Monday, December 30, 2013

Military pension sequester

2013 was a bad year for one-time vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan. Let’s review:

He whored illegal immigration amnesty in the name of long-term economic potency. Corporations’ need for cheap labor comes first, the rule of law second—or maybe not at all.

Preluding a 2015 call for “truce” on the definition on marriage, in 2013 Ryan’s position on adoption “evolved”: he now supports any unstable, nonmarital relationship as fertile ground for childrearing. Actually, his position evolved some years ago, but he waited until 2013 to announce it because he didn’t want to be held accountable by voters in 2012.

In budget negotiations with Democratic Senator Patty Murray, Ryan gave away half of the dread federal budget sequester. These are the same sequester cuts that were so horrible, the rate of GDP growth increased steadily since the cuts were implemented, from 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 to 4.1 percent in the third quarter of 2013.

Ryan’s faults are many; however, stiffing military veterans is not one of them.

When federal spending outstrips revenue by a trillion dollars per year, there are no sacred cows. Promises must be broken, contracts must be renegotiated, or the system will collapse and all will suffer no matter how responsibly they planned ahead.

Pension crises plague every level of government. Officials, bargaining with money that wasn’t theirs, struck back-loaded contracts with employees that delayed the pain of retirement funding far enough into the future that they could avoid responsibility. Avoiding responsibility is the motivation of the debt-happy governing class.

The Right’s caterwauling at military pension cuts sounds like the Left’s screams anytime Social Security or Medicare reforms are brought up, except there is less sanctimony in America about getting old. Veterans deserve compensation, not infantilization, which is the devil’s bargain big government loves to make. Where is the soldier’s honor and the pride of service? Did he volunteer for the benefits, like the dweebs in In the Army Now?

Do those flinging impassioned, hyperbolic arguments support increasing military pensions? If not, pray tell, why do they disrespect veterans?

It’s the same sad story of failed socialism: Government seduces voters with goodies, then betrays them when the check comes due. People bought once have nothing to bargain with.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Odds and ends 12/24/2013

Merry Christmas! Christ our Savior is born!

This is the last “Odds and ends” of 2013. Remarkable considering I started out the year announcing I was taking a break from the blog, feeling depressed about the election and running out of topics to write about. I followed that with 119 posts on the year thus far, which included some of my best writing.

Oh, and I turned 27, so as of March this does not apply to me:

“There is no writer so obscure as a 26-year-old writer. So he is suddenly consumed by ambition anxiety — the desperate need to prove that he is superior in sensibility to people who are superior to him in status. Soon he will be writing blog posts marked by coruscating contempt for extremely anodyne people: ‘Kelly Clarkson: Satan or Merely His Spawn?’” –David Brooks

Ouch, David. Why didn’t you tell me you were a visitor?

Maureen Callahan of the New York Post discusses artistic flameout:

When it debuted in late 2011, “Homeland” was a wild and unlikely hit, a thriller about a brilliant, bipolar CIA agent who falls in love with the Marine-turned-sleeper terrorist she’s tracking. Like Gaga, “Homeland” was a surprise: culturally relevant and super weird, electrifying in its warp-speed approach to burning through story.

But after that first season, it became clear that the writers had no idea where to take their narrative, and the show’s once-organic outrageousness curdled into patronizing gimmickry.

With her first record, Lady Gaga, too, burned through story — the outsider artist who crashed through popular culture, the “Mother Monster” to all the world’s freaks — and she clearly had no sense where to go next.

I believe I need to focus my creativity on writing science fiction. That means fewer blog posts in 2014. I mean it this time.

In a ranging piece on feminism and science fiction/fantasy, John C. Wright writes:

The logic of Political Correctness requires that men and women not be complementary because the concept of complementary strengths and weakness is not a concept that Political Correctness can admit, lest it be destroyed. The concept of complementary virtues undermines the concept of envy, and Political Correctness is nothing but politicized fury based on politicized envy. We can define Political Correctness as the attempt to express fury and envy via radical changes to legal and social institutions.

Hence, the Politically Correct writer attempting to make the female ‘strong’ cannot make her strong in the particular feminine way of, for example, Nausicaä, because that would be the same as admitting that there is a particular nature of male and female, which are different and complementary, which, as I said above, undermines the envy-fury on which Political Correctness is based.

So the logic of Political Correctness directly defies the logic of drama. The more you have of one, the less you have of the other.

This is the best description of political correctness I’ve read. It really does boil down to envy.

“The government doesn’t much care what writers have to say because the public doesn’t much care what writers have to say. It is the fondest wish of many writers to be taken seriously enough to be the victims of McCarthyite surveillance.” –Rod Dreher

“In a country where the sole employer is the state, [opposing the State] means death by slow starvation. The old principle: who does not work shall not eat, has been replaced with a new one: who does not obey shall not eat.” –Leon Trotsky

“It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.” –Revelation 13:16-17


“With the greatest zest, people took hold of the hope of compensating themselves with no very strict accounting. To judge from my students in and from the townships, that hope has been a greater burden than their hardships. My classes did not want to prepare for exams, did not want to stop shoving or taunting. They had fierce trouble in parting from the idea of always doing as they pleased—that would throw into doubt the ‘Mandela miracle’ of self-determination that embodied for them everything good. Imagine a religion that takes the teenagers’ side.” –Sarah Ruden

Whom do you serve?

The Guiding Promise was altered earlier this year so that members now swear ‘to be true to myself and develop my beliefs’ rather than the original ‘to love my God’.

In 1989, Glenn Tinder went “big picture” in the Atlantic:

We are so used to thinking of spirituality as withdrawal from the world and human affairs that it is hard to think of it as political. Spirituality is personal and private, we assume, while politics is public. But such a dichotomy drastically diminishes spirituality construing it as a relationship to God without implications for one’s relationship to the surrounding world. The God of Christian faith (I shall focus on Christianity although the God of the New Testament is also the God of the Old Testament) created the world and is deeply engaged in the affairs of the world. The notion that we can be related to God and not to the world—that we can practice a spirituality that is not political—is in conflict with the Christian understanding of God.

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Many of the undoubted virtues of pluralism—respect for the individual and a belief in the essential equality of all human beings, to cite just two—have strong roots in the union of the spiritual and the political achieved in the vision of Christianity. The question that secularists have to answer is whether these values can survive without these particular roots. In short, can we be good without God? Can we affirm the dignity and equality of individual persons—values we ordinarily regard as secular—without giving them transcendental backing?

That question—Can we be good without God?—launched my personal journey into ethical monotheism, the God of the Bible, and eventually Jesus Christ.

The following is adapted from my review of Francis Schaeffer’s How Should We Then Live?:

The post-Christian West has benefited long and well from the momentum of its Judeo-Christian past, with its emphasis on moral absolutes, such as justice. But for hundreds of years we have been undermining ourselves with new-fangled ideas like humanism and hedonism, with their own moral absolutes, such as reason and well-being.

Contemporary humanists and hedonists mold their views to Christian ones so they don’t seem so scary. But, were the post-Christian West to purge its roots completely, and hand over the reins to humanists or hedonists to remake society as they will, in what direction might they lead us? What would be moral?

If a society is not ultimately held accountable to a single set of moral absolutes, then why not legislate on the basis of a competing set of moral absolutes, such as equality? This moral absolute, equality (of result, of course), so transparently at odds with Biblical justice, is being used presently in the United States to impose secular collectivism and to arbitrarily change the definition of marriage.


Jill Filipovic rejects evolutionary science that confirms different sexual attitudes in men and women. One commenter writes:

I am beginning to think there must be a version of Poe’s Law where a certain kind of feminist is indistinguishable from the “straw feminist” stereotype which feminists say is used to discredit feminism by portraying feminists as unreasonable. It certainly applies here. I accuse Jill Filipovic of being a fictional straw feminist invented by the patriarchy who control the media to discredit feminism.

No, she just followed her assumptions to their logical conclusion. I had my own encounter with Poe’s law on Twitter:

Straw libertarian, anyone?

Last year, Timothy Dalrymple called for Christians to abandon arguments in favor of male-female marriage because perceived homophobia is too great an obstacle to Christian witness. Owen Strachan at Patheos responds with truth and vigor:

This kind of call, however well-intentioned, is a devil’s bargain. To be a Christian is to stand upon God’s truth, God’s wisdom. All else is sinking sand. The Bible is not a private book, and Christianity is not quietism. The book claims the sinner for its own, and the book claims meta-knowledge over all the cosmos. The Scripture does not merely contain wisdom–“5 Super-Easy Principles for Dieting!”–but is wisdom. Everything, every last thing, in the Bible is wise (2 Tim. 3:15).

So let’s start here, then go there. There is nothing in Scripture to apologize for; there is nothing to feel bad about. God doesn’t need new PR. He doesn’t need people to be embarrassed for him. He’s not looking for super-authentic apologizers who can clear up the scandal of his claims of cosmic dominion. He hasn’t overestimated; his calculations of rightness have not been proven wrong. He isn’t red-faced in heaven in the face of modernity, or postmodernity, or whatever else will come down the pike. He’s not scared by current events. His angels are not hastily recalibrating the kingdom program to retrofit it for an age that has caught them sleeping in the control room.


“There isn’t much to do in prison except desecrate your flesh,” said sadist Max Cady in the 1991 film Cape Fear. This world is our prison. We desecrate our flesh. We abdicate our humanity and holiness as God’s creations to become like beasts.


Phillip Cary writes in First Things about the Fall:

Why does the serpent in the Garden of Eden speak to the woman, not the man? Genesis gives us a very strong hint about this, which I explored in an earlier post: The great difference between the man and the woman at this point is that the man has heard the commandment of God first hand, before the woman was created (Gen. 2:17). We have to figure she has heard what God said from her husband. He is to be her teacher.

