Sunday, January 27, 2013

Odds and ends 1/27/2013

Let’s kick things off with a Rod Dreher trifecta.

1. Middle-aged single Andy Rosso says:

It’s not 1975, where if you were 27 and you didn’t have four kids, you were washed up. You’re trying to get yourself right before you move onto the next stage of your life.

He goes on to say living alone gives him the freedom to walk around his apartment with no pants. “You can do what you want. You’re on your own clock.”

I’ve lived as Rosso has lived for far fewer years than him. It’s fine for now, but I don’t look forward to living the rest of my life this way. That’s why I’ve begun to make big changes since moving back to Texas. I cannot continue my life as it is and expect to live the life I want. When you’re stuck in a rut of self-centeredness, locked in a cycle of personal shortcomings, you’re not going to “get yourself right” on your own.

2. A campus radical at Carleton University in Canada captures the liberty/liberation paradigm in a Facebook rant:

In organizing the “free speech wall,” the Students for Liberty have forgotten that liberty requires liberation, and this liberation is prevented by providing space for either more platitudes, or for the expression of hate. Further, to organize for this “wall” to be erected during our Pride Week, where our communities are supposed to be able to seek liberation and celebrate our diversity, is offensive, ill-considered, and dangerous.

3. Mario Vargas Llosa channels “Fear of truth” and “Paradigm of place” via Robert Royal:

Without religious knowledge [says Vargas Llosa], new generations will be, “bound hand and foot to the civilization of the spectacle, which is to say, to frivolousness, superficiality, ignorance, gossip, and bad taste.”

Recent theorists have used Marxism, sociology, political theory in efforts to understand culture. But all of that has been eclipsed by what is now a global standard culture that requires no personal cultivation, makes no special demands on anyone, anywhere. Its primary vehicles are pop music and movies – reinforced and spread by the Internet and social media.

Vargas Llosa notes that this situation does not equally empower all, as is often claimed. Quite the opposite. Without independent cultural bases, it’s very difficult for anyone – whether your “culture” is Hollywood or Bollywood – to maintain real freedom.


Elise Italiano’s contribution to Public Discourse’s symposium on the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade is a mixed bag, but I value these select insights:

[Feminists] feared to lose not only things around which they have built their lives—access to birth control and abortion on demand—but also an ideology that disassociates sex from love, responsibility, and, of course, children. While birth control and abortion still would have been readily available to them if they lost their campaign, their ideology’s strength certainly would suffer: The door would be wide open to voices that promote a feminism rooted in utterly different grounds.

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Whether the media acknowledge them or not, there are feminist voices mobilizing today who do not hold these presuppositions. They might not get the celebrity that Lena Dunham is enjoying or receive federal funding for their case, but they are quietly and steadily speaking up in an effort to protect and defend women’s rights, dignity, and equality—precisely because abortion cannot give women what they need to flourish.

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Many pro-choice feminists argue that abortion on demand must be easily available to poor women, as having more children only increases their financial burden and keeps them in poverty. In their view, Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics should be located primarily in poor neighborhoods.

According to Guttmacher, 42 percent of women obtaining abortions have incomes below 100 percent of the federal poverty line; 27 percent below 199 percent. Sixty-one percent of abortions are obtained by women who already have one or more children. These statistics aren’t changing much from year to year, which suggests that women often remain in poverty after having repeated abortions. Abortion, then, does not get women out of poverty.

Someone forgot to tell Jill Filipovic, I guess.

Michael J. New’s article is worth a read. Excerpt:

Legal abortion dramatically changed social and sexual mores. When abortion became easily available as a back-up option, women as well as men became less careful about using contraceptives and more likely to engage in pre- and extra-marital sex. This increase in sex outside marriage further weakened social taboos regarding sex before marriage—resulting in even more sexual activity. Men who impregnated women faced considerably less social pressure to marry.

Let’s reach further back for better fare. Gerard V. Bradley writes in “What’s Behind the HHS Mandate?”:

Right now, Catholic schools in Ontario are being bullied by an “anti-bullying” law that compels parochial schools to set up “Gay-Straight Alliances.” These clubs would contradict the sexual morality that every Catholic institution is obliged before God and the Church to teach, by word and by deed. Were they to comply with this “bullying” law, Ontario’s Catholic schools could not give the perspicuous witness to the faith that is their raison d’etre, just as America’s Catholic schools could not, were they to comply with the Obama Administration’s “contraception” mandate.

This far into the Age of Aquarius, no more needs to be said about the meaning and seductive appeal of “equal sexual liberty.” It is the emerging public orthodoxy about where sexual satisfaction, expression, and identity fit into the good life, and about the government’s responsibilities to establish conditions that make this life achievable for all with ease. This orthodoxy commands the cultural heights and has achieved ascendancy in the academy. We are in the midst of a high-stakes fight over its grip on our law. The outcome of this battle is in doubt.

