08 November 2008

The End of the Affair

Despite all appearances to the contrary, it really is not the case that this little blog is of no interest to me. It's just that between a full-time job, a second full-time job (namely, trying to get a better full-time job) a part-time job helping out with a local political campaign, and obligations to a loving wife and an extended family, there simply is not the sort of time left over to make regular, substantial comments on a forum like this. So I will come out and say that is probably the last post I will make here. Maybe if some basic life-circumstances change, I will give this another try.

***Anyway, now that the votes have been cast and the outcome is final, I'd like to say how pleased I was with the way Sarah Palin has carried herself these last 10 weeks or so. I consider myself to be quite familiar with American politics of the last 50 years, and I can honestly say that if a candidate's minor-aged children have ever been targeted by the media/opposition before now, I am unaware of it. Certainly not in the way that the Palin children were targeted this year. If you had asked me 3 months ago, I would have said that my loathing and contempt for the media could not be increased. How naive I was!

I can scarcely imagine the sort of anguish these attacks have stirred up within the Palin family. But at least outwardly, they seem to have found the strength they need to get through it all. I pray that outer appearance is reflective of the inner reality.

***But that is not to say that Sarah Palin was the best choice -- or even a good choice -- for John McCain as his VP-running-mate. Palin's relevant experience for the job amounted to about 22 months as the Governor of one of our smallest (by population) states. And the most geographically-remote state, as well. Compared to the credentials of most other VPs in the recent past, Palin's were wafer-thin. Almost as thin as Barack Obama's.

05 August 2008

Hello again.

When I started this, I don't know exactly how often I thought I would be adding new posts. I knew that I wouldn't be able to do this every day, but at the same time, I did think it would be more than once every 5 weeks! So, what can I say? Life is busy and crowded, and there's just no way to do everything that you would like to do.

Here's a small dish of flotsam and jetsam to get you through the day:

1. Since we last spoke, I have to say that Obama has rather slipped in my estimation. The rally in Berlin rubbed me quite the wrong way. It was the sort of thing that should wait until after he wins the election.

2. My long-held wish for a McCain-Cox ticket will clearly not happen. Alas. Yet it does seem that McCain has a better chance of winning than Obama. I certainly did not feel that way a month ago. Interesting the way this thing keeps developing in unexpected ways.

3. The Georgia Bulldogs are the pre-season #1 in at least one of the major polls. Probably the kiss of death, but I have a very high opinion of Georgia's HC, Marc Richt, and so I am pleased to hear about this.

4. I saw the most recent James Bond flick, Casino Royale, on Netflix, and it really was as great as the critics said. Now I am awaiting Quantum of Solace in about three months.

5. Marriage is not easy, is it?

23 June 2008

Obama pulling away? Thoughts on Cox, etc.

There have been two recent surveys showing Obama with a national lead in the range of 12-15 points. Almost all others show Obama's lead in the range of 4-5 points. One reports a tie. My own suspicion is that Obama's lead is probably about 2 or 3 points. However that may be in reality, it seems to me that for both candidates, the selection of a VP-nominee and the nomination-acceptance speech will be the next Big Deal that the broader public chooses to pay any attention to.

In the selection of a running-mate, McCain has the huge advantage of getting to wait and see who Obama picks, and then making his own choice known afterwards. By all outward indications, he seems to most desire that choice to be either Tim Pawlenty, the Governor of Minnesota, or else Thomas Ridge, the (former) Governor of Pennsylvania. I suppose neither man would be disastrous in that role, but I strongly urge McCain to select Christopher Cox, the current Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, a former Congressman from Southern California, an aide in the second-term Reagan White House, and a clerk to a federal judge. Mr. Cox is 55 years old (56 in October). He has a joint MBA/JD from Harvard (ahem!). I believe he edited the Law Review. He is married with two-- I think it's two-- children. In 1978-79, he suffered temporary (6-8 months) paralysis from the chest down following an off-road auto-accident in Hawaii. Recovery was difficult, and even to this day he cannot remain seated for extended lengths of time; his own desk is set up so that he can continue work while standing.

