The Spectacle Blog

Alexandria Bike Wars

By on 3.19.14 | 4:22PM

For the first time in my life I became a community organizer over the last few months. It’s not an experience I’ll want to repeat any time soon. With a group of neighbors I took on City Hall and a rag-tag group of bicyclists who wanted to replace on-street parking with dedicated bike lanes on the most dangerous street in my city of Alexandria VA. 

King Street, Alexandria is very steep (a 5 percent grade) and a major city artery (Virginia Route 7) with 13,000 cars and trucks that speed by each day, mostly well over the speed limit. It’s also only 29 feet wide, which means that when the bike lanes are installed and two city buses pass each other, they’ll have zero leeway unless they move into the bike lanes.

It’s the dumbest place in the world for bike lanes, in short, an attractive nuisance, an accident waiting to happen. But that didn’t seem to matter to anyone, and that taught me something about municipal politics.

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Evolutionary Biology Does Not Explain Morality

By on 3.19.14 | 3:43PM

David Brooks rightly holds that the evolutionary picture of human nature is inadequate:

[The] strictly evolutionary view of human nature sells humanity short. It leaves the impression that we are just slightly higher animals — thousands of years of evolutionary processes capped by a thin layer of rationality. It lops off entire regions of human possibility.

According to Brooks, evolutionary biologists have reduced human nature to two distinct systems, one “to procreate or strut or think in certain ways” and another focused on reason and consciousness. Although biology depicts this dual nature, Brooks recognizes that morality mostly consists of reason ordering our more animalistic impulses:

Deep down we are mammals with unconscious instincts and drives. Up top there’s a relatively recent layer of rationality. Yet in conversation when we say someone is deep, that they have a deep mind or a deep heart, we don’t mean that they are animalistic or impulsive. We mean the opposite.

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Enough With the ‘Ben Carson for President’ Campaign

By on 3.19.14 | 2:35PM

To get to the Gaylord Hotel in Maryland for CPAC, I hopped on the Union Station shuttle the first morning of CPAC. As I sat down, I was bombarded by John Phillip Sousa IV and Wild Bill in a campaign ad explaining why Dr. Ben Carson is the “only candidate” who could win against Hillary Clinton in 2016:

He’s not a politician, he’s a citizen statesman… studies show that if Dr. Carson could capture only 17 percent of the black vote, it will be mathematically impossible for Hillary to win the White House…we need to elect a man after the heart of George Washington.

The ten-minute video played three times on my way to Gaylord. Three times on the way back. Three times the next day. Three times the way home. Three times the final day and, at last, the bus driver spared us the torture on my final trip back to Union Station.

Then today I clicked over to the Daily Caller only to find an exposé on the people behind the Ben Carson campaign.

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Are Abortion Doctors “Helping” Women?

By on 3.19.14 | 1:32PM

“We need to be vocal and educate people about this—abortion is not a terrible social ill, it’s just a part of women’s health.” –Doctor Estes to Tara Culp-Ressler

“The biggest weapon in the other side’s arsenal is shame and stigma.” –Merle Hoffman, CEO of Choices, to Culp-Ressler.

Abortion providers are nervous. States across the nation, most notably Texas, Ohio, and Mississippi, have passed late-term abortion bans and other restrictions on the unethical procedure.

Tara Culp-Ressler’s piece at Think Progress illustrates the desperation of these doctors, who must deal with the limitations of their “job options,” along with, God forbid, Christmas cards from pro-lifers who pray for them. 

Can we really see abortion professionals as martyrs in this regard? Throughout the piece, we read about “help,” “care,” “social justice,” “reproductive rights,” and women’s health. No mention of what abortion actually is: the destruction of a life. It doesn’t matter how young that life is: it is a human, not a “fetus.”

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Will The Tigers Pursue Drew or Rollins to Replace Iglesias at SS?

By on 3.19.14 | 1:15PM

So who will be the Detroit Tigers’ starting shortstop on Opening Day?