So the serpent asks about what God has said in order to probe how well he has taught and she has learned. These two are meant to be good for each other, the very crown of the goodness of creation, for they are the animal that has logos, capable of speaking and hearing, and therefore of teaching and learning the word of God.

The crucial fine point to bear in mind is something we learn a few verses after the serpent starts speaking: The man is there the whole time. When the woman decides to eat the fruit, she gives some to “her husband who was with her” (Gen. 3:6). So it’s not as if the serpent has waylaid the woman while her husband is away somewhere else. Teacher and student are both present when the serpent quizzes this student about what she’s learned.

So there is a great silence here: The man, who alone has heard the commandment directly from God, apparently plays no role in the conversation about what God has said. Why this silence?

Cary doesn’t provide an answer. Why God made us the way we are is the great mystery of life. Eve rebelled, and Adam rebelled by allowing her to rebel. I imagine—I repeat, I imagine—he wanted to taste the fruit of the tree himself, but he was afraid. So he had ignorant Eve taste it, as if he had discovered some loophole to trick God.


“The death of one’s culture is the loss of the means to bequeath a patrimony of hard-won truths about what it means to be human.” –Bradley Miller

Matt Purple reviews C. S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength:

It follows the development of the National Institute for Co-ordinated Experiments, a technocratic organization known by its euphemistic acronym N.I.C.E. As Lewis, who occasionally dips in as omniscient narrator, describes it, “N.I.C.E. was the first-fruits of that constructive fusion between the state and the laboratory on which so many thoughtful people base their hopes of a better world.” Much of the novel follows Mark Studdock, a self-conscious sociologist pulled straight out of a Tom Wolfe novel, as the technocrats batter him into helping them out.

The goals of the N.I.C.E., gradually unveiled by Lewis, are to free man from nature—to throw off his chains—and put science in charge of his destiny. This means not total equality, as Rousseau promised, but slavery: “Man has got to take charge of Man,” one of the N.I.C.E.’s elites says. “That means, remember, that some men have got to take charge of the rest.” And not just Man, but every aspect of his life and economy. “Aren’t we going to solve the whole currency question? It’s we that make money,” says another technocrat, sounding like a future Fed chairman.

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Scientific socialism infects every pore of the N.I.C.E. The institute’s controllers reject political ideology and religion, seeing themselves as pragmatists interested only in that which works, in “ideas whose time has come,” as today’s wonky bloggers might put it. But in eschewing any moral system, it’s gradually revealed that the technocrats have made themselves slaves to a higher power. “Despair of objective truth had been increasingly insinuated into the scientists,” Lewis writes. “From the point of view which is accepted in Hell, the whole history of our Earth had led up to this moment.”

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There’s no denying the literary value of Orwell’s 1984—that crushing sense of oppression, that awful loneliness...these things stay with you. But ultimately Orwell got the big questions wrong. Today government power isn’t wielded by a Stalinist Big Brother, but by those who say they can use it scientifically, progressively, to make us happier, healthier, more equal—to make people better. If you’re looking for the roots of our technocratic state, you’ll find them portrayed with chilling foresight in That Hideous Strength.

Writing at Townhall, Derek Hunter concurs:

In nearly every way government has replaced religion in the progressive sphere. It is the grantor of rights, the arbiter of morality, the moderator of justice, the compass of true north. Government is the religion, and the agenda is God.

“Going without health insurance is morally wrong,” commanded not one individual with a bias towards forced collectivism, but the holy body politic.

Peter Hitchens writes we have more to fear from Left-wing theocracy:

The villains are not nuns, but their modern-day equivalents—local authority social workers convinced of their own goodness, and dedicated to our new faiths of equality and diversity and political correctness.

They worship the State as fervently as any nun bent before the altar worshipping God, and they view heterosexual married couples with the same glowering suspicious Mother Superiors once reserved for unmarried mothers.


As if there wasn’t enough evidence of the malleability of “sexual orientation,” Robert Carle writes in Public Discourse:

[California] Governor Jerry Brown dismissed sexual orientation modification as “quackery,” and [New Jersey] Governor Chris Christie said that “people are born gay.” Both these statements ignore empirical evidence that, for many teenagers, sexual orientation is unstable and malleable. The most comprehensive study of sexuality to date, the 1992 National Health and Social Life Survey, found that, without any intervention whatsoever, three out of four boys who think they are gay at sixteen don’t think they are gay by the age of twenty-five.

The University of North Carolina’s National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health surveyed 10,000 teenagers and found that the vast majority of sixteen-year olds who reported only same-sex sexual attractions reported only opposite-sex sexual attractions one year later. Because these surveys produced such unexpected results, similar studies were soon replicated all over the Western world. The outcomes were almost identical, with population-based samples now reaching into the hundreds of thousands.

I’ve come to expect obtuseness on cultural issues from Chris Christie. He’s beholden to billionaire GOP donor Paul Singer, who is a force behind the marriage redefinition movement, and who has a gay son. Keep this in mind when Christie stakes a “moderate” stance on social policy.

The Huffington Post reports:

Gay rights groups say conversion therapy damages young people, because it tells them that it’s not acceptable to be whoever they are.

Too bad. It’s not acceptable to be whoever you are. You are not a saint. You are a sinner. The world does not accommodate you.

I repeat, it’s not acceptable to be whoever you are.

Vox writes:

Self-identified homosexuals are unrepentant sinners whom God regards as abomination because they identify themselves with their sin. It is absolutely impossible to be a Christian and an unrepentant homosexual for the obvious reason that Christianity requires repentance for one’s sins.

LGBT rag The Advocate, which published my name and address and the names and addresses of thousands of other signatories (including Angela McCaskill) to the 2012 marriage referendum in Maryland, ran a cover of Pope Francis with the libelous “NO H8” photoshopped on his cheek. Beside his face ran the quote: “If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?” (I discussed that quote at length here.)

The conflation of Francis’s quote and the marriage redefinitionist movement is superficial and dishonest at best. The Advocate loses the direct implication of the first part: “if someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will.”


Grover Norquist of tax pledge infamy supports a marijuana tax. Listen to this:

“When you legalize something and more people do more of it and the government gets more revenue because there’s more of it ... that’s not a tax increase ... The tax goes from 100 percent, meaning its illegal, to whatever the tax is.”

The Huffington Post‘s reporting is typical:

Earlier this year, Norquist forged an unlikely alliance with Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon), who introduced a bill that would reduce the tax burden on small, legal marijuana businesses. Norquist’s group, Americans for Tax Reform, threw support behind the bill.

As I explained in “An ‘anarchist’ leads the socialists,” these are not “unlikely” alliances. In marijuana’s case, libertarians and totalitarians have similar means towards different ends. Nihilist social policy happens to coincide with subverting America’s social compact.

Don’t talk to me about federalism, about leaving decisions to the states. We are perfectly capable of idiocy at the state level. New York proves that.

Mark Barrett addresses the “you can’t legislate morality” myth:

It is not uncommon to see arguments advanced on a variety of issues today which appeal to this supposed lesson of Prohibition: that you cannot legislate morality. As American society moves in a direction which is ever more libertarian on a variety fronts, from marriage, to gambling, to drug use, we can expect to see more efforts to both enact and remove laws accordingly. We can, in turn, expect that these laws will both reflect and shape that society. It is critical in this context to remember the proper lesson of Prohibition: the paramount importance of prudence in governing. The virtue to discern and choose what is good but also to understand the best methods to achieve that good.

“The will, which prefers one aspect to another, turns away the mind from considering the qualities of all that it does not like to see.” –Blaise Pascal

Nukes for everybody!

Iranian media have said Iran, which already has one nuclear power station at Bushehr, is in talks with Russia to construct more, based on a 1992 agreement with Moscow.

The UAE is building a nuclear power plant near Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia plans to build several over the next decade.

This is the first I’ve heard of Gulf states getting nuclear power. Lest we forget, the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis. Our Arab so-called allies are soft Islamists, preferring to infiltrate and undermine the West via money, politics, and immigration. But they have no shortage of radical Islamists, jihadists who are impatient to openly strike the infidel.


At the American Thinker, Jeffrey Folks warns rather than confiscate our wealth outright, federal regulators will mandate a portion of all retirement accounts be in government debt.

Despite its 2010 failure to take over retirement savings, the left has not given up. As reported in WND, officials at the U.S. Treasury and Labor Departments continue discussions aimed at channeling private savings into Treasury obligations via a so-called “Automatic IRA.” Once it has forced workers and employers to contribute to Automatic IRAs, and eventually forced existing savings into government obligations as well, government would control much of the investment capital in America. The free market will cease to exist.

Perhaps in support of that goal, Dodd-Frank legislation of 2010 established the Office of Financial Research (OFR), which recently issued a report suggesting that mutual funds may pose a risk to financial stability. At several points in the report, the authors suggest that many aspects of the financial system are not at present highly regulated and that the risks of these unregulated private transactions are unknown. The implication seems to be that greater government scrutiny is called for.

Once it is established that mutual funds pose a risk to financial stability, government will likely proceed on its merry way, with thousands of pages of regulations bringing those funds, and the savings they manage, under the thumb of government. It is only a short step from regulation to appropriation, whether by seizure via regulation or by mandating an investment in “safe” government obligations.

I hate being right.


Charles Krauthammer destroys President Obama:

In explaining the disastrous rollout of Obamacare, President Obama told Chris Matthews he had discovered that “we have these big agencies, some of which are outdated, some of which are not designed properly.”

An interesting discovery to make after having consigned the vast universe of American medicine, one-sixth of the U.S. economy, to the tender mercies of the agency bureaucrats at the Department of Health and Human Services and the Internal Revenue Service.

