The Wall Street Journal’s Will Friedland has a really nice story in Wednesday August 19, 2009 at p. D19 on the Cenntennial of legenday bop saxophonist Lester Young’s birth (1909-1959) which occurs today, August 24, 2009.

This year also marks the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Lester Young, who passed away at age 49 in 1959. Jazz Giant, Jazz Legend, Jazz Colossus, these terms don’t do him justice. In Jazz Circles, he was known only as the President, or the Prez, a moniker hooked on him by none other than the late, great Billie Holiday, aka Lady Day, Queen of Jazz.

As Friedland writes, “Young…created a new approach to the saxophone and to jazz in general. His playing was, by turns, lighter and gentler than anything that had come before it, but also capable of driving with tremendous force and energy.” Id. at p. D19.

Friedland reviews a release from Fantasy Records (now owned by Concord, I believe) called “Centennial Celebration”, which contains a good deal of Lester Young live during his later years, with emphasis on the 1950s. This is probably a must-buy if you don’t have any of this material. Even if you do have it, it’s never a waste of money to buy a Lester Young CD just to get even one track you didn’t have before. Or download the one you don’t have.

When Ken Burns did his Jazz documentary stretching over a bazillion PBS hours not so long ago, there were two figures that stood head and shoulders over everyone else—Lester Young and Billie Holiday.

Before President Obama was born, before Hawaii was even a state or was issuing official state birth certificates, we already had a black president—and his name was Lester Young—or as Billie Holiday dubbed him—the President, or the Prez for short. Everyone else in jazz was the Vice-President, or the Vice-Prez—but there was only one President, and that was Lester Young. Because Lester Young ruled the roost, he was in charge, and everyone else was second best.

Lester Young was so good, that you basically need to own every track he every played on, but if you can’t afford that, the Ken Burns jazz sampler is a great place to start. There’s several different phases to Lester Young’s career, all of them fantastic. Video of Lester Young, with Basie, with Billie Holiday and solo, are also around, and these are worth viewing as well.

First there’s the Count Basie years, from around 1935-1940, where Lester “leaps in” on countless classic tracks with the Count Basie Band. According to Friedland, Mosaic Records has recently issued a 4 CD set last year covering this period, but it’s covered on many of the compilations of either the best of Count Basie or the best of Lester Young. This stuff is just fantastic, the best big band jazz ever recorded.

Then there’s his work with Billie Holiday. Here, one just says, wow. These two were so born to work together. Billie Holliday’s best tracks are with Lester Young playing; Lester Young’s best playing is with Billie Holliday singing. This is the best jazz ever laid down on vinyl in U.S. history. It’s covered in part in the Ken Burns samplers of both Lester Young and Billie Holiday, fortunately.

There is also the final appearance of them both on CBS television in 1956 or 1957 for a special jazz show with several other jazz giants, which is caught on LP, CD as well as on video somewhere, and a good thing too, since both Young and Holliday would both be dead in just a couple of years’ time. This is a must-have session as well.

Then there is the body of Lester Young’s solo work, almost all of which is essential. I could rhapsodize about all of it, but there’s particular stuff that’s really great, such as the live in DC dates from 1956, which produced more than one CD/LP. This stuff is terrific, and very fine indeed. It’s well-represented on the “Centennial” CD reviewed by Mr. Friedwald. Lester Young’s solo 50s work doesn’t try to follow what others are doing during the 1950s—and that’s kind of what makes it great.

Lester Young is essentially a romantic at heart, and this comes across in all of his playing.

Of the great boppers, I’ve always preferred Lester Young to Charlie Parker—while I know Parker is technically great and plays fast and improvises crazily and so forth, but Lester Young is really the finer ballad player, and yet can still bop and swing as well as anyone, improvise, and also accompany his vocalist, or play in a big band. In short, there was nothing Lester Young couldn’t do with a saxophone.

One comment about Young, and it’s discussed by Friedwald as well, is Young’s terrible experiences with the United States Army during World War II, and particularly with segregation. Friedwald descrbes this as a “nightmarish year he [Young] spent in the detention barracks, in the segregated armed forces during World II, which certainly exacerbated the chronic alcoholism that contributed to his [Young’s] death at age 49. (Friedwald, WSJ, 8/19/09 at p. D9. The liner notes to LESTER SWINGS (see infra) state that “his sensitivity in these matters was certainly aggravated by his traumatic army experiences of 1944 and 1945, until it amounted almost to a form of disability. Several people who knew him at the time have remarked on this. It took only one aggressive or unfriendly present to upset his equilibrium.” “Von Hangman is here,” he would mutter, as gloom descended. On the other had, when things were goint well, he could be the life and soul of the party.

So what we know about Lester Young is that he was a supremely gifted musician; he was a sensitive and tortured soul; a sensitive and open man with his feelings and emotions; and when it came to institutional racism, he was no Jackie Robinson; he could not stand up to inhumane treatment, and nearly collapsed under its weight. That he survived at all is a testament to his inner artistic strength and will to survive to play another day, and the twelve years of artistic production we have from 1946 to 1958 are, in my view, supremely brilliant and as gifted as his pre-war output.

Lester Young, if you see him play on video, had that kind of sideways way of playing, that was wholly unique, plus the famous pork pie hat he always wore, which when he passed away in 1959, gave rise to one of the world’s greatest jazz compositions, by Charles Mingus, “Goodbye Pork-Pie Hat,” which has been covered by a zillion artists, including even an incendiary fusion version by Jeff Beck and Jan Hammer during the crazy 1970s. I’m not sure what Lester Young would have thought about fusion, but then again, Lester might have leapt right in.

Lester Young’s was a long and happy administration, and long may it rule, happy 100th birthday to Lester Young, the Prez. I hope that the Ken Burns Jazz Documentary re-runs on PBS sometime, and if it doesn’t run in its entirety, I sure hope they re-run the parts about Basie, Young and Holliday again, because those were smoking hot. It’s not that we don’t love Louis Armstrong or Duke Ellington or Charlie Parker, but Lester Young was the Prez for a reason—he had the sweetest sound, the most beautiful, and the music he made will last forever.

Happy 100th birthday to a true American legend, Lester Young, our only other officially recognized African American President.


KEN BURNS JAZZ – THE DEFINITIVE LESTER YOUNG (VERVE 314 549 082-2) (2000) nineteen perfect tracks, compilation. Nice booklet with photos. Great place to start. A+++

THE PRESIDENT PLAYS WITH THE OSCAR PETERSON TRIO (VERVE 831 670-2) (West German Pressing, Polygram). Lester Young, tenor sax, Oscar Peterson, piano, Barney Kessel, guitar, Ray Brown, bass, JC Heard, drums. Recorded NYC November 28, 1952. 13 tracks with alternate takes, 61:49. A+

LESTER YOUNG: THE COMPLETE SAVOY RECORDINGS (SAVOY JAZZ SVY 17122 2CD Set with booklet). This outstanding two CD set collects rare material recorded for Savoy in 1944, 1949 and 1950 by Lester Young with the likes of Billy Butterfield, Hank D’Amico, Johnny Guarnieri, Dexter Hall, Billy Taylor and Cozy Cole (April 18, 1944); a session with the Earle Warren Orchestra (see, he really was the Prez!) (April 18, 1944) (too many greats to mention, but Harry Sweets Edison, Jimmy Powell, Earle Warren, Freddie Green, Jo Jones, to name but a few). The Lester Young Quintet (and this is rare); Lester Young tenor sax, Count Basie piano, Freddie Green guitar, Rodney Richardson bass, Shadow Wilson drums (May 1, 1944). These six tracks are worth the price of the entire 2 CD set. Fantastic. Lester Young and Count Basie in a small group setting. Wow! And this is all Disc One! Disc Two starts out with Lester Young Sextet, Lester Young tenor sax, Jessie Drakes trumpet, Jerry Elliot Trombone, Junior Mance, piano, Leroy Jackson, bass, Roy Haynes drums. (June 28, 1949). (10 tracks). Lester Young Quintet. Lester Young Quintet, Lester Young tenor sax, Jessie Drakes trumpet, Kenny Drew piano, Kenny Shulman bass, Jo Jones drums. April 2, 1950, live in Chicago (10 tracks). This 2CD set has a lot of outtakes, but also has a lot of rare material from great bands, and covers a hard to find period of Young’s career, unless you have the original Savoy 78s or 10” vinyl. Stupendous. A+++.

LESTER SWINGS – LESTER YOUNG (VERVE 314 547 772-2) (1999). According to the CD, “This CD contains some of the most memorable masterpieces from Young’s enigmatic and memorable Verve studio recordings. These recordings can be found in their entirety on the 8-CD set THE COMPLETE LESTER YOUNG STUDIO SESSIONS ON VERVE.” thirteen tracks, 64.22. This CD covers the highlights of Lester Young’s solo and small group career from 1946-1958, and is thus the cream of the crop. Absolutely vital. A+++

LESTER YOUNG TRIO WITH NAT KING COLE AND BUDDY RICH SUPERVISED BY NORMAN GRANZ (VERVE 314 521 650-2) 1994) (Mfd for BMG direct marketing under license. This is an interesting CD. There are a total of fourteen tracks totaling 60:41. Tracks 1-10 are recording with Lester Young on tenor sax, Nat King Cole on piano and Buddy Rich on drums, playing as a trio, recording April 19, 1946 in Los Angeles, CA. This was originally issued on vinyl as 10” Norgran LP MGN and before that as Lester Young Trio Vols I & II on Mercury/Clef MGC 104 & 135, 1074 with just 8 tracks; two outtakes are included here. Tracks 11-14 are recorded with Lester Young, Harry Sweets Edison on trumpet, Dexter Gordon on tenor sax, Nat King Cole on piano, Red Callendaer & Johnny Miller on drums, and Cliffor Juicy Owens on drums, recording summer 1943 or 1944 Los Angeles, CA, and originally released on vinyl 78 Clef/Mercury 15003/8900. Some of the tracks on this CD are 78 to CD transfers. This is a very fine CD preserving some very famous session tracks with Lester Young and Nat King Cole now considered classic. A+.

LESTER LEAPS IN: HIS GREATEST RECORDINGS 1936-1944; LESTER YOUNG. (ASV Ltd. Living Era CD AJA 5176 MCPS MONO) (Made and printed in England) (ASV Ltd., 1 Beaumont Avenue, London, UK, W14 9LP). (1995). “lester young with count basie, billie holiday, teddy Wilson, buck clayton, bill coleman, dicky wells…and other jazz greats!” what else do you want to know? 24 tracks, 75:40 total playing time. This is pretty much prime Lester Young material. A+++.

LESTER YOUNG LIVE IN DC VOLUMES I AND II 1956 I don’t have the CD info on these, but they’re classics and easily found on the internet.

youtube links:

lester young with billie holiday

this is billie holiday doing fine and mellow from the cbs special in 1956 with lester young and an all star band. with coleman hawkins and gerry mulligan. wow! A++++

a famous clip of lester young and allstar big band doing the “jitterbug jam” check out those dancers swinging to lester’s solo! with Harry Sweets Edison and many others. A+++

count basie band with lester young at randall’s island ny

lester young in a nice video

lester young and great band – pennies from heaven

same band – blues for greasy
multimedia directory of lester young videos etc.
wikipedia article on lester young

theres more youtube video out there of lester young–these are just some highlights.

here’s another discography and list of books on Lester Young from a fan website:



* Lester Young Quartet And Count Basie Seven – 1950 (Mercury)
* Lester Young – ()
* The Immortal Lester Young – 1951 (Savoy)
* The Lester Young Trio – 1951 (Mercury)
* Count Basie And Lester Young – 1951 (Jazz Panorama)
* Collates – ()
* Pres – 1951 (Mercury/Norgran)
* Kansas City Style – 1952 (Commodore)
* Battle Of The Saxes – 1953 (Aladdin)
* King Cole-Lester Young-Red Callender Trio – ()
* Lester Young-Nat King Cole Trio – 1953 (Aladdin/Score)
* Lester Young – His Tenor Sax – 1953 (Aladdin)
* The Lester Young Trio – 1953 (Clef)
* The President Plays – 1953 (Verve)
* With The Oscar Peterson Trio – 1954 (Norgran)
* Pres Meets Vice-Pres – 1954 (EmArcy)
* The President – ()
* Lester Swings Again – 1954 (Norgran)
* Pres And Sweets – 1955 (Norgran)
* The Pres-ident Plays With The Oscar Peterson Trio – 1955 (Norgran)
* Lester Young – ()
* It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing) – 1955 (Norgran/Verve)
* The Jazz Giants “56 – 1956 (Verve)
* Tops On Tenor – 1956 (Jazztone)
* Lester Young And His Tenor Sax, Vol. 1 – 1956 (Aladdin)
* Lester Young And His Tenor Sax, Vol. 2 – 1956 (Aladdin)
* The Masters Touch – 1956 (Savoy)
* Lester’s Here – 1956 (Norgran)
* Pres And Teddy – 1956 (American Recording Society/Verve)
* Lester Young-Nat “King’ Cole-Buddy Rich Trio – 1956 (Norgran)
* Swingin’ Lester Young – 1957 (Intro)
* The Greatest – 1957 (Intro)
* Going For Myself – 1959 (Verve)
* Laughin’ To Keep From Cryin” – 1959 (Verve)
* The Lester Young Story – 1959 (Verve)
* Memorial Album – 1959 (Epic)
* In Paris – 1960 (Verve)
* The Essential Lester Young – 1961 (Verve)
* Lester Warms Up – Jazz Immortals Series, Vol. 2 – 1961 (Savoy)
* Pres – 1961 (Charlie Parker)
* Pres Is Blue – 1961 (Charlie Parker)
* A Date With Greatness – 1962 (Imperial)
* The Immortal Lester Young, Vols. 1 – ()
* 2 – 1962 (Imperial)
* The Influence Of Five – 1965 (Mainstream)
* Town Hall Concert – 1965 (Mainstream)
* Chairman Of The Board – 1965 (Mainstream)
* 52nd Street – 1965 (Mainstream)
* Prez – 1965 (Mainstream)
* Pres And His Cabinet – 1966 (Verve)
* In Washington, D.C., Vols. 1-5 – 1980 (Pablo)



* Lester Young – Lewis Porter
* The Tenor Saxophone And Clarinet Of Lester Young, 1936-1949 – Jan Evensmo
* Lester Young – Dave Gelly
* You Got To Be Original Man! The Music Of Lester Young – Frank BÃchmann-Møller
* You Just Fight For Your Life: The Story Of Lester Young – Frank BÃchmann-Møller
* A Lester Young Reader – Lewis Porter
* No Eyes: Lester Young – David Meltzer
* Lester Leaps In: The Life And Times Of Lester “Pres” Young – Douglas Henry Daniels

–art kyriazis, philly south jersey
home of the world champion phillies

The Phillies are very early on in their season, but already the Bullpen is a huge strength for them.

On Saturday, Brett Myers gave them seven innings, giving up a few solo homers and around four runs, but the pen shut down Colorado the rest of the way, and Madsen and Lidge were again perfect as the Phillies won 8-4 after initially being behind 2-0.

People who think Brett Myers should be better than this have a fundamental misunderstanding about Brett Myers. Brett Myers’ career statistics are, that he will strike out about as many hitters as he pitches innings; that he will give up about 30 homers a year; and his ERA adjusted will be around 3.99, or around 4.00. On Saturday, he struck out 6, walked one, gave up four hits, three homers, but threw 66 strikes out of 102 pitches. In Coors Field, that was a GREAT pitching performance.

Considering how great the Phillies offense and bullpen is, that’s good enough to win. Any starter for the Phillies who gives them six or more innings and holds the other team to four or fewer runs is doing enough for the phils to win–last year they averaged better than five runs a game, scoring almost 900 runs.

On Sunday, Chan Ho Park, who I wrote in this blog should not be starting (I said it should be JA Happ) gave up five runs in less than four innings, and had to be pulled early. That was NOT a good enough starting job. I do not believe Park has what it takes to be a starter anymore.

However, the Phils bullpen, and Chad Durbin in particular, came up huge and shut down the Rockies completely–Durbin, Eyre, Condrey, Madsen (who picked up the win) and Lidge (who picked up yet another save) did not allow a run through almost six full innings, shutting the Rockies down as the Phillies mounted a seven run comeback capped off by Utley’s two run shot in the 8th and Stair’s pinch-hit two run bomb in the 9th to win the game.

At this point, with Cole Hamels basically only lobbing the ball and about to go on the shelf, Joe Blanton yet to pitch a decent game, Jamie Moyer having thrown a horrible first game, Chan Ho Park having pitched dreadfully, the Phillies still find themselves 3-3, and having won one series after losing the first.