Cox grew up in and around St. Paul, Minnesota. His family belonged to the Roman Catholic Church, and one Easter Sunday, Cox's toddler-age younger sister was killed when their father accidentally struck her with the family car while backing up in the driveway. He went to parochial schools, then to Southern Cal for undergrad. He is fluent in Russian, and actually published a daily translation of Pravda back in the '80s.

"This aging world"

I meant to acknowledge it when I started, but let me point out now that the phrase "this aging world" is (of course) taken from the opening paragraphs of Umberto Eco's "The Name of the Rose," on the great publishing success-stories of the 1980s. The narrator, Adso of Melk-- a superfluous man, himself!-- utters the phrase near the end of his life.

I cannot remember when I made my first attempt to get through Eco's novel, but I know I made several unsuccessful attempts before I finally learned about-- and obtained-- a copy of a small paperback called The Key to the Name of the Rose: Including Translations of All Non-English Passages, by Adele Haft, Jane Giegengack White, and Robert J. White (Harrington Park, NJ: Ampersand Associates, 1987). Even with the invaluable assistance of the Key, getting through a book as difficult as Name of the Rose is still a month-long process for me. But a very enjoyable one.

18 June 2008

McCain vs. Obama

It had been semi-obvious since Wisconsin way back in February. And it had been overwhelmingly obvious since North Carolina and Indiana on 6th May. Yet it is only since my last day of blogging back about three weeks ago that the Clintons have finally, publicly, admitted that the game is over. There will be no Restoration of the Dynasty this year. And if not this year, probably never. Gotta admit, it really does feel good to live in a country that rejects such loathsome people, even if it did take 16 years to do it.

Which brings us to the November match-up between John McCain and Barack Obama. As I told a liberal/agnostic friend a few weeks ago, this is the first presidential election I have ever witnessed in which I actually might vote for the Democrat. Certainly, there has been no other Democratic nominee since Carter who offended me less than Obama does now. And there has been no other Republican nominee since Ford who inspired in me less confidence than McCain (Dole came close, very close, but not quite).

At this point, I honestly feel that both nominees have about an equal chance at victory in November. This is not what the bookmakers are saying. Intrade is quoting Obama with almost-- not quite, but almost-- 2:1 odds over McCain. Most of the others seem to be hovering in that 60-65% likelihood of an Obama victory. To me, that presumes an Obama-landslide, and I really am not feeling that. It seems to me that even if McCain waged a terrible campaign and all the wheels fell off the GOP wagon (even worse than now, I mean), I still think McCain would get 189 Electoral Votes. And just by running a conventional, competent, paint-by-numbers type of campaign, I think McCain would get 240. (All the states that rejected Kerry by at least 5.0%).

At this moment, I really do think that McCain would win Nevada, Ohio, and New Hampshire. That would put him at 269-- precisely half of the College. Figure, for the sake of argument, that Obama wins all the states that supported Kerry by at least 4.0%-- that's 190 Votes. Add in Minnesota, Iowa, Colorado, and New Mexico and you're up to 221. Add in Michigan and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and you're at 269. An absolute Electoral tie.

You know, that might actually happen.

This Modern World

I know this technology has been widely-available for a good, solid 12-14 years now. And it was available to a more limited audience for a few years before that. But I can't help but get a sort of "gee, whiz" reaction every time I use it. Earlier today, for example, I sent and received an amount of information roughly equivalent to one or two volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica. In years past, that would have been a day-long chore. In decades past, that would have taken the whole week. But today-- 18th June 2008-- I did it in a matter of minutes. Seconds, really. And even someone as techno-illiterate as me was able to do it alone, with virtually no difficulty at all. Wow. Thanks, Mr. Gore. You've made my life a lot easier.

But I'm still glad you lost that election.

Father's Days, football coaches of the past.

