Saturday, December 15, 2012

Odds and ends 12/15/2012

Emily Esfahani Smith, writing in the Atlantic, contributes an invaluable but ultimately misguided article to the gender issues canon:

After the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s, which insisted on the equal treatment of women in all domains of life, feminists dismissed chivalry as sexist. They still do. A new study, published in the feminist journal Psychology of Women Quarterly, questions the entire enterprise of male chivalry, which, in an Orwellian flourish, it calls “benevolent sexism.”

Chivalrous behavior is benevolent because it flatters women and leads to their preferential treatment. But it is sexist because it relies on the “gendered premise” that women are weak and in need of protection while men are strong. “Benevolent sexism,” Kathleen Connelly and Martin Heesacker of the University of Florida write in the study, “is an ideology that perpetuates gender inequality.” They advocate interventions to reduce its prevalence, even though, they found, chivalry is associated with greater life satisfaction and the sense that the world is fair, well-ordered, and a good place.

Charles Murray, the libertarian social scientist at the American Enterprise Institute, summed up the study with tongue-in-cheek, writing “the bad news is that gentlemanly behavior makes people happy.” He goes on to ask, “When social scientists discover something that increases life satisfaction for both sexes, shouldn’t they at least consider the possibility that they have come across something that is positive? Healthy? Something that might even conceivably be grounded in the nature of Homo sapiens?”

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Historically, the chivalry ideal and the practices that it gave rise to were never about putting women down, as Connelly and other feminists argue. Chivalry, as a social idea, was about respecting and aggrandizing women, and recognizing that their attention was worth seeking, competing for, and holding. If there is a victim of “benevolent sexism,” it is not the career-oriented single college-aged feminist. Rather, it is unconstrained masculinity.

We’re all better off when masculinity is chained to the preservation of society. If there’s a victim of chivalry’s demise, it’s beta women and women past ideal childbearing age.

Don’t miss this terrific anecdote:

A story from the life of Samuel Proctor (d. 1997) comes to mind here. Proctor was the beloved pastor of Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church. Apparently, he was in the elevator one day when a young woman came in. Proctor tipped his hat at her. She was offended and said, “What is that supposed to mean?”

The pastor’s response was: “Madame, by tipping my hat I was telling you several things. That I would not harm you in any way. That if someone came into this elevator and threatened you, I would defend you. That if you fell ill, I would tend to you and if necessary carry you to safety. I was telling you that even though I am a man and physically stronger than you, I will treat you with both respect and solicitude. But frankly, Madame, it would have taken too much time to tell you all of that; so, instead, I just tipped my hat.”

It’s in the third to last paragraph where the article runs off the rails:

If women today—feminists and non-feminists alike—encouraged both men and women to adopt the principles of civil and chivalrous conduct, then the standards of behavior for the two sexes would be the same, fostering the equality that feminists desire. Moreover, the relations between the sexes would be once again based on mutual respect, as the traditionalists want. Men and women may end up being civil and well-mannered in different ways, but at least they would be civil and well-mannered, an improvement on the current situation.

Current gender relations do not lack manners or civility. It lacks a proper understanding of how special women are to men and how women want to be treated.


From the “war on men” files (courtesy of Suzanne Venker at Fox News):

To say gender relations have changed dramatically is an understatement. Ever since the sexual revolution, there has been a profound overhaul in the way men and women interact. Men haven’t changed much – they had no revolution that demanded it – but women have changed dramatically.

In a nutshell, women are angry. They’re also defensive, though often unknowingly. That’s because they’ve been raised to think of men as the enemy. Armed with this new attitude, women pushed men off their pedestal (women had their own pedestal, but feminists convinced them otherwise) and climbed up to take what they were taught to believe was rightfully theirs.

Now the men have nowhere to go.

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All the articles and books (and television programs, for that matter) put women front and center, while men and children sit in the back seat. But after decades of browbeating the American male, men are tired. Tired of being told there’s something fundamentally wrong with them. Tired of being told that if women aren’t happy, it’s men’s fault.