Moreover, they got to Atlanta’s bullpen to win a big third game against Atlanta; and they destroyed Colorado’s bullpen in successive games.

In the meantime, the Phillies’ own bullpen didn’t allow any runs to either Atlanta or Colorado during those three comeback wins.

If you think about this, it’s a HUGE advantage to know that three innings into a game, even if you’re five runs down, your bullpen can come in and hold the other team at bay, and still give you a chance to come back and win.

It basically means, the Phillies are never out of any game, unless the other team scores like ten runs–and even then they’re not out of it, as they showed against Atlanta, coming back to score twelve runs to win.

The Phillies are currently 7th in the NL in runs scored–but 14th in runs allowed. Last year they were 3d in the NL in both categories.

They need to do basically two or three things to get everything turned around for April.

1) Sit Cole Hamels down for all of April. Give him the month off. Let him go to Reading or Allentown and work on getting his speed up to major league level. After all, he worked an extra month last year. The man earned a month off.

2) Let JA Happ into the rotation. The man is a strikeout machine waiting to start. Six foot six lefthanders should not be in the bullpen. He’s currently sitting on a .700 WHIP and a 3/1 strikeout to walk ratio. The man can pitch.

3) It’s ok for Chan Ho Park to be the 5th starter in April, because you can skip a lot of his starts due to the schedule and off days. Happ should be the 4th starter. Or you can vary it up depending on whether the team you’re facing has a lot of lefties (start Happ) or a lot of righties (start Park). If you’re on the west coast, it’s ok to start Park, he’s effective in Dodger Stadium, the Padres’ Park or the Giants’ Park.

4) Everyone of the Phillies is off to a hot offensive start, except for Jimmy Rollins, who is off to a very slow start. I would consider resting him and giving him a day off, and starting Bruntlett. Rollins is another guy who played an extra month last year, and then played in the World Baseball Classic. Rollins looks tired, and is not hitting like Jimmy Rollins. Rollins right now has an OPS of under .300, which is pathetic, and he looked like he was late on a lot of pitches on Sunday, fouling them off to left or popping them up, instead of pulling them to right as he customarily does. If the Phils are facing any lefties, start Bruntlett, and give Rollins a day off from time to time, and a day off once a week until he’s rested again. The man was the MVP in the league in 2007, but he’s not indestructible.

5) Chase Utley and Jayson Werth now have OPS over 1.000, and Utley at 1.275. They are on fire. Ryan Howard is hitting over .300 and OPS of .843, and had a huge bases loaded double over the weekend that just missed being a grand slam. Most important, Pedro Felize looks GREAT at the plate–he’s hitting .368, with an OBA of .435 and a Slugging Average of .526, for an OPS of .926–he’s off to a terrific start.

6) Pedro Feliz FEEDS off the lefties that teams are throwing at the Phils, and has turned into a very productive hitter. He’s learned to relax and stroke the ball up the middle or to left, and occasionally jerk the ball into the left field seats. He’s a confident, experienced hitter and a terrific glove man. The Phillies have themselves an excellent third baseman.

7) Chris Coste is NOT off to a good start. I’d like to see the Phils give their rookie catcher up from Allentown a start or two to see what he can do, although what they really need is Carlos Ruiz back.

8) They might need to look around for another backup catcher. Coste was a 34 year old rookie. He may be showing signs of age related decline, or he might just be off to a slow start.

In any event, to summarize, the Phils I thought had a good week. And they get to go to the White House tomorrow to be congratulated!

World Champions!

–art kyriazis
Home of the World Champion Phillies

I wanted to wish a Happy Easter and a Happy Passover to all.

There’s an old joke, that goes something like this. A liberal is arguing with a conservative about the death penalty. Finally, exasperated, the conservative says to the liberal, “of course I’m in favor of the death penalty–without the death penalty, there’d be no Easter and no Easter Bunny!”

While this is an awful joke, it does remain true that in the two major capital punishment trials that we know about in history, Socrates and Jesus, as best we know, both were wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death. I won’t even get to the OJ trial, although as we all know, the glove didn’t fit and they had to acquit.

Obviously Socrates and Jesus could have used Johnny Cochran as their lawyer.

Socrates on dying, was reputed to have said something like, I die, you live, god knows who is going to the better place. Those of us who are religious of course believe that death brings us closer to a better place indeed, but Socrates provides a flash of insight that this short life is not the only one, that there is a spiritual and inner life that transcends death. Religion ministers to the soul, or at least to our conception of the soul, and consequently it is a vital part of our lives.

The Passover story about Moses leading the chosen people out of bondage and out of Egypt is a great story, as well as being an integral part of the old testament. “Exodus” is actually ancient greek for “Exothos” or “Exit” or “Leaving”. It’s the title of the book from the Ancient Greek Septuagint. The entire point of Exodus is the story of the Chosen People Leaving, “Exothos”, from Egypt and their bondage. God frees them from slavery and bondage through Moses and a series of miracles, each one greater than the last, which are celebrated each and every Passover.

It is such an important story because it gives hope to every oppressed peoples that God will redeem every one in bondage, free them and lead them to their own Promised Land. When Martin Luther King spoke of reaching the Promised Land, it was the Passover Story he was referring to. He didn’t need to explain that to his listeners, many of whom were careful Bible readers. The African-Americans of this country understood about bondage, redemption, and being led out of bondage and to the Promised Land.

On this Passover, we should think about these matters in considering President Obama, a man who has the potential to unite many different elements of society, and perhaps finally lead a people to the Promised Land. All oppressed peoples the world over hearken to the story of Exodus.

I’ve always had a strong faith in God and I don’t doubt God’s existence. Recently there’s been a spate of books and articles by respected scholars advocating atheism and the non-existence of God. I find this to be an awful waste of scholarly time, and especially of taxpayer and endowment money. Isn’t there something important these guys should be doing on our nickel?

Richard Dawkins, who once wrote a book called “The Selfish Gene,” is one of these. He used to teach at Harvard, now teaches in England, and appears to enjoy bashing God and religion in his books. Dawkins used to be a capable biologist. In his old age, he’s turned into a menacing crank who hates old ladies who go to church and pray to the saints and God for the memories of their dead husbands.

How mean can you possible get?

You might call him “The Selfish Dean” because he really seems only to care about himself. Is this what tenure breeds? Idiotic books about atheism? Pushed on us by editors and publishing houses?

Belief in God is a personal matter, but it also means a commitment to others, and to doing things for others, without considering the personal benefit to yourself. Sitting around the table at Easter, at Seder, at any family gathering, we give thanks to our creator and Lord for family, for health, for happiness. I can’t imagine a life without God or without prayer, a life without church or without friends from church or the church community.

I’ve looked at Dawkins’ books on atheism. They are poorly written, poorly argued, and basically are rants.

It’s not a careful argument.

A careful argument, for example, would be Aquinas’ Summa Contra Gentiles, or Martin Luther’s 95 Theses against the Catholic Church, or John Calvin’s immense work of theology criticizing the Roman Catholic Church and setting forth the tenets of Calvinism.

Those are careful and thoughtful books, which make their cases carefully, point by point.

Dawkins’ books by contrast are awful and poorly researched and poorly written. It’s embarassing to see a professor publish such awful work. Especially when he was able while younger to write such a good book on biology as “The Selfish Gene.” It’s readily apparent Dawkins’ writing and intellectual skills have sharply declined with age.

But assuming that Dawkins (and any of these other atheists) has/have any rational or reasonable points to make, I’d like to refute them with Pascal’s Wager, for one. I think Dawkins is already refuted by the Transcendental a priori arguments of Kant for God’s existence, but Blaise Pascal made a classic probability argument which is, in fact, irrefutable on mathematical and utility grounds, for God’s existence.

Pascal said you should believe in God, because if you did, even if there was only a 1 in a million chance of his existence, the benefits would be eternal salvation, whereas if you denied Him, the possible harm would be eternal damnation.

Consequently, it’s a lot like the nuclear calculus–the benefits are so great, that even if there’s only a slight chance of God existing, it’s worth going all in on God. If you win, you get eternal salvation forever. (the nukes argument goes like, if there’s a one in a million chance of starting World War III, the harm is so great, you have to avoid it, because it’s nuclear winter and the death of mankind, so the policy can’t be adopted).

If you lose the wager, you burn in hell forever. I kind of envision Dawkins burning in a really hot part of hell, by the way. The part where they keep Bernie Madoff, child molesters, child molesting catholic priests and every single convicted defendant whose story was the real basis for the plot line of a LAW AND ORDER:SVU episode. Those stories are really pretty awful. This is a digression, but it’s hard to believe that’s Jayne Mansfield’s daughter in that show, by the way. Mariska Hargitay, emmy winning actress, now approximately in her mid-40s, and still very beautiful, is the daughter of Mickey Hargitay (a former Mr. Universe) and Jayne Mansfield, the 1950s starlet/sex bomb. I think you’d have to say that Mariska Hargitay has really had a solid acting career.

As for all of those who doubt God’s existence or lack faith in God, I give you an extended discusion of Pascal’s Wager from the Stanford Encylopaedia of Philosophy.

Pascal’s Wager
By Alan Hajek, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

“Pascal’s Wager” is the name given to an argument due to Blaise Pascal for believing, or for at least taking steps to believe, in God. The name is somewhat misleading, for in a single paragraph of his Pensées, Pascal apparently presents at least three such arguments, each of which might be called a ‘wager’ — it is only the final of these that is traditionally referred to as “Pascal’s Wager”. We find in it the extraordinary confluence of several strands in intellectual thought: the justification of theism; probability theory and decision theory, used here for almost the first time in history; pragmatism; voluntarism (the thesis that belief is a matter of the will); and the use of the concept of infinity.

We will begin with some brief stage-setting: some historical background, some of the basics of decision theory, and some of the exegetical problems that the Pensées pose. Then we will follow the text to extract three main arguments. The bulk of the literature addresses the third of these arguments, as will the bulk of our discussion here. Some of the more technical and scholarly aspects of our discussion will be relegated to lengthy footnotes, to which there are links for the interested reader. All quotations are from §233 of Pensées (1910, Trotter translation), the ‘thought’ whose heading is “Infinite—nothing”.
• 1. Background
• 2. The Argument from Superdominance
• 3. The Argument from Expectation
• 4. The Argument from Generalized Expectations: “Pascal’s Wager”
• 5. Objections to Pascal’s Wager
• Bibliography
• Other Internet Resources
• Related Entries

1. Background
It is important to contrast Pascal’s argument with various putative ‘proofs’ of the existence of God that had come before it. Anselm’s ontological argument, Aquinas’ ‘five ways’, Descartes’ ontological and cosmological arguments, and so on, purport to give a priori demonstrations that God exists. Pascal is apparently unimpressed by such attempted justifications of theism: “Endeavour … to convince yourself, not by increase of proofs of God…” Indeed, he concedes that “we do not know if He is …”. Pascal’s project, then, is radically different: he seeks to provide prudential reasons for believing in God. To put it crudely, we should wager that God exists because it is the best bet. Ryan 1994 finds precursors to this line of reasoning in the writings of Plato, Arnobius, Lactantius, and others; we might add Ghazali to his list — see Palacios 1920. But what is distinctive is Pascal’s explicitly decision theoretic formulation of the reasoning. In fact, Hacking 1975 describes the Wager as “the first well-understood contribution to decision theory” (viii). Thus, we should pause briefly to review some of the basics of that theory.

In any decision problem, the way the world is, and what an agent does, together determine an outcome for the agent. We may assign utilities to such outcomes, numbers that represent the degree to which the agent values them. It is typical to present these numbers in a decision matrix, with the columns corresponding to the various relevant states of the world, and the rows corresponding to the various possible actions that the agent can perform.

In decisions under uncertainty, nothing more is given — in particular, the agent does not assign subjective probabilities to the states of the world. Still, sometimes rationality dictates a unique decision nonetheless. Consider, for example, a case that will be particularly relevant here. Suppose that you have two possible actions, A1 and A2, and the worst outcome associated with A1 is at least as good as the best outcome associated with A2; suppose also that in at least one state of the world, A1’s outcome is strictly better than A2’s. Let us say in that case that A1 superdominates A2. Then rationality surely requires you to perform A1.

In decisions under risk, the agent assigns subjective probabilities to the various states of the world. Assume that the states of the world are independent of what the agent does. A figure of merit called the expected utility, or the expectation of a given action can be calculated by a simple formula: for each state, multiply the utility that the action produces in that state by the state’s probability; then, add these numbers. According to decision theory, rationality requires you to perform the action of maximum expected utility (if there is one).

Example. Suppose that the utility of money is linear in number of dollars: you value money at exactly its face value. Suppose that you have the option of paying a dollar to play a game in which there is an equal chance of returning nothing, and returning three dollars. The expectation of the game itself is

0*(1/2) + 3*(1/2) = 1.5,

so the expectation of paying a dollar for certain, then playing, is

-1 + 1.5 = 0.5.

This exceeds the expectation of not playing (namely 0), so you should play. On the other hand, if the game gave an equal chance of returning nothing, and returning two dollars, then its expectation would be:

0*(1/2) + 2*(1/2) = 1.

Then consistent with decision theory, you could either pay the dollar to play, or refuse to

play, for either way your overall expectation would be 0.

Considerations such as these will play a crucial role in Pascal’s arguments. It should be admitted that there are certain exegetical problems in presenting these arguments. Pascal never finished the Pensées, but rather left them in the form of notes of various sizes pinned together. Hacking 1972 describes the “Infinite—nothing” as consisting of “two pieces of paper covered on both sides by handwriting going in all directions, full of erasures, corrections, insertions, and afterthoughts” (24).[1] This may explain why certain passages are notoriously difficult to interpret, as we will see. Furthermore, our formulation of the arguments in the parlance of modern Bayesian decision theory might appear somewhat anachronistic. For example, Pascal did not distinguish between what we would now call objective and subjective probability, although it is clear that it is the latter that is relevant to his arguments. To some extent, “Pascal’s Wager” now has a life of its own, and our presentation of it here is perfectly standard. Still, we will closely follow Pascal’s text, supporting our reading of his arguments as much as possible.

There is the further problem of dividing the Infinite-nothing into separate arguments. We will locate three arguments that each conclude that rationality requires you to wager for God, although they interleave in the text.[2] Finally, there is some disagreement over just what “wagering for God” involves — is it believing in God, or merely trying to? We will conclude with a discussion of what Pascal meant by this.

2. The Argument from Superdominance
Pascal maintains that we are incapable of knowing whether God exists or not, yet we must “wager” one way or the other. Reason cannot settle which way we should incline, but a consideration of the relevant outcomes supposedly can. Here is the first key passage:

“God is, or He is not.”

But to which side shall we incline? Reason can decide nothing here. There is an infinite chaos which separated us. A game is being played at the extremity of this infinite distance where heads or tails will turn up… Which will you choose then? Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. You have two things to lose, the true and the good; and two things to stake, your reason and your will, you knowledge and your happiness; and your nature has two things to shun, error and misery. Your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other, since you must of necessity choose… But your happiness? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is… If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is.

There are exegetical problems already here, partly because Pascal appears to contradict himself. He speaks of “the true” as something that you can “lose”, and “error” as something “to shun”. Yet he goes on to claim that if you lose the wager that God is, then “you lose nothing”. Surely in that case you “lose the true”, which is just to say that you have made an error. Pascal believes, of course, that the existence of God is “the true” — but that is not something that he can appeal to in this argument. Moreover, it is not because “you must of necessity choose” that “your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other”. Rather, by Pascal’s own account, it is because “[r]eason can decide nothing here”. (If it could, then it might well be shocked — namely, if you chose in a way contrary to it.)

Following McClennen 1994, Pascal’s argument seems to be best captured as presenting the following decision matrix:
God exists God does not exist
Wager for God Gain all Status quo
Wager against God Misery Status quo

Wagering for God superdominates wagering against God: the worst outcome associated with wagering for God (status quo) is at least as good as the best outcome associated with wagering against God (status quo); and if God exists, the result of wagering for God is strictly better that the result of wagering against God.

(The fact that the result is much better does not matter yet.) Pascal draws the conclusion at this point that rationality requires you to wager for God.

Without any assumption about your probability assignment to God’s existence, the argument is invalid. Rationality does not require you to wager for God if you assign probability 0 to God existing. And Pascal does not explicitly rule this possibility out until a later passage, when he assumes that you assign positive probability to God’s existence; yet this argument is presented as if it is self-contained. His claim that “[r]eason can decide nothing here” may suggest that Pascal regards this as a decision under uncertainty, which is to assume that you do not assign probability at all to God’s existence. If that is a further premise, then the argument is valid; but that premise contradicts his subsequent assumption that you assign positive probability. See McClennen for a reading of this argument as a decision under uncertainty.