Father's Day this year held a special significance for me. I can't remember when I have seen him so strong, so happy, so optimistic about life. Really, a wonderful thing to see. And other members of the family have noticed it, too. (How could they not?)

There were moments when it seemed very iffy if he would still be here as of now. So glad that he is. Also, the added time allows me to learn things about him that I never had known or heard about before. Like for instance-- I have always known he was a sports nut (how do you think I got this way?), but I never knew he had been to Columbus, Ohio, to watch the Buckeyes and the Wolverines. This was in the Woody Hayes/Bo Schembechler era, when that game really was the Main Event for those two states. He said that a friend invited him, and they simply flew up on a Saturday morning, and flew back down that night after the game. This was probably '72. Good times...

Speaking of old college coaches, I am suddenly compelled to announce that the three old-time coaches I most wish I had the pleasure of meeting were Jordan of Auburn, Dodd of Georgia Tech, and Hayes of Ohio State. With Jordan and Dodd, I find that I have almost a reverence for the way their lived their life. In the case of Jordan, especially, I think of him enduring cancer in those last years-- not unlike the Kennedy scenario playing out today. Hayes was a "different kettle of fish" as the Brits would say (and I actually did hear one say it, too, just a week or so ago). For one thing, such ultra-intensity could be more than a bit disturbing. And the sad way in which he shamed himself against Clemson in that 78 Gator Bowl. But all in all, he strikes me as a man from whom much -- much that was good and positive and true-- could be learned. You may know that Nixon gave his eulogy when he died in 1987. Another plus in my book.

Still Here. And how about that Tiger!

I knew it had been a few days but I was a bit surprised to see that "30 May" was the most recent date... Well, what can I say? My life is busy. All in all, I prefer that to the alternative. But this little project here is important to me-- you might say, it is not superfluous-- and I will try to tune in a bit more frequently from here on.

What's on my mind right now? How about that amazing US Open!! ... Now, let's be clear: Even if Tiger Woods had not competed in this tournament, even if he had announced his retirement a couple of weeks ago and never picked up another club so long as he lived, his legacy was already ironclad. His status as the greatest golfer of his generation-- and of many other generations, too-- was already secured. But this latest triumph, somehow, does cast him in a new light. I am not a golf expert but I think I know something about the history of the sport, and I would honestly say that Woods now stands as one of the three men in golf's history-- along with Nicklaus and Jones-- whose legacy will be remembered, cherished, and debated for as long as golf is played. Who can say when or whether a fourth will ever be added to that roster. Yes, I know there are some huge names left off-- Palmer, Snead, Hogan, Player, just to name a few off the top of my head. But still, when it's all said and done, the greatness of those four just does not quite measure up to the greatness of the other three.

Just today, I hear that Woods will undergo knee surgery and forgo any competitive golf for the rest of this year. He is 32 years old. Even for a man who keeps himself in superior condition, the human body simply does not recover at 32 the same way it did at 22. We should not blithely assume that Tiger's future-- his future on the course-- will be as dominant as his past. and yet, I sure wouldn't bet against him, either!

30 May 2008

Time and chance

Sometimes I think that Ecclesiastes is the wisest book in the Bible. The randomness of life, the futility of it. The seeming pointlessness of it all... Just since my last entry, I have learned of the death of a certain young man whom I never met, and in fact had never known of his existence prior to his death. But I have seen the impact his death had on those of us still here. Emotionally, his passing has been devastating to numerous people, not least of all his brother who was with him at the moment of death.

I believe he was 27, possibly a year or two either way. He was in the Army, and had (I am so informed) volunteered to return for a second go-'round in Iraq even after his required time was up. (Please, take a moment to pause and reflect on that fact). Whatever dangers he faced in that unhappy nation-- he lived to tell the tale. He lived to return home to America (twice) and then to die in a senseless car accident. Apparently alcohol was involved. (That phrase-- "Alcohol was involved" -- has always sounded jarring to me. Makes it seem as if "alcohol" was a person that gets up and walks around and meddles in other people's business. If only.)
I made some comments about Ted Kennedy a few days ago, and I can't help but compare the thought of a young man dying amidst sudden and violent trauma, without so much as a moment's warning (possibly none at all), with the thought of an old man dying in bed, surrounded by family, but only after being "served notice" many weeks (months?) in advance, and only after being left to linger and watch death creep closer and closer. Which is "worse"? Which is easier to take? Which is sadder to think about?

