Monday, 25 February 2008

“Our Broken Souls”

I leave you this fine evening with a column by William Kristol.


The Rocket is in trouble.

Twenty Years Ago

2-25-88 Yesterday it was eighty-three degrees [Fahrenheit]; today it was seventy-six. It’s the annual La Fiesta de los Vaqueros, or Rodeo Week. At the university we call it “Rodeo Day”, though classes are not cancelled [sic; should be “canceled”]. What it amounts to is this. First, there’s a long parade (billed as the largest nonmechanical parade in the world) through the downtown area; then there are several days of rodeo and reverie at the Tucson Fairgrounds on Sixth Street. I’ve never been to one of these Tucson rodeos. They’re immoral, disgusting, and degrading. Macho males put on leather apparel and wreak havoc on innocent, helpless animals. The calf roping is probably the worst event. Imagine the panic of a calf who is released from a pen, only to be ridden down, roped, yanked violently to the ground, and left there while thousands of spectators cheer the “victorious” cowboy. The bull riding is equally cruel. In short, the rodeo is an elaborate cruelty ritual; but because it’s a ritual and because people have little or no moral sensitivity, it’ll probably continue.

. . .

There’s a lot of talk these days about the relation (not to mention the proper relation) between religion and politics. Much of the talk is confused. Let me try to clarify some things. First, no one would suggest (I hope) that a politician should not consider his or her religious convictions when formulating public policy. Each of us has moral and religious views that shape us as persons and provide us with ideals. I’m not suggesting that all such views are correct, mind you, let alone equal; they should face the test of rationality and argument just like any other view. But I see no reason to prevent people from invoking their religious views simply because they’re religious. It follows that religious leaders should not be barred or discouraged from entering politics. In fact, I think it’s great that two preachers, Jesse Jackson and Pat Robertson, are running for president. I won’t vote for either of them, and I certainly hope they don’t win, but it’s nice to see such diversity in the campaign. It gives the rest of us a chance to explore and criticize their religious values.

What people fear, I think, is that a person with particular religious commitments will achieve high office and try to impose those commitments on others. People feared that John F. Kennedy [1917-1963], for example, would try to make this a [Roman] Catholic country. Nothing of the sort happened, of course, but that doesn’t stop people from worrying. Many Americans are committed to the separation of church and state, where that just means that political and religious institutions should be kept apart. But it would be a mistake to infer from this that no person should blend religious and political lives. In their public lives, we want our leaders to be secular and rational; but we’re willing to permit them to be religious and nonrational during their private lives. Jimmy Carter was a good example of this. Ronald Reagan, despite his rhetoric about God and country, seems to be less religious than Carter and many other presidents. He talks a good religion, as they say, and he goes through the motions well, but I doubt that he has a religious personality. He’s a secular person through and through.


Here is a scene from yesterday’s final stage of the Tour of California (pronounced Cully-PHONE-ya). George Hincapie is in great shape. I hope he hasn’t peaked too early, because the race he needs (and wants) to win is Paris-Roubaix in mid-April.


The Nebraska Cornhuskers are back in business. The team has nowhere to go but up. I predict that in five years, the Huskers will be playing for a national title. Right, Carlos?

Addendum: Take a look at this video. If it doesn’t get your blood pumping, nothing will.


Hillary Clinton just left a message on my answering machine. She wants me to vote for her on 4 March. I picked up the telephone while she was talking and told her to get lost, but she kept on talking as if she didn’t hear me.


Has anyone been watching this television series? I watched the third episode (on Laos and Thailand) yesterday, having watched the first (Vietnam) and second (Cambodia) episodes the previous two Sundays. Next Sunday is the fourth episode, on Burma and China.

Addendum: Here is a map. Note that Burma is now known (in some quarters) as Myanmar.

Best of the Web Today


A Year Ago


Global Warmism

My Canadian friend Grant Brown sent a link to this.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

While reading “A Big-Time Injury Striking Little Players’ Knees” (front page, Feb. 18), I could not help but think that children today face too much societal pressure to dedicate themselves full time to athletics.

As a swimmer at Northwestern University, I am aware of the commitment required to be competitive, but being competitive does not mean that young children need to risk their health.

Not only can competitive sports cause severe injury, but it can also cause mental and physical burnout. I know of too many cases in which amazing athletes lost their passion for a sport because they were forced into it too early in life.

Families need to consider the long-term consequences of taking athletics too seriously early in a child’s life. Parents should let their children call the shots when it comes to their involvement in sports. After all, a sport is supposed to be their passion, isn’t it?

Christopher Doman
Evanston, Ill., Feb. 20, 2008

Note from KBJ: There are two mistakes a parent can make. The first is pressuring a child to participate in sports. The second is not encouraging a child to participate in sports. In my opinion, the second mistake is worse than the first.

Thomas Nagel on the Biology of Morality

No one, to my knowledge, has suggested a biological theory of mathematics; yet the biological approach to ethics has aroused a great deal of interest. There is a reason for this. Ethics exists on both the behavioral and the theoretical level. Its appearance in some form in every culture and subculture as a pattern of conduct and judgments about conduct is more conspicuous than its theoretical treatment by philosophers, political and legal theorists, utopian anarchists, and evangelical reformers. Not only is ethical theory and the attempt at ethical discovery less socially conspicuous than common behavioral morality but the amount of disagreement about ethics at both levels produces doubt that it is a field for rational discovery at all. Perhaps there is nothing to be discovered about it by such methods, and perhaps it can be understood only as a social and psychological peculiarity of human life. In that case biology will provide a good foundation, though psychology and sociology will be important as well.

(T. Nagel, “Ethics as an Autonomous Theoretical Subject,” in Morality as a Biological Phenomenon: The Presuppositions of Sociobiological Research, rev. ed., ed. Gunther S. Stent [Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 1980], 196-205, at 197 [italics in original])


Did I mention lately that the Yankees suck?