Pascal appears to be aware of a further objection to this argument, for he immediately imagines an opponent replying:

“That is very fine. Yes, I must wager; but I may perhaps wager too much.”

The thought seems to be that if I wager for God, and God does not exist, then I really do lose something. In fact, Pascal himself speaks of staking something when one wagers for God, which presumably one loses if God does not exist. (We have already mentioned ‘the true’ as one such thing; Pascal also seems to regard one’s worldly life as another.) In other words, the matrix is mistaken in presenting the two outcomes under ‘God does not exist’ as if they were the same, and we do not have a case of superdominance after all.
Pascal addresses this at once in his second argument, which we will discuss only briefly, as it can be thought of as just a prelude to the main argument.

3. The Argument From Expectation
He continues:

Let us see. Since there is an equal risk of gain and of loss, if you had only to gain two lives, instead of one, you might still wager. But if there were three lives to gain, you would have to play (since you are under the necessity of playing), and you would be imprudent, when you are forced to play, not to chance your life to gain three at a game where there is an equal risk of loss and gain. But there is an eternity of life and happiness.

His hypothetically speaking of “two lives” and “three lives” may strike one as odd. It is helpful to bear in mind Pascal’s interest in gambling (which after all provided the initial motivation for his study of probability) and to take the gambling model quite seriously here. Recall our calculation of the expectations of the two dollar and three dollar gambles. Pascal apparently assumes now that utility is linear in number of lives, that wagering for God costs “one life”, and then reasons analogously to the way we did! This is, as it were, a warm-up. Since wagering for God is rationally required even in the hypothetical case in which one of the prizes is three lives, then all the more it is rationally required in the actual case, in which one of the prizes is eternal life (salvation).

So Pascal has now made two striking assumptions:

(1) The probability of God’s existence is 1/2.

(2) Wagering for God brings infinite reward if God exists.

Morris 1994 is sympathetic to (1), while Hacking 1972 finds it “a monstrous premiss”. It apparently derives from the classical interpretation of probability, according to which all possibilities are given equal weight. Of course, unless more is said, the interpretation yields implausible, and even contradictory results. (You have a one-in-a-million chance of winning the lottery; but either you win the lottery or you don’t, so each of these possibilities has probability 1/2?!) Pascal’s best argument for (1) is presumably that “[r]eason can decide nothing here”. (In the lottery ticket case, reason can decide something.) But it is not clear that complete ignorance should be modeled as sharp indifference. In any case, it is clear that there are people in Pascal’s audience who do not assign probability 1/2 to God’s existence. This argument, then, does not speak to them.
However, Pascal realizes that the value of 1/2 actually plays no real role in the argument, thanks to (2). This brings us to the third, and by far the most important, of his arguments.

4. The Argument From Generalized Expectations: “Pascal’s Wager”
We continue the quotation.

But there is an eternity of life and happiness. And this being so, if there were an infinity of chances, of which one only would be for you, you would still be right in wagering one to win two, and you would act stupidly, being obliged to play, by refusing to stake one life against three at a game in which out of an infinity of chances there is one for you, if there were an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain. But there is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. It is all divided; wherever the infinite is and there is not an infinity of chances of loss against that of gain, there is no time to hesitate, you must give all…

Again this passage is difficult to understand completely. Pascal’s talk of winning two, or three, lives is at best misleading. By his own decision theoretic lights, you would not act stupidly “by refusing to stake one life against three at a game in which out of an infinity of chances there is one for you”—in fact, you should not stake more than an infinitesimal amount in that case (an amount that is bigger than 0, but smaller than every positive real number). The point, rather, is that the prospective prize is “an infinity of an infinitely happy life”.

In short, if God exists, then wagering for God results in infinite utility.

What about the utilities for the other possible outcomes? There is some dispute over the utility of “misery”. Hacking interprets this as “damnation”, and Pascal does later speak of “hell” as the outcome in this case. Martin 1983 among others assigns this a value of negative infinity. Sobel 1996, on the other hand, is one author who takes this value to be finite. There is some textual support for this reading: “The justice of God must be vast like His compassion. Now justice to the outcast is less vast … than mercy towards the elect”.

As for the utilities of the outcomes associated with God’s non-existence, Pascal tells us that “what you stake is finite”. This suggests that whatever these values are, they are finite.
Pascal’s guiding insight is that the argument from expectation goes through equally well whatever your probability for God’s existence is, provided that it is non-zero and finite (non-infinitesimal) — “a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss”.[3]

With Pascal’s assumptions about utilities and probabilities in place, he is now in a position to calculate the relevant expectations. He explains how the calculations should proceed:
… the uncertainty of the gain is proportioned to the certainty of the stake according to the proportion of the chances of gain and loss… [4]

Let us now gather together all of these points into a single argument. We can think of Pascal’s Wager as having three premises: the first concerns the decision matrix of rewards, the second concerns the probability that you should give to God’s existence, and the third is a maxim about rational decision-making. Specifically:
1. Either God exists or God does not exist, and you can either wager for God or wager against God. The utilities of the relevant possible outcomes are as follows, where f1, f2, and f3 are numbers whose values are not specified beyond the requirement that they be finite:

God exists God does not exist
Wager for God ∞ f1
Wager against God f2 f3

2. Rationality requires the probability that you assign to God existing to be positive, and not infinitesimal.

3. Rationality requires you to perform the act of maximum expected utility (when there is one).

4. Conclusion 1. Rationality requires you to wager for God.

5. Conclusion 2. You should wager for God.

We have a decision under risk, with probabilities assigned to the relevant ways the world could be, and utilities assigned to the relevant outcomes. The conclusion seems straightforwardly to follow from the usual calculations of expected utility (where p is your positive, non-infinitesimal probability for God’s existence):

E(wager for God) = ∞*p + f1*(1 − p) = ∞

That is, your expected utility of belief in God is infinite — as Pascal puts it, “our proposition is of infinite force”. On the other hand, your expected utility of wagering against God is

E(wager against God) = f2*p + f3*(1 − p)

This is finite.[5] By premise 3, rationality requires you to perform the act of maximum expected utility.

Therefore, rationality requires you to wager for God.

We now survey some of the main objections to the argument.

5. Objections to Pascal’s Wager
Premise 1: The Decision Matrix
Here the objections are manifold. Most of them can be stated quickly, but we will give special attention to what has generally been regarded as the most important of them, ‘the many Gods objection’ (see also the link to footnote 7).

1. Different matrices for different people.
The argument assumes that the same decision matrix applies to everybody. However, perhaps the relevant rewards are different for different people. Perhaps, for example, there is a predestined infinite reward for the Chosen, whatever they do, and finite utility for the rest, as Mackie 1982 suggests. Or maybe the prospect of salvation appeals more to some people than to others, as Swinburne 1969 has noted.
Even granting that a single 2 x 2 matrix applies to everybody, one might dispute the values that enter into it. This brings us to the next two objections.

2. The utility of salvation could not be infinite.
One might argue that the very notion of infinite utility is suspect — see for example Jeffrey 1983 and McClennen 1994.[6] Hence, the objection continues, whatever the utility of salvation might be, it must be finite. Strict finitists, who are chary of the notion of infinity in general, will agree — see Dummett 1978 and Wright 1987. Or perhaps the notion of infinite utility makes sense, but an infinite reward could only be finitely appreciated by a human being.

3. There should be more than one infinity in the matrix.
There are also critics of the Wager who, far from objecting to infinite utilities, want to see more of them in the matrix. For example, it might be thought that a forgiving God would bestow infinite utility upon wagerers-for and wagerers-against alike — Rescher 1985 is one author who entertains this possibility. Or it might be thought that, on the contrary, wagering against an existent God results in negative infinite utility. (As we have noted, some authors read Pascal himself as saying as much.) Either way, f2 is not really finite at all, but ∞ or -∞ as the case may be. And perhaps f1 and f3 could be ∞ or -∞. Suppose, for instance, that God does not exist, but that we are reincarnated ad infinitum, and that the total utility we receive is an infinite sum that does not converge.

4. The matrix should have more rows.
Perhaps there is more than one way to wager for God, and the rewards that God bestows vary accordingly. For instance, God might not reward infinitely those who strive to believe in Him only for the very mercenary reasons that Pascal gives, as James 1956 has observed. One could also imagine distinguishing belief based on faith from belief based on evidential reasons, and posit different rewards in each case.

6. The matrix should have more columns: the many Gods objection.
If Pascal is really right that reason can decide nothing here, then it would seem that various other theistic hypotheses are also live options. Pascal presumably had in mind the Catholic conception of God — let us suppose that this is the God who either ‘exists’ or ‘does not exist’. By excluded middle, this is a partition. The objection, then, is that the partition is not sufficiently fine-grained, and the ‘(Catholic) God does not exist’ column really subdivides into various other theistic hypotheses. The objection could equally run that Pascal’s argument ‘proves too much’: by parallel reasoning we can ‘show’ that rationality requires believing in various incompatible theistic hypotheses. As Diderot 1875-77 puts the point: “An Imam could reason just as well this way”.[7]

Since then, the point has been represented and refined in various ways. Mackie 1982 writes, “the church within which alone salvation is to be found is not necessarily the Church of Rome, but perhaps that of the Anabaptists or the Mormons or the Muslim Sunnis or the worshippers of Kali or of Odin” (203). Cargile 1966 shows just how easy it is to multiply theistic hypotheses: for each real number x, consider the God who prefers contemplating x more than any other activity. It seems, then, that such ‘alternative gods’ are a dime a dozen — or aleph one, for that matter.

Premise 2: The Probability Assigned to God’s Existence
There are four sorts of problem for this premise. The first two are straightforward; the second two are more technical, and can be found by following the link to footnote 8.
1. Undefined probability for God’s existence. Premise 1 presupposes that you should have a probability for God’s existence in the first place. However, perhaps you could rationally fail to assign it a probability — your probability that God exists could remain undefined. We cannot enter here into the thorny issues concerning the attribution of probabilities to agents. But there is some support for this response even in Pascal’s own text, again at the pivotal claim that “[r]eason can decide nothing here. There is an infinite chaos which separated us. A game is being played at the extremity of this infinite distance where heads or tails will turn up…” The thought could be that any probability assignment is inconsistent with a state of “epistemic nullity” (in Morris’ 1986 phrase): to assign a probability at all — even 1/2 — to God’s existence is to feign having evidence that one in fact totally lacks. For unlike a coin that we know to be fair, this metaphorical ‘coin’ is ‘infinitely far’ from us, hence apparently completely unknown to us. Perhaps, then, rationality actually requires us to refrain from assigning a probability to God’s existence (in which case at least the Argument from Superdominance would be valid). Or perhaps rationality does not require it, but at least permits it. Either way, the Wager would not even get off the ground.

2. Zero probability for God’s existence. Strict atheists may insist on the rationality of a probability assignment of 0, as Oppy 1990 among others points out. For example, they may contend that reason alone can settle that God does not exist, perhaps by arguing that the very notion of an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent being is contradictory. Or a Bayesian might hold that rationality places no constraint on probabilistic judgments beyond coherence (or conformity to the probability calculus). Then as long as the strict atheist assigns probability 1 to God’s non-existence alongside his or her assignment of 0 to God’s existence, no norm of rationality has been violated.
Furthermore, an assignment of p = 0 would clearly block the route to Pascal’s conclusion. For then the expectation calculations become:

E(wager for God) = ∞*0 + f1*(1 − 0) = f1

E(wager against God) = f2*0 + f3*(1 − 0) = f3

And nothing in the argument implies that f1 > f3. (Indeed, this inequality is questionable, as even Pascal seems to allow.) In short, Pascal’s wager has no pull on strict atheists.[8]

Premise 3: Rationality Requires Maximizing Expected Etility
Finally, one could question Pascal’s decision theoretic assumption that rationality requires one to perform the act of maximum expected utility (when there is one). Now perhaps this is an analytic truth, in which case we could grant it to Pascal without further discussion — perhaps it is constitutive of rationality to maximize expectation, as some might say. But this premise has met serious objections. The Allais 1953 and Ellsberg 1961 paradoxes, for example, are said to show that maximizing expectation can lead one to perform intuitively sub-optimal actions. So too the St. Petersburg paradox, in which it is supposedly absurd that one should be prepared to pay any finite amount to play a game with infinite expectation. (That paradox is particularly apposite here.)[9]

Finally, one might distinguish between practical rationality and theoretical rationality. One could then concede that practical rationality requires you to maximize expected utility, while insisting that theoretical rationality might require something else of you — say, proportioning belief to the amount of evidence available. This objection is especially relevant, since Pascal admits that perhaps you “must renounce reason” in order to follow his advice. But when these two sides of rationality pull in opposite directions, as they apparently can here, it is not obvious that practical rationality should take precedence. (For a discussion of pragmatic, as opposed to theoretical, reasons for belief, see Foley 1994.)

Is the Argument Valid?

A number of authors who have been otherwise critical of the Wager have explicitly conceded that the Wager is valid — e.g. Mackie 1982, Rescher 1985, Mougin and Sober 1994, and most emphatically, Hacking 1972. That is, these authors agree with Pascal that wagering for God really is rationally mandated by Pascal’s decision matrix in tandem with positive probability for God’s existence, and the decision theoretic account of rational action.

However, Duff 1986 and Hájek 2001 argue that the argument is in fact invalid. Their point is that there are strategies besides wagering for God that also have infinite expectation — namely, mixed strategies, whereby you do not wager for or against God outright, but rather choose which of these actions to perform on the basis of the outcome of some chance device. Consider the mixed strategy: “Toss a fair coin: heads, you wager for God; tails, you wager against God”. By Pascal’s lights, with probability 1/2 your expectation will be infinite, and with probability 1/2 it will be finite. The expectation of the entire strategy is:

1/2*∞ + 1/2[f2*p + f3*(1 − p)] = ∞

That is, the ‘coin toss’ strategy has the same expectation as outright wagering for God. But the probability 1/2 was incidental to the result. Any mixed strategy that gives positive and finite probability to wagering for God will likewise have infinite expectation: “wager for God iff a fair die lands 6”, “wager for God iff your lottery ticket wins”, “wager for God iff a meteor quantum tunnels its way through the side of your house”, and so on.

The problem is still worse than this, though, for there is a sense in which anything that you do might be regarded as a mixed strategy between wagering for God, and wagering against God, with suitable probability weights given to each. Suppose that you choose to ignore the Wager, and to go and have a hamburger instead. Still, you may well assign positive and finite probability to your winding up wagering for God nonetheless; and this probability multiplied by infinity again gives infinity. So ignoring the Wager and having a hamburger has the same expectation as outright wagering for God. Even worse, suppose that you focus all your energy into avoiding belief in God. Still, you may well assign positive and finite probability to your efforts failing, with the result that you wager for God nonetheless. In that case again, your expectation is infinite again. So even if rationality requires you to perform the act of maximum expected utility when there is one, here there isn’t one. Rather, there is a many-way tie for first place, as it were.[10]

Moral Objections to Wagering for God

Let us grant Pascal’s conclusion for the sake of the argument: rationality requires you to wager for God. It still does not obviously follow that you should wager for God. All that we have granted is that one norm — the norm of rationality — prescribes wagering for God. For all that has been said, some other norm might prescribe wagering against God. And unless we can show that the rationality norm trumps the others, we have not settled what we should actually do.

There are several arguments to the effect that morality requires you to wager against God. Pascal himself appears to be aware of one such argument. He admits that if you do not believe in God, his recommended course of action will “deaden your acuteness.” One way of putting the argument is that wagering for God may require you to corrupt yourself, thus violating a Kantian duty to yourself. Clifford 1986 argues that an individual’s believing something on insufficient evidence harms society by promoting credulity. Penelhum 1971 contends that the putative divine plan is itself immoral, condemning as it does honest non-believers to loss of eternal happiness, when such unbelief is in no way culpable; and that to adopt the relevant belief is to be complicit to this immoral plan. See Quinn 1994 for replies to these arguments. For example, against Penelhum he argues that as long as God treats non-believers justly, there is nothing immoral about him bestowing special favor on believers, more perhaps than they deserve. (Note, however, that Pascal leaves open in the Wager whether the payoff for non-believers is just, even though as far as his argument goes, it may be extremely poor.)