For man also does not know his time: Like fish taken in a cruel net, Like birds caught in a snare, So the sons of men are snared in an evil time, When it suddenly falls upon them.
Ecc. 9:12

Ecclesiastes-- amongst other things-- always prompts me to think about time. How little of it we have. How little of it is put to any truly good use. I have actually felt some guilt for even taking the time to write down-- well, "type" down-- these little blog-entries. So many things I could be doing! Things I have promised others I would do, and am delaying by giving my attention to this...

25 May 2008

The Other Cartel

So Congress voted to sue the Organization of Petroleum-Exporting Countries. My only question is whether, upon the hearing this, the Cartel's ministers openly burst out laughing or managed to keep it inside. Such a pathetic, puny, irrelevant little gesture. No wonder the Saudis hold us in contempt.

Meanwhile, the world of American college athletics continues to operate under the control of its own cartel. This cartel-- which is usually identified in the media as the "BCS" (for Bowl Championship Series)-- seeks to corner the market not on oil, but rather on the televised broadcast of college football games in general, and particularly of the elite bowl games played traditionally on New Year's Day, but now spread out through the first week of January. If you're not into sports, all this may sound like small potatoes. But in fact, college football is a multi-billion-dollar industry. The ability of "the BCS" to dominate this industry bestows very lucrative benefits on 66 colleges and universities, and imposes very severe limitations on all the others. These facts are well-known to most sports fans, and to all college sports fans. But I would like to take a moment to try and explain the situation to people who do not follow these subjects.

For over 100 years, the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) has acted (or, purported to act) as kind of umbrella-oversight committee over most American colleges and universities that compete in scholarship-based athletic competition. For decades, there was no outer-limit on the number of scholarships a school could give. But in the 1970s, certain limits were put in place, and currently the maximum number of football scholarships a school can provide at one time is 85. There are, across the country, 120 colleges and universities which do, in fact, provide that maximum. For purposes of competition, these schools are classified separately from those that provide fewer. That classification was officially known as I-A for nearly 30 years, until 2006. The "One-A" label is still widely used in the media and by the public.

Meanwhile, colleges and universities also affiliate with each other to form athletic conferences, usually in groups of eight to twelve. Just as individual schools have different levels of support and resources, so, too, do the various conferences. At present, six of those "One-A" conferences-- the Atlantic Coast, the Big East, the Big Ten, the Big XII, the PAC-10, and the Southeastern-- have essentially aligned with each other for the purpose of hoarding as much of the money generated by the college football industry as possible. Because these "Big Six" conferences claim (among them) most of the largest and most-prominent state-universities, their alignment-- their "cartel", if you will-- has been remarkably effective over the past 10-12 years since the cartel was formed.

For the 66 "One-A" schools that belong to this Cartel, the results have been the financial equivalent of winning the lottery every year. For the 54 "One-A" schools that are not in the Cartel, the results have been the financial equivalent of adding on another mortgage payment every year. These schools cope with the situation as best they can, but the "best they can" is increasingly not enough to get by. As a result, one non-Cartel member (East Carolina University of Greenville, NC) has publicly offered to hire itself as a kind of indentured servant to the Big East. Well, not "hire," exactly, since ECU would receive no money for its trouble. It would simply receive the opportunity to play the other Big East teams in football, and-- if they were to defeat them all on the field-- go on to claim the Big East's ticket in those BCS-bowl games. Otherwise, they'd be worse off than they are now. In one sense, it has to be more than a little bit humiliating.