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The second ideological commitment is to treat the moral propositions that undergird the conservative alternative to “equal sexual liberty” as subjective religious beliefs incapable of rational defense. These include the propositions that people begin at fertilization; that marriage is strictly limited to the union of man and woman; and that the norms of sexual morality are many and that they are rooted in the marital relation. These propositions combine to refute the emerging orthodoxy of “equal sexual liberty.” Being propositions about morality, moreover, they are asserted by their adherents as truths of reason, albeit truths that are confirmed by religious authorities and by revelation.

Promoters of the new orthodoxy nonetheless boldly declare these claims to be “religious beliefs,” tout court. They just as boldly declare that, because they are “religious beliefs,” these claims are rationally indefensible. They may be held by the faithful as if they are genuine truths. But in reality these putative truths are subjective projections, verbal formulae which may function as the ligaments of a community, as so many fallible and revisable expressions of the ineffable depths of spiritual experience. They are badges of individual or religious communal identity. Because they are rationally indefensible, they are to be perceived and to be treated by outsiders as prejudice. Religious “doctrine” is thus a species of bias. So, the Church’s moral condemnation of sodomy and opposition to same-sex “marriage” amount to hallowed homophobia.

Finally, Helen Alvaré sounds off on “The White House and Sexualityism”:

It should be noted that sexualityism is no more than a theory about a claimed cause of women’s happiness—i.e., that its growth is directly proportional to women’s ability to express themselves sexually without commitment and without the possibility of children. The HHS mandate stands on this theory. In a world of easy availability of birth control and abortion, the only reason for a federal mandate for a “free” and universal supply is to try to send the sexualityism message. The White House has all but come out and said: “women of America, vote for the incumbent this presidential election year because he supports women’s equality and freedom, which he understands to include at the very least nonmarital and nonprocreative sexual expression.” Why else choose Sandra Fluke—an affluent, single, female law student, who demands a taxpayer-subsidized, 365-day supply of birth control as the price of female equality—as your spokeswoman? While every savvy media outlet understands the political theater going on here with the whole “war on women,” anti-Republicans message, still when the White House uses its powerful bully pulpit to send such a message, cultural damage is done.

The theory of sexualityism has now had four to five decades to prove itself. There has been a massive expansion of “sexual liberty” on a nationwide scale. Consequently, by this time, observers (and policymakers) with an objective bone in their bodies who believe in the scientific method, would now be searching for a net improvement in the reported happiness and freedom of women. If they did not find one, they would discard this theory about women’s happiness and search for another. But the opposite is happening: the federal government is seeking to expand sexualityism—even while it appears to be at odds with what all known social and human sciences tell us. Simultaneously, it is claiming that groups and individuals who support practices that are closely associated with human happiness and freedom (religion and marital sexual intimacy) are irrational and unscientific.

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Though the White House touts women’s equality as freedom from childbearing (celebrating the anniversary of the abortion decision, Roe v. Wade, President Obama stated: “Our daughters must have the same opportunities as our sons”), the social and economic literature is clear that achieving this result through large-scale birth control and abortion programs also means more casual sex, more nonmarital pregnancy, and more abortion (all of which America is witnessing). Yet a main driver of male-female commitment is parents’ care for the babies they make together. And the literature is equally clear that increases in casual sex, nonmarital pregnancy, and single parenting are the most important correlates of inequality in America—inequality between men and women (as most poor, single-parent households are run by women), and between blacks and whites.


And the hits keep coming. There’s just no end to the government’s meddling. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has ordered the Services to integrate women into combat roles. Reaction from Joe Carter at First Things:

Long ago, we made equality our end, and this is the inevitable next stop on our long march. If that requires the sacrifice of our sisters and daughters, say the egalitarians, then so be it.

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There are others as well, both men and women, who think that when the Creator made us “male and female” he meant for there to be some distinctions in roles. Men, for example, were created to be self-sacrificial protectors of the family, and by extension, of the nation. Forcing women into that role will not lead to more freedom but rather to less equality, more violence toward women, and a general degradation of humanity.

Ryan Smith writes in the Wall Street Journal about the indignities he had to suffer with fellow grunts in Iraq. To share the same indignities with women would be traumatizing.

Yes, a woman is as capable as a man of pulling a trigger. But the goal of our nation’s military is to fight and win wars. Before taking the drastic step of allowing women to serve in combat units, has the government considered whether introducing women into the above-described situation would have made my unit more or less combat effective?

Societal norms are a reality, and their maintenance is important to most members of a society. It is humiliating enough to relieve yourself in front of your male comrades; one can only imagine the humiliation of being forced to relieve yourself in front of the opposite sex.


