Sunday, 12 August 2007

“Synthetic Indignation”

I leave you this fine evening with a column by George Will.


According to this news story (sent to me by the curmudgeonly Will Nehs), many Democrat candidates are worried that a Hillary Clinton presidential candidacy will hinder their electoral prospects. I foresee something interesting. People who say they will vote for Hillary, for fear of being thought sexist, will vote for the Republican candidate once they get into the voting booth. If this is right, then polls will overstate her popularity. I actually hope Hillary is the Democrat nominee. It’s time Americans got to evaluate her. To this point, only New Yorkers have been able to do that, and they’re hardly representative. If she is defeated in November 2008, it will put an end to the Clinton era.

Addendum: One of the Democrat candidates quoted in the story used the expression “tough road to hoe.” The expression is “tough row to hoe.” It’s a gardening term; one hoes weeds row by row. It’s possible that the candidate said “row” instead of “road,” in which case it was the reporter who made the mistake.

Addendum 2: On the question of how representative New York is, consider that in 2004, John Kerry got 48% of the vote nationwide but 59% of the New York vote. See here and here.


One of my readers, David Fryman, thinks I’m inconsistent by wishing to banish arm armor but not helmets or leg armor. Let me explain why I’m not inconsistent.

Suppose I had only one principle, to the effect that no armor of any sort may be worn by a batter. It would indeed be inconsistent of me to apply this principle only to arm armor. In fact, I have two principles, not one, and each has weight. One principle is that batters should not have an unfair advantage over pitchers. The other is that life-threatening injuries should be prevented.

The first principle militates against helmets and arm armor, but not leg armor. Leg armor is designed to protect against batted balls, not pitches. It does not, therefore, make a batter more likely to stand near the plate. I think the same is true of helmets, but I’ll concede that point to David for the sake of argument.

The second principle supports the use of helmets, but not arm or leg armor. Arm and leg injuries are not life-threatening, as head injuries are. So what do we have? Let’s summarize:

1. Leg armor. The first principle allows it; the second does not apply.

2. Arm armor. The first principle disallows it; the second does not apply.

3. Helmets. The first principle disallows it (this is what I conceded for the sake of argument); the second allows it.

The first two cases are easy cases. Leg armor should be allowed; arm armor should not. The third case is a hard case, for there are reasons both to allow and to disallow the use of helmets. When principles conflict, they must be weighted. I assign greater weight to the second principle than to the first, since the purpose of the second principle is to protect life, whereas the purpose of the first principle is to protect the integrity of the game. Life is more important than the integrity of a game, even if that game is baseball.

Please don’t misunderstand what I’m doing. I’m not trying to persuade David or anyone else to share my view about arm armor. I don’t care what he or anyone else thinks. What I’m concerned to deny is that my position is inconsistent. I have just explained why it is consistent.

Rebels Without a Cause

Bonnie and Clyde” (the movie) premiered 40 years ago this month, when I was 10. I don’t recall when or where I first saw it. It’s possible that I saw it at a drive-in theater with my mother and brothers, for we saw quite a few movies this way when I was growing up in Michigan. It’s also possible that I saw it years later on television. I do remember that the final violent scene had a profound effect on me. I guess I identified with Bonnie and Clyde, qua rebels, because their killing by law-enforcement officers seemed excessive. I played the scene over and over in my mind, trying to figure it out. As A. O. Scott points out in this New York Times story, explicit violence was unusual in 1967. We simply weren’t used to it. By the way, Scott is becoming conservative as he ages. Read his story and you’ll see what I mean.


The moonbats will not like this.


Yesterday, in beautiful Rockwall, Texas, I did my 14th bike rally of the year and my 410th overall. I’ve been doing bike rallies in Rockwall since 1989, when I moved to the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex from College Station. I missed two Hot Rocks rallies while doing weeklong tours in Colorado (in 1994 and 1995), so yesterday’s rally was my 17th in the past 19 years. Where does the time go?