But in another sense, it cuts to the heart of the matter: East Carolina wants a chance to defeat the Cartel members on the field, and to know that if it does so, it will be rewarded for it. Snuffing out that chance was not, I believe, the specific purpose of the Cartel when it was formed. Indeed, I do not think the men who created it in the 1990s were fully aware that a Cartel was what they were creating. But that is-- exactly-- what it has turned into. The NCAA, whose mandate is to uphold the interests of all its members, in fact has acted as the Cartel's handmaiden for the last decade or so. There is no serious sign of change coming over the horizon.

21 May 2008

Ted Kennedy

At this writing, the urgency of Ted Kennedy's health-condition is not yet generally known. But whether his time is to be measured in days, months, years, or decades, I just have no idea. I join every decent person in praying that Kennedy will be restored to his full powers of strength and vitality. The prayers are offered in the full awareness that the phrase "malignant brain tumor" has a way of making prayers seem foolish. But for me-- and God willing, for Ted Kennedy-- it is prayers that make such moments bearable.

It will probably not come as a shock to learn that politically, I disagreed with just about every statement I have ever heard from Ted Kennedy. One of my earliest political memories is of my father expressing negative opinions about him. In time I came to share my father's outlook. But that does not take away from the awareness that all of us are headed to a day of reckoning. Today, tomorrow, a hundred years from now: sooner or later we all ride the same ferry across the same river. And when a person-- any person-- suddenly finds himself thrust much closer to that ride, we would do well to reflect on it.

Those predictions? More useless than ever!

I have, on a couple of occasions, edited my posts due to glaring typos or spelling errors. I didn't give it much thought, but have slowly realized that there is no way for readers to tell if a post has been edited or not. And even after a post does get edited the date & time listed remains the same as it was when the comment was initially posted. Which means there is no way to tell exactly *When* a post was "finalized", no matter what the date and time say.

As you can readily see, this makes the whole concept of blog "predictions" even twice as absurd as they were before. I'll give Scout's honor-- can a Webelos still give Scout's Honor?-- that anything labeled a "prediction" has Not been edited. And other comments not so-designated, but which still speak of specific events in the future-tense, have also Not been edited. But it is the sort of thing that you'll have to take my word for, I'm afraid.

JFK and HHH: What if?

A friendly yet decidedly undomesticated member of the species Equus Asinus wandered into these parts yesterday evening, far from his home at the foothills of the distant Rocky Mountains. This beast declared (see Comments under "Farm Bill") his curiosity about things that never happened, but might have, and quite nearly did. Such as: what if Hubert Humphrey had been elected President? What if Al Gore had successfully stolen the elections of 2000? These are the types of questions that all of us armchair historians dwell on from time to time, and they are welcome here at ASM.

It so happens that Humphrey sought the Presidency on a more-or-less continual basis from 1957 to 1976. How a Humphrey Administration would have evolved depends, of course, on when it would have begun.

Had it been he-- and not John Kennedy-- who took the oath of office in 1961, I think he would have proceeded in greatly different directions than those taken by JFK. For one thing, I am convinced Humphrey (or Nixon, or Rockefeller, or just about anyone else) would have either pulled the plug on the ill-fated Bay of Pigs fiasco, and left Castro in peace, or else would have done whatever was required to take Castro out of the game, once and for all. Instead, America suffered one of its most humiliating climb-downs in April 1961-- the memory of which will, I think, endure as long as people remember anything at all about John F. Kennedy beyond the fact of his assassination.

A second critical difference between our fictional Humphrey Administration and the historical Kennedy Administration is that Humphrey would have invested the full power and prestige of the office towards securing the civil liberties of America's black citizens from the moment of his taking office. Although some liberals like to remember JFK as a martyr for civil rights, the fact is, his approach to that issue was calculated with Talmudic precision, and with both eyes firmly on the prize of the Electoral College, circa 1964. With his appointment of (some) segregationist federal judges, one might even say that he pursued a-- are you sitting down?-- "Southern Strategy" in the context of national politics. But of course, such statements are subversive of the Kennedy Legend, and so must be suppressed.