John McWhorter, whom I thought I had better sense, heralds rising support for same-sex marriage among blacks:

The percentage of blacks who favor gay marriage is about the same now as the percentage of whites, according to a Pew poll taken during the last election season. “One of the striking results in the 2012 exit polls was the support for legalizing gay marriage among black voters,” that poll noted.

The reason is simple enough. Their false messiah gave them permission.


At Patheos, Deacon Greg Kandra throws cold water on calls for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (one of the architects of the housing bubble) to be excommunicated. I can’t blame him. Think of all the heretics you’d have to throw out of the Church. Cuomo would be the first of millions.


At the American Thinker, Oleg Atbashian meditates on a theme that’s come to dominate my thought processes:

The tidal wave of propaganda notwithstanding, the rebels would still have the most important ally on their side – human nature. No matter into what society they are born and what mind conditioning they receive, people will never stop being competitive individuals. They will always long for individual freedom, rationality, objectivity, personal achievement, and the pursuit of a better life for themselves and their families.

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The 74 years of the morbid Soviet experiment failed to breed the New Collectivist Man. The communist “engineers of human souls” isolated millions of people from the rest of humanity by sealing off the nation’s borders and creating a pressurized Marxist bubble. They rearranged the society, rewrote history, and reorganized the culture. They subjected several generations of children to intense mind programming. They blocked all undesirable news sources, books, films, and music. They rewarded “correct” thoughts and impulses, and punished the “incorrect” ones. They demonized greed, selfishness, individualism, and self-interest. They taught altruism, collectivism, and self-sacrifice. They ran relentless campaigns that dehumanized non-compliant individuals.

Ultimately, not a single trait of human nature had changed. In the months before the collapse, the indisputable failure of collective farming forced the Soviet communists to resurrect the idea of individual farms – and, in order to survive, Chinese communists reverted to private entrepreneurship, while maintaining the pretense of Marxist orthodoxy.

This alone should be enough to discredit the fundamental Marxist doctrine that the human mind is a “social construct” shaped entirely by manipulation and social conditioning. As an unintended consequence, the Soviet experiment proved the existence of something that Marxist science has always denied: that our individual thoughts, motives, and actions are governed, on the most part, by absolute moral standards, which are objectively derived from the unchangeable nature of human beings and the nature of the world.

Obviously, it is more beneficial to accept human nature in its entirety as an absolute standard and to build the society on that foundation, rather than to erect an artificial construct first and rearrange the foundation later, trying to discard parts that don’t fit into the design.

And yet that failed philosophy is now flourishing in America’s academia and leftist think tanks, which currently formulate U.S. government policies.


A confluence of liberal idiocy: Tall Soda Ban vs The Race Card. Go!

The NAACP and the Hispanic Federation, an organization of 100 Northeastern groups, say their concern is that minority-owned delis and corner stores will end up at a disadvantage compared with grocery chains.

Don’t miss this:

Given that obesity rates are higher than average among blacks and Hispanics, the NAACP should refuse soda makers’ money and “reevaluate the position the group is taking in New York City,” Michael F. Jacobson, the executive director of the nutrition advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest, said in a statement Wednesday.

Said with such studied condescension. Jacobson is tailor-made to serve in nanny Bloomberg’s city government.

Speak of the devil, here’s what the loathsome mayor had to say about his role in promoting public health (via Hot Air):

As an American, and as a human being, I have a responsibility to not push, to not force anybody to do anything but to explain what I think and to educate people to the extent of what I believe that would be in their self-interest.

Phew! What a relief. I thought his diktats had the force of law behind them. Wait, they do? Oh, never mind, then.


Timothy Dalrymple is vexed at Louie Giglio’s disinvitation from giving the benediction at President Obama’s second inauguration ceremony:

evangelicals who hold to traditional views of sexual ethics are — as the Louie Giglio affair shows — increasingly shoved to the side of the public square.

An evangelical pastor with a sterling record, who had developed strong relationships with President Obama and particularly his office of faith-based initiatives headed by Joshua DuBois, who had turned his enormously successful Passion conferences against the problem of human trafficking, was just publicly humiliated and shouted out of the public square for professing fairly standard Christian views on human sexuality and the possible redemption of our desires through the transformative power of the gospel of Christ. On the advice of the faith-based office, Giglio was invited to deliver the benediction, the LGBT community raised a hue and cry, and the White House quite obviously (see here and here) pressured him to step aside. The message is loud and clear. It doesn’t matter what else you have done. It doesn’t matter how long ago it was. If you hold to traditional Christian views of human sexuality, or once did, you are no longer a citizen in good standing who is welcome to participate fully in the public square.