My friends Phil and Randy went to DeLeon instead of Rockwall, since it was closer to Randy’s house in Granbury; but Joe, his son Jason, and Julius showed up in Rockwall. It was good to see them again after several weeks. The plan was to stay together, and we did. Joe and Jason ride a titanium tandem. Each time we ride, Jason gets stronger. It won’t be long before he and his father are killing the rest of us; but for the moment they’re no stronger than we are. (Two strong men on a tandem can ride faster than any man on a single bike.) Several hundred people showed up for the rally, at $30 a pop. I hope the proceeds are put to good use.

I told myself before the rally that I would be happy with 17 miles per hour as my average speed. I averaged 19.75 miles per hour two weeks earlier in Cleburne, but I didn’t expect Joe and Jason to go that fast. We’re training for the 100-mile course in Wichita Falls in two weeks, so the main thing was to stay safe and get acclimated to the heat. And hot it was! The official high temperature for the day at DFW Airport was 100° Fahrenheit. This is the first 100° day of the year in these parts, which is unusual. In some years, we’ve had 25 or more such days by now. It was also quite humid, which made for uncomfortable conditions. While riding, it wasn’t bad, since the wind has a cooling effect. As soon as you stopped, however (we stopped twice), you could feel the moisture on your skin. Everyone was drenched in sweat.

The four of us rode 19 miles the first hour and 19 the second, which gave us a good average speed with a little over an hour to go. I felt as good as I had two weeks earlier. My bike is running splendidly after the overhaul by Bicycles Inc. Every ounce of effort I put forth seems to go directly to the road. The course had many rolling hills on it, but I didn’t shift until about 45 miles in. When I got to the base of a hill, I would get out of the saddle instead of shifting down. There are no hills (to speak of) in Wichita Falls. In at least one way, that’s bad, because you can never coast. You have to pedal constantly.

We rode 18.1 miles the third hour, which knocked our average speed down to 18.7. A funny thing happened as we neared the town of Heath, near the southernmost point of the course. We had been joined by two other riders, who took turns with us at the front. One of them wore a Barloworld jersey, which I found interesting, since that team had just participated in the Tour de France for the first time. When we stopped in Heath for water and food, the rider said hello to me. It was my long-lost friend Sammy! I couldn’t believe it. Sammy and I were members of the Texas Wheels Cycling Club back in the early 1990s. We rode together many times. I always think of Sammy when I do the Lancaster rally, because he and I fought a vicious headwind one year and got off course. (Adversity binds people together.) I hadn’t seen him in years. We caught up with each other as best we could as we stood under the awning. Sammy was thinking of skipping the four-mile loop near Heath. I tried to talk him into doing it with us, but he seemed reluctant. When I saw him at the finish, he told me he had done the loop after all. I wish he had come with us. It was great to see a familiar old face.

Sometimes I think I’m weird for still doing bike rallies. Many people I used to see at rallies never show up anymore. They left the sport as quickly as they came into it. I wonder what happened to them. Did they have children? Did they move? Did they change jobs? Did they die? Did they become injured, sick, or disabled? Did they lose interest in the sport? I love riding my bicycle as much as ever, if not more so, and I can’t imagine not doing rallies. Even children wouldn’t stop me. Your life can’t stop when you become a parent. You must continue to do the things that give your life meaning and keep you strong and healthy. Yes, some things must change as a result of parenthood, but staying fit is not one of them. That is obligatory, not supererogatory. Joe shows that it’s possible to be both a good parent and a superb athlete. I didn’t say “easy”; I said “possible.”