I commend Kennedy for giving an eloquent speech on the subject in June of 1963. The country was in the midst of tragic turbulence, and I would not have wanted to be in his shoes. But the fact remains, it was Kennedy himself who asked to wear them, and in fact shoved aside several other men (Humphrey included) for the chance. We know from Humphrey's memoirs, The Education of a Public Man, that the shoving left the Minnesotan with a lingering resentment. Can't say that I blame him.

The Running-mates

So far as the major-party nominations for President are concerned, McCain effectively sealed the deal back on February 5th, and Obama did so on May 6th. The Clinton campaign of course staggers on like some un-killable zombie, but that does not put her any closer to the prize.

And so, with the #1-slots now determined, I do not think it is too soon to begin speculating on who will fill-out the lower half of the tickets.

Let me say right off that I hope for Chris Cox to be chosen as VP on the Republican side. There are other candidates who would be acceptable, but none that would really inspire me. But with that said, I do want to-- eventually-- provide some impartial comments about the relative strengths and weaknesses of the various possibilities.

Just for the moment, though, I think the front-runners are as follows:

Among the Republicans, in ABC-order: Chris Cox, Tim Pawlenty, Rob Portman, Mitt Romney and Mark Sanford.

Among the Democrats: Wesley Clark, Tim Kaine, Kathleen Sebelius, Ted Strickland and Tom Vilsack.

Three additional dark-horse possibilities for the GOP come to mind: Don Carcieri, Jon Huntsman and Mike Pence.

I have a strong sense that McCain will not choose Romney or Sanford. This is based on various media-reports as well as my own sense of where his private thinking on this issue probably is. As for Obama, his race (for the nomination) has ended much more recently, and I am still trying to draw a line on what his strategy will be for the fall campaign. But at least for now, I think there is a good chance he will choose one of the five I listed. Just as a wild-card, I might throw in Bill Richardson as another contender.

I absolutely intend to say more on this subject as the conventions draw near. In particular, I want to describe in some detail why I think Cox is the best choice for McCain.

Review: Kentucky and Oregon

Well it seems that I predicted Kentucky correct almost to the decimal point-- at least, after factoring in the 4-5% that voted for someone other than HRC or Obama. I did not bother trying to predict that. Got the delegate breakdown exactly right, too: 37-14.

As for Oregon? Um, let me get back to you on that!

20 May 2008

Buckley, Hunt, Watergate, etc

Thinking of Wm. F. Buckley a few moments ago, I am reminded that he wrote the foreword to the memoirs of E. Howard Hunt, published last year. I have still not read the book (American Spy: My Secret History in the CIA, Watergate, and Beyond) but have been meaning to. Or at least, I've been meaning to read Buckley's foreword. Howard Hunt had a solid three decades to set the record straight, and it seems a mite suspicious that his final testament would come to us only after he was dead.

I feel somewhat more trusting when it comes to the memoirs of L. Patrick Gray, who held the title of "Acting Director" at the FBI for about 12 months after Hoover's death (I was about to say, "ran the FBI for about 12 months" but that would be absurd). Gray died in 2005, and his book is titled In Nixon's Web: A Year in the Crosshairs of Watergate. The book has apparently been edited, or co-authored, or both, by his son, Ed Gray. That sounds a little dodgy ("co-authored" books usually do), but at least in this case I think we can fairly assume that the son is being protective of his father's reputation, and that he has not said anything that the father would not have approved of.

The other new Watergate book (isn't in incredible that we still have "new Watergate books" after all these years?) is called The Strong Man, and is apparently not just a Watergate book, but is also a biography of John Mitchell. The author, James Rosen, includes the charge-- only implied by Colodny/Gettlin-- that Dean really was the one who ordered the break-in(s) to occur. Dean of course launched a massive lawsuit over all this back in the 1990s. He is 69 years old now, and I will be intrigued to see if he goes to court over this, too.