Matt Welch at Reason succinctly summarizes President Obama’s second inauguration speech:

Once again, the president rejected the false choice between “caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future,” a formulation that simultaneously waves aside the relentless growth of entitlement spending (from 37 percent of federal outlays today to a projected 50 percent by 2030) and valorizes Washington’s other frequently wasteful expenditures as transactions from which we can expect net financial returns.

Welch’s colleague Jacob Sullum called out Obama some time ago on his rhetorical deceptions here.


In the UK Telegraph, James Delingpole picks apart the “climate change” portion of Obama’s inauguration address:

That “overwhelming judgement of science” is a reference to the comprehensively discredited Doran survey: the one where the “97 per cent of climate scientists” turned out to consist of just 75 out of 77 climate scientists who could be bothered to reply to two silly and dubious questions.

As for the idea that “science” ever has such a thing as an “overwhelming judgement”: this would be news to Galileo, Newton, Einstein and indeed all the great scientists of history, all of whom made their names by advancing theories which completely overturned the “overwhelming judgement” of their contemporaries.


Jamelle Bouie at the American Prospect treats readers with an amusing headline: “Bobby Jindal to Poor Louisianans: Drop Dead.” I counter with: “Statists to Poor Louisianans: Stay Poor.”

Jindal gave a superb speech to the RNC. His first point alone is worthy of respect: “America is not the federal government.” Amen.


Michael Stokes Paulsen in the Weekly Standard offers a logical rebuttal to people who maintain abortion is a legitimate choice, but abortion by sex selection isn’t:

Our instinctive, quite proper revulsion to sex-selection abortion lays bare a more fundamental problem with the pro-choice argument: it challenges the “it”-ness of the human fetus. A crucial prop of all arguments for abortion rights is that the human fetus has no true human status meriting protection. Kick that prop out from underneath the abortion-rights position and the argument for abortion rights largely collapses. Recognizing that the fetus has a gender, as a girl or boy, is a giant step toward recognizing the essential humanity of the unborn child. Think about it for a moment. Why exactly, is sex-selection abortion wrong? At bottom, the reason must be that the human fetus is more than an “it.” It’s a girl, or a boy. And once that is recognized the game is up.


LifeSite News channels the “war on men”:

Some writers are beginning to connect the dots between the shift over the last few decades in educational practices from fact-based grading to evaluation based on “non-cognitive” and “emotional skills” and the drop in school performance of boys.

In the 1970s, feminist critics regularly complained that the school system favored “male thinking.” Facts, dates, rote learning, and math skills that were seen as “too masculine” for girls. In the intervening decades, feminists have made huge strides throughout the Western world, and education – particularly in the training of teachers – has been transformed as a result.

That most government policy makers and academics accept this as an unqualified success has left bewilderment as to how the new, more “fair” teaching styles have resulted in poor outcomes for boys and ultimately for the men they must become.

R.R. Reno joins the fray:

Men are in trouble, or at least the median man. (Elite men flourish in the hyper-competitive environment of global capitalism.) I’ve written in the past about how globalization hammers working class men with high school educations. Our educational system does as well. These days a great deal of emphasis is put on order and compliance, an understandable reaction to the laxity and chaos of post-sixties education. It’s an educational environment in which adolescent females excel and adolescent males don’t.


Ralph Peters sums up the Afghanistan war in one line:

The simple fact the wise men missed was that killing terrorists works, while trying to buy the love of their fan base doesn’t.


In closing, William Voegeli writes a far-ranging piece in National Review, “Against Swedenization.” Excerpts:

Progressives of a century ago believed that progress meant movement toward a known destination, and that the ways to effect it were demonstrable. In the 1930s, around the time they began calling themselves “liberals,” progressives abandoned the conceit that social sciences could, in Condorcet’s phrase, “foresee the progress of humankind, direct it, and accelerate it” in the way the natural sciences understand physical laws and thereby direct and accelerate material progress. But their optimism is undiminished. They continue to believe in “the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society,” as Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote in a 1958 Supreme Court opinion, even if they deny the possibility of formulating criteria whereby we could know that our standards are improving, not just changing.

Conservatism, by contrast, lends itself to wariness. Samuel Johnson’s rule that “men more frequently require to be reminded than informed” comports with the conservative inclination to believe that old wisdom is plentiful while new wisdom is scarce and suspect. What disheartens is the need to remind the same people of the same things, over and over, entreating them not to squander legacies hard won and repeatedly vindicated. Thomas Sowell once wrote that much of modern social history “has involved replacing what worked with what sounded good.” Or, as William F. Buckley Jr. lamented in National Review’s first issue in 1955: “Instead of covetously consolidating its premises, the United States seems tormented by its tradition of fixed postulates having to do with the meaning of existence, with the relationship of the state to the individual, of the individual to his neighbor, so clearly enunciated in the enabling documents of our Republic.”

