Month: October 2014

The Politicized Life

Just discovered this terrific blog over at the Washington Free Beacon, thanks to Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry.

On Forbearance: or, Why I Pity Jonathan Chait

By Flickr user Simon CunninghamIn lieu of a movie review this week, we’ve published my chapter from The Seven Deadly Virtues. (You can buy it here!) If you’re a reader of this here blog, it may seem a bit familiar to you. Consider it a thesis statement on “The Politicized Life.”

Consider it also a rebuttal to Jonathan Chait’s sad statement of intolerance. In a much-discussed essay, Jonathan Chait celebrated the politicized life, implicitly called for political segregation, and announced that he would be saddened if his daughter came home with a Republican soulmate:

The Politicized Life, Ebola Edition

This Christian woman sews dresses for little girls in Africa. DISGUSTING. GROSS. UGH. / APPop quiz, hotshot:

You’re dying of ebola and have the choice between bleeding out in the street unloved by anyone or being cared for by a Christian missionary. What do you do? What do you do?

If you’re Slate‘s Brian Palmer, that’s apparently a tougher question than you might think. Here’s Palmer:

Boycott ALL the Things!

54352612One of the mouth-breathing conspiracy theorists at Vice thinks you should boycott the NFL because a couple of NFL employees have had trouble with the law and some of the folks who are paid a great deal of money to play a game that they love of their own free will wind up with brain damage.

The mouthbreather raises a good point! We should hold all of our entertainments to these standards! Indeed, we should boycott all the things.

Andrew W.K.: ‘Party, Don’t Politicize!’

LET'S GET A PARTY GOING (AP)Andrew W.K., America’s premier partier, is no more a fan of the politicized life than yours truly. In his advice column for the Village Voice, W.K. smacks down a guy who wrote in to complain about his dad, a “65-year-old super right-wing conservative who has basically turned into a total asshole intent on ruining our relationship …

The Totalitarian Impulse and Art

I don't judge artists by their terrible politicsJed Perl has an important essay over at the New Republic on the incessant politicization of the arts by the left. As someone who has made a hobby of taking on the politicized life, you can imagine how pleased I was to read it. Perl’s thrust is this: art is separate from the artist, and vice versa. Which is to say, you can disagree with a person’s politics and still approve of—or learn something important about humanity from—their art. Here’s a taste:

Lynn Stuart Parramore: The Saddest Person in America?

mob pitchforksImagine that your life is so hollow and devoid of meaning, that you, upon hearing a song played in a grocery store, feel compelled to go home, print out that song’s lyrics, and present them to a store employee demanding that, in the future, they refrain from playing that song so as to refrain from …

When Is the Politicized Life Okay?

mob pitchforksI participated in a Bloggingheads earlier this week with Kevin Glass; our topic of discussion was something I’ve been scribbling about for the last 18 months or so. If you watch, you’ll note that there’s a picture of one Adam Kredo over my left shoulder informing everyone that my office is a “den of borderline anti-Semitism.”

I want to drill down a bit deeper into a point Kevin and I touched on briefly near the end, about when it’s “okay”* to live the politicized life. When is an opinion so outré that we should shun the opinion holder? When should we seek to impoverish those with whom we disagree?

If You Don’t Like Jason Biggs’ Twitter Feed, Unfollow Him

This person's Twitter feed can only bother you if you let it. (Photo by Flickr user titi-)There’s this show on Netflix called Orange Is the New Black about women in prison. One of the actors on this show is Jason Biggs, who has a Twitter feed. One need not watch the show to enjoy his Twitter feed and vice versa. Neither is integral to the other. There is literally no requirement whatsoever that the two of these things be consumed in tandem.

And yet, there’s a Very Serious Post over at Salon by Daniel D’Addario in which he pronounces that “Jason Biggs’s awful Twitter feed is ruining ‘Orange Is the New Black.’” I am … puzzled. Well and truly puzzled. Because, as I wrote not 50 words previously, there is literally no requirement whatsoever that the two of these things be consumed in tandem. One can watch the show and understand every single detail without ever once reading a 140-character missive from Mr. Biggs. And one can read his 140-character missives about The Bachelorette without ever once watching even a second of his television program and still understand that he thinks the program is dumb. They are not related at all. If you think OITNB is amazeballs and that Jason Biggs’ Twitter feed is utter shite—two opinions I happen to hold—you can watch the show and not follow him on Twitter. The whole point of Twitter is that you can follow whoever you want and are required to follow no one.