Most people become aware of the hopeless inefficiency of sclerotic government by, oh, age 17 at the department of motor vehicles. Obama’s late discovery is especially remarkable considering that he built his entire political philosophy on the rock of Big Government, on the fervent belief in the state as the very engine of collective action and the ultimate source of national greatness. (Indeed, of individual success as well, as in “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”)

This blinding revelation of the ponderous incompetence of bureaucratic government came just a few weeks after Obama confessed that “what we’re also discovering is that insurance is complicated to buy.” Another light bulb goes off, this one three years after passing a law designed to force millions of Americans to shop for new health plans via the maze of untried, untested, insecure, unreliable online “exchanges.”

This discovery joins a long list that includes Obama’s rueful admission that there really are no shovel-ready jobs. That one came after having passed his monstrous $830 billion stimulus on the argument that the weakened economy would be “jump-started” by a massive infusion of shovel-ready jobs. Now known to be fictional.

It’s a man’s world, writes Camille Paglia:

What is troubling in too many books and articles by feminist journalists in the U.S. is, despite their putative leftism, an implicit privileging of bourgeois values and culture. The particular focused, clerical and managerial skills of the upper-middle-class elite are presented as the highest desideratum, the ultimate evolutionary point of humanity. Yes, there has been a gradual transition from an industrial to a service-sector economy in which women, who generally prefer a safe, clean, quiet work environment thrive.

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Men are absolutely indispensable right now, invisible as it is to most feminists, who seem blind to the infrastructure that makes their own work lives possible. It is overwhelmingly men who do the dirty, dangerous work of building roads, pouring concrete, laying bricks, tarring roofs, hanging electric wires, excavating natural gas and sewage lines, cutting and clearing trees, and bulldozing the landscape for housing developments. It is men who heft and weld the giant steel beams that frame our office buildings, and it is men who do the hair-raising work of insetting and sealing the finely tempered plate-glass windows of skyscrapers 50 stories tall.

We can infer you won’t find many of those “men” in the Obama administration. Peggy Noonan writes in the Wall Street Journal:

Most of the Obama people just don’t have a background in executing. They have a background in communicating, not doing. That’s where their talent is—it’s where their boss’s talent is—and it’s a good talent, but not one that will in itself force a government to work well.

Kevin D. Williamson of National Review hits the nail on the head of economic inequality:

The problem is not inequality: The problem is declining or stagnant wages for those Americans who are not thriving in the 21st-century economy. Cannier politicians will note that while they may respond to cheap rhetoric about the new robber barons, Americans are by and large much more concerned about their own paychecks and bank balances than they are those of other people. Republicans would be foolish to adopt the rhetoric of inequality and its implicit class-war thinking, but they would be much more foolish to ignore the underlying economic reality that gives teeth to that critique: Things are not good for the American middle class, and things are bad for the poor. There are signs that economic mobility is in decline, especially at the extremes, and the general environment of economic pessimism, so alien to Americans, is not entirely unjustified.

Republicans have a battery of issues with which to arm themselves here: By standing in the way of educational reform, Democrats rob poor families of educational opportunity in order to look out for the interests of relatively well-off teachers and the growing legion of six-figure school administrators. In defending to the death the entitlement status quo, Democrats ensure a net transfer of wealth from struggling young workers to relatively well-off retirees, in a system that disproportionately benefits higher earners. The nearly universal and frequently criminal misgovernance of large American cities by Democratic political machines — Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Washington, Camden — immiserates millions of Americans, robbing them of educational opportunities, work opportunities, and safe streets.

Republicans have for too long responded to these issues with a growth agenda dominated by reducing statutory federal income-tax rates on personal and corporate income. Those are worthy goals, but they are of limited interest to people who pay relatively little of the former and none of the latter (directly, that is). Republicans are in that sense a victim of the success of President Ronald Reagan, who liked to brag how many Americans he’d taken off the income-tax rolls. When next in power, Republicans should not hesitate to play hardball on these issues, for instance by making federal aid to schools contingent upon universal school choice, a simple reform that would constitute a vast improvement over the No Child Left Behind approach. President Obama has shown what the executive can do unilaterally through regulatory entrepreneurship; a future Republican president can do as much to reverse regulatory encroachment. But if the GOP makes tax cuts its hill to die on once again, or lets martial romance prevent meaningful fiscal adjustments (which must include defense-spending reforms), it will have blown yet another opportunity, the supply of which is not infinite.


At Public Discourse, Michael Stokes Paulsen reviews Oklahoma’s recently overturned ultrasound requirement, and drops this gem:

The pro-abortion argument against [ultrasounds] is, in a nutshell, that it is an unconstitutional impairment of the freedom to choose abortion to be shown and told, in words and in living, real-time moving pictures, what abortion is. Knowledge is bad. And, at a certain level, the pro-abortion side is right: if more women knew what abortion is, and does, and could see their contemplated victims, going forward with such killing likely would more greatly burden their hearts and minds.

This is bizarre reporting from the Washington Post:

What may surprise some people is that [Phil Robertson’s] viewpoint — the part about homosexuality being a sin — is espoused by nearly half the country.

Shocking, I know! It’s as if it was the consensus for thousands of years.


Albert Mohler riffs on polygamy’s path to legalization:

Judge Waddoups ruled that Utah’s law against consensual adult cohabitation among multiple partners violated the Constitution’s free exercise clause, but a main point was that opposition to polygamy did not advance a compelling state interest. In the background to that judgment was the argument asserted by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy to the effect that the only real opposition to any form of consensual sexual arrangement among adults would be religiously based, and thus unconstitutional.

Kennedy made that assertion in his majority opinion in the 2003 case of Lawrence v. Texas that struck down all state laws criminalizing homosexual behavior—and the Lawrence decision looms large over Judge Waddoups’s entire decision. In fact, he referred to a succession of court decisions that had vastly expanded the scope of sexual behaviors and noted: “To state the obvious, the intervening years have witnessed a significant strengthening of numerous provisions of the Bill of Rights.”

Yes, that is to state the obvious. Key to that line of legal reasoning is the declaration by Justice Kennedy in Lawrence that the U.S. Constitution recognizes “an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression and certain intimate conduct.” More than once, Kennedy had inserted a statement about the Constitution requiring acceptance of “liberty of the person both in its spatial and more transcendent dimensions.” Justice Antonin Scalia acerbically dismissed this argument as the “sweet mystery of life passage,” but the damage was done. Judge Waddoups was working within Kennedy’s structure of thought, and Utah’s law against polygamy was found to violate that zone of privacy.

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Jonathan Turley, the attorney who represented the Browns, has long been an ardent opponent of anti-polygamy laws. In an article he published shortly after the decision was handed down, Turley argued that the case was not really about polygamy, but privacy. “The decision affects a far greater range of such relationships than the form of polygamy practiced by the Browns. It is a victory not for polygamy but for privacy in America.”

At the same time, he also acknowledged the link between the legalization of homosexual relationships and the acceptance of polygamy. “Homosexuals and polygamists do have a common interest,” he said, “the right to be left alone as consenting adults.” He added: “There is no spectrum of private consensual relations—there is just a right of privacy that protects all people so long as they do not harm others.”

Ah, the simplicity of MYOB ethics.

Of course, the moral revolution that has transformed marriage in our times did not start with the demand for legal same-sex marriage. It did not begin with homosexuality at all, but with the sexual libertinism that demanded (and achieved) a separation of marriage and sex, liberating sex from the confines of marriage. So sex was separated from marriage, and then sex was separated from the expectation of procreation and child-rearing. Marriage was separated from sex, sex was separated from reproduction, and the revolution was launched. Adding to the speed of this revolution, then, was the advent of no-fault divorce and the transformation of marriage into a tentative and often temporary contract.

Once that damage had been done, the demand to legalize same-sex marriage could not be far behind. And now polygamy is enjoying its moment of legal liberation. Once marriage was redefined in function, it was easy to redefine it in terms of permanence. Once that was done, it was easy enough to redefine it in terms of gender. Now, with the logic of moral revolution transforming marriage in all respects, polygamy follows same-sex marriage. If marriage can be redefined in terms of gender, it can easily be redefined in terms of number.

Daniel Greenfield weighs in:

Reproductive rights and gay rights activists both campaigned to be left alone. There are still gay protests with placards arguing that their marriages are no one else’s business and pro-abortion rallies demanding that politicians stay out of the bedroom. But if the marriage of Adam and Steve shouldn’t be at the disposal of Harry and Julie, why should Harry’s bakery and Julie’s talent be at the disposal of Adam and Steve? If the government should stay out of the bedroom, then why must it dive into the bedroom to compel the owners of companies like Hobby Lobby to subsidize violations of their faith?

Cases like these show that the issue is not rights, but control. If the only way to obtain what you call your rights is by compelling someone else to give up theirs then what you are really demanding is not a right, but a means of imposing your values and your convictions on someone else.


Noam Scheiber writes in the New Republic that “populism” is splitting the Democratic Party. You have the technocrats, corporatists, and special interests (big government) on one side, and the anti-establishment, power-to-the-people socialists on the other side. It’s a rehash of the classic Stalinist vs. Leninist argument.

My opinion? The anti-establishment may garner the votes, but it’s the political machine operators, vested in their piece of the centralized, bureaucratic, socialist pie, that prevails. Stalinism won in the 1920s. It will win again in the 2010s. Scheiber comes to the same conclusion:

When you actually try to reform the status quo, any approach that relies on courting insiders (lobbyists and businessman, often regulators and Washington think tankers) rather than ginning up public support typically stalls out before long. The oil-state Democrats cave to energy companies; northeastern Democrats cave to the financial industry; coastal Dems cave to the tech sector; farm-state Dems cave to Big Ag. There are defense-contractor Dems; big-box retailer Dems; health insurer Dems (one reason for the Rube-Goldberg contraption we know as Obamacare).

