Friday, September 28, 2012

Odds and ends 9/28/2012

Eric Hoffer in that great seminal work, The True Believer, peels off an immortal gem:

For men to plunge headlong into an undertaking of vast change, they must be intently discontented yet not destitute, and they must have the feeling that by the possession of some potent doctrine, infallible leader or some new technique they have access to a source of irresistible power. They must also have an extravagant conception of the prospects and potentialities of the future.

Michael Barone writes:

Obama’s policies, from Obamacare to high-speed rail, treat people as identical cogs in a very large machine, part of a mindless mass that would not be able to get along without government guidance.

Barone refers to a piece by Walter Russell Mead, a thoughtful writer, which presents the challenge of inbetweeners to American society:

Helping young people to make the transition from dependency into responsible adulthood is a critical task. When young people are so crushed by debt that they are delaying decisions like starting a family or buying a house, then the system isn’t working at a basic level. When growing numbers of young people are crushed by debts they did not understand, cannot pay and cannot discharge, then society is sitting on a time bomb.

Ronald Brownstein strikes on a related theme over at National Journal:

Pollsters and sociologists have found less antagonism toward the affluent in the U.S. than in most other industrialized nations, precisely because Americans are more likely to believe that anyone with enough skill and determination can reach the top. In that way, faith in the opportunity for upward mobility has defused discontent about income inequality, even as inequality has grown. “Because differences in income in the U.S. are believed to be related to skill and effort, and because social mobility is assumed to be high,” Isabel Sawhill, codirector of the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution, wrote recently, “inequality seems to be more acceptable than in Europe.”

Presumably as upward mobility from lower income quintiles to higher income quintiles is impeded by the Great Recession, class resentment will rise. Interesting theory. We’ll see if it plays out that way.

Christopher Orlet writes in the American Spectator about a confrontation with his drug-abusing neighbors:

They simply couldn’t grasp the concept that you couldn’t do illegal things on your own property. (Apparently St. Louis Public Schools do not offer much in the way of logic courses.) My wife told them that by openly smoking weed they were sending a message to the dealers that drugs were tolerated on our block. (And, until we came along, they were.) She didn’t bother to explain the Broken Windows Theory to them, but that was what we were thinking. You tolerate a little bit of crime, and it sends a message to the criminals that they can get away with more serious crimes.

See if any of this sounds familiar. Kelly O’Connell writes in “The Miracles of Chairman Obama: Studies in Secular Religious Phenomena”:

The legend of the “world’s greatest leader” is actually an established trope within Marxist movements. In fact, it’s necessary such propaganda be presented by such movements to establish credibility.

Why? First, because leftist countries are typically in dire straights [sic], needing great men to work superb feats of statecraft. Second, since these movements defy religion and all traditional political theory, they therefore present an ominous level of novelty. Here, an incredible captain is needed to steer such a new machine. Third, humanism is the essence of such movements, the leader must be the best of all people. And to have a superman-as-president makes not just perfect sense, but also maximizes the potential of such ideology. Finally, such movements have all the trappings of religion, offering a role for a new anti-religious pope.

Paul Sperry writes in Investor’s Business Daily:

Our Judeo-Christian values aren’t winning over Muslims in the Middle East. It’s their totalitarian values that are influencing us. With the help of Muslim Brotherhood front groups in America, they’re imposing their blasphemy and other Shariah laws on us. We’re compromising our freedoms to accommodate them.

Is there a better slogan for idolatrous humanists than the Fabian window’s motto, “REMOULD IT NEARER TO THE HEART’S DESIRE”? It betrays the deluded belief that, as advanced we are in the sciences, we can master and overcome the natural forces of the universe.

As the guest pastor at my new church said Sunday, idolatry will fail. It is inevitable because idolatry attempts to refute the truth. False narratives can be erected to justify idolatry, but eventually nature takes its course.

At National Review, Ramesh Ponnuru lights up Obama for his radical abortion views:

Illinois law has rules — loophole-ridden rules, but rules — requiring treatment of babies who have “sustainable survivability.” If an attempted abortion of a pre-viable fetus results in a live birth, the law did not protect the infant. Nurse Jill Stanek said that at her hospital “abortions” were repeatedly performed by inducing the live birth of a pre-viable fetus and then leaving it to die. When she made her report, the attorney general said that no law had been broken. That’s why legislators proposed a bill to fill the gap.