Contrary to what feminists like Hanna Rosin, author of The End of Men, say, the so-called rise of women has not threatened men. It has pissed them off. It has also undermined their ability to become self-sufficient in the hopes of someday supporting a family. Men want to love women, not compete with them. They want to provide for and protect their families – it’s in their DNA. But modern women won’t let them.

It’s all so unfortunate – for women, not men. Feminism serves men very well: they can have sex at hello and even live with their girlfriends with no responsibilities whatsoever.

Cue obligatory snark from liberal intelligentsia about the virtues of “progress.”


Helen Alvaré writes of the price women pay for universal contraception in the Public Discourse (second in a three-part series):

The effects of contraception at an individual level (i.e., if used according to directions, it regularly prevents pregnancy) are different from its effects on a social scale. When contraception is made available on a social scale, especially with abortion as its backup (in the United States, for example, most women who seek abortions were using contraception in the same month that they became pregnant), it alters the relationship market to women’s disadvantage. Together, contraception and abortion lower the most apparent “risk” of sex, while squarely placing on women’s shoulders the burden to avoid both a pregnancy and a live birth. With the risk lowered, more women make themselves available for nonmarital sex.

Relatedly, women thinking about refusing sex to any man are acutely aware that another woman will surely say “yes.” Caught up in a “prisoner’s dilemma,” each woman, on average, is more likely to understand sex as the price of maintaining a relationship, and therefore to concede, even though women are far more likely than men to prefer that sex take place in the context of an ongoing relationship.

Alvaré goes on to quote a letter penned by a woman on the Women Speak for Themselves list. It brings the sad reality of modern gender relations home:

I live in a part of the U.S.A. remarkable for the number of 30-something single women whose prospects for marriage and motherhood are declining by the day. Among college educated in my area, there is a birth rate as low as Singapore or Greece. These women are high achievers who bought into the “career first” mindset. They truly believe that women’s freedom and achievement cannot be separated from sex-without-standards, and abortion. … At the same time, they’re starting to feel lonely and insecure. The career is not as fulfilling as they thought it would be and some have struggled with unemployment. The dating scene was fun and exciting during their college years and their twenties, but now it’s getting harder to meet eligible men. Most have several failed relationships behind them, and carry quite a lot of emotional baggage. Meanwhile, the men they’d like to meet have become wary and are making every effort to date younger women. … Their best prospects will be divorced men 10 to 15 years older. Typically, these divorced men have a first family and often they’re unwilling to marry and give the thirty-something woman a baby. A “relationship” is easier.

The fruit of the sexual revolution is loneliness. The only way out is for women to confront the things they believe, that just aren’t true, and change their ways.


Alvaré concludes in the final installment of the series:

For women’s freedom, defined in the terms of the HHS mandate (achieving fewer unintended pregnancies and abortions) or in other terms (reducing poverty, increasing educational and employment opportunities, increasing access to marriage, and reducing divorce) is actually, empirically, better achieved when women and men practice the virtues and disciplines expressed in the Christian churches’ conscientious objection to the mandate. The Judeo-Christian scriptures provide the firmest possible foundation for a belief in the absolute equality of women and men: co-equal creation in the image of a divine God. Younger Catholic women, and many women of other Christian denominations, too, are far more attracted to Catholic teachings on contraception than outside commentators realize.

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Religion’s thick and beautiful rationales for keeping in mind the links between sex and new life can help restore balance to our national discourse about sex and marriage and parenting. Not only women, but especially vulnerable women, and also society itself, would be better off if religious witness were allowed to live.


Faith and Meredith Kuzma write of women, motherhood, and abortion:

Motherhood is a woman-centric human right, yet motherhood does not happen in a void. The biological reality of reproduction is the point where choice begins for many women – the women who are being asked, “Are you keeping it?” These are the women who have expressly chosen the path of life through choosing union with a man.

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“Are you keeping it?” carries the supposition that the child just might be discarded by abortion, carried out with the garbage. An abortion mill tells the woman that her baby (and the woman herself, by extension) is disposable. Similarly, asking a woman whether she’s keeping her baby twists the declaration of human life – “You’re having a baby!” – into “Are you keeping it?,” a social mechanism that attempts to contain the entire implications of reproductive rights ideology but fails to capture any scrap of human dignity for the mother or child.