There’s a good reason Obamacare is a “Rube-Goldberg contraption.” The healthcare industry, lest we forget, is one-sixth of the economy, comprising millions of producers and consumers. The ridiculous Obamacare bill and its leviathan regulatory offspring are socialists’ flawed attempt to replace the rational decisions of all the actors in the healthcare market. Also, in the transition to a purer socialism, socialists need industry’s biggest actors to buy in, lest they withdraw from the system, allowing it to collapse under the reality that it is not immune to the laws of economics. Socialists guarantee this with bribes, rents, and conflicting incentives.

Socialism doesn’t work without fascist big government. And even then it doesn’t work.


This Bloomberg article on estate tax loopholes is instructional on how government creates problems, in response to which it creates bigger problems:

Congress created the GRAT while trying to stop another tax-avoidance scheme that Covey developed. In 1984, Covey, a lawyer at Carter Ledyard & Milburn LLP in New York, publicized an estate-tax shelter he’d invented called a grantor retained income trust, or GRIT.

Covey figured out how to make a large gift appear to be small. He would have a father, for example, put investments into a trust for his children, with instructions that the trust should pay any income back to the father. The value of that potential income would be subtracted from the father’s gift-tax bill.

Then, the trust could invest in growth stocks that paid low dividends so that most of the returns still ended up going to his kids. Six years after Covey started promoting this technique, Congress termed it abusive and passed a law to stop it.

The 1990 legislation replaced the GRIT with the GRAT, a government-blessed alternative that allowed people to keep stakes in gifts to their children while forbidding the abuse Covey had devised.

Covey studied the law and found an even bigger loophole. “The change that was made to stop what they thought was the abuse, made the matter worse,” he says.

Fredric Grundeman, who helped draft the bill while he was an attorney at the U.S. Treasury Department and is now retired, says the framers didn’t recognize the new law’s potential for abuse.

“How do I say it?” Grundeman says. “When Congress enacts a law, it isn’t always well thought out.”

Move along. Nothing to see here.


“Race is fictional. It’s not a biological reality. It’s a socio-political construct,” says MSNBC’s Touré. A remarkable admission. I couldn’t agree more. It’s on this understanding of race that I can say without laughing that Bill Clinton is blacker than Robert Griffin, III, that President Obama is gayer than Doug Mainwaring, gay same-sex marriage opponent.

In all sincerity, I think Touré means charges of racism are merely imprecise, as opposed to false. On the Marxist view, race is a proxy for class, in which “black” stands in for the trodden-down proletariat whose destiny is to rise against the “white” bourgeoisie.

Touré also dropped this line:

You do know, there is already a generous, benevolent black man in your children’s lives who lives in a place that is magical, who has given something to each and every American, whether they have been naughty or nice. You know who I’m talking about.

Surely he doesn’t mean the half-white president, whose bills of debt, weak job prospects, and canceled health insurance policies are far worse stocking stuffers than lumps of coal.


The past 2 weeks have been heavy on Nietzsche. Here’s an excerpt of some scholarship on nihilism, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Stanley Rosen identifies Nietzsche’s concept of nihilism with a situation of meaninglessness, in which “everything is permitted.” According to him, the loss of higher metaphysical values which existed in contrast to the base reality of the world or merely human ideas give rise to the idea that all human ideas are therefore valueless. Rejection of idealism thus results in nihilism, because only similarly transcendent ideals would live up to the previous standards that the nihilist still implicitly holds. The inability for Christianity to serve as a source of valuating the world is reflected in Nietzsche’s famous aphorism of the madman in The Gay Science. The death of God, in particular the statement that “we killed him,” is similar to the self-dissolution of Christian doctrine: due to the advances of the sciences, which for Nietzsche show that man is the product of evolution, that earth has no special place among the stars and that history is not progressive, the Christian notion of God can no longer serve as a basis for a morality.

Ironically, Nietzsche accused moralists of nihilism for negating human nature and commanding death to the only valid source of life and vitality: the will.


For Love of the Game is one of my favorite baseball movies. Baseball announcer Vin Scully has an excellent monologue about an aging pitcher’s last career start. It’s not as effective if you don’t imagine it in Vin Scully’s rich voice:

You get the feeling that Billy Chapel isn’t pitching against left handers, he isn’t pitching against pinch hitters, he isn’t pitching against the Yankees. He’s pitching against time. He’s pitching against the future, against age, and even when you think about his career, against ending.

That could describe a lot of life’s unfulfilled desires.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Center of being

Grégor Puppinck writes in First Things that conservatives, especially religious conservatives, should not join groups demanding protection from state and workplace discrimination. Doing so borrows cultural Marxists’ relativism, a flattening of moral categories, which hinders the ability to differentiate unlike things, right from wrong. Neither the world nor our moral sense is flat.

Here’s Puppinck:

The concept of non-discrimination is at an impasse because it is founded on an abstract equality: Firstly, the real problem is not the matter of “discrimination against Christians,” but the fact that the law distances itself from justice and invades all spheres of life. The real question is that of the definition of justice and the source of public morality. What Christians perceive as an “anti-Christian discrimination” is none other than the violence with which another “morality” tends to replace the Christian anthropology. What some Christians perceive as a discrimination against them, is actually an injustice per se.

When a nurse is required to practice an abortion, where is the primary cause of injustice? In the obligation or in the abortion? For discrimination to exist there must exist morally equivalent situations comparable to one another. A nurse who is dismissed because she objects to abortion could claim discrimination only on the condition that her choice is considered as equivalent to the opposite choice of performing the abortion. Indeed, for a difference in treatment to constitute discrimination, the situations at hand must be similar. Yet this is precisely what the nurse conscientiously objects.

As a result, a person who complains of being discriminated against due to his beliefs or convictions places himself within the relativistic liberal paradigm. Such an approach is certainly doomed to failure. In our subjectivist culture, populated with supposed irrational subjects, individual conscience has lost its authority, so much that the positive law would be the only admissible and workable objective social norm.

This is a pertinent article for Phil Robertson’s defenders, who rely too much on appeals to free speech. Sure, we have a right to say anything we want, but the unvarnished truth is not “anything.” The Gospel is not marginal speech that we put up with because we’re a tolerant people who honor differences of opinion no matter how spiteful or untrue. The Gospel is the root of our civil society. It’s silly to pretend what Robertson said is on the same moral plane as what Martin Bashir said about Sarah Palin, for example.

What did the “Duck Dynasty” patriarch say, which likely will result in the cancellation of his reality series?

Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong. Sin becomes fine. Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men. Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.

As expected, the barbarian hordes slammed Robertson for “equating” homosexuality and bestiality, despite being like in one way (they are sin) doesn’t mean being like in all ways (homosexuals are not animals). Comparison is not equivocation.

Anyway, what’s so terrible about bestiality? Is not “to each his own” the litmus test of modern ethics?

Andrew Sullivan comments:

For the fundamentalist, all sin—when it comes down to it—starts with sex. This sexual obsession, as the Pope has rightly diagnosed it, is a mark of neurotic fundamentalism in Islam and Judaism as well as Christianity. And if all sin is rooted in sex, then the homosexual becomes the most depraved and evil individual in the cosmos. So you get this classic statement about sin: “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there.”

No, sin starts with temptation, personally turning away from the truth that we are to live transformed lives for God. For most of us, sexual temptation is the most powerful human instinct we deal with. Friedrich Nietzsche wrote: “The degree and kind of a person’s sexuality reach up into the ultimate pinnacle of his spirit.”

Sullivan must be blind. Does he not see the gay mafia’s passion, their vitriol? Does he not see their elevation of mutable sexual habits, behaviors, and “orientations” to the center of being? Their slander of thousands of years of moral tradition as “hate”? It’s the most visible cultural movement of our day. Phil Robertson is not blind. He sees this and is answering their obsession.

Jonathan Capehart enlists Pope Francis in condemning Robertson:

This intolerant view is especially jarring when even the pope asks “who am I to judge” gay people and insists that the Catholic Church stop “obsessing” over social issues.

Pope Francis’s full quote reads: “If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?” Capehart, who is gay, deliberately dropped that first part. Can it be said the celebrators of sin are “seeking the Lord with good will”? At his aunt’s funeral, Capehart took offense and resisted the preacher’s message of redemption offered through the grace of God coming to earth in the flesh to take the world’s sins on Himself.

This resistance rests on a belief in man as he is made. There is no sin, no sense of obligation to be better, to prepare oneself for eternity. There is nothing but man and his limited time on earth, which he makes the most of in pursuit of fulfilling his will to power and pleasure. As Nietzsche wrote in The Antichrist: “An action demanded by the instinct of life is proved to be right by the pleasure that accompanies it.”

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Democratic nihilism

Note: This is a companion piece to “Transcendent will.”

“Life has, as a matter of fact, always shown itself to be on the side of the most unscrupulous polytropoi.” –Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science

Nietzsche’s doctrine of the will explicitly rejects the validity of checks on individuals’ innate desire for self-realization. “A virtue must be our own invention, our most necessary self-expression and self-defense,” he wrote in The Antichrist. “Whatever is not a condition of our life harms it.” Social conscience obstructs the will. The verity of sin, an indictment of the earthly nature of every person, obstructs the will. According to Nietzsche, man doesn’t need forgiveness for his sins because he has no sins to seek forgiveness for. “There are altogether no moral facts,” he declared in Twilight of the Idols.

In principle, he is echoed by Tom Gualtieri, who maintains moral agency is doing what makes you happy as long as it does no harm to others. Everything else, to quote Gualtieri, is a “cock-and-bull story about why I’m morally superior.” Nietzsche likewise saw moralists as preening and hypocritical, imposing themselves passive-aggressively via an imaginary God:

Reality shows us an enchanting wealth of types, the abundance of a lavish play and change of forms—and some wretched loafer of a moralist comments: “No! Man ought to be different.” He even knows what man should be like, this wretched bigot and prig: he paints himself on the wall and comments, “Ecce homo!” (Behold the man!)