Obama did not want the gap filled. He did not want pre-viable fetuses/infants to have any legal protection. In the Illinois legislature, he argued that providing them with legal protection would both be unconstitutional in itself — a violation of the Supreme Court’s abortion jurisprudence — and undermine the right to abortion.

Eliot Spitzer praises wealth redistribution at Slate:

What is the intellectual framework for Romney? It is the world of Robert Nozick and Ayn Rand, a world of such diminished government that only the efforts of the individual are to be valued, a world in which the collective effort represented by government is derided.

I exposed the Ayn Rand association as false in “Welfare state vs. civil society.”

In opposition to Romney’s world view is that of John Rawls and John Maynard Keynes. They provide the intellectual guideposts for post-World War II America and its prosperity. They do believe in redistribution: Those who are affluent can and should help those who are not. They believe it is in fact government’s responsibility to manage this effort in a way that promotes growth and overall prosperity. This has been—and should be—a core of our national identity. Those who receive the hand up are not to be denigrated: They are every bit as much a part of our community as anybody else, and will one day return the favor to others who are in a moment of need.

We should articulate this world view loudly and clearly. We should not be shy about declaring it. It is right morally and philosophically, and it has worked to build a bigger, stronger nation.

Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic sees wealth redistribution as a net good that comes with a price:

The entitlement state has grown shouldn’t, by itself, alarm us. It’s actually a sign of progress, because it’s a reminder that the government has stepped in to do what the market would not. We saw, in the years before Social Security, what the world looks like when seniors don’t have adequate pensions. And we saw, in the years before Medicare and Medicaid and (now) the Affordable Care Act, what the world looks like when people can’t afford to pay their medical bills. It was not pretty.

It still isn’t pretty, for the problems those programs purported to solve haven’t gone away. They will never go away. There will always be people at some point in their lives who don’t have the money to pay for necessities.

Meanwhile Cohn’s colleague at TNR, Timothy Noah, notes inequality, which motivates liberals, has actually risen every year since 2006, coincidentally the same year the Democrats took over Congress.

Leslie Carbone writes in the “The Moral Case Against Spreading the Wealth”:

There are two principal reasons why the federal government should not be in the business of wealth redistribution.

First, government imposed wealth redistribution doesn’t work: It doesn’t create, or even spread prosperity, it dampens it. Second, redistribution is not the legitimate purpose of government. Governments are not instituted to spread the wealth around, to make life “fair” or easy or comfortable, to synthesize equality of opportunity, or even to create jobs or growth or prosperity.


But progressive taxation, and redistributionary spending, actually violate our rights. When government engages in wealth redistribution—when it seizes from some citizens, simply because they have acquired more than others—it becomes a thing quite monstrous, perverting its own function and abusing the power that it has been granted to maintain. It also ends up suppressing prosperity, diverting resources from where they do the most good, adding unnecessary transaction costs, and diminishing capital, business, job, and wage growth.

Government imposed redistribution does moral harm as well. First, wealth redistribution discourages the virtuous behavior that creates wealth: hard work, saving, investment, personal responsibility. In the natural order, virtue and vice carry their own consequences. Virtue yields largely positive results. Hard work, patience, and orderliness, for example, tend to generate prosperity. Vice, on the other hand, brings negative consequences. Sloth, impatience, and recklessness lead to suffering. By taxing the fruits of the virtuous behavior that creates wealth, government redistribution discourages that behavior.

Doug Masson blogs:

Notice those property rights you have? Like them? Me too. But, here is the thing. There are no property rights without government. Instead of property rights, without government, you have property only so long as you can hold it by force. I’ve used this one often in the past, but only because it gets overlooked: without government, you have a Hobbesian state of nature, the war of all-against-all leading to lives that are solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

Masson seems ignorant of the origins of the civil society, which predates government. Oh well.

Two weeks ago I linked to former atheist Leah Libresco’s critique of a piece in the Atlantic by Hannah Rosin. Here is another critique of the same article, written by Father Robert Barron:

Notice how every virtue that Rosin cites – freedom, confidence, self-reliance – is a subjective disposition. No one in his right mind would contend that those attitudes are anything but good, but they are good precisely in the measure that they order a person to some objective value that lie outside of his subjectivity. We savor freedom because it is the condition for the possibility of pursuing the good in a responsible way; we think that confidence and self-reliance are worthwhile, because they enable one to achieve the good easily and joyfully. But if the question of the objectively valuable is bracketed, then those subjective dispositions lose their orientation and devolve, in point of fact, into something quite destructive.