"Watergate" has been a fascinating subject to me for a long time, and I intend to comment on it at some length, now and then. Just for the moment I will say that on the level of political tactics, I do not consider the Nixon White House to have operated at an appreciably lower level than that which the White Houses of Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson operated. I think that-- today-- the general public is aware of this, if only vaguely. But in 1974, that awareness was non-existent, and in fact the truth was widely held to be the exact opposite.

The "Farm" Bill

If I drew up a list of the 100 or so living Americans to whom I would most readily entrust the office of the Presidency, John McCain would not be among them. And if I drew up a second list, of similar length, of living Americans whose published writings and opinions carry the most weight with me, David Brooks of the New York Times would likewise not be among them.

Even so, Mr. Brooks' column published today ("Talking Versus Doing") is a brilliant indictment of the shabby, dishonest scam traveling through Washington under the name of the "Farm Bill." And included in that indictment is a concise statement from McCain himself, which he delivered yesterday:

It would be hard to find any single bill that better sums up why so many Americans in both parties are disappointed in the conduct of their government, and at times so disgusted by it.

Indeed it would. This is the sort of thing that McCain actually likes to sink his teeth into-- a government give-away "that benefits the particular at the expense of the general," in Brooks' words. With some imagination and grit-- and help from his partisans like Brooks-- McCain could make this one of the defining issues of the campaign.

"On the Right"

I meant to acknowledge this yesterday, but my alias is (of course) a tribute to William F. Buckley, and his longtime syndicated column, which began in 1962 and ended only with his death earlier this year. I first became aware of Buckley in about 1987, when his influence was already starting to wane. But partial-influence by Buckley was still greater than the maximum influence ever attained by most.

I knew him only through his writings. The quality that stands out most in my memory is the sense of humor, the eye for the comical. It will be easy enough for anyone to find examples of this, but the one that I remember most clearly came on the release of Oliver Stone's movie "JFK" in December 1991. After viewing it, Buckley wrote (quoting from memory here) "Mr. Stone has proposed a conspiracy so vast that it could almost be justified on the principle of majority rule."


19 May 2008

Aaron and Bonds

Are there any living athletes who have provided a more wholesome and dignified role-model for society than Hank Aaron? And are there any who are more loathsome and contemptible than Barry Bonds? I suppose there may be a handful in either case, but there cannot be many.

Years ago, I actually memorized Milo Hamilton's call of Aaron's #715. Even to this day I can still hear the words, and see the videotape of Aaron, Downing, the pair of college-kids who ran out to congratulate Aaron on the achievement, etc.

I mention this now because Aaron has recently (this past Saturday the 17th) given the commencement address at a college in Mequon, Wisconsin. Some press reports indicate that Aaron's words may be construed as some sort of a rebuke to Bonds. Certainly Bonds is in need of rebuke. But Aaron has maintained a respectful silence towards Bonds and the steroid scandals in general, and the quotes being publicized are very subtle, very implicit in their criticism (if, indeed, they are criticisms at all).

Only 30 years separates the two men-- Aaron born in 1934, Bonds in 1964. Less than half of one lifespan. Yet just think what those 30 years meant, both from the standpoint of money, but also from the standpoint of social-acceptance and tolerance. When Aaron played in Milwaukee and Atlanta, there were still many restaurants, hotels, and neighborhoods where his attempts to enter or do business would have been met with a firm "No." In some instances, of course, the response would have been much less polite than that.

I wonder if Barry Bonds has ever been told "No" in his adult life. Or even just in his life, period. Certainly, a man paid the type of money which Bonds is paid-- and has been paid for the last 20 years or so-- can easily arrange to avoid hearing that word, except in the most dire of emergencies.

How pleasant it must be, to never want for anything that money can buy! Yet how sad it must be to always want for everything that money can't buy. And how strange to live one's life in constant experience of both.

Predictions: Kentucky and Oregon Primaries

I don't typically intend to make multiple posts in one day, but since the votes will be cast tomorrow, I wanted to go ahead and offer my predictions of what will happen in the two Clinton-Obama clashes in Kentucky and Oregon. On one hand, these predictions are offered absolutely free of charge. On the other hand, they come with a money-back guarantee.