Finally, Voltaire protests that there is something unseemly about the whole Wager. He suggests that Pascal’s calculations, and his appeal to self-interest, are unworthy of the gravity of the subject of theistic belief. This does not so much support wagering against God, as dismissing all talk of ‘wagerings’ altogether.

What Does It Mean to “Wager for God”?

Let us now grant Pascal that, all things considered (rationality and morality included), you should wager for God. What exactly does this involve?

A number of authors read Pascal as arguing that you should believe in God — see e.g. Quinn 1994, and Jordan 1994a. But perhaps one cannot simply believe in God at will; and rationality cannot require the impossible. Pascal is well aware of this objection: “[I] am so made that I cannot believe. What, then, would you have me do?”, says his imaginary interlocutor. However, he contends that one can take steps to cultivate such belief:

You would like to attain faith, and do not know the way; you would like to cure yourself of unbelief, and ask the remedy for it. Learn of those who have been bound like you, and who now stake all their possessions. These are people who know the way which you would follow, and who are cured of an ill of which you would be cured. Follow the way by which they began; by acting as if they believed, taking the holy water, having masses said, etc…

But to show you that this leads you there, it is this which will lessen the passions, which are your stumbling-blocks.

We find two main pieces of advice to the non-believer here: act like a believer, and suppress those passions that are obstacles to becoming a believer. And these are actions that one can perform at will.
Believing in God is presumably one way to wager for God. This passage suggests that even the non-believer can wager for God, by striving to become a believer. Critics may question the psychology of belief formation that Pascal presupposes, pointing out that one could strive to believe (perhaps by following exactly Pascal’s prescription), yet fail. To this, a follower of Pascal might reply that the act of genuine striving already displays a pureness of heart that God would fully reward; or even that genuine striving in this case is itself a form of believing.

Pascal’s Wager vies with Anselm’s Ontological Argument for being the most famous argument in the philosophy of religion. As we have seen, it is also a great deal more besides.


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• Nalebuff, B. 1989. “Puzzles: The Other Person’s Envelope is Always Greener”, Journal of Economic Perspectives 3: 171-91.
• Nelson, Edward. 1987. Radically Elementary Probability Theory, Annals of Mathematics Studies, Princeton University Press.
• Nelson, Mark T.. 1991. “Utilitarian Eschatology”, American Philosophical Quarterly, 339-347.
• Ng, Yew-Kwang. 1995. “Infinite Utility and Van Liedekerke’s Impossibility: A Solution”, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 73: 408-411.
• Oppy, Graham. 1990. “On Rescher on Pascal’s Wager”, International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 30: 159-68.
• Palacios, M. Asin. 1920. “Los Precedentes Musulmanes del ‘Pari’ de Pascal”, Santander.
• Pascal, Blaise. 1910. Pascal’s Pensées, translated by W. F. Trotter.
• Penelhum, Terence. 1971. Religion and Rationality, Random House.
• Rescher, Nicholas. 1985. Pascal’s Wager, Notre Dame.
• Robinson, Abraham. 1966. Non-Standard Analysis, North Holland.
• Ryan, John. 1945. “The Wager in Pascal and Others”, New Scholasticism 19/3, 233-50. Reprinted in Jordan 1994 b.
• Quinn, Philip L. 1994. “Moral Objections to Pascalian Wagering”, in Jordan 1994b.
• Schlesinger, George. 1994. “A Central Theistic Argument”, in Jordan 1994b.
• Skalia, H. J.. 1975. Non-Archimedean Utility Theory, D. Reidel.
• Sobel, Howard. 1994. “Two Envelopes”, Theory and Decision, 69-96.
• Sobel, Howard. 1996. “Pascalian Wagers”, Synthese 108: 11-61.
• Sorensen, Roy. 1994. “Infinite Decision Theory”, in Jordan 1994b.
• Swinburne, R. G.. 1969. “The Christian Wager”, Religious Studies 4: 217-28.
• Vallentyne, Peter. 1993. “Utilitarianism and Infinite Utility”, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 71: 212-217.
• Vallentyne, Peter. 1995. “Infinite Utility: Anonymity and Person-Centredness”, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 73: 413-420.
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Copyright © 1998, 2001
Alan Hájek

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

See also, Stephen R. Welch’s page on Pascal’s Wager

Collectively, the Big Five of Temple, LaSalle, Penn, Villanova and St Joes have made more than a dozen final four appearances since the NCAAs began in 1939; Villanova was in the first NCAA tourney back in 1939, and in every decade of the NCAAs, one or more of the big Five has had an impact on the tournament each and every decade the Tournament has been running, whether it was Temple getting to the Final Four twice in the fifties, St. Joe’s to the Final Four in the sixties, Villanova and Penn to the Final Four in the seventies, Villanova winning the NCAA in the 80s, Temple dominating and getting #1 rankings and seedings in the 80s and 90s and getting to the elite 8 three times, and Villanova getting #1 seeds and reaching the elite 8 in recent years, and St. Joes getting to the final four in the last decade and getting a #1 seed.

Folks, we have the best college basketball in the country, bar none. Collectively, the Big Five does better in NCAA than almost any other region or school, excepting possibly Duke, UCLA, Kentucky and a handful of other such bigtime programs–and yet Duke has only won three NCAA titles in 14 Final Four trips, etc. The Big Five is not doing so badly.

I really like the underdogs of the NCAA–Marquette in 1977 with Al McGuire, the late Jimmy Valvano and North Caroline State (who can forget the triple overtime opening round win over Pepperdine?) in 1983, Rollie Massimino and the Villanova Wildcats upending Patrick Ewing and Georgetown in 1986, and so on.

My personal favorite big five upset of all time has to be St. Joe’s beating #1 seed and #1 in the country DePaul and Mark Aguire in 1981 in the first round of the NCAA (maybe it was the 2d round).

This brings us to 2009. Villanova and Temple are in. Villanova had a very good season, but lost to Louisville in the semis of the Big East tournament. Nova’ had a good RPI and a good strength of schedule, but still, they got a #3 seed, which I thought was pretty generous for a team that really hadn’t won anything–they were third or fourth in their conference, and finished third/fourth in the tournament of their conference. Even if it’s the best conference in basketball, does finishing fourth in that conference make you the 12th best team in all of college basketball? I think a #4 seed would have been more appropriate. The NCAA worships the big east a little too much.

Next, Temple. Temple got an #11 seed, which puts them against Arizona State, a #6 seed. Now Temple actually won something–they won the A-10 Tournament. Second year in a row, in fact. Also, best player in the conference, Dionte Christmas, plays for Temple. Also, Temple has by far the toughest non-conference schedule of any A-10 team. But they beat all of those teams too, except maybe Villanova, and they gave them a tough time. Maybe if Nova’ didn’t insist on playing at the Pavilion, but at the Palestra, it would be a fair game.

Temple’s RPI is very good, and their strength of schedule is very good. In fact, if you look at most of the teams seeded from around #7-#10, Temple’s RPI and strength of schedule are BETTER than most of those 7-10 seeds. Take Michigan for example, a team that didn’t win anything, lost 13, won only 20, and was an at-large from the big 10. Michigan has a higher seed than Temple but why? Michigan’s RPI is worse, their strength of schedule much worse, and they have a much worse record than Temple.

I could pick out many more examples (UCLA?) of this, but the point is that Temple plays a big-time schedule, has been in the elite eight in three of the last twenty years, and has been ranked #1 more than once in the last twenty years, including most of 1987-88. They’re a good ballclub, and deserved at least an 8-9 seed matchup in the first round.

Frankly, i would have given Temple about the same seeding as Xavier, and higher than Dayton, a team Temple dominated during the season.

I believe Temple and Villanova will both win. Arizona State is a fine team and that game could go either way, but Temple will win this year. Villanova has a ridiculously easy first round game. Their second round matchup will be much tougher

Also, I really like the fact that the new President offered his own “bracketology” on ESPN. that was pretty cool. I don’t think we’ve had this sports minded a president since Jack Kennedy, an old football player, was going to the harvard-yale and army-navy games. A lot like Teddy Roosevelt, too.

–art kyriazis philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies

1) The Bill James Handbook for 2009 is out and now I can make some predictions based on statistical facts.

The Bill James Handbook 2009. ACTA Sports, Publisher, Baseball Info Solutions & Bill James (Skokie, IL, November 2008). This is an essential reference guide for anyone seriously interested in the sport of baseball. As the back cover states, quoting the Wall Street Journal, “Mr. [Bill] James, the statistical oracle.” My good friend (and Mather House Harvard buddy) David Pinto is thanked and accredited by the writers of the book, and I highly recommend Dave Pinto’s excellent blog/website, which is a GREAT baseball website with link outs to virtually all things baseball. Dave used to do all the stat work for ESPN for like 15 years and he is about the smartest guy I know when it comes to baseball statistics, and he used to write the Bill James Handbook for many years. The Bill James Handbook is @$24.00 and is all the money you’ll need to spend on a baseball statbook. If you’re in a fantasy league, first, I suggest you go to rehab and quit this huge waste of time and get back into your marriage and kids, but second, if you’re devoted to the hobby, you will not do better than this book as far as predicting who will do what in 2009 statistically. Finally, this is a fan’s dream of a book. It really settles almost all arguments the right way—with the facts, ma’m, just the facts, to quote Sergeant Joe Friday from Dragnet.

2) The Phillies will repeat in 2009.

The Phillies are a dynasty, with an offensive core of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, with Shane Victorino providing speed, power and glovework in centerfield; Cole Hamels is the best lefthanded starter in the National League, and Brad Lidge is the best closer in the National League. It’s all in the numbers.

3) The Phillies have great pitching and great offense.

The Phillies were second in runs scored last year in the NL with 799 (the Cubs scored 855) and third in the NL in runs and earned runs allowed with 680 runs allowed and 625 earned runs allowed (only the Dodgers and Cubs were better).

4) The Phillies have great defense.

Jimmy Rollins is the best shortstop in the National League, and under the Plus/Minus system, Rollins is the second best defensive shortstop in all of baseball from 2006-2008. Chase Utley is among the top three second basement in the National League. Under the Plus/Minus system, Utley is the top defensive second basement in all of baseball 2006-2008. Pedro Feliz is in the top ten defensively in all of baseball at third base, Shane Victorino is in the top ten in all of baseball at centerfield. Under the Plus/Minus system, Victorino was the 7th best centerfielder in all of baseball in 2008. Under the Plus/Minus system, Feliz is the second best defensive third basemen in all of baseball from 2006-2008. Jayson Werth is a good defensive right fielder, and Raul Ibanez, the new leftfielder, is an upgrade from Pat Burrell; Burrell, according to the Plus/Minus system, was the worst left fielder defensively in baseball from 2006-2008. Carlos Ruiz at catcher has a great throwing arm. By the way, Bobby Abreu scores poorly defensively under the Plus/Minus system, 2d worst defensive right fielder in all of baseball for 2008. That was addition by subtraction, that trade.

5) The Mets Are Not Serious Challengers in the NL East.

The Mets will choke again. Specifically, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado are a year older, and may start to show signs of age related decline. Johan Santana already shows signs that he is injured, while Pedro Martinez was never quite right. Billy Wagner was hurt for substantial portions of last year. They’ve brought in a couple of new guys for the bullpen, but Rodriguez et al. aren’t just filling holes, they’re the life raft for a sinking ship—the Mets’ bullpen last year was awful and coughed up many leads. It’s true that Pelfrey, Maine et al. are some good starters, but without Santana being as good as Hamels, the truth is the Phillies have the better starting staff, starting with Meyers, then Moyer, then Blanton, and whoever they throw as the fifth starter, probably J.A. Happ. What you need to recognize is that Meyers and Blanton are strikeout pitchers, and even Happ and Park can strike out betters. Moyer is just fiendish on the mound when he’s got it going on, as we saw in the postseason. Even though Jose Reyes and David Wright are brilliant young stars, and Beltran and Delgado are aging superstars, the rest of the lineup has holes while the Phillies’ lineup is solid top to bottom. Also, the Phillies have a much better bench than the Mets.

6) No Else is a Serious Rival Except for the Dodgers

The only team I see possibly challenging for the NL Pennant are the LA Dodgers under Joe Torre. They have Manny for an entire year, they have terrific pitching, excellent young talent like Loney, combined with experienced players on the bench and in the field, and Torre manages the clubhouse the way he managed the Yankees, with a winning attitude. I see the Cubs slipping back this year and may the Cards or Rockies or Astros (hi to L. Gray here) coming back up. In the AL, the Yankees will make some noise as will the Red Sox; the Rays are in the toughest division in baseball, while the Angels, As, Twins, Indians (hello to Chris M), etc. all will have tough sledding, along with teams just below like the Tigers. Even if the Phils repeat as NL East Division winners, they will have to beat the Dodgers again, and even if they win the NL Pennant, to become champs, they will have a tough world series against the AL. So nothing is going to be easy.

7) Adam Eaton and Kyle Kendrick were Dreadful Fifth Starters Last Year Yet the Phillies Won Anyway

The Phillies will improve this year substantially in the pitching department. In 2008, Adam Eaton threw 107 innings with an adjusted ERA of 6.07. Kyle Kendrick threw 156 innings with an adjusted ERA of 6.05. That’s together, 263 innings pitched with an adjusted ERA of @6.06. The Phillies team adjusted ERA was 3.88, so you can see that Eaton and Kendrick were almost double the team ERA. There’s a vast canyon for improving team ERA by bringing in a better fifth starter there. The Phillies as a whole only three 1450 innings last year; that means 18%, or nearly one-fifth of the Phillies innings last year were thrown by Eaton and Kendrick, the horrible fifth starters. Simple math suggests that replacing these guys will lower the team ERA substantially—in fact, the Phillies will probably lead the NL in ERA this year.

8) Chan Ho Park or JA Happ Will be Substantial Upgrades at Fifth Starting Pitcher over Adam Eaton & Kyle Kendrick

The fifth starter this year will either be Chan Ho Park or J.A. Happ. Park in 2008 threw 95 innings, allowing 97 hits, 12 homers, 36 walks and striking out 79, with an adjusted ERA of 4.34; if he throws 190 innings, that would adjust to 194 hits allowed, 24 homers, 72 walks and 158 batters struckout. Happ threw much less, only 33 innings pitched, but striking out 26, only 28 hits given up, 14 walks, 3 homers and an adjusted ERA of 3.55. Moreover, Happ’s minor league stats (he’s a six-foot six lefty) suggest that’s he’s a power pitcher who can strike out hitters; in Las Vegas AAA in 2008 he struck out 151 batters in 135 innings innings pitched. In Ottawa AAA in 2007 he whiffed 117 batters in 118 innings pitched. Happ started 24 games in Ottawa and 23 games in Las Vegas, and he’s not going to turn 27 until October 2009, so he can definitely throw starter innings. Bottom line: between Happ and Park, the fifth starter ERA for at least the back end of 250 innings of Phillies pitching should be much, much better than last year.

9) Kyle Kendrick is a Nice Guy, but He’s Strictly AAA Material

The only way this can get derailed is if the Phillies give Kyle Kendrick another shot as fifth starter. This would be a mistake. Even though Kendrick won a lot of games, he was one of the least effective starters in the National League according to the Bill James Handbook 2009 number crunchers. The basic problems with Kendrick are that 1) he’s just not a strikeout pitcher and 2) he gives up too many hits and homers. Here’s his line for 2008; 156 innings pitched, 194 hits given up (I’m not making that number up), 23 homers, 14 hit batters (very wild), 57 walks (again, wild), only 68 batters struck out, an official 5.49 ERA and an adjusted ERA of 6.05. When you look at Kendrick’s line, it’s obvious that he’s very wild—57 walks in 156 innings pitched, plus 194 hits given up, plus 14 hit batsmen. Now, you can walk a lot of batters and be successful—Nolan Ryan and Bob Feller both did it—but you’d better not be giving up many hits and you’d better be striking out the side, as Ryan and Feller used to do. But if you’re giving up walks, AND giving up lots of hits AND hitting batters and you can’t get strikeouts, well, you probably just can’t pitch in the major leagues. Kendrick is a nice guy, and maybe he can retool and become a middle innings relief guy, if he develops a change-up or a sinker as an out pitch. But from here, based on those numbers, Kendrick needs a season in triple A to refine his approach and then come back to the big team later on. Meanwhile, J.A. Happ is the guy I’d be looking at if I were the Phillies.

10) Who in the World is Carlos Carrasco?

The Phillies should not be auditioning Carlos Carrasco seriously as a fifth starter for 2009. They’re a world champion about to repeat. They don’t need a rookie starting. Carrasco should start out in Triple A and later come onboard and help in the bullpen, maybe, or spot start later in the year if someone gets hurt.