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The feminist definition of woman, which seeks to divorce the reality of motherhood from a woman’s psyche, fails to recognize the language of the female body itself. Women are uniquely equipped with a baby-specific space inside the body; this means not that motherhood is some sort of a requirement or that a woman can’t feel “whole” without it, but rather that this body language – expressed in the biological realities that science outlines – says that a woman in union with a man will be filled with new life.


At First Things, Kevin Staley-Joyce writes about the slippery slope on marriage:

If recent conceptions of marriage have already pitched our ideas about monogamy, permanence, and gender complementarity, there seems to be no independent reason against excising marriage’s essential orientation toward the “other” as well. But if marriage’s contours are flattened such that the institution no longer involves a union, it seems fair to assume it no longer has any real meaning at all.

Perhaps [Millie] Kerr and others who’ve entertained single-party marriage are tongue-in-cheek. But the reasons she posits for marital recognition in the first place reflect the fundamentally postmodern prerogatives of the marriage revisionist movement. Kerr is far from the only writer whose intuited vision of marriage is, as she says, “a time when people travel from afar to bring you gifts and toast your life decisions.”

This is the sort of thing that makes priests and pastors wince. Many of them, I suspect, would recommend against marriage for a person whose first aim was to be celebrated for reaching a milestone.


Archbishop Charles Chaput writes:

The real religion of vast numbers of American young people is a kind of fuzzy moral niceness, with an easy, undemanding God on duty to make people feel happy whenever they need him. It’s what Smith calls “moralistic therapeutic deism.” To put it in the words of a young woman from Maryland, “[Faith is] just whatever makes you feel good about you.”

I have been secular all my life, and lately have I undertaken a transformation that does make me feel good, but not in a superficial or carnal way: I am more selfless, cheerful, and open. In other words, in loving others more, as God’s only begotten son did, I am feeling more of God’s love.


Rod Dreher of the American Conservative is my kind of blogger. Expect to see more of him in this space from now on. Here he takes on same-sex marriage:

The issue is framed entirely in terms of the black civil rights struggle — which leaves no room for an appropriate consideration of how something as important as religious liberty to American life should factor into our deliberations.

Here Dreher takes on the deterioration of faith and family, and what that means for the civil society:

In America, the family has historically been a key mediating institution between the state and the individual. But we are not the country we used to be. With traditional religion weakening — that is, with younger people either abandoning religion altogether, or substituting the ersatz Moralistic Therapeutic Deism for the real thing — and with a political and commercial culture focused on exalting the individual and his desires, achieving stable family formation is becoming an ever more countercultural phenomenon. The demographic trends Last identifies are taking America into a future of social atomization and dependency on the state.

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Churchmen believed a social structure that broke up the ever-feuding clans and gave the individual more freedom would be better for society’s stability and spent centuries reforming the European family toward domesticity. The natalist worldview advocated by churchmen knit tightly religious faith, family loyalty and child bearing. From the 10th century on, the domestic family model ruled Europe through its greatest cultural efflorescence. But then came the Reformation and the Enlightenment, shifting culture away from tradition and toward the individual. Thus, since the 18th century, the atomistic family has been the Western cultural norm.

Here’s the problem: Societies ruled by the atomistic family model, with its loosening of constraints on its individual members, quit having enough children to carry on. They become focused on the pleasures of the present. Eventually, these societies expire from lack of manpower, which itself is a manifestation of a lack of the will to live.


From the “genderless” files:

Says Jan Nyberg, Top Toy executive (hat tip AFP):

With the new gender thinking, there is nothing that is right or wrong. It’s not a boy or a girl thing, it’s a toy for children.


Then there’s this story (courtesy of National Review):

A construction crew working on the campus of Ohio’s Sinclair Community College was forced to halt work until it removed a “Men Working” sign that was deemed “sexist” by a college administrator.

This isn’t the first time a construction sign upset an uppity feminist (courtesy of Fox News):

Political correctness rules the road in Atlanta — which is replacing all its “Men at Work” signs with gender-neutral ones after a women’s magazine editor complained of bias.

The project, which involves painting over the existing 50 “Men at Work” and “Men Working” signs with those that say simply “Workers Ahead” or “Workers,” will cost a total of $1,000, Atlanta Public Works Commissioner Joe Basista told FOXNews.com.