So, then:

HRC 69, Obama 31
Pledged Delegates: HRC 37, Obama 14

Obama 54, HRC 46
PD: Obama 28, HRC 24

Hello, and Welcome.

Let me begin with a clarification. I have never met or had any contact with Jonathan D. Jaynes, and this blog has nothing to do with him, nor the website he maintained (maintains?) at http://www.superfluousman.com/. At least as of today (19th May 2008), however, I cheerfully recommend it to anyone who enjoys the sort of photography that causes you to stop and think for a moment.

This blog is created as a forum for my own personal comments and reactions to whatever happens to rouse my interest at a given point in time. Normally that will focus on the worlds of religion, history, politics, current events, sports, entertainment, and so on. I don't really think of this as a diary, but I suppose in some ways it may well be. Obviously it is not the sort of project that will attract the attention of more than a handful of onlookers. And while I don't necessarily intend to say things that I would not to say directly to my friends and loved ones, I would, to be blunt, like to preserve that option. So for now I choose to leave my name and most other identifying-facts unsaid.

Just to give some idea of my perspective, I will say that I am a happily married husband, born and raised and living in the American South. Each of my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents were all born and raised there, too. These facts are the sort that I dwell on from time to time. I am sure that as things go along, it will be possible for an extremely dedicated reader to eventually draw a more detailed portrait. And if that ever happens, it's fine by me.

The concept of "A Superfluous Man" was first coined in Russian literature of the 19th Century. In 1943, the American author and critic Albert Jay Nock borrowed the idea for the title of his memoirs. And in 1977, the historian Robert Morse Crunden (1940-1999) brought out an anthology of work by Nock and like-minded fellows, titled The Superfluous Men: Conservative Critics of American Culture, 1900-1945. Originally published by the University of Texas (where Crunden taught for over 30 years), the book was reissued by ISI Books of Wilmington, Delaware, almost immediately after Crunden's death. I am greatly pleased to have a copy of the ISI edition in my personal library, and urge anyone who might come across it to spend a few minutes between its covers. On the inner-dustjacket is the following quote (by Crunden, about Nock):

Nock made the essential point: ransack the past for your values, establish a coherent worldview, depend neither on society nor on government so far as circumstances permit, keep your tastes simple and inexpensive, and do what you have to do to remain true to yourself.

He borrowed from ancient Greece, Thomas Jefferson, Matthew Arnold, and especially from Rabelais, but not from banks. He voted for Marcus Aurelius and Charles Dickens, but not for Franklin D. Roosevelt.

I rather like that.

Now as the Rossington-Collins Band once warned, Don't Misunderstand Me. This blog is not a shrine to the brilliance of Albert Jay Nock. In fact, there is much about AJN's writings that are far from brilliant, or at least far from what I aspire to. But the basic gist of my outlook on the world is there. Again, quoting Crunden's description of Nock's outlook:

Politics involves the lowest kind of person and brings out the worst qualities of everyone associated with it, yet such is the democratic cant of the day that Americans overlook all the evidence and regard its legal and social consequences with respect and even awe. The state monopolizes crime and enables individuals to commit acts as public officials that they would be ashamed to do as private citizens. Politics originated in conquest and confiscation and persists in order that one class of people can exploit the others.

Quite so.

There is much more to say, and I hope that I will have the time to say it. I believe in God and believe that one day each of us will be called before God to give account of our actions in this life. The Apostles' Creed summarizes my religious views about succinctly as possible. Religion is an important topic to me, and the whole "Spiritual but not Religious" ethos of our time makes me ill. Our America is truly a modern-day Laodicea, fattened in affluence, lukewarm in spirit. This is a subject that I hope to return to in this blog, and it is one that understandably causes me to think about the future with skepticism, if not outright dread.

But I do not want to leave on such a sour-note, so I will close with a more reassuring concept about the future, one that I believe--as deeply and unshakably as I believe anything at all -- will come to pass some day:

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.