What struck me throughout Rosin’s article was the complete absence of a reference to the objectively valuable in regard to sexual behavior. The purpose of sex? The meaning of the sexual act? The proper ethical, or dare I say religious, setting for sexuality? Never mentioned – and apparently irrelevant.

All that seems to matter is that young people – especially young women – have the opportunity to define themselves sexually however they want, to “manage” their sexual activity “like savvy headhunters.” Can I suggest that that last phrase is telling indeed? When the realm of the objectively valuable is marginalized, the subject will inevitably fall back on herself, stewing in her own juices. And let’s be honest, left to our own devices, the vast majority of us will do what is most convenient and most selfish. (The Church, by the way, refers to this natural tendency toward self-absorption as the principle effect of “original sin.”)

Stanley Kurtz over at National Review writes a review of sorts of William Raspberry’s Hooking Up, Hanging Out, and Hoping for Mr. Right: College Women on Dating and Mating Today:

In repudiating the bogus claim of sexual “equality” implicit in the culture of no-strings sex, Raspberry offers a remarkable statement: “I don’t doubt for a minute that women’s control of sex helped to tame men, to focus their attention and make them suitable for, and amenable to, marriage.”

Now nothing in that statement would have been remarkable a generation ago. And it’s certainly arresting that Raspberry is publicly willing to affirm today what ought to be obvious: that men and women approach sex differently, and that women, by waiting, help men to yoke together love and sex in a way that leads to and strengthens marriage. But what’s truly interesting about Raspberry’s column is that he wrote it after penning a piece only last year expressing puzzlement that anyone could find gay marriage a threat to marriage itself.

Raspberry wasn’t being dense — just honest. Marriage is one of those institutions we take for granted. The rationale for marriage isn’t so much written down somewhere as buried in the thing itself. That’s why neither Raspberry, nor other right-thinking liberals, can see the connection between the rise of the movement for gay marriage and the decline of heterosexual courtship and marriage. But the link is there.

In one way or another, the rules of courtship and marriage are all a way of insisting that, in matters of sex, men and women are different. And since courtship and marriage depend for their successful operation upon an ethos of sexual complementarity, people who imbibe the ethos of courtship can’t help but feel that there’s something not quite right about the idea of a homosexual marriage.

Pete Spiliakos at First Things writes on the Romney “47 percent” flap, echoing yours truly:

Writers like George Gilder, Charles Murray, and Lawrence Mead did not write off welfare recipients or argue that those on welfare did not want to take responsibility for their own lives. These conservative and libertarian writers put themselves on the side of the welfare recipients and against a dysfunctional system that was hurting those it was supposed to help. Conservatives did best on welfare when they stopped writing off the non-working poor.

As a member of the 18- to 29-yearold demographic, I’m sensitive to its plight, even though I luckily escaped the worst of it. John McCormack writes in the September issue of The American Spectator:

The consequences of unemployment, underemployment, and wage erosion are battering the lives of young Americans. According to a survey conducted in 2011 by the Polling Company, 77 percent of 18- to 29-yearolds “either have or will delay a major life change or purchase due to economic factors.” That includes 44 percent who will delay buying a home and 28 percent who say they’ll delay saving for retirement. Nearly a quarter of young Americans say they will delay starting a family, and 18 percent will delay getting married because of the economy. The Obama economy has given rise to ever more “boomerang kids” who must return home to live with Mom and Dad after graduating from college without a job.

So this line from Paul Ryan’s speech to the RNC struck a chord with me:

College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life.

Catherine of Siena was quoted in an article on obedience over at Dominicana:

The disobedient walk proudly, carrying the head of self-will high. And if they are sometimes forced to obey they do not bow down in humility but pass through the door proudly.

When I read this I imagined the humanists of our time, uprooting humanity, buoyed by the suffering created by their ideas, as if the failure were not an indictment but a mandate for stricter implementation.

Chick-fil-A clarified its donations policy, and it is evident the restaurant chain is sticking to its biblical guns. Had Chick-fil-A really rethought its activism, it would have been disappointing, but not surprising. Keep that in mind as you read John Hayward’s (now defunct) piece over at Human Events:

A private company has signaled its willingness to embrace the political stances dictated by Chicago’s ruling Party, in order to “earn” the privilege of building stores in the area. The letter from Chick-fil-A real estate director John E. Featherston Jr. to Chicago alderman Joe Moreno should chill every American to the bone: “The WinShape Foundations is now taking a much closer look at the organizations it considers helping, and in that process will remain true to its stated philosophy of not supporting organizations with political agendas.”