About half of the city’s 100 Public Works employees are women, said Basista, so he complied with PINK magazine editor Cynthia Good’s request to stop warning passersby of men at work when women were right there alongside them.

This defies belief. How many women in Atlanta are really out there with the men, lugging jackhammers, pouring concrete, and scaling telephone poles? Not half the Public Works Department, I bet.

It could raise eyebrows when Good goes national with her crusade — which she’s planning to do.

“We’re calling on the rest of the nation to follow suit and make a statement that we will not accept these subtle forms of discrimination,” she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

A do-gooder doing bad.


“What’s Wrong with Public Nudity?” asks Dennis Prager in the Jewish Journal:

The San Francisco Examiner reported about one of the protesters at the San Francisco Supervisors vote:

“As he pulled his pants up, a nudist named Stardust said the legislation sent the wrong message. ‘It’s telling people they should be ashamed to be naked, and that’s totally wrong,’ he said.”

But to those who believe in Judeo-Christian values, telling people to be ashamed about being naked in public is not totally wrong. It’s the whole point.

The first thing Adam and Eve discovered after eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was that they were naked. And the first emotion they ever experienced was shame over their nudity.

San Francisco, America and the west are going to have to choose whether Stardust or the Bible is right. By one vote San Francisco decided in favor of the Bible. But a judge, who may well have Stardust’s values, is yet to rule.


Here’s another Jewish Journal gem. Paul Johnson writes on intellectuals’ attraction to despots:

What leads intellectuals, otherwise skeptical of most phenomena, to adore such monsters? Hobsbawm was by trade a historian. According to his left-wing admirers he was “brilliant;” in the opinion of the rest he was “unreadable.” He was also spectacularly ugly. The theory among cynics is that Hobsbawm was so angry with G0D for making him hideous that he was determined to back whoever was G0D’s most resolute opponent. And in Hobsbawm’s youth, that was Stalin.

A more serious suggestion is that intellectuals love power and the satanic figures who embody and exercise it. It’s amazing, looking back, to realize how many intellectuals supported Hitler long after he’d begun to display his evil nature.

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Mao Zedong was responsible for the deaths of an estimated 70 million of his countrymen, yet Westerners were among his warmest admirers. One of them wrote: “[China is] a kind of benign monarchy ruled by an emperor-priest who had won the complete devotion of his subjects.” David Rockefeller praised the “national harmony” of Mao’s China, which produced not only “more efficient and dedicated administration” but fostered “high morale and community of purpose.” Another American visitor said “law and order … are maintained more by the prevailing high moral code than by any threat of police action.”

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Intellectuals, whom I define as those who think ideas are more important than people, are notoriously bad at seeing the ordinary world and coming to moral decisions about it. I knew the two greatest intellectuals of their age, Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre, and whatever one might think about their writings, they were the last people one could appeal to for advice on anything practical, especially if it involved moral issues. I suppose Eric Hobsbawm fit into this category. Like them, he was a man so blinded by his own intellect that he was unable to see the evil and wickedness staring him in the face.


Seniors decry ban on Christmas tree in their complex in Newhall:

Frances Schaeffer, who is Jewish, said she doesn’t understand the property management company’s stance.

“This tree is a symbol of reverence that we can all enjoy regardless of our religious beliefs,” she said.

Let me help Ms. Schaeffer out: You don’t live in America anymore. You live in a secularistocracy, where even the possibility of an atheist or non-Christian taking offense at a Christian symbol makes businesses quake in fear of a lawsuit.


A porn addiction is a terrible thing (via the UK Independent):

One respondent said he was a 30-year-old virgin who has never had a girlfriend or dated. “Porn has distorted my view of real women and I now think my natural libido is not what it should be,” he explained. “Porn has been a comfort blanket for my anxieties but at the same time helped to increase them while stopping me from facing up to my problems and living my life to the full.”