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We are becoming Swedenized in a deeper sense: not just adopting social-democratic policies but acquiring a sociological character that will leave us resembling present-day Europe more than the America Tocqueville discovered, in which families, communities, and churches turned individualism from a social solvent into a social adhesive. In a 2009 lecture at the American Enterprise Institute, where he is a resident scholar, Charles Murray made the connection between governance and sociology this way: “Almost anything that government does in social policy can be characterized as taking some of the trouble out of things.” The problem, according to Murray, is that “every time the government takes some of the trouble out of performing the functions of family, community, vocation, and faith, it also strips those institutions of some of their vitality — it drains some of the life from them.”

In I Am the Change, an analysis of President Obama’s political philosophy, Claremont McKenna government professor Charles Kesler says the “First Law of Big Government” is that “the more power we give government, the more rights it will give us.” The “rights” in that bargain are really wants, such as the “right” to “rest, recreation, and adventure” promised by one New Deal board, or the “right” to “enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits,” one of dozens enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Kesler’s formulation speaks to Americans’ inner Jeffersonianism, challenging them to covetously consolidate those genuine inalienable rights with which they have been endowed by their Creator. Tell a modern European, however, that in exchange for permitting the government to superintend citizens’ lives in ever greater detail it will bestow still more social-welfare rights, and the reaction will not be “Who do you think you are?” but “Where do I sign, and how soon do I get my benefits?”

The case against Swedenization, then, is that it threatens a soft and insidious despotism. Unlike the totalitarianism of the USSR, where the evil flowed from the top down, engulfing every aspect of society, the danger posed by social democracy is of social, political, and economic debilitations’ compounding one another. Progressivism began as, and remains, “an alliance of experts and victims,” according to Harvey Mansfield, a professor of government at Harvard. It gains strength as the experts assert their expertise more confidently and the victims accept their helplessness more compliantly. The kind of robust mediating structures Tocqueville thought essential to the success of democracy in America will not prevail against that alliance.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

40 years of waywardness

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of our national right to murder, Jill Filipovic penned a piece for the UK Guardian (wonder if she trades notes with Jessica Valenti?) that pierces the dark heart of feminism (aka gender Marxism). The subtitle alone confirms everything I’ve written about modern man’s hubristic drive for liberation from history and nature; from the earthly experiences that have come before him; from all the factors, inherited and otherwise, that define his life in place and time: “The 1973 supreme court ruling means much more than a medical procedure. It is about a historic struggle for female emancipation.” Emancipation from what, exactly? Biology, of course! God was a misogynist.

Even with [Roe v. Wade] on the books, the promise of bodily autonomy remains out of reach for many women. And the central opposition to abortion rights isn’t about saving babies, promoting family or protecting women; it’s about controlling female sexuality and trying to return to a time when women were forced or coerced into subservience.

Filipovic’s intellectual dishonesty runs deep as she ignores the realities of the sexual marketplace. It is man who craves sex for pleasure, validation, and a place in society. It is he who must appeal to her for her to receive him, not the other way around. It is her sexual personality, not his, that dictates access to her womb and the possibility of a settled life.

In the old days, woman’s “subservience” was the obligation to choose a suitor, lest she wither in old age, dependent on the state if not her family. In exchange for his care and affection, for surrendering his insatiable wanton impulses to provide her comfort and stability, she satisfied his craving for her body and gave him children.

Marriage was the perfect arrangement to satisfy men’s and women’s needs, but it required “subservience”—or, better, sacrifices—from both: in him, his roaming, untethered nature; in her, exclusive access to her body (i.e., childbearing and -rearing). The sexual revolution changed that, and we’ve been wandering the sexual wilderness ever since. These are the facts of life, but there’s no reckoning of them here by Filipovic.

To anyone who has taken even a cursory look at reproductive rights activism, it’s obvious that decreasing the abortion rate isn’t nearly as much a concern for the pro-life movement as controlling women is. We know what leads to a low abortion rate: comprehensive sex education, affordable and available contraception, rights for women, and a progressive sexual culture. The countries with the lowest abortion rates in the world have that mix – plus legal (and often state-funded) abortion.

A kernel of truth! Indeed, as I wrote last October: “For pro-lifers, fewer abortions is not an end in and of itself. If it were, you would hear some pro-lifers propose abolishing consensual sex sex entirely and reproducing via the test tube method. But no pro-lifer wants this. Why not? Because pro-lifers’ end game is to restore to America’s sexually retrograde culture the sublimity of the sex act.”

Filipovic writes on:

Despite knowing the key to a lower abortion rate, the so-called “pro-life” movement refuses to use it. Instead, they feign concern for babies while doing absolutely nothing to help children and everything in their power to make women’s lives harder and more dangerous if those women dare to believe that they’re entitled to a fulfilling sex life.