11) Phils – Best in Baseball at Stealing and Taking the Extra Base The Phillies are the best in baseball at baserunning. The Bill James Handbook for 2009 built up a chart of which teams did the best job in moving first to third, second to home, first to home, and guess which team was the best in baseball in seizing those opportunities? If you said the Philadelphia Phillies, you would be correct. The Phils move first to third 55 of 195 chances, second to home 98 of 163 chances, and first to home 29 of 55 chances, taking 142 total bases, while being doubled off only 18 times, and making only 36 base-running outs, one of the lowest out totals in baseball, and grounding into only 108 doubleplays, again, one of the lowest GIDP totals in baseball. The net gains for the Phils from baserunning and from stolen bases (Rollins, Victorino, Werth and Utley all stole 20 or more bases, Rollins and Victorino 30 or more), was a net gain of 114 bases, the largest such advantage in baseball. Those were extra bases the Phillies took on the basepaths without the benefit of a hit just by good baserunning. The fact is that the Phillies have one of the fastest and best running lineups in baseball, with Rollins, Victorino, Werth and Utley in the lineup. All four of these guys can steal, take the extra base, and go first to home on any extra base hit. These guys more than make up for Howard, Feliz or Ruiz being slower. In addition, guys like Rollins, Victorino, Werth and Utley make the opposing pitchers nervous and cause them to make extra throws to first base. Finally, because the Phillies were so successful stealing, taking the extra base, etc., they had very few situations where they could ground into the double play. About the only time they wouldn’t run was when Ryan Howard was up with a man or men on first, and even then sometimes Charlie Manuel would run, just to confuse opposing managers. This chart is at page 320 of the BJH for 2009.

12) Phils – the Best Bullpen in Baseball

The Phillies have by far the best bullpen in baseball. The only guys who weren’t any good last year were Tom Gordon, who is gone, Adam Eaton and Kyle Kendrick and it’s doubtful we’ll see Eaton or Kendrick in the bullpen. Lidge and Madsen were money, and it remains to be seen if the Met’s new additions will be as good as Lidge or Madsen. Losing Clay Condrey is not good, but J.C. Romero will be back after his suspension, and he pitched very well last year. Chad Durbin was outstanding for the Phils last year.

13) Charlie Manuel – the Best Manager in Baseball

Charlie Manuel has now established that he is one of the best managers in baseball. He’s now logged seven seasons as a manager with the Indians and Phillies, and the results don’t lie. He won 90 and 91 games in two of his three seasons with the Indians, made the playoffs, and had only one bad season with them, in 2002. With the Phillies, he has won 88, 85, 89 and 92 games, and made the playoffs last year and won the World Series this year. Compare this to so-called brilliant Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who from 1997-2000 inclusive, with Curt Schilling, Bobby Abreu and Scott Rolen in the lineup, managed to win 68, 75, 77 and 65 games for the Phillies. Manuel as Phillies Manager last year beat Joe Torre and the Dodgers in the NLCS to win the pennant, and Torre is arguably, along with Bobby Cox, the greatest manager of our day. Then Manuel encountered not the Boston Red Sox but the Tampa Bay Rays and Joe Maddon in the World Series, which in many ways was a challenge. Then the Commissioner of Baseball and the Networks conspired to create the famous rain-shortened delayed Game Five, which effectively neutralized the Cole Hamels pitching advantage the Phillies had in that Game. Two days later, Manuel came up with managing brilliancy after managing brilliancy, handling his pinch-hitters and bullpen brilliantly and completely out-managing his opponents Tampa Bay and Maddon to win the world championship in a suspended game five that will live forever in Philadelphia sports history. Charlie Manuel’s average record after seven years of managing is 88-74, not including playoff wins, a .543 winning percentage, and that’s better than lifetime managing winning percentage of such so-called brilliant managers as: Lou Piniella, Jimmy Leyland, Manager Jack McKeon, Tony LaRussa, Felipe Alou, Buddy Bell, Dusty Baker, Terry Francona, Bruce Bochy, Joe Maddon, Jerry Manuel, Phil Garner, Joe Girardi, Ozzie Guillen, Mike Hargrove, Clint Hurdle, Bob Melvin, Willie Randolph, Buck Schowalter and Jim Tracy. In fact the only managers with a HIGHER lifetime winning percentage than Charlie Manuel currently are Joe Torre, Bobby Cox, Ken Macha, Grady Little and Mike Scioscia. As we know, Torre, Manuel, Cox and Scioscia have all won World Series championships, but only Torre has one more than one World Championship in that grouping. If Charlie Manuel repeats this year with the Phillies, he not only stands a chance to gain in career winning percentage on these all-time great managers, but also he will join Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa and Terry Francona as the only multi-World Series winning managers. Of this grouping, only Manuel will have been a consistent winner in his entire managerial career, since we know that Torre had some bad years earlier in his career managing in the National League. Consequently, if Manuel were to repeat this year, he would have a legitimate claim at the Hall of Fame as a Manager inductee; in fact, his credentials for the Hall of Fame even if he just wins the division or makes it as a wild card a couple of more times seem guaranteed. There is little question that Charlie Manuel has been the greatest manager in the entire history of the Phillies’ organization, and I mean going back to 1883 when the club was a minor league outfit which had just arrived in Philadelphia struggling to survive a move from Worcester, Massachusetts.

14) A Brief History of the Phillies

This is the finest era of Phillies baseball in the history of the franchise. There have only been a few great eras of Phillies baseball. One was the 1890s, when the outfield was led by Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty, and the club consistently finished 2d, 3d or in the upper half of the league. While they didn’t win pennants, they were winners for about ten years, and since they were the only baseball club in Philadelphia, attendance was very good. The next good period for the Phillies was the 1910s, when the club was led by Hall of Famer Grover Cleveland Alexander (the only pitcher named for one president, Grover Cleveland, and played by another in a movie, Ronald Reagan) (by the way, a great flick), the best pitcher in all of baseball, Dave “Beauty” Bancroft at short and other great players. That 1910s team won only one NL pennant in 1915, but was upper division for several years, and had there been a Cy Young Award, Alexander would have won about five in a row. But the A’s were the Philadelphia team that the city loved from 1901-1953, pretty much, as they won multiple pennants and world series, especially from 1905-1914, and again from 1929-1931, and did very well other years. The Phillies did not have a good squad again until the “whiz kids” of 1950 led by Hall of Famers Robin Roberts, Richie Ashburn et al. While they won only one pennant, and the team has been disparaged for not breaking the color line, they were a good team that played fine seasons, and they finally broke the dominance of the As and attracted the hearts of Philly fans. The next good team was the 1964 Phils team led by Hall of Famer Jim Bunning, and could have been Hall of Famer Dick Allen, who had one of the greatest rookie years in baseball history in 1964. The September collapse of the 1964 Phils we will skip over, except to say, they were a great team, and deserved to win one or more pennants. Dick Allen returned in 1976 to play first base for the beginning of a Phils dynasty led by Hall of Famers Steve Carlton and Mike Schmidt, and outstanding players like Bob Boone at catcher, Larry Bowa at shortstop, later joined by Pete Rose and Joe Morgan along the way, a dynasty that won multiple division titles, pennants, playoff games, a World Series, and threatened to repeat only to lose the 1983 world series, a dynasty that would last from 1976-1983. The dynasty might have gone further had the Phillies not made a couple of bad trades in the winter of 1983. They had three second basemen in their farm system—Juan Samuel, Ryne Sandberg and Julio Franco. The Phillies made an error and decided to trade two of these players, instead of keeping all three and converting them to other positions, like shortstop or first base. All of them could have hit enough for any infield position. Sandberg was traded with Larry Bowa for a shortstop whose name I can’t even remember, and the Cubs won the NL East Division in 1984 as a result. Franco and four other Phillies were traded for Von Hayes, a five tool lefthanded outfielder who put up some good numbers for about five years, but then went into a premature age-related decline. Franco, as we all know, retired just last year, I think, at age 50. I’m pretty sure he’s still playing somewhere in Mexico, and still hitting .300 and slugging homers. I really liked Julio Franco because for a long time, as long as he was a pro, there was someone older than me playing in the big leagues. Ryne Sandberg has retired and is already in the Hall of Fame. It’s a shame to think how good the phillies might have been with Sandberg and Schmidt for a few years there—Schmidt won the MVP in 1986 or 1987—batting third and fourth—but that goes in the category of what-if. The next great phils team was the Dykstra-Kruk-Schilling bad boys team of 1993, which was really a great team, but a one-year wonder, last to first, and back to last again the next year. A lot of pitchers on that team had their greatest seasons ever that one year, guys like Tommy Greene and Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams, and then never were able to throw effectively again. You’d have to say they gave it all. After than, the core dissipated, and started winning in other cities—Hollins went to Minnesota and won, Dalton went to Florida and won, Schilling went to the Red Sox and won, Rolen went to St. Louis and won—it seemed there was a lot of magic to the 93’ phillies that was infectious, the team knew how to win, but couldn’t put it back together again in Philadelphia. Now we have another juggernaut here in Philly, and these Phillies are a lot like the 1976-83 Phillies team, a dynasty, except only better. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard together are equal to Mike Schmidt—and Cole Hamels is just as good right now as Steve Carlton was back in the day, though it remains to be seen if Hamels can pitch twenty five years like Carlton did. Lidge is better than Tug McGraw was in his best seasons, and you’d have to say the rest of the club and starters and bullpen are actually better than the Phillies of 1976-83.

15) Bring Back Pete Rose and Ban the Steroid Guys Instead.

One thing we don’t have is a player like Pete Rose, he was a true Hall of Famer, even if baseball wants to bar the doors, there isn’t a player in the Hall of Fame as good as Pete Rose, and I include Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth, because no one wanted to win as badly or was willing to do so many things to win a ballgame, as Pete “Charlie Hustle” Rose was willing to do each and every day on the ballfield. He lived to win, and he won because that’s what he lived for. I’ll always think of him fondly because he brought us the 1980 World Series Championship, and because he lit a fire under Mike Schmidt, and because he looked right with a Phillies cap on, and because he was the third Hall of Famer on that 1980 team (I’d probably add Bob Boone, by the way), and I don’t really care if he bet on baseball. I’d sentence him to time served and welcome him back if I was the Commissioner. Heck, with all the disgraced steroid users in the game, Pete Rose would be a shot in the arm for baseball right now. HE PLAYED THE GAME THE RIGHT WAY, HE DIDN’T CHEAT. So what if he bet on the ponies? I’m sure half of all the accountants, lawyers, investment bankers and other important people on Wall Street have bookies and keep them plenty busy, even in this horrible economy. No one is banning them from their livelihoods. There’s no commissioner to supervise CEOs from going to the Kentucky Derby, in fact, if you go to the Kentucky Derby or Saratoga Racetrack in August, you’ll see nothing but CEOs with young girls, gambling their money away or worse, wasting it on their own horses. How is this any different from what Pete Rose did? And no one is banning Alex Rodriguez from baseball, even though what he did using steroids is more disrespectful to the integrity of the game than betting on baseball. Pete Rose is about 1/1000ths as guilty of corrupting baseball as Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez, Jose Conseco and the whole lot of those steroid users. Bring back Pete Rose! We need guys like Pete Rose, guys who would go to Geno’s, eat a cheesesteak, sign about a thousand autographs, maybe pick up the local waitress, and then go out the ballpark and PLAY BASEBALL THE WAY IT WAS MEANT TO BE PLAYED. Pete Rose used to RUN to first on walks. He’d slide on every play. If the play was close at home, he’d try and destroy the catcher. He always went all out on ever fly ball, every grounder, every single foul ball. He backed up other fielders just in case, which is how he caught that foul ball that fell out of bob Boone’s glove in the World Series for out two in the ninth. He ALWAYS was running hard to get the extra base. If he hit a single that wasn’t right at the left or right fielder, Rose was gone to second, stretching it to a double. No matter where the ball was hit, if he was on second, he was taking a big lead and was going to try and score, and test your arm doing it. He always knew the situation; how many outs, what the score was, who was playing where. If you needed a ball to the right side of the infield, he gave you one. If you needed a bunt, he gave you one. If you needed a home run, he’d jack one out of the park, because he could do that when he needed to also. He did whatever was required to win. At age 40, Pete Rose was ten times the player that most guys would ever be at age 25. He was the best I ever saw, bar none, and I include many great players in that list, guys like Hank Aaron, Mike Schmidt, Ken Griffey Jr., and so forth. Pete did more with less natural ability than anyone who ever played the game. He could switch hit, he could run, he could field almost every position (he played second base, third base, first base, left field in his career) and he played major league baseball long enough to collect more than 4,000 hits. I say if Pete Rose played in Joe Jackson’s era, he’d of been better than Joe Jackson, and if Joe Jackson had played in Pete Rose’s era, Joe Jackson couldn’t have touched Pete Rose. If Pete Rose had played against Babe Ruth in the 1920s, and Pete Rose had decided to hit homers for a year, Pete Rose could have hit 70 of them I believe. I think Pete Rose could have been better than any ballplayer in any era at any time. That’s how good I think he was, how good I think he is, and Bud Selig, the Commissioner of Baseball, is wrong to bar Pete Rose from the game, while allowing known perjurers liars and convicts to populate the clubhouses in the form of these steroid users. It’s a double and triple standard of justice that I can’t get on board with, and neither should you. I support the players union but I don’t support what’s going on. Let’s ban all the cheaters and let’s rehabilitate a man who stood for decency and fair play on the field, and let him apologize, and let’s forgive him his trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Let’s forgive Pete Rose.

–Art Kyriazis Philly/South Jersey
Home of the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies
March 10, 2009

The Sixers stood pat at the trade deadline and promptly came out of the all-star break looking awful, dropping five of six. Meanwhile, Miami, which is in a position to catch Atlanta for the #4 see in the NBA east playoffs (the Sixers are 6th, Miami is 5th, and Atlanta is 4th), made a major move, obtaining Jermaine O’Neal from Toronto, though they had to give up some talent to get him. O’Neal always give the Sixers problems because he’s a good big man who’s mobile and can outplay Dalembert one on one. He will likely give Atlanta problems as well in the playoffs, incidentally.

In the meantime, looking from a distance, the Sixers have not really capitalized on the big event of the season, which is the decline and fall of the Detroit Pistons. While Orlando has risen up to join Cleveland and Boston as division leaders, the Pistons now have a worse record than the Sixers, and this was a Detroit team that last year was the #2 seed playing the Sixers and defeating them at the #7 seed. Right now
Detroit is the #7 seed BEHIND philly and fading out of the playoffs.

When a major team like this is out of the playoff picture, your GM should be approaching them about obtaining one of their players at the trade deadline, like a Rasheed Wallace, who can hit the three and rebound, and doesn’t have that much time left on his contract. He could have helped the Sixers. Or even Allen Iverson, who while obviously in the decline phase of his career, could have helped the Sixers coming off the bench, or playing the two guard, a position that has been a problem for the Sixers this year. Iverson could have helped the Sixers playing alongside Andre Miller, with Iguodala up front and Dalembert and either Young or Speights playing the power forward.

Even if AI only played 20 minutes a game, he’d help.

But the Sixers have done nothing. They instead committed everything to a gigantic blunder by signing Elton Brand, who is hurt, injured and will never be better, I predict. Even if he comes back, this is starting to look like the Jeff Ruland situation all over again. A hurt player who will never play like he did pre-injury. Or Glenn Robinson. Or Chris Webber. Or any of ten other guys that have come to this ballclub hurt and making a bundle. The guys who can play and never get hurt, like Barkeley and AI, we seem to give away for nothing.

Or Brad Doughery or Moses Malone.

How about this team?

Brad Dougherty, Moses Malone, AI, Charles Barkeley, Wilt Chamberlain.

You think you could win a few championships with that team?

That’s the five greatest sixers in history traded for virtually nothing.

For those five NBA hall of famers, the Sixers received; Roy Hinson, Jeff Ruland, Andre Miller, Jeff Hornacek, Darrell Imhoff and some other throw in players.

Those are five ok players, but not hall of famers.

Malone, Barkley and Chamberlain are 3 of the top 10 all time NBA rebounders of all time, incidentally, while if you add AI, you’ve got four of the top 25 scorers in NBA history as well. Dougherty, though he was finished early by his back, was a stud every year he was in the league, 20 ppg and 10 rebounds or more. The Sixers could have had Dougherty AND Barkeley for ten years straight. They would have won five championships in all likelihood with that combination. Even against Michael Jordan that combo wins.