At First Things, Elizabeth Scalia critiques the Catholic Reporter’s endorsement of ordaining women, and she strikes on familiar truths:

If “no one can say” who God can and cannot call to the priesthood, then why do we have interview, testing, and discernment processes? Why can’t we all just be priests, any time we want? If corporeal anatomy is completely unconnected to a human being’s essential nature (and this is an argument put forth by feminists and the gender-fixated, who will often pronounce it in one breath only to promote the “sacred feminine” in the next) then why did God design differences at all? By doing so, he created boundaries and barriers, which are clearly unwanted things. Why didn’t God fashion just one human type, without limits to what that type can do, in order to free humanity from the constraints of form and function which impact “God’s [own] ability to call one of God’s own children forward...” to do the things they really want to do, whether the Church thinks they ought to, or not?

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The Dictatorship of Relativism loves to argue that there is no truth, except the truth it likes; that nothing means anything except as one’s own conscience assigns meaning, and that authority, therefore, is an illusion that must be questioned continually, until the proper answer is attained. The proper answer, of course, is the one asserted and promoted by the relativists and once it has been achieved—and a new authority is in place—then all questioning of authority must cease. Because that authority—their authority—will have become the truly all-just, the truly all-good and all-merciful. And woe to those who do not recognize it.


At the American Conservative, Dreher colleague Samuel Goldman considers the birth rate and our culture of autonomy (re: “A future to outlast our lives”):

The master value of the modern West isn’t enjoyment, but personal autonomy. And it’s hard to pursue your own goals in your own way when encumbered by offspring, particularly in the numbers necessary to population growth.

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There’s not much government can do to encourage people who regard children as a burden to produce them. Only a major cultural change could do that. In this respect, the demographic future of Western societies may depend on the fate of their religious traditions much more than on their tax codes. I’m not holding my breath for neo-liberals to acknowledge that.


On the falling birthrate, Walter Russell Mead has this to say:

The falling birth rate is a sign that American society is failing one of its essential tasks: we are failing to provide an environment that allows a new generation to begin building families and bringing their children into the world. Between crippling debt burdens and relatively high unemployment, young people are opting out of starting families.


Albert Mohler offers advice on how to recover the American family:

The social pathologies pile up in shocking statistics, but the greater tragedy is the injury in individual lives. Christians know that the family cannot save us. Only Christ can save. But we also know that God loves us and that he has given us marriage and the family for our protection and flourishing. The church must face the truth that the family crisis is, first of all, a theological crisis. Christians must recover a biblical understanding of the family and live before the world, celebrating and sharing the joys and satisfactions that the Creator gives us in this precious gift. We must live honestly before the world, knowing that our honest acknowledgement of our own need for God’s grace in our marriages and families is a testimony to our need for the grace of God shown us in Jesus Christ.

J. Matt Barber exposes the Southern Poverty Law Center for its Left-wing activism masquerading as civil rights advocacy at Renew America:

The SPLC launched another in a series of politically motivated attacks against a well-respected Christian organization. The group arbitrarily tagged as an official “hate group” Americans for Truth about Homosexuality (AFTAH).

AFTAH promotes biblical morality, opposes the radical homosexual activist lobby and publicly decries both violence and hatred against homosexuals or anyone else. Although it has been in operation for a number of years, the SPLC only recently labeled AFTAH a “hate group” after being pressured by the Chicago-based “Gay Liberation Network” to do so.

GLN is a fringe group of self-described Marxists and sexual anarchists best known for disrupting peaceful Christian gatherings with raucous, bullhorn laden protests. In a twist most ironic, GLN leader Bob Schwartz once threatened AFTAH founder Peter LaBarbera in front of witnesses, telling him that if the police weren’t present at a rally, he would have pushed LaBarbera into oncoming traffic. (“Hate crime, anyone?” Love that “tolerance” and “diversity.” Where’s the SPLC when you need them?)

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If AFTAH is a “hate group,” then so is Liberty Counsel, Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, American Family Association, the Southern Baptist Convention and the Roman Catholic Church. Any group that observes and defends traditional sexual morality would have to be labeled such.

Heck, for that matter, so would the U.S. Armed Forces, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA. These groups publically expose the undeniable medical and societal pitfalls associated with the homosexual lifestyle and, therefore, must be “hate groups,” right?