I suppose you’re entitled to a “fulfilling” whatever, as long as you don’t run away from the consequences. What are the consequences of the women’s rutting movement? First of all, it let’s men off the hook. When women cooperate in men’s pursuit of pleasure without orientation to the future, men lose incentive to grow out of adolescence. And even if they recognize their primal desire for love and family, intense but assuredly brief flings almost always win out against the challenges of long-term courtship.

Secondly, it burdens women with a shrinking pool of eligible men to marry. For marriage is what virtually every woman wants, if not from her instinct for making the deepest of connections to another human being, then from the fear of dying alone. But why should he consider marriage with her when he can enjoy fleeting sex for a fraction of the commitment?

The apparently talented author of this piece is pictured left. When I look at her, a string tugs hard at my insides. I am hyperconscious of what I must do. I feel the man’s burden of “making it,” of acquiring the sexual capital—a function of social standing, income, and strength—necessary to compete for a woman so beautiful. My only chance with her is if I join and excel in productive society. When I learn all she wants is to screw, I lose motivation. She falls in my eyes to a means to an end, an object to be mounted and conquered, an interactive, three-dimensional version of a pornographic image.

But as she approaches middle age, when the bloom wears off, she will not even be that. She will be alone and bitter, for the men she wants will be after younger, more virile versions of herself.

For now, she has “the ability to control the number and spacing of [her] children.” Didn’t she already, with the power of consent?

It’s no coincidence that the dual rights to abortion and birth control ushered in some of the most profound cultural shifts in human history.

I don’t know what view of 40 years of waywardness Filipovic’s perch offers, but it doesn’t resemble reality. A shift towards emasculated men, fatherless children, and welfare-dependent mothers is profound, truly, but not a legacy to be proud of.

The positive cultural shift, the one that steered Western Civilization on its proper heading, was the sexual revolution initiated by Judaism. Dennis Prager writes:

This revolution consisted of forcing the sexual genie into the marital bottle. It ensured that sex no longer dominated society, heightened male-female love and sexuality (and thereby almost alone created the possibility of love and eroticism within marriage), and began the arduous task of elevating the status of women.

It is probably impossible for us, who live thousands of years after Judaism began this process, to perceive the extent to which undisciplined sex can dominate man’s life and the life of society. Throughout the ancient world, and up to the recent past in many parts of the world, sexuality infused virtually all of society.

Roe v. Wade was just one step in our civilization’s undoing. The celebration of drugs and procedures to counteract the human reproductive cycle fosters an environment of sexual libertinism, in which actions are dissociated from their equal and opposite reactions. Yet despite this “emancipation,” women are still getting pregnant and having babies. “Life finds a way,” as Ian Malcolm put it in Jurassic Park. The desire to procreate can be stifled, but it cannot be squelched entirely, not even by a misguided culture tilting towards extinction.

One last excerpt from Filopovic:

The most common reason women say they’re terminating a pregnancy is economic, and poor women make up a disproportionate number of women terminating pregnancies. They also have more trouble paying for them, and roadblocks to funding mean that these women are stuck between having an abortion they can’t afford and having a child that they can’t support. Women are trying to make the most responsible decisions given their own often perilous financial situations, and they’re being blocked at every turn.

Here’s a responsible decision: “Just say ‘no.’”

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Paradigm of place

I have moments when great ideas rattling around in my head converge on each other and coalesce into a paradigm with the power to explain the complex and convoluted. Lately, these moments are almost always aided by reading Public Discourse, First Things, and/or Rod Dreher at the American Conservative, so to them I owe a debt of gratitude.


The future of the republic depends on 2 factors. The first is a government that respects the people’s liberty. The second is the people’s judicious exercise of their liberty. If we fancy ourselves “free” from codes of conduct that restrain the passions, “liberated” from the facts of life, we prove ourselves incapable of self-government and undeserving of liberty; we essentially prove our need for totalitarian government.

Those codes of conduct that maximize our liberty by restraining it require great insight into human nature, the greatest object of human inquiry. They do not occur to us instinctively. For the most part they are ground into us as we grow up. A culture’s success can be measured by how well it instills moral discipline in the next generation.

Place has an undeniable place in culture. Place is more than geography; it’s the people and the history of their stake in the land. Civilization is the settling of man in a place, his roots digging deeper into the earth the longer he stays. As he matures, he learns to respect and to nurture that which elevated him above the savage, similar to how the parent raises the child, and the child cares for the parent in old age.

What elites deride from atop their ivory towers as “backward” is the closed loop of exclusive associations that naturally develop among people who live close to each other. Roger Scruton writes:

Such associations form the stuff of civil society, and conservatives emphasize them precisely because they are the guarantee that society will renew itself without being led and controlled by the state.