However, a “wealth of types” also extends to sin. Nietzsche tended to conflate sin with passion, “the lowest and the highest desires of life.” Morality is “anti-natural,” “hostile to life,” in effect a castration of desire, the human spirit, and the will to power. Nevertheless, it is suitable for “those who are too weak-willed, too degenerate to be able to impose moderation on themselves.” Here Christianity serves a useful purpose for Nietzsche: Finding complacency in servitude makes life bearable for the weak, undisciplined masses who are destined to be conquered by a race of supermen.

If there were none but an earthly realm from which to draw ultimate conclusions, I would be inclined to agree with Nietzsche on every point. Is not this the observable way of the world? Do not the powerful exert their power, eschewing morality, eschewing truth itself? To quote Thucydides, is not “right, as the world goes, only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must”?

At least there is order in the hierarchy. On the other hand, a democratic nihilism, in which each man pursues his will, ends one of two ways: anarchy or tyranny. It will either fall apart, faithful to the last day that moral agency includes not harming others, or survive by subduing all to the will of a despot.

“If [Nietzsche] is a mere symptom of a disease, the disease must be very widespread in the modern world.” –Bertrand Russell

Our postmodern psychosis combines two disastrous ideals: the will to power and egalitarianism. By themselves, they are repulsive. The will to power is merciless and inhumane, removing individuals from natural communion with each other, resulting in slavery and genocide. Egalitarianism strips man of his natural rights, forcing him to find meaning in and bond to the collective.

Together, they forge a unique dictatorship—a dictatorship of relativism, to borrow from Pope Benedict XVI. We genuflect at people’s images of themselves (i.e., political and sexual “identities”) that they see fit to immortalize by demanding we sanction them. Thus, in collective nonjudgment, we undermine objective truth, draining the pool of civilization in a race to the depths, devolving to a brutish, chaotic state of nature.

Monday, December 16, 2013

In defense of Kanye West

Kanye West has an inflated ego. That’s about the worst that can be said following this non-controversy. Here’s a brief recap: In an interview, West compared the risks he takes as one of the reigning kings of hip-hop to the daily risks soldiers and policemen take. “Wow, this is like being a police officer or something, in war or something.”

This isn’t the first hyperbolic self-comparison West has made. He explained in October:

When I compare myself to Steve Jobs, or Walt Disney...Howard Hughes, David Stern, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Jesus...I’m saying these are my heroes.

West didn’t spit on soldiers and policemen. He didn’t call them baby killers and pigs. Since he thinks highly of himself, by comparing himself to them he indirectly paid them a compliment. Considering the filthy things celebrities have said about soldiers and policemen, and considering the more offensive things West himself has said and done, this shouldn’t even show up on the cultural radar screen.

Nevertheless, cue the false sanctimony:

“What I do not get is you EVER comparing what you do for a living to our heroic military members, who are always in harm’s way...and my brother and sister police officers who have to go to work carrying weapons and wearing a bullet-proof vest to protect themselves.” –Brimfield Police Chief David Oliver

By inspiring Oliver’s pen, West helped make this poet police chief more famous than 99 percent of active police officers and soldiers. For all the years of public service Oliver has rendered, he never received so much attention in his life as when he wrote a witty letter to Kanye West. What does that say about the premium we place on regular police work?

If Oliver is to be believed, would not the hour or two he took to write that letter have been better spent patrolling the streets, protecting kids from what we’re told are constant threats from gunmen and pedophiles? How many jaywalkers and dropped cigarette butts he didn’t prevent in the suburban Ohio war zone of Brimfield, population 3,343, due to his literary digression!

Here’s a headline you’ll never read: “1.4 million Service members risked life and limb today.” Given journalists’ propensity for sensationalism, they ought to run with this or some variant every day. They don’t for two simple reasons: The story doesn’t reflect the public’s priorities, and it doesn’t match the reality of a relative lack of danger in modern military service. For all the glamorous talk of heroism and sacrifice, Service members usually refer to their “always [being] in harm’s way” in simpler, humbler terms: usually, “doing my job.” For perspective, this Kanye West flap alone—there are others—has produced hundreds of headlines.

West is on the cutting edge of hip-hop, a fierce, ultra-competitive market, where self-doubt is costly. It wasn’t his talent alone that made him successful. His success, in large part, is due to his boldness.

There aren’t 1.4 million men in America who can do West’s job. There aren’t 14 men in America who can do his job. Stars in the spotlight flame out because they can’t sustain producing a high-value product, others because they can’t handle the pressure.

While not being literally shot at, figuratively people are gunning for him. They root for his failure. They want his record label, they want his market share, they want his fiancée. On top of that, the government wants more and more of his money (to finance police departments and the Armed Services, by the way). With each measure of success, the stakes rose higher, as there was more to lose and there were more people to take it from him.

The embattled West fought for all of it. “I’ll explain to my daughter one day, that me and her mother, we had to fight for this position that we’ll finally have,” he also said in the interview. To borrow from soccer pro Abby Wambach, he’s put his “whole human being-ness” into his hip-hop career.

Now he’s at the top, and it’s a long, long way down.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Transcendent will

“All noble morality grows out of a triumphant affirmation of oneself.” –Friedrich Nietzsche, Toward a Genealogy of Morals

There’s no greater ego boost than reading Nietzsche. The seductiveness of his doctrine of the will lies in self-empowerment through self-overcoming. The contempt he stirs for the world, even for one’s own flesh, is immeasurably motivating.

I would know. In the deepest throes of Nietzschean isolation in 2005 and 2006, I wrote three novels, exercised 4 to 6 hours a week, and got on track to receive my bachelor’s degree 1 year early. I also became borderline sociopathic. Mid-decade films Troy and Batman Begins cemented the ascetic, misanthropic anti-hero as my ideal.

Love for justice or “the good” didn’t motivate Brad Pitt’s Achilles or Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne. Achilles in Troy waived all associations to country, God(s), and family. He didn’t even care what the war was about, or profiting from it. He rejected the spoils of war, the gold in Apollo’s temple and the virgin priestess. Posthumous glory in war was his lone object. Wayne in Batman Begins deliberately purged himself of the privileges of his upbringing for 7 years by adopting the life of a criminal. He then used crime fighting as a vehicle to exorcise his demons over his parents’ death and to transcend his human limitations, in effect becoming one of Nietzsche’s übermenschen. Ergo: “As a man, I’m flesh and blood. I can be ignored. I can be destroyed. But as a symbol, as a symbol, I can be incorruptible. I can be everlasting.”

Supposing you live in a comic book world (or in Nietzsche’s head), this is true. But for us real people, the hold “flesh and blood” has on us is irrevocable, which is why we need God’s forgiveness, which He provides via His Son’s sacrifice.

“What is good? Everything that heightens the feeling of power in man, the will to power, power itself. What is bad? Everything that is born of weakness.” The Antichrist

Nietzsche was hostile to the Christian doctrine of salvation through faith, of submitting to God, of acquiescing the flawed heart and human will to God. He viewed it as a weapon of the weak against the strong. “It has made an ideal of whatever contradicts the instinct of the strong life to preserve itself,” he wrote. Essential to his hostility is his view that the “supreme values of the spirit” (i.e., the will to power) do not lead to temptation, sin, corruption of the soul. But the briefest survey of human nature confirms that they do.

His disdain for fleshly temptations seems to run counter to his rejection of Christian self-denial—unless one takes into account the paradigm Nietzsche supplements, that of domination versus submission. He scorned men who submit to their temptations, while lauding men who master themselves. The latter are dominant, exercising wills superior to their desires. On his view, what we would call sin is not bad, per se; the only bad is man’s submissive relationship to it. “He shall be the greatest who can be the loneliest, the most hidden, the most deviating, the human beyond good and evil, the master of his virtues, he that is overrich in will,” he wrote in Beyond Good and Evil. As the title suggests, Nietzsche did not see life as a struggle between good and evil. His struggle was between domination and submission.

This struggle plays out among people as well as within them. The victors over their own human nature—an aristocratic, self-possessed elite—are leading candidates to inflict their will on the masses. Nietzsche described them as “skilled in living on mountains—seeing the wretched ephemeral babble of politics and national self-seeking [as] beneath oneself...become indifferent...[keeping] reverence for oneself, love of oneself, unconditional freedom before oneself.” External conditions set by society, by time, by the elements are no burden on these “mighty men.” They are like gods. Foreshadowing the genocidal tyrants of the 20th century, Nietzsche fantasized millions would die for the glory and edification of the übermenschen.

Put in such stark, offensive terms, such egomaniacal ravings are easy to dismiss. The cartoonish self-aggrandizement and certainly the gleeful predictions of the enslavement of man to the will of a few make it hard to take anything he has to say seriously. However, like Hitler, Nietzsche’s extremism masks his appeal. He illustrates deep truths about man’s inclination towards his will.

To be continued...

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Make an honest man out of him

Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun is a cheater. He took performance-enhancing drugs.

Worse, he lied about it. Repeatedly. To everyone. For the better part of 2 years, Braun lived a lie. He placed all his credibility and his team’s credibility behind what he knew to be false.

Worse still, in his egomaniacal defense, Braun cast aspersions on drug tester Dino Laurenzi, sullying the reputation of a relatively small fish who lacked the voice to defend himself. Braun’s cynicism in manipulating the public, in retrospect, is stunning. Who are you going to believe: the American-as-apple-pie ball player, the reigning MVP, the face of the franchise; or this guy?

Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports channeled justified anger in August when Major League Baseball suspended Braun for 65 games and the lie was finally put to rest:

[Braun] is the guy who takes performance-enhancing drugs, gets caught, lies about it, wins and still feels it necessary to smear a completely innocent man who did his job exactly how protocol said he should. He is someone willing to lie to teammates, to fans, to everyone, building this tower of propaganda that Monday toppled all over him.

He is a cockroach. And on Monday, he went splat.

