcting false quantities. I never composed at all in Greek, even in prose, and but little in Latin. Not that my father could be indifferent to the value of this practice, in giving a thorough knowledge of those languages, but because there really was not time for it. The verses I was required to write were English. When I first read Pope’s Homer, I ambitiously attempted to compose something of the same kind, and achieved as much as one book of a continuation of the Iliad. There, probably, the spontaneous promptings of my poetical ambition would have stopped; but the exercise, begun from choice, was continued by command. Conformably to my father’s usual practice of explaining to me, as far as possible, the reasons for what he required me to do, he gave me, for this, as I well remember, two reasons highly characteristic of him: one was, that some things could be expressed better and more forcibly in verse than in prose: this, he said, was a real advantage. The other was, that people in general attached more value to verse than it deserved, and the power of writing it, was, on this account, worth acquiring. He generally left me to choose my own subjects, which, as far as I remember, were mostly addresses to some mythological personage or allegorical abstraction; but he made me translate into English verse many of Horace’s shorter poems: I also remember his giving me Thomson’s “Winter” to read, and afterwards making me attempt (without book) to write something myself on the same subject. The verses I wrote were, of course, the merest rubbish, nor did I ever attain any facility of versification, but the practice may have been useful in making it easier for me, at a later period, to acquire readiness of expression.¹ I had read, up to this time, very little English poetry. Shakespeare my father had put into my hands, chiefly for the sake of the historical plays, from which, however, I went on to the others. My father never was a great admirer of Shakespeare, the English idolatry of whom he used to attack with some severity. He cared little for any English poetry except Milton (for whom he had the highest admiration), Goldsmith, Burns, and Gray’s Bard, which he preferred to his Elegy: perhaps I may add Cowper and Beattie. He had some value for Spenser, and I remember his reading to me (unlike his usual practice of making me read to him), the first book of the Fairie Queene; but I took little pleasure in it. The poetry of the present century he saw scarcely any merit in, and I hardly became acquainted with any of it till I was grown up to manhood, except the metrical romances of Walter Scott, which I read at his recommendation and was intensely delighted with; as I always was with animated narrative. Dryden’s Poems were among my father’s books, and many of these he made me read, but I never cared for any of them except Alexander’s Feast, which, as well as many of the songs in Walter Scott, I used to sing internally, to a music of my own: to some of the latter, indeed, I went so far as to compose airs, which I still remember. Cowper’s short poems I read with some pleasure, but never got far into the longer ones; and nothing in the two volumes interested me like the prose account of his three hares. In my thirteenth year I met with Campbell’s Poems, among which Lochiel, Hohenlinden, the Exile of Erin, and some others, gave me sensations I had never before experienced from poetry. Here, too, I made nothing of the longer poems, except the striking opening of Gertrude of Wyoming, which long kept its place in my feelings as the perfection of pathos.

¹In a subsequent stage of boyhood, when these exercises had ceased to be compulsory, like most youthful writers I wrote tragedies; under the inspiration not so much of Shakespeare as of Joanna Baillie, whose “Constantine Paleologus” in particular appeared to me one of the most glorious of human compositions. I still think it one of the best dramas of the last two centuries.

Note from KBJ: Two comments. First, do you get the sense, from reading Mill’s Autobiography, that his father was cramming his son’s head with Western Civilization? This not only gave young John a sense of identity; it allowed him to contribute (when he was ready) to that very civilization. It’s tragic that we spend so much time and energy teaching our students about other cultures. This would be acceptable if they already knew their own culture intimately, but how many of them do? The first imperative is to understand yourself; only then will you be in a position to understand (and evaluate) others. Second, I love it that Mill’s father stated the rationale for his requirements. Young John must have had the idea from his earliest years that reasons can and should be given for every requirement, even those laid down by parents. I suspect that John eventually came to ask his father for the rationale of this or that. How many parents lay down rules for their children without making any attempt to justify them? I’m not saying that there should be no rules without justification. I’m saying that education works best when justification is provided. Even a rule as simple as “Don’t run in the house” can be justified. Children know what work is; they know that it’s onerous; and they know that things in the house (such as lamps) cost money. If you run in the house, you increase the likelihood of breaking something, and hence of making your parents work more.

Safire on Language


Note from KBJ: “Overwatch” is just the stupid person’s “supervise.” “Over” = “super”; “watch” = “vise.”