Preferred by the elites, a locality densely populated by transients lacking these associations is no place at all, but an impersonal, bloodless mob finding contentment in excessive consumption—of spirit, body, and earth. Is this the future of civilization in a “global” economy, denuded of place, fixated on temporary satisfactions, directionless in a moral vacuum? If so, the future is short-lived.


Texas has always been a big state, but it is much bigger than it was in 2007, when I left for Maryland. It will grow bigger still as more Americans realize they can prosper here better than in most states; people who lack a deep connection to this place; people who, having endured a big change themselves in moving to Texas, aren’t sensitive to natives’ qualified fears of change. I welcome them, just as friends and family I never lost touch with welcomed me back to Texas last year. But, in large numbers, they unwittingly corrupt the cultural rhythms that fostered a winning formula.

The Eagle Ford shale deposit is changing south Texas. There is great opportunity in the pursuit of oil riches for Texan and transient alike, but it will destroy the ranching culture that defined this area. It will replace a patient, earthy, symbiotic relationship with the land to one of violence, of clearing, drilling, and trucking. Landscape and wildlife are not the victims in this equation, as the environmental movement would have you believe. The victim is us whose identity erodes with the ever distant past.


Here are some articles that touch on this topic. The first two review Roger Scruton’s book, How to Think Seriously About the Planet: The Case for an Environmental Conservatism:

“Green Conservatism” at the American Conservative.

“An Environmental Conservatism?” at Public Discourse.

“The Meaning of Place in America: How and Why it Shapes Lives” at Public Discourse.

“A Nostalgic Age” at RedState.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Hollingsworth v. Perry

Gender-ambivalent marriage may be the law of the land in 9 states and the District of Columbia, but that doesn’t mean the other 41 states have to like it. Or do they? That’s up to the Supreme Court—unfortunately—which will decide whether Proposition 8, the traditional marriage law in California, is constitutional. The case is called Hollingsworth v. Perry, but 3 years ago it was known as Perry v. Schwarzenegger. I was on top of federal judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling the day it came out. (He ruled Proposition 8 unconstitutional.) This critique of Judge Walker’s ruling should serve as a primer for those wanting to understand the legal defense of traditional marriage laws.

Judge Walker gave 2 legal arguments for overturning the law.

Argument #1: The amendment violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

For a law to be invalidated by the equal protection clause, one of the following 3 conditions must be met:

1. the party claiming injury is a “suspect class,” and the law does not stand up to strict scrutiny;

2. the party claiming injury is a “quasi-suspect” class, and the law does not stand up to intermediate scrutiny; or

3. the party claiming injury is a non-suspect class, but the law is not justified by a rational basis.

A suspect class is a group of people who display a readily recognizable, obvious, immutable, or distinguishing characteristic that defines the group as a discrete and insular minority. Think blacks.

In 2010, only one court had ruled that homosexuals are a suspect class: the California Supreme Court, in 2008.

So what did Judge Walker say which standard of review applies to California’s traditional marriage law? “The trial record shows that strict scrutiny is the appropriate standard of review to apply to legislative classifications based on sexual orientation.” (Also “the Equal Protection Clause renders Proposition 8 unconstitutional under any standard of Review.”)

This is Judge Walker’s first mistake. California’s marriage law creates no classification based on sexual orientation. Proposition 8 states clearly: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” The amendment does not prevent gay women from marrying men or gay men from marrying women.

What led Judge Walker to review the law’s supposed discrimination based on sexual orientation? He analyzed the political campaign to pass Proposition 8. “The evidence at trial regarding the campaign to pass Proposition 8 uncloaks the most likely explanation for its passage: a desire to advance the belief that opposite-sex couples are morally superior to same-sex couples. The campaign relied heavily on negative stereotypes about gays and lesbians and focused on protecting children from inchoate threats vaguely associated with gays and lesbians.”

This was a first, and it is not to Judge Walker’s credit. Never has the political campaign to pass a law been used in a court to determine the constitutionality of that law.

At any rate, Judge Walker asserted that homosexuals are a suspect class, and that the law does not survive rational basis review. Both assertions must be addressed. Let’s take the suspect class argument first.

Certain human traits are immutable. Gender is immutable. National origin is immutable. Skin color is immutable. Sexuality, on the other hand, is behavioral and fluid. The activities of one night to the next, one person to the next, are at the mercy of a million unaccountable factors. Sexuality is mutable and not fixed.

Judge Walker wrote: “An individual’s sexual orientation can be expressed through self-identification, behavior, or attraction. The vast majority of people are consistent in self-identification, behavior, and attraction throughout their adult lives.”

Self-identification is arbitrary and contradicts sexual behavior. If a man claims he is heterosexual but is saving sex until after marriage, does he qualify as a heterosexual? His behavior is more consistent with a homosexual virgin than a sexually active hetero. If a woman claims she is heterosexual, but has had fleeting experiences with other women, is she not in fact bisexual? The narrow sexual categories of self-identification break down into a history and a multitude of feelings, fetishes, and idiosyncrasies for every unique individual.