D’Addario seems to misunderstand how “Twitter” and “acting” works:

What if the year was 1944: Thoughts on Ottawa and St. Jean

Let’s suppose the year is 1944 and a couple of guys kill two Canadian soldiers in Ottawa and St. Jean. These guys are Canadian, born and raised here, but they have been radicalized in the Nazi ideology. They read Nazi material, wear Nazi costumes and bear Nazi symbols. They associate with known Nazi sympathizers and frequent German-Canadian beer halls and union lodges. They consistently spew Nazi propaganda, listen to Nazi radio stations from Germany, and have been seen in photos giving the Nazi salute. Both were trying to acquire passports to fly to Belgium or The Netherlands allegedly to take up arms against Canadian, British, French and American soldiers.

It’s safe to say we would assume the killings were motivated by Naziism. It would be acceptable to talk publicly about Naziism as a possible, albeit highly probable, motivator. We would not need to apologize to German-Canadians before we commented or made assumptions. We would dismiss as crazy the notion that these guys were just lost souls upset by the armed conflict in Europe or that they were mentally ill. The killings would not deter us from our mission. And any accomplices would be rounded up, jailed and tried for treason. Moreover, any Canadian politician or journalist who suggested anything different would be considered nuts.

But of course the year is 2014 so……….queue the denial and political correctness.

Bike Infrastructure_An Example to All Cities

Take a look at this post and video from my new friend at Sterling/Rung. Not sure the conservative cyclist would want to ride on the Norrebrogade which is described at the “busiest cycling street in the Western world”.


I stumbled upon an intriguing video this morning, displaying some of Copenhagen’s newest and most innovative cycling initiatives. The narrator, Mikael Colville-Andersen, Denmark’s Bicycle Ambassador, gives a brief yet thorough explanation of Copenhagen’s bike infrastructure. He touches upon one of my main study spots, Norrebrogade, the busiest cycling street in the western world. Mikael goes into detail about the inventive green wave, double-wide bike lanes which have synchronized traffic lights to reduce stopping for bikes. I can attest from first hand experience that this initiative is incredibly successful; you have to keep a pace of 20km/h, (which is fairly easy to do) and you will hit all green lights right into the city center. Mikael describes various other cycling efforts like the pre-green traffic lights, LED caution lights, and cargo bike parking. If you have an extra 5 minutes, watch the video it is quite interesting.

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The Cyclist Philosopher

For Andy Duncan, cycling means freedom and life without it is hard to imagine. As a Scotsman and philosopher who stood at the frontier of bike messengering in the Netherlands his affection for cycling stem from the 225.000 km he travelled through the streets and suburbs of Utrecht during the last 22 years. Two years ago Andy was diagnosed with an aggressive prostatic cancer and was told he had only three years to live. We met Andy just before he moved back to Scotland. Surrounded by moving boxes, he was working on his last bike – battered, but resilient and very much in love.

Subtitles are available in English, German, Italian, Spanish en French (press the CC icon to activate).

Special thanks goes out to Lin van den Bremer, Wijnand Brouwer, Nadine Hottenrott, Sandrine Giroird, Catrien Spijkerman, Guido Boulogne and Phaola Dueñas. More info about fifty beans at

Roman Exceptionalism

Your Saturday reading: an insighful post from The Hipster Conservative

The Hipster Conservative

Painting: "Roman Campagna" by Thomas Cole Thomas Cole, Roman Campagna, 1843

…there was one people in the world which would fight for others’ liberties at its own cost, to its own peril and with its own toil, not limiting its guaranties of freedom to its neighbours, to men of the immediate vicinity, or to countries that lay close at hand, but ready to cross the sea that there might be no unjust empire anywhere and that everywhere justice, right, and law might prevail. 1

These words weren’t written about America. They weren’t even written since the rise of modern democracies. They were written over 2000 years ago by Titus Livius (commonly known as Livy), a renowned historian employed by Augustus Caesar to vindicate his family’s transformation of the former Roman Republic into an empire.

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Elevated Cycle Paths: Is Toronto missing an opportunity?

Check out this article from City Journal about elevated bicycle lanes. For Toronto, maybe these elevated lanes could be designed to run along the LRTs or John Tory’s Smart Track system?