Not quite. The “cockroach” is still very much on top of the world. He’s under contract through 2020. Barring further suspension, he will make about $120 million over the next seven baseball seasons. And he just married fashion model Larisa Fraser.

One suspects Braun’s ability to uphold an oath to his wife, when he so selfishly violated the oath to his vocation. As the saying goes, “trust is the easiest thing in the world to lose, and the hardest to gain back.” Few athletes achieve such depths of public humiliation and ask for a chance at redemption, much less are given one (ahem, Lance Armstrong).

It appears the way is being prepared for just that. To us, Braun’s marriage is the clearest sign of his rehabilitation. Despite his elite status, Fraser likely would not marry him if she did not trust him, if she did not believe his apologies. She was with Braun when he went to Laurenzi’s home to apologize in person, to support him and, yes, to hold him to account. She is the right person to literally make an honest man out of him. If she can forgive him, so can others.

Best wishes to the newlyweds.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Odds and ends 12/6/2013

We’re serving up a postfeminist special here at Odds and ends. And by “special” I mean “horrible.” Let’s get started.

Susan Dench explains the real “war on women” in the Bangor Daily News:

Before the sexual revolution, the woman was put on a pedestal, and both sexes expected the man to court her, woo her, fight for her hand, solicit her hard-won affection. Oh, of course there was premarital sex, but it wasn’t as prevalent, and if a girl got pregnant the guy was expected to marry her.

Today, men and women can both sleep around with little consequence—at least looking at things from an emotional distance. If she is on the pill and it fails, there is always an abortion (which is the greatest war against women, if we figure 50 percent of babies aborted are girls and if a baby is aborted for sex selection, it will almost always be a female). Of course, feminists have told us that we women hold all the cards, and we have the “choice,” so one of two things happens to the father: Either his responsibility is eliminated or, if he wants the baby, the heck with what the father wants.

Talk about irony: Men have taken advantage of casual sex on demand and ended up with even more power as they asked themselves, “Why buy the cow when you get the milk for free?” and wriggled out of monogamous dating, commitment, marriage and responsibility. Women are left without an emotionally engaged long-term partner and asking themselves in slack-jawed disbelief, “What happened?”

Poor Gen Y. The whole dating thing has got to be confusing for both sides. A New York Times article asserted, “Instead of dinner-and-a-movie, which seems as obsolete as a rotary phone, they rendezvous over phone texts, Facebook posts, instant messages and other ‘non-dates’ that are leaving a generation confused about how to land a boyfriend or girlfriend.” Meeting up at the last minute is typical (no thrill of anticipation there), as is “hooking up,” which entails no-commitment sex. Hey, who cares about the consequences? If it feels good, do it.

By advocating “sexual empowerment,” feminists have sold yet another bill of goods to women, telling them to enjoy a carefree, commitment-free sexual lifestyle which actually results in the denigration of women. Now the men get that, while women are left desperately longing for more.

“Vox” at Alpha Game muses on Japan’s fertility problem:

As women achieve a higher level of education, their hypergamy cause them to increasingly focus on a dwindling pool of men with whom they are also competing. Those who cannot score an Alpha or a Beta tend to elect to remain single and devote themselves to their careers rather than settle for a Delta or Gamma as their mothers and grandmothers did. In reaction to their disdain, the lesser men are not only less attractive to these educated women, they are also less attracted to them as they learn there is no possibility of satisfying relationships with them.

Why is the problem more distinct in Japan than in the USA, where even more women are highly educated? Because Japan is a more rigidly traditional society and its people are less willing to embrace an equality paradigm that has already failed in the West.

Regarding the enmity between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, counter to male tennis stars’ off-court buddiness, Vox writes:

To take everything personally, from a sporting defeat to a minor accident, is to be fundamentally unmasculine. The fact that the interests of others often run contrary to our own does not mean that they have anything to do with us personally. Don’t be afraid to apologize or to accept apologies. Learn to leave the spirit of opposition on the playing field and save your wrath for the wicked, for those whose enmity is specific and personal and temporally unlimited.

It’s not a surprise that the female boxer did not touch gloves after being defeated. She has no male honor and everything is personal for her. The match may be over, but you can be sure that she still sees the man with whom she was boxing as her opponent. In fact, she probably sees many men with whom she has never boxed and never will box as her opponents.

Rather than being a lesson on male sexual nature, Greg Hampikian’s tongue-in-cheek New York Times article ends on a note of ambivalence about the sexual purpose of men. Read the silly comment left by one reader:

When I decided to have a child with anonymous donor sperm, several men I knew were disturbed that it could be done, and I realized then there was a fear that they could become non-essential. My theory is that this fear is behind the desire to repress women world-wide, be it denying rape or forbidding schooling, lest we wake up and realize that men are superfluous! Don’t worry, most of us still like you, but it’s past time for us to truly be equals.

Ah, true equality, the kind modern technology and the patriarchal state produces by advancing the choice of having fatherless children, but not motherless children.

Commenter Brian restores sanity:

If we come out of the ivory tower and back down to earth, the breadwinner factor is bigger than you let on. Ask any single mother who was not lucky enough to be born into wealth, and I can assure you they would appreciate having a partner around to support a family financially so that she can stay home and give the appropriate attention to a baby, in particular during the first three years of life. I acknowledge that a partner need not be a man, but it’s my understanding that statistically, the vast majority of women prefer men.

Try keeping your lunch down as you watch this:

Excerpt from Lifesite’s coverage:

The police reportedly told the media they were unable to intervene because “they are women.”

First of all, no, they’re not. They’re beasts. Treat them as their actions deserve.

Secondly, what a sorry bunch, deferring to women who’ve forsaken the respect due to the fairer sex.

Karen Straughan (aka Girl Writes What) gave a powerful speech about feminism to the New York Libertarian Party. Excerpts:

By the 1960s, when the western world’s love affair with communism had begun to fizzle, communism’s red-headed stepdaughter, feminism, was only growing in popularity. The sexier, less threatening, more benign-seeming Trojan Mare upon which Marxists had relied to sneak their ideology past the gates of the western world had outgrown its helpmeet role, and taken on a life of its own.

By this era, a discrete and quintessentially Marxist theoretical model of gender had become entrenched in the intellectual sphere, a model based on class conflict theory and postmodern discourse. While communist thought was confined to a small pocket of what the mainstream mostly thought of as misguided weirdos, feminist thought, slapped together from the exact same bricks and mortar, became not only fashionable, but had spawned its own branch of academia, sponsored and enabled by unwitting democratic governments across the west.

While historical views on the sexes had maintained that men and women were distinctly different but complementary partners—role mates, as Dr. Warren Farrell has described it—this new feminist model cast all aspects of society as oppressive and exploitive systems wherein men embodied the Bourgeoisie, and women the Proletariat.

Most of this model—The Patriarchy—and its sub-theories are little more than post hoc rationalizations based on emotional reasoning, easily swallowed by the well-meaning public because of the evidence that stands out most starkly to us given our natural, evolved views of gender. Humans have always been more emotionally reactive to the harms, injuries, injustices, complaints and perils affecting women, and more likely to see women as nurturing, benign, kind, well-meaning and deserving of protection. We have always been more likely to see men as strong, sturdy, capable of self-sufficiency, potent and potentially threatening, and these perceptions inform our reactions when men suffer harms, injuries, injustices and dangers, and when they dare to complain about them.

Because of these innate perceptions, when feminists pointed up toward the top of society and showed us mostly men, we didn’t bother to direct our attention down to the bottom of society so we could see the mostly men there, as well. We all saw a glass ceiling, but not a glass cellar, and allowed feminists to convince us that all aspects of society, the formalized and the informal, were male-dominated and male-controlled, and that women, as a class, were utterly powerless and subjugated under this system.

Marriage was redefined under this model, from a partnership where both parties contributed and benefitted, to a form of sexual slavery and unpaid drudgery for women where wives were subjugated and exploited for their husbands’ express benefit. Under second wave feminism, family was reinterpreted as an institution based on exploitation—instead of all members working together for the benefit and shared success of all members, women were recast as powerless subordinates, providing unreciprocated labor toward the raising of HIS children, and the keeping of HIS house, labor that freed husbands to pursue economic and social power outside the home.

It didn’t matter that most men had little more access to economic and social power than most women, or that what power men achieved they were expected to share equitably with their families. Feminists were too busy pointing upward at the congressmen, bank managers and CEOs and crying injustice, to show us the taxi drivers, garbage men, plumbers, loggers, fishermen, miners, construction workers, factory laborers, field workers, roughnecks and janitors. They envied the power of generals and statesmen, but spared no thought for the thousands of young foot soldiers dead in the trenches. They were jealous of the self-determination that made an industrialist rich beyond dreaming, but when that self-determination produced a different outcome for the mostly male population of tramps, beggars and hobos it was invisible to them.

They focus solely on the men above and don’t even notice the men below.

The 23 cent average, apples to oranges, annual wage gap is STILL, in their minds, the height of sexist injustice, but the greater than 90% workplace death gap is...well, who cares?

...

The traditional obligation of a woman to defer to her husband’s authority was defined as “oppression”, but her husband’s obligation to die in a trench to protect his country and family...that became “male privilege” and when enough people protested the hubris of that assertion, it became “Patriarchy hurts men too.”

Under The Patriarchy, all men are privileged by their maleness, and all women oppressed by their femaleness. And if men are, as a class, the privileged Bourgeoisie, if men hold collective power over society, then all men are culpable for the oppression and exploitation of all members of the female Proletariat, and any discrimination a man might face in society is just his own privilege backfiring on him.

...

One need only watch the Life of Julia, Obama’s most naked and blatant appeal to the natures of women—especially young, single women. Julia has no father, and no husband—she needs neither of those things. The state will take care of her needs from birth to death, and will support her when she decides to have a child of her own—a child that, in Obama’s narrative, is also fatherless. The man in Julia’s life, the one who will perform the roles—provision, protection, support—historically performed by husbands, brothers and fathers, is more powerful than any man she’ll ever meet, more able to provide for her, and one she need make no compromises with.