The final few miles of the rally were fun. Joe, who gets cranky after a few hours of riding in the hot sun, denied that we had a tailwind, but he was wrong. The wind wasn’t stiff, but it was in our favor. (It says on the weather site that the average wind speed yesterday was 5.5 miles per hour. I don’t count it as a windy day unless it’s 10 or higher.) We averaged 17.94 miles per hour for the final 17:43 of riding, which gave us an average speed of 18.63 miles per hour for 61.4 miles. It was quite hot by the time we finished. After putting our bikes away, we met under an awning near the school for food, drink, and conversation. People were standing in front of mist machines to stave off the heat. There was a man giving away ice cream and sherbet. Applebee’s supplied sandwiches, brownies, and other goodies. There were huge coolers full of ice-cold soft drinks and bottled water. It was almost as much fun to talk about the ride as to do it. One thing that wasn’t fun to talk about was the two ambulances that came roaring past us as we rode. I hope nobody was seriously hurt. I missed my friend Norm Weatherby, who moved to Georgia a few years ago. He and I always ate our sandwiches together after this rally.

Speaking of food, I burned 1,976 calories during the ride. My maximum heart rate, which I saw twice (more than an hour apart), was 153. My average heart rate was 126. My maximum speed for the day was only 32.1 miles per hour, which shows that there are no big hills on the course. All in all, I had a wonderful ride. I hope Phil and Randy had as much fun in DeLeon as we did in Rockwall; but they probably didn’t, because I wasn’t there. What could be better than riding in the beautiful Texas countryside with friends?

Addendum: Here are clickable images from yesterday’s event. Please note that there was both a race and a rally. My friends and I did the rally, not the race. The lead pack of racers averaged 25 miles per hour, according to my friend George Chapman.


This album wins the prize for most bizarre song titles.

W. Bradford Wilcox on Religion and Family

The link between religious attendance and family life is particularly strong for men. Currently, men are 57 percent less likely to attend church regularly if they are not married with children, compared to men who are married with children. Women are 41 percent less likely to attend church regularly if they are single and childless. Marriage does more than bind a man to one woman; it also ties a man to a local congregation.

The question, of course, is why churchgoing is so tightly bound to being married with children. One reason is that marriage is one of the few rites of passage guiding the transition into adulthood. Another reason married men and women are more active religiously is that churches and synagogues give symbolic and practical support to family life. In such rites as a baptism and a bris, congregations erect a sacred canopy of meaning over the great chapters of family life: birth, childrearing, and marriage. Rabbis, pastors, and priests—particularly orthodox ones—offer concrete advice about marriage and parenthood. Congregations also have disproportionately high numbers of families who put family-centered living high on their list of priorities. These families offer moral and practical support to adults adjusting to the joys and challenges of married life and starting families. Not surprisingly, men and women who are married with children are more likely to gravitate toward church than are their single peers.

Children also drive parents to church. The arrival of a child can awaken untapped reserves of love, recognition of the transcendent, and concern for the good life in men and women—all of which make churchgoing more attractive. Parents looking to give their children a moral and spiritual compass seek out congregations, Sunday schools, and vacation Bible schools. All the data show that religious attendance peaks in the population among adults with school-age children.

Finally, marriage is more likely to drive men into church than women. Because women are more religious than men, on average, and because they usually take primary responsibility for the nurture of children regardless of their marital status, women’s religious attendance depends less on marriage than does men’s. Indeed, women with and without families are more likely to be regular churchgoers than similarly situated men.

For men, marriage, fatherhood, and churchgoing are a package deal. Men’s comparatively fragile faith often depends on wifely encouragement to flower. More important, fatherhood often awakens in men a sense of paternal responsibility that extends to their children’s religious and moral welfare. Men are much less likely to identify with and be able to fulfill the responsibilities of fatherhood—including the religious ones—if they are not married to the mother of their children. This is why divorce is much more likely to drive men away from church than it is women.

(W. Bradford Wilcox, “As the Family Goes,” First Things [May 2007]: 12-4, at 13)

A Year Ago


From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

I cheered for the bright, hard-working twentysomething women making history by earning 117 percent of young men’s wages (“For Young Earners in Big City, Gap Shifts in Women’s Favor,” front page, Aug. 3). With 53 percent college grads, 15 percent more than young men, we need them to move right on up.

As a former New Yorker, I offer several additional factors for this success.