The late Timmy Ling, my dear prep school classmate and friend, used to make fun of the Sixers’ drafts when we were in high school. During those years, the Sixers took some #1 draft picks as follows;

1969 – Bud Ogden
1970 – Al Henry
1971 – Dana Lewis
1972 – Freddie Boyd

Ling was relentless making fun of Ogden, Henry, Lewis and Boyd, and justifiably so. While other teams were drafting some of the greatest players in history in these years (Kareem Abdul Jabbar, for example) the Sixers basically decided, we aren’t going to get into a bidding war with the ABA, so we’ll just draft nobodies and pay nothing to no one. It was horrible, and got worse when Billy Cunningham walked to the ABA in 1973. The franchise hit bottom when they won only 9 games in the 73 season, still an NBA record for futility. Shortly thereafter, came George McGuiness and Dr. J and the big turnaround, but it was a bad stretch.

They got it right in 1973 with Doug Collins, but in 1974 the Sixers drafted Marvin Barnes, who I think is dead or in rehab now, but anyway, Barnes was about 7 foot, but had a drug and rap sheet as long as could be, and he ended up in the ABA and in jail much more than on the court. In 1975 the sixers drafted Darryl Dawkins #1 right out of high school.

Dawkins in today’s NBA would have been a star. In the condensed NBA of the 70s, he was only ok. He wasn’t as good as the best centers, and consequently was underrated at the time. Today, he’d be a star in the expanded NBA.

In 76 and 77 the Sixers drafted #1 Terry Furlow and Glenn Moseley, non-entities, but in 1978 they picked Mo Cheeks, a legend. 1979 was a miss, but 1980 got them Andrew Toney with the #1, and Andrew Toney became the Boston Strangler. Though his career was shortened by injury, Toney would have become a Hall of Famer with longevity.

And, of course, 1984, #1 pick was Charles Barkeley, who was the quintessential hall of famer and probably the Sixers’ best player since Wilt and before AI.

Even though Sir Charles is a DWI man, and spit on girls while he was here, and is overly fond of guns, we still like him because he’s a bit of a buffoon, and a bit of a thinking man’s man. Also, he lived to rebound and score, and he rebounded and scored because that’s what he lived for. 20 ppg and 10 rebounds pg were his calling card, and he punched those in every season like clockwork.

and no one his size (as short as he was) ever led the league in rebounding once, let alone several times.

When he played alongside moses malone, who was basically the same kind of player as Sir Charles, the two were an unstoppable force.

But the Sixers broke them up with trades, and also traded away Dougherty; Dougherty, Malone and Barkeley would have been the core of an unstoppable basketball team. You’re talking three guys who clocked 10-15 win shares every year routinely.

And we wonder why the Sixers never win championships or make the playoffs like they used to. For a while they wanted to trade Dr. J too.

Getting back to the now, Eddie Stefanski has watched and done nothing while Atlanta, a horrible team, passed the Sixers by this past year. He made noise about signing Josh Smith of Atlanta, but never got serious. Instead, Atlanta got him back, signed Bibby from Sacramento and added both a point guard and three point threat and made the playoffs last year; this year they are the fourth seed and playing much like the sixers, a young, running team, except that Atlanta are better at it than the Sixers because they can shoot the three. If I’m sitting down comparing Atlanta to the Sixers, I’m saying Atlanta has the better squad right now, up and down the lineup. It’s not close.

And because it’s not close, and because you want the 4th seed if you can’t have a LeBron, a Howard, a Garnett like Cleveland, Orlando or Boston, you have to compare what you do have to what the competition has, and try and get better at the trade deadline. Miami did this but Philly did not. I see this as weakness from the GM and a refusal to invest in the team. Furthermore, weakness caused by commitment to Elton Brand.

I had a lot of comments in the AI post, below, about what’s wrong with Elton Brand and why the salary cap dump of the AI trade was botched by the Brand sigining. In a word, the Sixers moved too quickly to lock up their salary cap room with the wrong guy. they should have waited for someone better and waited another year if necessary.

It wasn’t necessary to fire mo cheeks. Cheeks’ record was mainly due to Brand playing a poor brand of basketball; once he was pulled from the lineup, the team played better automatically. While Tony DiLeo gets some credit, the fact is the team played better because subtracting Brand was addition by subtraction.

Cheeks is the guy who got them to the playoffs last year. It remains to be seen if DiLeo has the necessary skills to get the Sixers to the playoffs and actually win two games if he gets there. I doubt that he does.

Art Kyriazis
Philly/South Jersey
Home of the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies


March 4, 2009

John Smallwood in yesterday’s Philly Daily News (tuesday march 3 2009) p. 62 writes in his column “Firing on Fewer Pistons: Aging Iverson Becoming Shell of His Former Dynamic Self”, basically, that Allen Iverson, the Answer, AI, is done and should retire and get on with his life.

In support of this thesis Smallwood cites three basic arguments:

1) Detroit has been 22-28 with Iverson, 3-1 when Iverson doesn’t start and 6-0 when AI doesn’t play.

2) Denver and Philly got the better of the last two Iverson trades.

3) AI is posting the worst numbers of his career this year, below 20 ppg and only 5.1 assists per game.

As you know, here at the Sophist, we think there are two sides to every question, and so we’re going to examine the other side of this argument. Is AI really done? Should we put a fork in him? Is he old? Should we start mailing the NBA pension checks to his mansion?

Well, we don’t think so, and here’s why.

Let me start by addressing the last argument first. It’s true that Allen Iverson is posting the worst numbers of Allen Iverson’s career. Allen Iverson, career, is a 27.1 ppg scorer, and career has averaged 6.2 assists, 2.2 steals and 3.6 turnovers. This year with Detroit, he has averaged 18.0 points, 5.0 assists, 1.6 steals and 2.5 turnovers.

This is where we point out something that Bill James and all the other statheads in the world have been saying for years. THE DECLINE PHASE OF A GREAT PLAYERS CAREER WILL BE GREATER THAN THE DECLINE PHASE OF AN AVERAGE PLAYER’S CAREER. Allen Iverson, even in decline, is still a great NBA player.

Let’s look at the 76ers. Andre Iguodala, who is in his prime as a player, is averaging only 18.0 ppg. Iguodala is 25 years old. Iverson is 34 years old, and averaging also 18 ppg. What is a terrible season for Iverson, is the very best that Iguodala can do.

Think about that for a second. Why did Wilt Chamberlain play until he was 40? Why did Elgin Baylor play until he was 40? Why did Jerry West play until he was 40? Why did Hal Greer play so many years?

It’s because great scorers like Allen Iverson, like Hal Greer, like Elgin Baylor, like Dr. J, even in their decline phase of their careers, are still more effective than the very best players in the NBA who are very gifted.

Looking at win shares, Iverson has 2.7 win shares this year for Detroit, but last year he had 12.6 win shares for Denver. The top two guys for the Sixers, Iguodala and Miller, have 6.5 and 7.1 win shares each, and that’s about as good as they get. Neither of them will get 12 win shares in a good year. On the Pistons, no one has more than 4.3 win shares, and that’s Tayshoun Prince. the win shares on Detroit are very evenly distributed because Prince, Wallace, Hamilton, McDyess, AI, Stuckey, Maxiell and Johnson all have 2 or more win shares, and they all score, rebound, hand out assists or play a lot of defense. They have a team concept in Detroit.

AI’s numbers in Detroit, therefore, reflect an ADAPTATION to the game as played in Detroit, which is a defensive game, low offensive production, a much slower pace and team play.

Next, AI has played by far the most minutes of any of the Pistons, except for Tayshoun Prince; Prince has played 2214 minutes, while Iverson has played 1913 minutes; Wallace has played 1831 minutes, while Stuckey has played 1785 minutes, and Hamilton 1702 minutes.

It’s obvious that the coach in Detroit has not played his players evenly. He’s taken two hundred minutes away from Stuckey and Hamilton and given them to Iverson, even though Stuckey is younger and Hamilton is taller and can play better defense.

Part of the problem here is that Iverson, Stuckey and Hamilton all play the 2 guard; Stuckey can play the point, and should play the point, but even then Hamilton and Iverson both play the 2 guard.

If I was coaching the team, I’d start Hamilton and bring Iverson in with the second unit, because Iverson against the second unit of the other team would cause chaos and destruction, and also the three guard set up with Stuckey, Hamilton and Iverson can run with some opposing lineups and wear them down.

But clearly, the detroit coach has run Iverson into the ground by playing him too many minutes.

The result has been injuries to Iverson, and at 34, he is no longer indestructible, which is why he is being evaluated for back injuries this late in the season.

If I had an Iverson, I’d have played him less in the regular season and saved him for the playoffs, where we know he excels.

Furthermore, if Iverson has been hurt, and we know he plays hurt quite often, that would explain some of the decline in his numbers. He’s had some dreadful nites this year–and perhaps he’s been tired, hurt and not able to be AI. When he’s been rested, ready and healthy, he’s had some great nights this year for Detroit. He’s dropped 25 or more points on the Lakers and on many other qualify opponents in key wins during this year. And frankly, he’s looked at times much like the AI of old.

I’d say, rest him, keep his minutes down, and you’ll have AI of old always.

Per 36 minutes, Iverson is scoring 17.2 points, which is very productive. But Hamilton is scoring 18.9 points per 36 minutes, which suggest that Hamilton is the more efficient two guard.

Detroit needs to move one of them, and since Iverson’s contract is up, AI probably should go.

The Sixers should pick up AI (and Rasheed Wallace if possible) and make their run at the Eastern Division Crown, and dump Elton Brand. AI is the short term Answer to the Sixers 3 point and scoring issues in close games.

Also, in close games, AI can be the go-to guy with under a minute left. Finally, if AI teamed up with Andre Miller, they’d be fantastic. Andre Miller would be the best point guard AI ever played with, and Andre would get AI the ball where he could work with it, especially out on the break. I think Iguodala and AI would both be scorers in this system, while Dalembert, Young and Speights would all play defense and work the boards.

If Wallace could be added, he could play defence, work the board, and shoot the three. Then I think the Sixers could even keep Elton Brand and see if they had a monster team.

Turning to whether Denver got the better of the Billups-Iverson deal, at the time the deal was made, it looked even steven.

In 2007-08, Iverson earned 12.6 win shares for Denver, and had a monster season for them. Billups led the Pistons in 2007-08 with 12.8 win shares, while Hamilton Wallace and Prince each had 7.3, 7.2 and 7.1 win shares each. But there’s one other issue here, and that’s Billups salary–he was earning like 60 million over several years, while AI was only getting about 15-20 million for one more season.

So basically, the trade was even in terms of talent and win shares, but Detroit unloaded a boatload of cap room.

Let’s say hypothetically that Detroit wants to sign a big free agent in 2009-2010 or thereabouts–they would want AI and/or Wallace got–older players, along with Billups, who is also an older player–and want the cap room gone.

In that event, they could sign a LeBron James, a Kobe Bryant, or whoever is a big free agent to turn the franchise into a premier franchise for the long haul.

While it looks as if currently denver is getting the long end of the stick, Detroit will eventually get the better of this trade.

Some side points on Denver: Carmelo Anthony isn’t what he’s cracked up to be. Billups is leading the team with 7.7 win shares. Nene is second with 7.3 win shares. Then comes Chris Anderson with 3.6 WS, and Kenyon Martin with 3.5 WS, and guess who’s 5th most valuable player with only 3.1 win shares?

That’s right, Carmelo Anthony. By the way, AI got .2 win shares for Denver while he was there, so adding that to the 2.7 he has for Detroit, AI has 2.9 win shares for the season.

So AI has 2.9 win shares, while Carmelo has 3.1. Carmelo is 25 years old averaging about 21 ppg (last year it was 25 ppg) and yet he’s having about the same season, statistically, as Allen Iverson, 34 years old, who Smallwood of the Daily News says is washed up.

But last year, playing with AI, Carmelo had 8.9 win shares, and the Denver Nuggets played a beautiful uptempo offense, where AI and Carmelo played really well together–and Carmelo had a great season, averaging nearly 26 ppg and more than 7 rebounds a game, and more than 3 assists a game.

the fact is that Carmelo doesn’t fit with Chauncey Billups at all, whereas Iverson and Carmelo were a match made in heaven. Together, Carmelo and Iverson had 12.6 and 8.9, or 21.5 win shares together.

this year, Billups and Carmelo have 7.7 and 3.1 win shares together, or 10.4. The real reason Denver is winning is 1) Billups is scoring a lot 19 ppg and 2) Nene is scoring 14 ppg and 3) nene is playing defense and rebounding inside. Also, Smith, Martin and Kleiza are all scoring because Billups is getting them the ball.

Now let’s look at the last issue, did the Sixers get better by getting Andre Miller?

The Sixers had Allen Iverson ten years, from 1996-2006. During that time, AI was the #1 road draw in the NBA, had the world’s most popular sneaker, led the NBA in scoring four times, and the Sixers made the playoffs six of the ten years that he was here. Moreover, the Sixers advanced past the first round of the playoffs three of those years, and got to the NBA finals one of those years.

You’d have to say, that was pretty darn good for a guy that was 5 foot 9 dripping wet.

Oh, and he scored about 20,000 points or so while he was here.

AI was MVP of the league, All Star MVP twice, led the league in minutes played twice, and kept the stands filled in Philly.

He led the league in free throw attempts twice, and is on the career list there. He’s on the career list for a lot of things, including minutes played, free throws attempted, and points scored, and he’s third alltime in ppg during the playoffs.

we sat and watched him drop 50 ppg more than once during the playoffs. Spike Lee would have given anything to see this guy play for the Knicks, right?

I know that the other day was the 100th anniversary of Wilt Chamberlain scoring 100 points at Hershey, PA in March of 1962 against the New York Knicks. The Big Dipper averaged 50 points, 25 rebounds and more than 48 points a game that year for the Philadelphia Warriors and Eddie Gotlieb.

I met Wilt in LA at the Bar Marmont in LA with some friends in the VIP section. There were a lot of important types there like Rick Rubin and some SNL actors, but I only wanted to meet Wilt. My mom had been a teacher of his back in the 50s at Overbrook HS as a trainee when she first started in the school system, and always told me how tall he was, and how nice he was.

Well, Wilt was extremely nice. He was much taller than 7 foot 1, more like 7 foot 5, and he had two girls with him and a couple of lawyer types. I’m sure he really did sleep with 20,000 women, and that circular house of his is famous, it was in a brian dipalma film once. Wilt lived the life of riley, he hung out at the playboy mansion, slept with any girl he wanted, and was noted for being a conservative and careful stock investor. He was very wealthy when he died, a bachelor to the end. He was frugal, intelligent and careful with his money.

I mention Wilt because we never thought we’d see a scorer like Wilt again, and then there was AI, who dazzled this town for ten years with his exploits. On any given night, AI could put up 50, 60 points. He wasn’t Wilt, but he had Wilt’s attitude that no one could stop him, and he ATTACKED the basket like Wilt used to do. AI was a lot like Wit–he existed to score, and scoring was his reason for existence.

I thought for a while that AI might score a hundred points in a game. On February 12, 2005, he lit up Orlando for 60 points. I mention this because that was barely four years ago. And he only made two three pointers in that game. 17 field goals and 24 free throws–Wilt made 28 free throws and 36 field goals in the 100 point game. It’s hard to believe that the Sixers could have traded AI just a year and a half after this incredible performance–the greatest single game performance by a 30+ athlete in the NBA in my humble opinion, and I remember watching the game on cable–but there you go.

So Smallwood thinks the Sixers did better getting Andre Miller? Well, let’s see. Since the trade, the Sixers have made the playoffs once in three years. they missed the year they traded Iverson, 06-07, they made it the next year, 07-08, and they may make it this year.

Iverson, on the other hand, made the playoffs immediately with Denver his first year there, 2006-07, made it the next year 2007-8, while having a spectacular comeback season (as did Carmelo Anthony, see above), and this year, even having an offyear with Detroit, will probably make the playoffs with the Pistons as the #7 or #8 seed. The way the Sixers are going the second half, the Pistons will probably pass them and reach the #6 or #5 seed, actually, so the Sixers are not even a lock for the playoffs.

On December 5, 2007, playing for Denver, Iverson dropped 51 on the Lakers. Iverson was now 32 years old. What a performance. It was on national TV, of course.

On December 23, 2005, Iverson dropped 53 on Atlanta in Atlanta, surely pleasing all the rappers in attendance down there. He was 30 years old.

None of this, of course, sounds like a guy who was, is or will be washed up at age 34, 35 or whatever.

Let’s look at AI this year.

On December 19, 2008, AI dropped 38 on Utah at home in Detroit for the Pistons.