Julia will never have to pick up this man’s dirty socks, or put up with him snoring or farting in bed, or consider his needs, or provide him with respect, love or affection. He is the ultimate provider and the ultimate protector, and he will ask nothing of her in return but her vote.

And he’ll give her all those benefits through a system that coerces net taxpayers and net tax-generators, of whom a disproportionate number are men, to surrender their productivity while offering them neither mutual benefit nor voluntary association. This feels right and just to feminists, because the state is merely assisting Julia in stealing back what was wrongfully taken from women, as a class, by men, as a class. This feels like a great deal to Julia, since all she has done is replace a man with whom she would be required to bargain freely, with a state that provides her all the same benefits without the messy business of having to trade anything valuable for them.

I nominated “Julia” for Person of the Year last year. I better start thinking about who deserves to win the honor this year.

Kay Hymowitz writes on the “gender gap”:

Gender gap fundamentalism creates a zero-sum struggle between the sexes where women’s advantage is always good while men’s is always bad. Take the measurement of “healthy life expectancy.” In keeping with its methods, the report ranks countries not in terms of how long women live, but in terms of the gap in life expectancy. Oddly, there is no disadvantage for a reverse gender gap. So, as John Edale noted on the Good Men Project blog, the report gives the Russian Federation first place on healthy life expectancy because its men die so much younger (55) than its women (65). Japan, on the other hand, sinks to 36th place because even though its women live to 78—13 years longer than in Russia—the men of the land of the rising sun have the gall to live to 73. And so it is that, as the Japan Times announced in its headline on the report: “Japan’s Poor Gender Gap [is] Worsening.”

Equally perverse are the education rankings. In 25 countries, we learn, women are now more educated than men. Those countries get a perfect gender gap score. Same for labor force participation rates, one of the benchmarks for determining a country’s ranking in “economic opportunity and participation.” The winning countries in the LFPR sweepstakes are Malawi, Mozambique, and Burundi; they have a lower gender gap than even the Nordics. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. In deeply distressed countries, anyone who possibly can, including a child, gets a job. The U.S., by the way, comes in at 40th in the gender gap in labor force participation, way behind such lady paradises as Kazahkstan, Ethiopia, and Botswana, though given the ongoing decline in American male labor force participation rates, perhaps we could catch up soon.

These sorts of weird results are not simply numerical outliers. They reveal the report’s underlying indifference to both the interdependence between the sexes and the broader ecology of family and national life, an indifference which is unfortunately commonplace in the universe of women’s studies. It imagines that the world could in some sense be better for women when their husbands and sons don’t graduate high school or go to college, don’t have a job, and die young. All that matters is that women are building human capital in the service of increasing national competitiveness. The media, meanwhile, celebrates all of this as giving us the truth about “the best place to be a woman.”


Some hidden George Gilder gems:

Giving, beginning within the family and extending outward into the society, is the moral center of the system.

...

Marriage is not simply a ratification of an existing love. It is the conversion of that love into a biological and social continuity.

On the latter point, Carson Holloway concurs: “It would be no exaggeration to call this definition a tradition of the human race.”

My lovely girlfriend sent me an article by Kelly Flanagan called “Marriage Is For Losers.” It’s not what you think. Excerpt:

A decision has been made, and two people have decided to love each other to the limit, and to sacrifice the most important thing of all—themselves. In these marriages, losing becomes a way of life, a competition to see who can listen to, care for, serve, forgive, and accept the other the most. The marriage becomes a competition to see who can change in ways that are most healing to the other, to see who can give of themselves in ways that most increase the dignity and strength of the other. These marriages form people who can be small and humble and merciful and loving and peaceful.

And they are revolutionary, in the purest sense of the word.

Because we live in a culture in which losing is the enemy (except in Chicago, where Cubs fans have made it a way of life). We wake up to news stories about domestic disputes gone wrong. Really wrong. We go to workplaces where everyone is battling for the boss’s favor and the next promotion, or we stay at home where the battle for the Legos is just as fierce. Nightly, we watch the talking heads on the cable news networks, trying to win the battle of ideas, although sometimes they seem quite willing to settle for winning the battle of decibels. We fight to have the best stuff, in the best name brands, and when we finally look at each other at the end of the day, we fight, because we are trained to do nothing else. And, usually, we have been trained well. In the worst of cases, we grew up fighting for our very survival, both physically and emotionally. But even in the best of situations, we found ourselves trying to win the competition for our parents’ attention and approval, for our peers’ acceptance, and for the validating stamp of a world with one message: win. And, so, cultivating a marriage in which losing is the mutual norm becomes a radically counter-cultural act.

Selflessness, putting her before me, that makes a marriage last. It’s not losing. It’s winning.


Marta H. Mossburg rants about branding at the American Spectator:

Branding is not about becoming a better person, but advertising you are the right sort of person so that like-minded people – to go back to the dog analogy -- will come sniff your butt. Growing up used to mean shedding that sort of herd mentality but now it is a staple of adulthood.

It’s great that so many people want to “Save the Tatas,” for example, but what about the pancreas, the liver and the epidermis? There are so many pink ribbons and pink everything out there – even on NFL players – in support of breast cancer awareness it seems to have drowned out any information about other types of cancer. Good for the breast cancer people for figuring out how to raise money for their cause, but as a society I can’t help but think that we’ve started to unlearn the difference between popularity and merit and more susceptible to the groupthink that comes from being inundated by seeing only certain images over and over again.

The ‘I brand, therefore I am’ mentality also breeds a need to constantly keep up with the latest important causes and trends in order to stay fresh and relevant to peers. It’s exhausting just thinking about it. So until someone can convince me otherwise, I will continue to drive bumper-sticker-free cars, buy logo-less handbags and enjoy traveling to wherever my family decides to travel anonymously without forcing you to revel in my self-expression as if it were a deity to be worshipped.

I am guilty of this. I have bumper stickers on my car, some strictly for proselytization, but one is a Clif Bar sticker. I don’t like Clif Bars, but I want people to think I’m the kind of guy that eats Clif Bars. It boasts my outdoor adventure-seeking, the kind of branding Mossburg doesn’t like.

On this subject, I wrote a month ago:

People’s individual brands, marketed for consumption, self-serving, skew perceptions of reality, embedding unrealistic expectations in our subconscious.

Read more here.


In USA Today, Jonah Goldberg compares the contraceptive mandate to an imaginary firearm mandate to illustrate how absurd it is:

The right to own a gun is a far more settled issue constitutionally, politically and legally in this country, but not even the National Rifle Association would dream to argue that we have a right to free guns, provided by our employers. If your boss were required to give you a gun, your new employer-provided Glock still wouldn’t be free because non-cash compensation is still compensation. The costs to the employer are fungible, which means whether it’s a pistol or a pill, the cost is still coming out of your paycheck—and your coworkers’ paychecks.

Jill Filipovic doesn’t see a problem:

After all, no one is forcing the owners of the company to take contraception or purchase contraception.

But they are being forced to purchase contraception. Employer-provided benefits, including contraceptives, are in lieu of payments to employees. The mandate forces employers to buy contraceptives with the profits of doing business and give them to their employees in lieu of payments.

By refusing to cover contraception, the Hobby Lobby owners (and the owners of the other companies claiming the healthcare law infringes upon their religious freedom) are in fact using their own religious beliefs to deny benefits to their employees who may not share those beliefs at all. That’s not religious freedom; it’s religious tyranny.

Belied by the fact that employers “have no say over how the employees spend [their paycheck],” which Filipovic cited four paragraphs earlier. So, companies reserving the right to determine how to compensate their employees is religious tyranny. She’s paid to write this. Unbelievable.


As his presidency tanks on a signature law that doesn’t work, Obama channels a phony “whatever works” anti-philosophy, Reuters reports.

“I’m not a particularly ideological person,” said the pragmatist, categorizing his failed faith-based “spread the wealth around” economics as anything but a contradiction of the laws of nature. Pragmatic, common-sense, natural, God-ordained, and just. These are words to describe Obamacare.

“A therapeutic sense of self-sacrifice is fine in the abstract, but in the concrete such magnanimity causes far more harm to the innocent than does a realistic appraisal of self-interest and a tragic acceptance of the flawed nature of man. The theme of the present administration is that it possesses the wisdom and resources to know better what people should do than they do themselves. From that premise arose most of catastrophes that have befallen this administration.” –Victor Davis Hanson

Charles Kessler observes Obamacare clarifies the differences between liberals and conservatives:

What the battle over Obamacare has helped to reveal is that it isn’t just two clashing interpretations of the same Constitution that divide liberals and conservatives today. It is increasingly two different constitutions that are locked in conflict. Liberals support the “living constitution,” which regards the bulk of the 1787 document as dysfunctional under modern conditions, hence obsolete if not, indeed, dead. They recognize only a few phrases in a few amendments as truly vital.

Conservatives cling to the old Constitution (as amended) not merely because it is old but because its principles of justice, based in human nature, are correct, and because its institutions and customs wisely anticipate both human greatness and human baseness. From this point of view, it is the passage of Obamacare—with its hasty party-line votes, corrupt side-deals, and brazen lawlessness—and not its attempted repeal, that amounted to a constitutional dysfunction. (emphasis mine)

Pete Du Pont writes in the Wall Street Journal:

Large government interventions in the market almost always fall short of their backers’ dreams (although not usually this rapidly). Such programs suffer from a common set of flaws, all of which are found in ObamaCare. First, and perhaps foremost, is the hubris inherent in the assumption that bureaucrats in Washington (or Moscow, Beijing or Pyongyang) know better than families, individuals and businesses do what is best for them.

...