New York isn’t just an old-boys network; more women bosses means less resistance to hiring and promoting women. More women policy makers lead needed policy change.

Major obstacles remain. Male chief executives outnumber women 3 to 2 with a cash median income gap of 26.7 percent (no perks included). The trend line for women in clout positions has flattened. When these young women start a family, outdated policies force them into a work/family Hobson’s choice—one that is apparently a free choice but really not a choice at all. That’s a terrible waste of talent.

Linda Tarr-Whelan
St. Helena Island, S.C., Aug. 7, 2007
The writer is a Demos distinguished senior fellow on women’s leadership and a former ambassador to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

Note from KBJ: Wouldn’t it be nice if we never had to pay a price for our choices? Wouldn’t it be nice, for example, if you could take every morning off to surf and still keep your full-time salary at the law firm? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could have every summer off and still earn a 12-month salary with no loss of benefits? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could refuse to fly around the country for work and not lose any pay? The letter writer lives in cloud-cuckoo fantasy land.

From the Mailbag


I’ve been following your blog since discovering it a couple of months back, as well as a few other blogs I’ve learned about through your blog (in particular, Breath of the Beast). I really enjoy getting your take on things and I make a point to visit every day.

I’m starting a blog of my own, which will focus on critical thinking, and I was wondering if you could take a quick look and give me your blunt and honest opinion. I have not yet gone public with this blog and am looking to see if I’m on the right track before I do so. Is the tone right? Is it interesting enough? Is a blog like this useful? Any advice you care to provide would be greatly appreciated. The blog is here.

Jeff Ellis

Note from KBJ: I hope you don’t mind my posting your letter, Jeff. Your blog looks terrific! I have added it to my blogroll.

Comments, Again

A couple of people have complained about my new commenting policy, which requires identification. Why do you suppose newspapers require not just full names, but locations, for letters to the editor? Isn’t it at least in part to discourage incivility? Imagine if a person could publish a letter in The New York Times under a pseudonym, such as “q,” or a partial name, such as “Gerry.” Would the level of discourse stay the same? I think you know the answer. Why should I expect anything less on this blog? I want to discourage incivility. I want my readers to contribute to a civil dialogue about various matters, from religion to politics to science to sport to law to history to music to philosophy to economics. One of the people who complained to me (by e-mail) said that he has children. He is worried for their safety. He doesn’t want someone who is angry about something he says on this blog to take it out on his children. I certainly understand concern for one’s children. I wonder, however, whether this person refrains from sending letters to his local newspaper, for that would identify and locate him. Perhaps he does. He has every right to do so. Many of us are brave (or foolish) enough to risk harm to ourselves, our loved ones, and our property. Michelle Malkin blogs under her own name. Glenn Reynolds blogs under his own name. Both of them have families. Both are reviled in certain quarters. Both, I am sure, get threats from time to time, as I have. I don’t think they’re foolish or irresponsible for risking harm to their families. I think they’re brave.

The world is full of vile, dangerous people, such as Brian Leiter. (Leiter has threatened people with harm merely for expressing views with which he disagrees. He has used his position as a prominent ranker of philosophy programs and law schools to try to destroy people’s careers. He is a despicable human being.) If we hide our identity when we express our opinions, out of fear for our safety, the thugs win. Think about it. Once again, my policy is to require full names for comments. No pseudonyms. If this antagonizes you, please don’t read this blog. I don’t make any money off it. I don’t care how many people read it. I kept a journal for many years. I knew when I composed it that nobody would ever read it. I view this blog as a journal. If people want to read it, fine. If not, fine. If people want to comment on my posts, fine; but take responsibility for what you say. I do; why shouldn’t you?

Note to Peg, Will, JJS, Brad, and a few others: I must insist that you abide by my new policy. I consider all of you my friends, so please don’t take this personally. I don’t want to be seen as playing favorites. If this rankles you to the point where you choose not to post comments, I understand. From now on, I’m simply going to delete comments from anyone who doesn’t use a full name.

Safire on Language