On February 19, 2009, not a week ago, AI dropped 31 on the San Antonio Spurs, his second best game of the year.

On November 11, 2008, AI dropped 30 on the Sacramento Kings.

AI has had 17 games of 20 or more points for the Pistons this year. In only five games did he fail to score in double figures. He is now 33 years of age.

Getting back to Andre Miller, Miller’s win shares for Denver had declined from 9.1 to 7.2 to 6.4 in the three seasons leading up to the Miller for Iverson trade. In short, Miller looked to be declining in an age-related fashion.

AI had gone 9.4, 10.9, 6.5 Win Shares the same three seasons. It was not clear that he was in age-related decline at all. What we do know about Iverson is that his win shares and seasons follow no predictable pattern, that he has off years followed by great ones;

1996-97 4.3 WS
1997-98 9.0 WS
1998-99 7.2 WS
2000-01 6.9 WS
2001-02 11.7 WS (MVP)
2002-03 6.8 WS
2003-04 9.2 WS
2004-05 2.7 WS (injured, played 48 G)
2005-06 10.6 WS
2006-07 6.5 WS (Phila, Denver)
2007-08 12.6 WS
2008-09 2.9 WS (Denver, Detroit)
Total 100.1 WS

What you see here is a great player, because seasons over ten win shares are MVP seasons. Iverson has had several of these, and the MVP voting has reflected this.

Also, you can see he needs a season to adjust to a new team before he can come back. His second season in Denver, he was brilliant. If he has a second season in Detroit, he should be better. When he was injured in Philly, he came back and had a monster year.

Also, we see that the Sixers must be idiots, because they traded him the year after he had a monster year, 2005-06, 10.6 win shares. So there was no logic in trading him, he was not only a good player, but a great one.

Basically, the sixers were looking to clear salary cap room, and that’s all.

The next season, after the trade, 2007-08, AI had 12.6 win shares, as we know from above.

Miller has had 8.1 and 7.1 win shares with the Sixers the last two season, so he’ll probably end up with around 8 win shares this year. He’s by far the most valuable Sixer. And yet the Sixers have not signed a contract with Miller and seem to want to let him leave.

As for the salary cap room, the Sixers wasted it on Elton Brand.

Elton Brand is 30 years old. He had 10.3, 15 and 11.4 win shares for the Clippers in 2004-05, 05-06 and 06-07, but the last two years, he’s played 8 games and 29 games due to injury, last year with an ACL and this year with a torn labrum and bad shoulder.

The last time Elton Brand scored 30 or more more points in a game was April 12, 2007 for the Clippers.

The last time Elton Brand scored 40 or more points in a game was February 10, 2006 for the Clippers.

The guy who’s become a “shell of his former dynamic self” is not Allen Iverson, but Elton Brand.

After earning 11.4 win shares in 2006-2007, Brand earned .4 win shares in 2007-2008, and then the Sixers paid him all of the cap room they had (a gazillion dollars) even though he was hurt and damaged goods, and old and shot, and no evidence he could come back from injury (i’d have given him a one year deal), and he promptly came out, played badly, got hurt and is back on the shelf.

Brand earned 1.1 win share this year.

AI is 300% better than that this year, and AI is having a bad year for AI. Last year, we know that AI had 12.6 win shares, while Brand had hardly any.

So did the Sixers make out better with the Miller for AI trade? I think not. While Miller fits the team better because they needed a point guard, the Sixers could have found a point guard other than Miller.

First, they should never have traded Eric Snow so early.

Second, they could have worked out a deal for Delonte West, who is making money feeding the ball to LeBron James.

Third, Bibby was on the market and Atlanta got him.

Fourth, Jason Kidd was on the market, and is now at Dallas. He’s still on the market.

Fifth, there’s always point guards of quality available. The key is, AI is not a point guard, he’s a two guard.

So this is not the end for AI.

I know one team that would covet AI, and that’s the Knicks. They need an exciting presence there.

If they signed Andre Miller and AI, they’d have a team right away with the young players they’ve developed this past year.

The sixers have to be careful. The people they don’t sign will go to their competition in the NBA East, and they will regret their non-moves.

AI should retire in a Sixers Jersey. It’s appropriate to bring him home.

–art kyriazis philly/south jersey
home of the world champion philadelphia phillies

Time Magazine just did a cover story on stem cell research, which is commendable. They also entitled the story “The Quest Resumes,” which is commendable, focusing on the fact that the Federal Government, under the Obama Administration, may finally allow (this may already have been approved by executive order) federal funds for stem-cell research at federally funded research institutions.

However, the subtitle of the article is “After eight years of political ostracism, stem-cell scientists like Harvard’s Douglas Melton are coming back into the light—and making discoveries that may soon bring lifesaving breakthroughs.” Time Feb 9, 2009 at p. 36.

Now, let’s examine that for a second—In Massachusetts, where Prof. Melton plies his craft, the Commonwealth and State of Massachusetts, like the State of California, has voted state support of stem-cell research at institutions of higher education. Therefore in Massachusetts, like California a bastion of biotechnology, the biotech lobby was able to secure state support for stem-cell research during the eight-year long federal ban on such research. So compared to the other 48 states, Prof. Melton was actually at an advantage because his lab was in Massachusetts.

Because of the federal funds ban, a great deal of stem cell-research has begun to spring up in places like Southeast Asia, as the Time Magazine article correctly notes, and as it well-known in the biotech industry. But a lot of it is also staying put in Cali and Mass due to those states putting up seed money for biotech research that is stem cell oriented.

Next, Prof. Melton works as co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI), which Harvard has committed substantial resources to supporting over the past eight years and well into the future. According to their 2008 report, their annual spending has grown in the past two years from just over $5 million to over $16 million in fiscal year 2008, most of that culled from private and corporate donations. HSCI currently has no less than eight ongoing challenge grant research projects sponsored for $75,000 each, all of them stem cell oriented.

Now I am a powerful supporter of stem-cell research, and I strongly advocate that the federal government support stem cell research. The question I have for Time Magazine is, and maybe perhaps for the Federal Government, is HSCI the most needy recipient for federal funds for stem cell research? The article omits that HSCI is well-funded by private donors, and omits that Massachusetts provides state support (it is not clear if HSCI accepts Massachusetts money) and therefore the article in Time is somewhat misleading.

The argument for funding HSCI federally has to be this; we, e.g. HSCI, made a good faith effort to get the ball rolling the past three years through private financing, we have already a lab in motion with research projects, so if you fund us, we will be three years closer to getting results than any other academic lab you choose to fun. Consequently, their NIH grant requests will carry a certain heft.

On the other hand, they are not as dramatically in need of the money as some other labs who don’t have any private funding at all.

A more useful article would have been to depict the overall situation in the rest of the United States, and some of the labs outside CA & MA.

This is an interesting issue and one on which arguments on both sides would and could be marshalled.

It should be pointed out that I strongly support the work of Prof. Melton and the work of HSCI. Those initiatives were put into place by then President Lawrence Summers, along with the Broad Institute initiative, a few years back, and clearly they have had the effect of putting Harvard back on the map in terms of genetics and molecular biology research.

The good news about the Time article is that the words “Stem Cells” made the cover, along with a nice bio-photo. If nothing else, Americans this week can forget about the economy and the war for a moment and realize that stem cell research is an answer to many of our problems that don’t involve boundaries and account balances and fumes spewing out of our cars.

–art kyriazis philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies

This is a letter to the editor I wrote back in 1997 debunking an article someone had written praising attorney general Jeremiah Sullivan Black, who notoriously served under President James Buchanan.

The author had said the Black was a nice fellow from Pennsylvania who had brought credit to his state.

I pointed out that Black was notorious in the history books for conspiring with Buchanan and Chief Justice Roger Taney to bring about the awful ruling in Dred Scott, which helped bring about the Civil War and the secession of the Southern States.

It’s important to note that as late as 1857, prior to Dred Scott, the Civil War might still have been avoided.

But Buchanan, Black and Taney, with the awful Dred Scott decision, pretty much made sure that the US was plunged into what one Republican of the day called “the irrepressible conflict.”

So here’s what I wrote back in 1997 on the subject. It’s of interest today, of course, since we now have our first African-American President, to consider Dred Scott in retrospect, since everyone agrees it was the single worst decision of the United States Supreme Court.

April 6, 1997

To the Editor:

Regretfully I must take issue with my colleague ____________________ article praising James Buchanan’s Attorney General/Secretary of State and former Pennsylvania Chief Justice Jeremiah Sullivan Black for his role in “saving” the United States during the secession crisis of November 1860-March 1861.

To preface, why must we care about this critical aspect of United States history? The answer is simple. Racism is, was and continues to be the predominant issue of our society. To paraphrase W.E.B. DuBois, the color line has been the dividing line of the 20th century.

One of the most shocking aspects of this society is the extent to which racism still permeates and soaks our society in its noxious fumes. Without an understanding of the historical context of the civil war, the end of slavery and of the events immediately preceding the civil war, we fall victim to fooling ourselves into thinking that lawyerly compromisers like Jeremiah Sullivan Black, who were prepared to accept slavery, accept Dred Scott, and accept the extension of slavery all the way to California south of Missouri as called for in the Crittenden compromise, were the moral or ethical equivalent of real heroes like Garrison, Sumner, Seward and Lincoln. The fact is that all the historical revisionism in the world cannot make a Sumner or a Lincoln of a man as limited and narrow in his views as was Jeremiah Sullivan Black.

It was Dante who said that the lowest places in hell are reserved for those who fail to take an ethical stand in times of crisis.

The truth is that the real heroes of those times were Garrison, Sumner, Seward and the so-called “radicals” who understood that law books and laws meant nothing when dealing with the moral wrongness of slavery and men in chains, sold as chattels. And yet, those individuals were vilified in their day, seen as extremists, radicals, far-left wingers–simply because they advocated the political and legal freedom and equality of African-Americans with all other Americans guaranteed to them in the Declaration of Independence, a position most eloquently argued by Lincoln in his debates with Douglas in 1858 and one which is clearly accepted today by the vast majority of law-abiding and freedom-loving Americans.

But what were those men but heroes taking an ethical and moral stand in a time of crisis? Isn’t this why we celebrate Lincoln, while James Buchanan is all but forgotten?

Unfortunately, there must be a historical litmus test applied to persons alive and practicing law and holding high office in the years when slavery was the law of this land. Simply because Black corresponded to the so-called safe middle and the racist, legalistic tenor of his times, exemplified in Dred Scott and in the subsequent 1858-59 prosecution of John Brown, Attorneys General like Jeremiah Sullivan Black can never be praiseworthy or praised historically, legally or ethically in retrospect. His actions were by and large wrong, they contributed to the death and suffering of millions of African-Americans, and they helped bring on the Dred Scott decision, the Harpers Ferry incident, the secession crisis and the Civil War, which in turn lead to the enormous bloodshed of the American Civil War.

Jeremiah Sullivan Black was hardly a Charles Sumner or William Seward to begin with. He was appointed Attorney General almost simultaneously with the announcement on March 6, 1857 of the Dred Scott decision, a decision which many historians agree was the product in part of direct and improper solicitations by Buchanan of individual justices constituting the Southern majority on the court, in order to persuade them to come up with a broader decision expanding slavery beyond its current territorial bounds. In those days, the Presidential inauguration was held on March 4, and therefore Dred Scott was announced just two days after Buchanan took office on March 4, 1857.

Was this timing mere coincidence? The best research suggests that it was not so.

Buchanan’s role, and by implication Black’s role, in doing nothing to criticize Dred Scott, and doing everything to bring about Dred Scott and to broaden its applicability, are reprehensible in historical hindsight. Moreover, the best evidence suggests that President-Elect Buchanan solicited the Southern Judges on the Supreme Court in early 1857 to deliver the broad Dred Scott decision in a deliberate effort to broaden the reach of slavery to a constitutionally protected level beyond the power of the legislative enactments such as the Missouri Compromise of 1820, the Compromise of 1850 and Kansas-Nebraska of 1854.

Historian Allan Nevins in his landmark work The Emergence of Lincoln 1950) advances strong proof of evidence of impropriety in communications between Buchanan and members of the Supreme Court in the days before the decision was announced; and the decision was announced on March 6, 1857, two days after Buchanan was inaugurated.

The evidence as marshalled by Nevins and many other prominent historians suggests that Buchanan asked the Southern majority on the Court to decide Dred Scott broadly. The Oxford Guide to the Supreme Court specifically notes that Buchanan used an intermediary associate justice of the Supreme Court to convey his wishes to Chief Justice Taney that the Court rule broadly in Dred Scott, and that if they did so, the Buchanan Administration was prepared to enforce the decision legally and if necessary, by force.

As the attorney general appointed directly in the wake of Dred Scott, it was Black’s role specifically to defend and uphold Dred Scott, particularly in jurisdictions which up to that point had been considered “free” under the Missouri compromise and other laws separating free from slave.

As a defender of Dred Scott, and indeed, as Attorney General during the implementation of Dred Scott, Black’s historical role is nothing less than despicable. No just-thinking person in today’s world should have anything good to say about a man like Black given his actions from 1857 on in defending the Dred Scott decision. Black did everything in his power as Attorney General to defend Dred Scott, broaden the reach of slavery and thereby delay the emancipation of African-Americans in the United States.

It was this interference of Buchanan directly with the Supreme Court’s Southern wing which wrote the Dred Scott ruling which triggered William Seward’s famous speech “The Irrepressible Conflict,” delivered October 25, 1858 in Rochester, New York. Incidentally, ____________________ incorrectly cites the speech to 1850 at p. 66 of his article, a gross historical inaccuracy since the speech clearly post-dates and is in response to the Dred Scott decision.

In this brilliant speech, William Seward, a great man of history, sets out to demonstrate that “[t]he history of the Democratic party commits it to the policy of slavery. It has been the Democratic party, and no other agency, which has carried that policy up to its present alarming culmination.” William Henry Seward, “The Irrepressible Conflict”, The World’s Great Speeches (Dover 1973) at 295-96. After a historical exegesis, Seward continues;

“The Democratic party, finally, has procured from a supreme judiciary, fixed in its interest, a decree that slavery exists by force of the constitution in every territory of the United States, paramount to all legislative authority, either within the territory or residing in Congress. Such is the Democratic party….It is positive and uncompromising in the interest of slavery….” David Donald, Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War (U. of Chicago 1960) at 180-81.

The direct solicitation of Dred Scott by Buchanan was a charge made and repeated often in the days following Dred Scott, and in reading the primary sources today buttressed by historical research done more recently, there is no reason to doubt the contemporary conclusions that Buchanan wanted Dred Scott and sought it out. The charge was made at the time, the charge is made today, and frankly, the charges are true. If it walks like a duck, and it talks like a duck, chances are, it’s a duck.

Seward’s speech should be read and re-read 100 times by all american citizens.

Black was no more and no less than a legalistic defender of slavery in his time. Given the chance to do something historically important, he chose to do nothing at all good and lots of things bad. Nothing he did or said can ever render him a hero.

Black was the kind of gutless wonder that belongs in those lower pits of Dante’s Inferno.

Nor can we allow to pass ____________________’s incomprehensible conclusion that “Buchanan and Black were right–abolitionist pressure did bring on the Civil War.” Buchanan was the key instigator of the secession crisis because Buchanan solicited the Dred Scott decision and then went out of his way (together with Black) to defend it and urge it on all Americans. Moreover, in historical hindsight, everything which the abolitionists did and said was completely and 100% correct and morally and legally justified.

The arguments and moral force of Sumner and Garrison and Seward are the only words from that period which ring true today. In dealing with slavery and comparable morally compelling situations (the German Nazi regime of the 1930s and 1940s comes to mind) there is no room for compromise or for hugging the middle.

What was needed was Lincoln’s and Teddy Roosevelt’s man of action. Instead, what we got in Buchanan and Black were a pair of Pennsylvania apologists for the Southern slavery regime.

Worse, Buchanan appears to have secretly intrigued to bring about Dred Scott and to secretly help his Southern Democratic slaveholding backers. By attacking the abolitionists, Buchanan and Black revealed themselves only to be apologists for a system of slavery which was inhuman, immoral and unconscionable.

Compared to the noble and dignified campaign of men like Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, who struggled from day one against all odds to do the right thing and campaign for the freedom, dignity and human rights of African-Americans in this country, Black was a moral midget.

Senator Sumner in 1849 attacked the legality of segregated schools in Boston and coined the phrase “equality before the law.” Although Sumner lost the Roberts case, six years later the Massachusetts legislature outlawed racial segregation in all schools in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Senator Sumner’s statue dominates the entrance to Harvard University at Johnston Gate even today, across from Mt. Auburn cemetary. It should. Senator Sumner is and was a great man.