And my (now defunct) reaction: “Didn’t you hear the news? Everything is political, now.”

I want our troops out of Afghanistan, because we’re not waging the right kind of war there. It’s a gun-toting public relations campaign. I want to reform our decadent culture, not because Islam sees it that way, but because it’s self-destructive.

Unfortunately, the former attitudes are represented in Pat Buchanan’s piece, “The Irreconcilable Conflict.” There is this redeeming section, though:

We proclaim that we cherish the First Amendment. Do we?

If so, whose version of that amendment? How many Americans would willingly die for the constitutional right to produce pornographic films? Or for some nutball’s right to insult the Prophet? Or the right of “artists” to befoul and denigrate Christian images of our own Lord and Savior?

Our Founding Fathers who created this republic did not believe in democracy. When did we come to worship this idol? Wrote T.S. Eliot:

“The term ‘democracy,’ as I have said again and again, does not contain enough positive content to stand alone against the forces that you dislike - it can easily be transformed by them. If you will not have God (and He is a jealous God), you should pay your respects to Hitler or Stalin.”

Daniel Greenfield writes in “The Graveyard of Neo-Conservatism”:

Democracy only works when the character of the people is better than the character of their government. It works very badly when the character of the people is actually worse and the existing system serves much the same purpose as bars in a tiger cage do. The neo-conservatives were unprepared to grapple with such troubling notions. They were very methodical in laying out the moral case against Saddam Hussein, but they were unprepared to cope with the notion that Iraq’s ruler might have reflected the moral level of a significant portion of Iraqis.

I hear echoes of John Adams: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.” He meant God-fearing Christians, not unhinged Islamists.

David Harsanyi blows off some steam after the Democratic National Convention. He concludes his rant:

Democrats say that things are a lot better than they used to be. And if you believe all the things we’re hearing, you might wonder: How did we survive in this Godforsaken place before 2008? Were children really left to die on the slab? Were college kids forced to pay for their own journalism degrees? Were people expected to head over to the CVS and buy their own condoms? Did we really suffer through year after year of 5 percent unemployment?

Were we really so immoral before He showed up? Apparently.

Vox Day paints the crisis for Anglo men in modern America in harsh light:

Since the 1965 Immigration Act, the American political elite has been electing a new people by encouraging immigration from a wide variety of societies that are vastly different in ethnic and cultural terms than American society. In combination with this vast invasion of the, shall we say, unconventionally civilized, the traditional male-female dynamic that had proven successful for centuries was altered through a transformation of the legal and judicial systems. This confluence of factors has created a tremendous challenge for the white male population, as young white American men now have every material incentive to opt out of activities which tend to foster societal survival and very little incentive to opt in.

The spiritual incentive, written into male nature, I believe will never perish.

James Altucher writes a terrific blog. I love his self-revelations and insight into the real world. Every blog post is like an espresso shot. He writes in “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Mediocre People”:

Procrastination is your body telling you you need to back off a bit and think more about what you are doing. When you procrastinate as an entrepreneur it could mean that you need a bit more time to think about what you are pitching a client. It could also mean you are doing work that is not your forte and that you are better off delegating. I find that many entrepreneurs are trying to do everything when it would be cheaper and more time-efficient to delegate, even if there are monetary costs associated with that. In my first business, it was like a lightbulb went off in my head the first time I delegated a programming job to someone other than me. At that time, I went out on a date. Which was infinitely better than me sweating all night on some stupid programming bug (thank you, Chet, for solving that issue).

Try to figure out why you are procrastinating. Maybe you need to brainstorm more to improve an idea. Maybe the idea is no good as is. Maybe you need to delegate. Maybe you need to learn more. Maybe you don’t enjoy what you are doing. Maybe you don’t like the client whose project you were just working on. Maybe you need to take a break. There’s only so many seconds in a row you can think about something before you need to take time off and rejuvenate the creative muscles. This is not for everyone. Great people can storm right through. Steve Jobs never needed to take a break. But I do.

“Screwtape on courage,” by C.S. Lewis:

This, indeed, is probably one of the Enemy’s motives for creating a dangerous world-a world in which moral issues really come to the point. He sees as well as you do that courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty, or mercy, which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky.

Another C.S. Lewis quote:

There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, “All right, then, have it your way.”

I feel like, from my vantage point, I see and understand almost everything. That's why I consistently push heady articles like the ones this week. It's important to me that this blog be about more than just day-to-day stories that lose relevance the next week. You can drive yourself mad following that stuff.

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