You know who should be labeled a hate group? Dan Savage. Robert Oscar Lopez writes a riveting article on “mean gays” in the American Thinker. Here’s an excerpt:

The crudeness of “anti-bullying” Dan Savage is traumatizing, yet he gets encouragement from gays and lesbians who pattern their personal attitudes after his politics. This is what passes, in Dan Savage’s world, as civilized behavior: outing people, combing through the personal lives of people like Ted Haggard with righteous nosiness, fantasizing about sodomizing Rick Santorum, making fun of Marcus Bachmann’s lisp, calling Christian students pansy-assed and the Bible “bullshit,” and dismissing gay Republicans as “house faggots.” Now, well into middle age, he has a reality show on MTV that allows him to troll around college campuses talking to nineteen-year-olds about kinky sex.

Dan Savage isn’t alone. If anything, he brandishes tactics that countless gays and lesbians have learned: stay offensive, hurt others before they hurt you, gather allies around you through sarcastic mockery, and humiliate until you get your way. That’s how women held each other back for thousands of years. That’s how soldiers led each other into innumerable acts of fratricide and sabotage.


Loran Blood smacks a home run:

The present occupant of the White House, and the party of which he is an iconic if standard feature, was born into and suckled upon the milk of zero-sum economics, perennial class antagonism, class envy, and a neo-feudal status centered mentality of human relations. Like many of his generation and worldview, he is convinced there is a “better world” possible in which humankind can be redeemed and made whole through a moral regeneration imposed by sheer force of will by the state and by the cleansing influence of a purifying ideology. With the dawning of the Obama era, and a renewed animus toward free-market economic relations and the key importance of the individual to a free society, this mentality is in process of arriving at its apogee.

The real mortal world in which we live, however, is a world of constraints and tradeoffs, not one of ultimate answers and solutions that can be willed and applied as a series of “programs” that will reconstruct and reconstitute a social order along a predetermined theoretical course.

Human beings have a fundamental, underlying essence that channels human behavior and perception down certain corridors and through certain doors within the context of our earthly experience. We usually just call this “human nature,” and both religion and historic philosophical reflection, most especially of a conservative temper, place it in a preeminent position above the grand theoretic abstractions of ideology.

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In what way could individuals and local communities ever really make a difference, in the larger scheme of things, when the causes of poverty are not to be found in the nature of the human condition itself, and in the vicissitudes of individual mortality, but in purposefully entrenched, structural, institutional inequalities and injustices that must perpetuate poverty to perpetuate the affluence?

Obviously, only a powerful, centralized, vigorous, watchful, and morally transcendent government is equal to such a task, if poverty really is of this nature. Government must be understood, not only as competent to administer manna and change water into wine, but as being in a position of moral exclusiveness with relation to the private sector and sphere of American life.

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If not for a tireless, compassionate, and morally-exclusive class of politicians, bureaucrats, and social workers, politically and intellectually supported by another morally exclusive intelligentsia within academia, the media, institutional politics, and the arts, what, it has been asked for generations, “would become of us?” The great transference of our responsibilities to and compassion for the weak and needy among us to those who are not, precisely, among us, and who have no obvious greater claim to compassion, conscience, caring, or human empathy than any other citizen from any other walk of life within the private sector, has had a devastating effect upon the underlying fabric of civil life. The very idea that, without federal government welfare (and hence, without the ministrations of the morally exclusive dispensers of welfare services), American society would fray and deteriorate into a Hobbesian state of dog eating dog in a race to the bottom, has removed the authentic concept of charity from the private sphere by moving poverty itself beyond the realm of individual action and effectiveness.


Kimberly Strassel writes on the president’s history of bad negotiating in the Wall Street Journal:

The man now engaged with Congress to work out a grand deal is the same one who could not pull over to his side a single Republican vote for his stimulus legislation, who had to ram through ObamaCare with procedural tricks, and whose inept handling of last year’s debt-ceiling talks ultimately led his fellow Democrat, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, to isolate him from the final negotiations. This is not a history to inspire confidence.

It does not. Obama approaches negotiations in two ways: as professor and as bare-knuckle brawler.


Let’s end on a high note. Never-married, over-the-hillbilly Bill Croke writes in the American Spectator:

Young men can take heart: In the future they will at least be useful as sperm donors.

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