Perhaps most disappointing, we can observe in the administration’s handling of ObamaCare a now all too familiar subversion of the rule of law, a fundamental precept of our nation’s founding and of democracies everywhere. George Will notes that the administration has apparently decided it can adopt legislation by press conference as Mr. Obama simply announces changes to the law or that he will not enforce certain provisions. His administration then proceeds to strong-arm businesses and demonize critics.

Du Pont’s colleague at the Journal, the clever James Taranto, summarizes the fascists’ equivocation on President Obama’s broken Obamacare promise:

If you liked your plan and it was cancelled on account of ObamaCare, it’s not that Obama failed to keep his promise, it’s that the promise didn’t apply to you because your plan wasn’t a plan at all.

What he doesn’t spell out is that the legal definition of “health insurance” is part of the ObamaCare legislation. So the Obama pledge qualified by the [James] Carville equivocation is a tautology: If your plan is one that ObamaCare permits you to keep, you can keep your plan.

“Government is us,” quoth the president. He was barely coherent as he was chewing the broken pieces of the civil society.

“It can and should reflect our deepest values and commitments,” he said. That explains why government is forcing changes on us that we don’t want.


Ross Douthat unpacks Pope Francis’s criticisms of capitalism:

It’s true that there is far more continuity between Francis and Benedict than media accounts suggest. But the new pope clearly intends to foreground the church’s social teaching in new ways, and probably seeks roughly the press coverage he’s getting.

It’s also true that Francis’s framework is pastoral rather than political. But his plain language tilts leftward in ways that no serious reader can deny.

Finally, it’s true that there is no Catholic position on, say, the correct marginal tax rate, and that Catholics are not obliged to heed the pope when he suggests that global inequality is increasing when the statistical evidence suggests otherwise.

But the church’s social teaching is no less an official teaching for allowing room for disagreement on its policy implications. And for Catholics who pride themselves on fidelity to Rome, the burden is on them—on us—to explain why a worldview that inspires left-leaning papal rhetoric also allows for right-of-center conclusions.

That explanation rests, I think, on three ideas. First, that when it comes to lifting the poor out of poverty, global capitalism, faults and all, has a better track record by far than any other system or approach.

Second, that Catholic social teaching, properly understood, emphasizes both solidarity and subsidiarity—that is, a small-c conservative preference for local efforts over national ones, voluntarism over bureaucracy.

Third, that on recent evidence, the most expansive welfare states can crowd out what Christianity considers the most basic human goods—by lowering birthrates, discouraging private charity and restricting the church’s freedom to minister in subtle but increasingly consequential ways.

This Catholic case for limited government, however, is not a case for the Ayn Randian temptation inherent to a capitalism-friendly politics. There is no Catholic warrant for valorizing entrepreneurs at the expense of ordinary workers, or for dismissing all regulation as unnecessary and all redistribution as immoral.

That theme has been dominant on this blog since its first days.

I bristle when I hear the pope range about inequality and the free market. The free market is a necessary condition for prosperity to exist, let alone redistribute wealth to productive, hardworking people.

Plutocratic financialization, secular materialism, cronyism—which damage the free market by association—these Pope Francis should condemn. For example:

When biofuel company Amyris went public in September 2010, market watchers were unimpressed. The company was shooting for a $100 million initial public offering. It ended up making $85 million on the day.

Some of its top investors, though, profited handsomely. Venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers pulled down $69 million on its $16.5 million investment. Khosla Ventures, another VC firm, made $65.4 million on its initial $15.6 [million] stake.

The IPO came less than a year after Amyris received a multi-million-dollar stimulus grant through the Department of Energy.

In securing that taxpayer backing, Amyris benefitted from its investors’ wealth of political connections. Those investors saw an opportunity for profit in Amyris and a host of other green energy companies, but they were also deeply committed to leveraging their own – and taxpayers’ – investment to help solve what they saw as pressing social problems.

For Vinod Khosla, a former Kleiner Perkins partner and founder of Khosla Ventures, cleantech investing was “green” in more than one sense of the word. The multiple biofuels companies in which he has invested, from his perspective, produced more than profit.

Khosla is a firm believer in “social entrepreneurship” – addressing social problems through business, technology, and innovation. That belief is apparent in his enthusiasm for green energy projects. “Most of the environmental problems we are facing today, and I consider myself an environmentalist, have technology solutions in addition to political and other solutions,” he said in 2002, while at Kleiner Perkins.

In 2008, Khosla saw an opportunity in Barack Obama. “I am one of those Republicans who is for Obama,” he explained. Khosla served as the head of Obama’s India policy team. He donated $82,000 to Democrats from mid-2006 through the 2008 election. “I think Obama will be much stronger for clean tech” than Republican candidate Sen. John McCain, he said of his support. “So that is going to be good news.”

It was certainly good news for Khosla Ventures and Kleiner Perkins, which together boast more than a dozen companies in their respective portfolios that would receive taxpayer support from the Obama administration.

Khosla’s support for Obama and the Democratic Party continues to pay off. In June, he held a $32,400-per-plate fundraiser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee at his home. The president and three Democratic Senators attended. At the event, Obama touted the administration’s “climate action plan,” which calls for additional “investment” in biofuels. Months later, Khosla-backed biofuel company LanzaTech received a $4 million grant from DOE.

Days after the department announced that grant, Jim Messina, Obama’s former campaign manager and the head of Organizing for Action, his personal advocacy group, joined LanzaTech’s board. LanzaTech’s grant, its second from DOE, came through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as the stimulus.

(Kudos to Lachlan Markay on a superb article. Read the rest here.)

It seems as though Pope Francis does not discern the corporatist making backroom deals with regulators and congressmen from the small-business entrepreneur. Andrew B. Wilson writes:

Pope Francis conflates all business—including the larcenous businesses that flourish in poor countries under corrupt, authoritarian governments—with free enterprise, which requires the rule of law and genuine economic freedom—recognizing the fundamental right of every individual to control his or her own labor and property and extending to all the benefit of being able to work, produce, consume, and invest as they see fit within the boundaries of the law.

Temper this with:

“We’ve become too rah-rah about capitalism, what we’re really saying is that wealth creation, which capitalism is supremely good at doing, is really the be-all and end-all of human life. And that reinforces the secularist mentality.” –R. R. Reno

With the passage of time, I become more indifferent to foreign policy, specifically the threat posed by radical Islam. My focus is on the Left. About the most I can muster is that we are in bad shape if we have not the spine or the moral compass to call a spade a spade. It doesn’t help that the doomsday predictors have been saying for years that Iran is “less than a year” from developing a nuclear weapon, or poised to “turn the corner” on its uranium enrichment. The absence of calamity has sapped my fervor.

This bit by George Will rings true:

Some advocates of war seem gripped by Thirties Envy, a longing for the clarity of the 1930s, when appeasement failed to slake the dictators’ thirst for territorial expansion. But the incantation “Appeasement!” is not an argument. And the word “appeasement” does not usefully describe a sober decision that war is an imprudent and even ultimately ineffective response to the failure of diplomatic and economic pressures to alter [the Iranian] regime’s choices about policies within its borders.

In his obituary of Wall Street Journal editorial page editor Bob Bartley, Irving Kristol writes:

Bob and I were allies in the debate on “supply-side” economics, having been converted by Bob’s colleague, Jude Wanniski. The name “supply-side” was almost certainly a mistake. It took me a couple of years to figure out what it was, although Jude explained it patiently more than once. It would have helped if we had simply said that we were committed to the economics of growth instead of the economics of equilibrium and stability.

Bartley died 10 years ago.


Melanie Phillips, author of the brilliant book Londonistan, has penned an autobiography. Excerpt:

As socialism withered and the free market dominated, identity politics replaced economics. Above all, what was emerging was the cult of the individual, which gave rise to the dominance of subjective experience over objective authority of any kind, and was not merely to transform family life but also turn the understanding of what was normal and what was transgressive inside out.

Carl R. Trueman comments at First Things:

As the last quotation hints, one underlying theme, only ever quietly stated, is the ultimate practical similarity between the identity politics of the left and the radical libertarianism which emerged on the right in the ’80s. Both root sovereignty in the individual in a way that transforms notions of self and identity. That in itself makes the book worthy of purchase.

The World Turned Upside Down is another book of Phillips’s that has been on my reading since its 2011 publication. Seeing as how little progress I’ve made on that reading list lately, it will be several more years before I get to it.


Greg Scoblete reviews James Barrat’s Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era:

In 267 brisk pages, Barrat lays out just how the artificial intelligence (AI) that companies like Google and governments like our own are racing to perfect could—indeed, likely will—advance to the point where it will literally destroy all human life on Earth. Not put it out of work. Not meld with it in a utopian fusion. Destroy it.

Wait, government is perfecting this genocidal intelligence? There’s nothing to worry about, then. Shortest book ever! Barrat wasted 266-and-a-half pages.


Finally, Randy Galloway reports in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram that “hate [is] brewing” between the Texas Christian University (TCU) and Baylor University football programs and fans. Galloway writes gleefully:

The Baylor vs. TCU rivalry has now been elevated to a wide-open sports hate category. That is good. Very good.

That is bad. Very bad. My sister is a junior at TCU. I graduated from Baylor in 2007. A split Baylor-TCU flag hangs in front of my parents’ house. Future college football seasons could be tense times in my family. When I talked to Catherine on the phone after the Baylor-TCU game last weekend, which she attended, she sounded a tad angry, probably toned down because she knows I’m a Baylor fan.

We’re not supposed to hate our rivals. Proverbs 24:17 tells us “do not rejoice when your enemies fall, and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble.” Lots of people hate Lebron James. When he lost in the NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks, people celebrated not for the Mavs winning, but for James losing. That was cruel to James and an indictment of those who dislike him.

Then again, as people living in God’s realm, all are indicted. All are forgiven, too.