It is a question one need not have asked at the beginning of spring training. But Jose Iglesias is expected to miss most, if not all of the 2014 season due to stress fractures in both of his shins.

I am an Iglesias guy and I was steaming mad when the Red Sox shipped him to Detroit during last year’s trade deadline. I thought it would come back to haunt them in the ALCS. Well, the Sox and Tigers did meet in the ALCS. While Iglesias did make this spectacular catch off the bat of David Ortiz, the Sox prevailed and went on to win the World Series.

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This Administration is Either Lying or Incompetent

By on 3.19.14 | 11:15AM

Obamacare has had its share of troubles over the past year. Only 4.2 million people have signed up so far, well short of the desired 7 million enrollees the administration was hoping for. Of course, now the administration has moved the goalposts to 6 million enrollees. I suppose they don’t live by the maxim under-promise and over-deliver. However, as bad as Obamacare is, more infuriating has been the administration’s public presentation of how Obamacare is doing.

Politico’s Kyle Cheney investigated how many of these 4.2 million enrollees have actually paid their premiums, and the best guess is that 15-20 percent have not paid a dime. That’s problematic for the future of Obamacare. But even worse, insurance industry officials report that the administration has all of the relevant data. So why are we guessing? And why does Kathleen Sebelius obfuscate when asked about who has paid?

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Morning Round-Up 3-19

By on 3.19.14 | 9:42AM

Feature of the Day: Death and Life on the Syrian Street

Morning Headlines


Associated Press

  1. Clash on Economy Could Determine Illinois Governor
  2. GOP Leaders Meet in Ten.. Amid Common Core Discord
  3. ACLU, Arizona Give Arguments Over No-Bail Law


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Will Phil Jackson Eventually Coach the Knicks?

By on 3.19.14 | 9:32AM

Today, it became official. Phil Jackson is the new President of the New York Knicks. Jackson signed a five year, $60 million contract. 

This story has been percolating for about a week now. I have a colleague who is a big L.A. Lakers fan. (He also roots for the Yankees, but yet thrives in Boston.) He made the case that Jackson was using the Knicks as leverage against the Lakers. His longtime girlfriend, Jeanie Buss, is President of the Lakers. But if Jackson wanted back in I don’t think he would have needed to use the Knicks as leverage. Alas, this theory was wishful thinking on the part of Lakers fans. 

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Crimes in Crimea

By on 3.18.14 | 4:55PM

In 1853, Russia invaded the Danubian Principalities, just west of its empire on the Black Sea. Britain and France responded by allying with the Ottoman Empire and declaring war on Russia. Much of the fighting over the next three years would take place in Crimea, as allied forces tried to break Russia’s grip on the city of Sevastopol. The Crimean War would leave about 375,000 allied troops and anywhere from 143,000 to 522,000 Russian troops dead—mostly from disease—and devastate the Crimean Peninsula.

During the Russian Civil War, Crimea would become a stronghold for the anti-Bolshevik White Army and its sympathizers. But by 1920, the White Army was evacuating and the Bolsheviks stormed the peninsula. The communists distributed questionnaires and, foreshadowing Nazi tactics that would one day be used against them, used the answers to divide the population into those to be killed, imprisoned, or saved. More than 50,000 people, most of them civilians, were slaughtered over about six weeks.

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What Social ‘Policy’ Should Mean to Conservatives

By on 3.18.14 | 2:52PM

With Rand Paul's declaration today that the GOP must "agree to disagee on social issues," social conservatives are questioning just how effective the Republican Party can be on the issue of same-sex marriage.

Last Tuesday, a panel of conservatives hosted by the Manhattan Institute weighed in on the future social policy of the GOP.

Unanimously, the panel agreed that the GOP's pro-life position is here to say, but the right has to admit cultural defeat on obstructing same-sex marriage.

For Avik Roy, former health care advisor to Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, the leftward turn of culture means scrapping social conservatism altogether:

[The GOP needs a] coherent political philosophy about what culture should look like that would accept the post [1960’s] reality.

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