For those who believe that a man like Black can be excused by the times and by the thoughts of his fellow man for being unenlightened, a short time reading Sumner’s works and speeches should disabuse anyone of such apologias. Unrestrained by the times or by the thoughts of his fellow men, Sumner, a practicing attorney and Harvard law school graduate, saw the truth for what it was and spoke directly and clearly about what he saw as the moral and ethical quicksand of any legal regime supporting slavery. To his eternal credit, Sumner opposed not only slavery but also segregation. Consequently, if Sumner could come to those views in the midst of his century, then a man like Black cannot be excused for failing to do so.

Indeed, Buchanan’s (and Black’s) celebration of Dred Scott, and their defense of it on the grounds that it was the “law” was what drove Lincoln in the Lincoln-Douglas debates to derive that there was a natural law, a law from a higher source, that in times like these had to substitute for the corrupt and improper judgment of a few men on an individual Supreme Court acting in concert with what they perceived to be a corrupt President (and Attorney General) openly siding with the forces of slavery.

This appeal to natural law, too, is the central argument of John Brown in his final speech before the Court before receiving sentence–“This Court acknowledges, too, as I suppose, the validity of the law of God. I see a book kissed, which I suppose to be the Bible, or at least the New Testament, which teaches me that all things whatsoever I would that men should do to me, I should do even so to them. It teaches me, further, to remember them that are in bonds as bound with them. I endeavored to act up to that instruction. I say I am yet too young to understand that God is any respecter of persons. I believe that to have interfered as I have done, as I have always freely admitted I have done, in behalf of His despised poor, I did no wrong, but right.” See John Brown, “On Being Sentenced to Death,” The World’s Great Speeches. (Dover 1973) at pp. 298-99.

We all know what John Brown was talking about. We know why he went to Harper’s Ferry on a virtual suicide mission, to liberate the slaves of the United States by force. John Brown’s death was a stirring call to action to many who had previously resisted force, and it scared the South deeply.

Jeremiah Sullivan Black as Attorney General also presided over the John Brown/Harpers Ferry incident of October-November 1859 and he did nothing during his Attorney Generalship to suggest that he possessed anything like the principled opposition to slavery which characterized Sumner, Garrison, Whittier, Garrett and other activists of the day. Nor did he ever evidence any understanding of the existence of a moral or natural law superior to the man-made law of his day.

Moreover, turning to the secession crisis period of December 1860-March 1861 which is the subject of _______________________’s piece, Black’s role during the secession crisis is not particularly worthy of praise.

In the first instance, Black’s views during these matters is a matter of public knowledge, since he carried on a virtually daily communication with the incoming Secretary of State William Seward, from December of 1860 to March of 1861. Seward visited Black freely during this time.

President Buchanan actually refused to meet with Seward, who was in charge of transition for Lincoln, and therefore Black played a go-between role between the incoming and outgoing administrations. The evidence suggests that Black’s main concern, far from saving the Union, was to avoid being prosecuted for treason by the incoming administration for the crime of cooperating too closely with the Southern states and particularly of conspiring with South Carolina to surrender Federal property in furtherance of a treasonous conspiracy.

Had Buchanan actually surrendered the forts and not followed Black’s advice, there is little doubt but that such a prosecution would have occurred upon Lincoln’s accession to power.

Compare this with modern Presidential transitions, and you readily see what the problem is.

Moreover, Black’s ideas on averting the secession crisis as expressed directly to Seward were less than praiseworthy. He spent one of their meetings asking Seward to compromise by having Seward accept, as a basis of settlement, simply the Constitution and laws as interpreted by the judiciary, a position which meant acceptance of Dred Scott.

Anyone even vaguely familiar with Seward’s and Lincoln’s views on the subject could not possibly have expected them to agree to such a “cave-in” of principle. It shows that Black assumed implicitly that no politician (even Seward or Lincoln) could possibly elevate moral principle over political expedience and thus highlights his true indifference to the moral enormity of his (and the South’s) crimes in carrying on and defending the institution of slavery.

In other words, even after the Southern states had announced secession, Black was still attempting to evangelize Republicans committed to the end of slavery on behalf of upholding Dred Scott.

Black also supported the Crittenden Compromise, which would have extended slavery to the area below the latitude of 36o30′ permanently in exchange for the Southern states returning to the Union fold, a policy which would have permanently institutionalized slavery in Arizona, New Mexico and Southern California well into the 20th century.

The real hero in the Buchanan cabinet was not Jeremiah Black, a Dred Scott apologist and party hack who does not even merit a mention in the notes to David Donald’s landmark study of Sumner. David Donald, Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War (U. of Chicago 1960).

Rather, the real hero was Edwin Stanton, who after becoming Attorney General and succeeding the inactive and pro-Southern Black, started meeting with Seward and advising him almost daily of the “treasons” being perpetrated in the Buchanan cabinet meetings.

It was Stanton who “leaked” to Seward the intent of Buchanan to essentially surrender the Southern forts (and specifically Ft. Sumter) over to the seceding South Carolinians, and by advising Lincoln through Seward, made it virtually impossible for Buchanan (and Black) to do anything other than the right thing and stand up for the Union. Henry Wilson, “Jeremiah S. Black and Edwin M. Stanton,” Atlantic Monthly (1870) at pp. 464-65.

Stanton, through his friend Peter H. Watson, kept Seward apprised daily of events in the Buchanan cabinet meetings. Stanton also met with Sen. Sumner and kept other apprised secretly as well.

Incidently, Black after the Civil War attempted to prove that Stanton had never discussed Cabinet meetings with Seward, but was later forced to admit that it was so. See David M. Potter, Lincoln and his Party in the Secession Crisis (Yale University Press, 1942) (5th printing 1967) at 252 et seq.

As a consequence, Seward was able to ask several congressmen to convene a Congressional select committee to look into the allegations of whether anyone in the Buchanan administration had improper connections with the South Carolina secessionists.

There is little question but that one of the implicit threats of convening the committee was to look into evidence for a possible criminal prosecution of Black, Buchanan and other pro-Southern members of the Cabinet in the event that Sumter and other forts were surrendered or less than vigorously defended. As such, Black in urging Buchanan to defend the forts from South Carolina acted not out of principle or out of devotion to the Union, but rather, out of calculated self-interest.

In short, Black wanted to save his own skin realizing that a new President and new Administration were coming into power and that wartime justice would soon be a reality. Trial and hanging for treason cannot have been far from Black’s mind in taking whatever actions he did to preserve the status quo of the South Carolina forts pending Lincoln’s accession to power.

Through this select committee and through the press Seward was able to circumscribe the Buchanan cabinet with a limited range of policy options so as to maintain the status quo until Lincoln’s inauguration on March 4, 1861.

It was this committee, together with the other actions of Seward and Stanton and others, which probably had the greatest influence on Black to persuade Buchanan to take actions to preserve the status quo. Buchanan’s (and Black’s) natural inclinations, as indeed he was accused of by the Republicans at the time, was to side with the South.

By contrast, in 1832, when faced with the nullification/secession crisis, also involving South Carolina, Andrew Jackson acted swiftly and decisively to muzzle and neuter the rebellion. Historians generally agree that there were many Southerners who did not wish to secede. The border states were still undecided on what to do and North Carolina and Virginia were not particularly willing to secede from the Union.

Strong action by Buchanan in December of 1860 and January of 1861 could have rallied the anti-secessionist forces in the Confederate states and stilled or stopped the secession crisis in its tracks. However, Buchanan did nothing of the kind, and but for the actions of Seward, Stanton and others which essentially orchestrated Black’s counsel, Buchanan would gladly have handed over all federal property to the South willingly.

Black did not like Seward and did not agree with any of the programs or plans of the Republicans. He saw nothing immoral or wrong about slavery. He also referred to Seward as the “Wolsey of the new administration” (a sarcastic referral to the Cardinal Wolsey of historical England) and later penned a famous work in part critical of Seward. See “The Character of Mr. Seward. Reply to C.F.Adams, Sr.” C.F. Black, Essays and Speeches of Jeremiah S. Black (New York, 1886).

Obviously the fact that Black continued to engage in debates with the New England liberals for years after the war demonstrates that Black was a man of limited moral and ethical sense who never understood the basic issue at hand, namely the moral and ethical wrongness of slavery.

Seward concluded his famous speech “The Irrepressible Conflict”, delivered October 25, 1858, as follows;

“I know, and you know, that a revolution has begun. I know, and all the world knows, that revolutions never go backward. Twenty senators and a hundred representatives proclaim boldly in Congress today sentiments and opinions and principles of freedom which hardly so many men, even in this free state [New York], dared to utter in their own homes twenty years ago. While the government of the United States, under the conduct of the Democratic party, has been all that time surrendering one plain and castle after another to slavery, the people of the United States have been no less steadily and perseveringly gathering together the forces with which to recover back again all the fields and all the castles which have been lost, and to confound and overthrow, by one decisive blow, the betrayers of the constitution and freedom forever.”

See William Henry Seward, “The Irrepressible Conflict”, The World’s Great Speeches (Dover 1973), at pp.297-98.

One can not imagine Attorney General Black or Secretary of State Black uttering those words of Seward, and indeed, Seward himself viewed Black together with Buchanan as “betrayers of the constitution and freedom”.

Nor can we forget Charles Sumner’s vigorous reply to Buchanan’s request that Massachusetts adopt the so-called Crittenden compromise;

“Massachusetts has not yet spoken directly on these propositions; but…such are the unalterable convictions of her people, they would see their state sink below the sea and become a sandbank before they would adopt those propositions acknowledging property in man.”

See Donald, cited supra, at p. 371.

Obviously, by contrast, Mr. Black celebrated Dred Scott, defended the Crittenden compromise, and as Attorney General and as ultimate prosecutor of John Brown, saw no problem morally, ethically or legally with the enforcement of laws and institutions designed solely to enslave others and keep them in a condition of slavery. That he counselled Buchanan to keep the South Carolina forts in American hands at the same time that he knew that William Seward (and Edwin Stanton), a Congressional select committee and others were looking directly over their shoulders and threatening to prosecute them after March of 1861 for treason, explains to a greater and more precise degree Black’s actions than any feelings of Black that the Union should be preserved.

Jeremiah Sullivan Black was presented a rare gift in life, the opportunity to be act rightly, to act moral, to be William Seward or Charles Sumner or Abraham Lincoln.

Given this opportunity, he chose to simply be Jeremiah Sullivan Black, just another Pennsylvania lawyer content to muddle through the middle rather than take a principled stand against what anyone could plainly see was wrong.

In his time, and in his day, Black was seen as a “betrayer” of freedom and of the constitution, and nothing advanced in ____________________’s article should lead us astray from Mr. William Seward’s well-developed and fully articulated conclusions of 1858 in that regard.

In his day, Black was derided and despised for his warm embrace of Dred Scott and Crittenden’s compromise, and it would be a waste of authorial energies to attempt to exhume his well-deserved historical internment.

In searching for Pennsylvanians to emulate, it would be wiser and better to dwell on the flower of Pennsylvania, our abolitionists and leaders of freedom like Garrett and Longwood and others who worked tirelessly for the end of slavery and for the equality before the law of African-Americans.

We have a proud and noble history of abolitionism and of many historical figures who risked their lives working on the underground railroad in the Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey regions.

Those are the local men and women whose works should be praised and discussed today. We cannot remind ourselves too many times of those great men and women who came before us. They were our Sumners and our Garrisons, our Lincolns and our Sewards. And that Martin Luther King studied seminary right here outside Philadelphia in the early 1950s.

If you have any questions, please kindly contact the undersigned.

Very truly yours,

Arthur J. Kyriazis


Art Kyriazis
Philly/South Jersey
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Happy New Year 2009

One of my beloved professors from college passed away recently, Professor Samuel P. Huntington, late of Harvard University. He was prolific, having written numerous books and articles, and was famous for his theories of political development. He wrote one of my most important letters of reference to graduate school and we had a good relationship. I liked him, he liked me, and I truly enjoyed the advanced graduate level seminar I took with him my senior year of college.

The paper I wrote for him in the seminar, the one which so impressed him that he wrote me a letter of reference for graduate school, Huntingon later used some of the ideas from in part for his famous paper published in 1993 in Foreign Affairs on the Clash of Civilizations; my original seminar paper had argued that older theories of political development emphasizing secularization as the main engine of modernization were now obsolete in light of the Iranian revolution and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, and that new theories were needed to take account of modernizations which utilized traditional and charismatic authorities such as religion and ethnic identities to bind together national feelings.

That paper and that seminar were timely for Huntington; he had just come off the State Department desk that spring from the catastrophe of the botched helicopter rescue in the Carter-Vance State Department as Undersecretary of State, and he was in the mood for reflection on past ideas which no longer seemed to work in the modern revolutionary-terrorist world. Huntington’s long road to his new paradigms began in that seminar room that spring and he had invited comment from all of us on not merely Iran but a number of subjects which were established in the political science pantheon. He was in a rare mood for an established professor; he was actually listening to what his students had to say, which was a rare and precious commodity for an academic long established at Harvard.

Huntington, who had long advocated the secularist and praetorian schools of modernism and political development, slowly developed, articulated and adopted these new views with a vengeance, and as a consequence, his article on the “Clash of Civilizations” became the most cited article in Foreign Affairs since the publication of George F. Kennan’s containment article in 1947. It was the novelty and willingness to ascend new theoretical ground that gave Huntington’s article such oomph.

Huntington’s later followup books and articles were all celebrated by the media and by the academy. What is striking about Huntington’s work (as opposed to mine or anyone else’s) is the thoroughness of the academic references and the depth of research and academic work that went into the new theories. He essentially developed a new paradigm for looking at developmental theory in the Kuhnian sense of that word, and did so in a way that captured the imagination of many scholars and many popular thinkers. This was a substantive achievement, especially coming from someone so closely identified with the Cold War establishment.

But Huntington did not merely throw out a new theory, as so many academics do today in papers; he erected an edifice, complete with substructure, foundation and plenty of academic digging to support what he had built in his article. It was so complete once he showed it to the world, it was readily apparent he had been working on it for more than ten years. It rapidly became his life’s capping achievement.

Huntington’s willingness to change and be flexible with his core beliefs and his core dogmas at such a late date in his academic career marked him as a scholar of the first rank. Most scholars develop one or two ideas when they are young, and then are afraid or unwilling to deviate from them later in life. Huntington was willing to risk all, because he saw that his earlier theories and ideas might be wrong, and went about searching for a new theory, a new paradigm, which would better explain the facts in the world about him.

He was, in a world, an empirical scientist of the first magnitude. Like Galileo and Copernicus, when he saw the data that proved the earth was not the center of the universe, he was unafraid to change his point of view and advance theories in keeping with what he saw and what he heard, instead of repeating theories he had learned or that he had advanced decades earlier which might have applied to different circumstances.

Professor Huntington was of old New England stock and proud of his heritage. His namesake was once President of the United States in Congress Assembled and had presided over the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation prior to the ratification of the United States Constitution during the very earliest years of American Independence. Huntington himself served several Presidents and administrations in various capacities and was noted for his acumen and wisdom.

He was a wonderful Professor, a good man, and I shall miss him. And most of all, he was a brilliant academic and a social scientist of the first order. In every way, and every day, he was a Harvard man. He was very much my notion of what a Harvard Professor should be, and for that reason too, I shall miss him also. It is doubtful that any like he shall pass this way again.

–Art Kyriazis Philly/South Jersey
Home of the World Champion Phillies
Happy New Year 2009


This is Professor Huntington’s official biography from the Harvard College website:

[cite to and cited from]

Samuel P. Huntington is the Albert J. Weatherhead III University Professor. He graduated with distinction from Yale at age 18, served in the Army, and then received his Ph.D. from Harvard and started teaching there when he was 23. He has been a member of Harvard’s Department of Government since 1950 (except for a brief period between 1959 and 1962 when he was associate professor of government at Columbia University). He has served as chairman of the Government Department and of the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies. His principal interests are: national security, strategy, and civil military relations; democratization and political and economic development of less-developed countries; cultural factors in world politics; and American national identity. During 1977 and 1978 he worked at the White House as coordinator of security planning for the National Security Council. He was a founder and coeditor for seven years of the journal Foreign Policy. His principal books include The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations (1957); The Common Defense: Strategic Programs in National Politics (1961); Political Order in Changing Societies (1968); American Politics: The Promise of Disharmony (1981); The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century (1991); The Clash of Civilizations and Remaking of World Order (1996); and Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity (2004).