Other cities think big. In London, famed architect Norman Foster has proposed an ambitious, 136-mile elevated bike path, to be suspended above the city’s suburban rail network. Foster’s “SkyCycle” plan—which could accommodate 400,000 bike commuters daily—has the support of former mayor and potential Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson, as well as the local government agencies responsible for London’s public transportation system. Architect David Nixon envisions a floating bike lane in the Thames River that would allow a car-free commute from the city’s residential areas to the financial district.

In Melbourne, Australia, a consortium of investors has proposed attaching an enclosed, mile-long “Veloway” to the side of an existing rail viaduct running through the city. “[C]ars, bikes and pedestrians just don’t mix well,” Committee for Melbourne CEO Kate Roffey told a reporter earlier this year. “This would solve the problem of separating cars and cyclists moving east-west across the city, and pedestrians can go under or over roads.” A similar approach would seem well suited to New York’s outer boroughs, where, unlike midtown Manhattan, elevated rail viaducts remain the norm. Many commuters in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx would likely take advantage of an option that would get them from home to work in about an hour, safely and free of charge, with a little fitness thrown in.

In Denmark, bike-friendly Copenhagen cut the ribbon this past summer on its Cykelslangen, or Cycle Snake—an elevated lane providing cyclists with a much-needed traverse over a pedestrian-heavy corner of the central city. “It is one of those rare occurrences in Copenhagen where seemingly everyone is happy,” wrote Classic Copenhagen blogger Sandra Hoj. “Cars have not had to budge an inch, the lower level has been returned to pedestrians, and cyclists love it. Besides easing the transition from highway to bike bridge, it is a pure joy to ride.”

Copenhagen is a cyclist’s dream city?

Well some cyclists would say so. The UK Guardian reports:

Copenhagen remains the benchmark as cities around the world try to figure out how to take the bicycle seriously as a mode of transport again, and enable this 19th-century invention to solve 21st-century urban challenges.

With its narrow medieval city centre streets and broad 20th-century boulevards, Copenhagen continues to inspire planners and politicians from around the world who can squint a bit and see their home city superimposed on retinal images of the Danish capital.

While the tools for establishing a bicycle-friendly city were designed more than a century ago, in Copenhagen people are figuring out new ways to use them to build beautiful things. There is nowhere producing more new ideas to increase bicycle traffic than the Danish capital.

My readers know I’m skeptical but there are some cool innovations here.

The ‘green wave’ for cyclists was one of the greatest ideas to come out of the brainstorm started by former actor Klaus Bondam when he was elected on to the city council. On most major arteries leading into the city centre, the traffic lights are coordinated to allow continuous flow of traffic, allowing cyclists to flow into the city in the morning rush hour without putting a foot down. The lights reverse in the afternoon to send people home on a simple, tech-based tailwind.

On certain stretches, LED lights embedded in the asphalt help cyclists keep their speed in order to catch the green light at the upcoming intersection and there are simple speed radar signs reminding cyclists to maintain 20km/h in order to surf the wave. Version 2.0 is currently being tested, with sensors able to register a group of citizens riding together and then keeping the light at the intersection they’re approaching green for a little longer.

But also some not so good ideas. Footrests? And I’m not a fan of nudging.

If you want to see improved behaviour among cyclists, just build best-practice infrastructure for them – separate bikes from pedestrians and cars and give them their own space in the urban landscape. Copenhagen has the world’s best-behaved cyclists: only 7% bend or break a traffic law and only 1% do something like run a red light or ride on the pavement. Good design improves behaviour.

Danish cyclists queue patiently at traffic lights, Copenhagen, Denmark - 01 May 2013 - Photo by Francis Dean/REX (2313952a)

Danish cyclists queue patiently at traffic lights, Copenhagen, Denmark – 01 May 2013 – Photo by Francis Dean/REX (2313952a)

Queue patiently? Jeesh.

Read the entire article and watch some videos here.

Check out the latest issue of Urban Velo

Issue #44 is now available on-line


Contents include: Fixed Gear Freestyle—It Ain’t Over Yet, New Courier Renaissance, News and Views, Future Bike, The Cincinnati Bikeway Product Spotlight, Interbike and Eurobike Coverage, Product Reviews: Brompton, Kryptonite, Chrome, and more, City Report—Milwaukee, ISO Tire Sizes, Biking With Isa, The Piano Pedaler, and I Love Riding in the City.