Granted the majority of homosexuals are “consistent in their self-identification, behavior, and attraction,” a “discrete and insular minority” they do not make. Judge Walker wrote next: “Sexual orientation is commonly discussed as a characteristic of the individual. Sexual orientation is fundamental to a person’s identity and is a distinguishing characteristic that defines gays and lesbians as a discrete group. Proponents’ assertion that sexual orientation cannot be defined is contrary to the weight of the evidence.”

Wrong again. There is no distinctness or insularity to a particular group if you can leave or join that group based on sexual behavior or arbitrary self-identification.

Overlooking these errors, on the basis of strict scrutiny alone, Judge Walker could at this point declare Proposition 8 unconstitutional. But remember how he got here: He prejudiced his interpretation of the law by inexorably linking it to the political campaign to pass it, and he declared sexuality and thus sexual orientation an immutable trait, which it is not.

Let’s move on to rational basis review. Rational basis review is a litmus test to determine whether a law rationally relates to a legitimate state interest. The proponents of Proposition 8 put forward 6 rationales.

For the sake of brevity, let’s analyze the best one and why Judge Walker rejected it: “reserving marriage as a union between a man and a woman and excluding any other relationship from marriage.” Be forewarned: This is where Judge Walker went off the deep end:

The evidence shows that the tradition of restricting an individual’s choice of spouse based on gender does not rationally further a state interest despite its “ancient lineage.” Instead, the evidence shows that the tradition of gender restrictions arose when spouses were legally required to adhere to specific gender roles. California has eliminated all legally mandated gender roles except the requirement that a marriage consist of one man and one woman. Proposition 8 thus enshrines in the California Constitution a gender restriction that the evidence shows to be nothing more than an artifact of a foregone notion that men and women fulfill different roles in civic life.

See how Judge Walker eschewed the merit of tradition and denied men and women “fulfill different roles in civic life”? This blows my mind, as it should yours. He enshrined in case law the irrelevance of social differences between men and women. Not surprisingly, he provided zero evidence to support this claim, because there is none. Welcome to genderless America.

Argument #2: The amendment violates the due process clause of the Constitution.

Judge Walker wrote: “Due process protects individuals against arbitrary governmental intrusion into life, liberty or property. When legislation burdens the exercise of a right deemed to be fundamental, the government must show that the intrusion withstands strict scrutiny.”

By his own admission, then, he must deem same-sex marriage a fundamental right. “To determine whether a right is fundamental under the Due Process Clause, the court inquires into whether the right is rooted ‘in our Nation’s history, legal traditions, and practices.’” Indeed marriage—traditional marriage, not same-sex marriage—is rooted in our nation’s history, legal traditions, and practices.

Judge Walker continued: “The freedom to marry is recognized as a fundamental right protected by the Due Process Clause.” He pointed to several precedents, including Turner v. Safley, Zablocki v. Redhail, Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur, Loving v. Virginia, and Griswold v. Connecticut, to support his finding that marriage is a fundamental right.

But none of those cases he cited as precedents addressed same-sex marriage. All of them addressed various obstacles to opposite-sex marriage. For example, Turner overturned a law that forbade a male inmate in one prison from marrying a female inmate in another prison. This is the essential context in which “the decision to marry is a fundamental right” in the Turner decision should be read, not as precedent for deeming same-sex marriage a fundamental right.

Judge Walker cited Loving, which overturned Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws, again as precedent for overturning marriage bans which discriminate against a suspect class. But this precedent doesn’t apply, as homosexuals are not a suspect class. Loving overturned anti-miscegenation laws because blacks are a real suspect class, a discrete and insular minority with a readily recognizable, immutable characteristic (i.e., the color of their skin). The equivalence of skin pigment and gender is a tired and discredited argument. Whereas men and women have real differences, the differences between blacks and whites are only skin deep.

There you have it. Let’s summarize Judge Vaughn Walker’s mistakes in overturning Proposition 8:

1. He interpreted the law as discriminatory on the basis of sexual orientation, when in fact the law discriminates on the basis of sex.

2. He declared sexual orientation an immutable trait, equivalent to skin color, national origin, and gender, when in fact sexuality is behavioral and fluid.

3. He asserted that, and provided zero evidence in support of, “men and women [do not] fulfill different roles in civic life.”

4. He inaccurately applied precedent to deem same-sex marriage a fundamental right “rooted ‘in our Nation’s history, legal traditions, and practices.’”

If we’re lucky, 5 justices on the Supreme Court will recognize one or more of these errors and rule in favor of California’s traditional marriage law. If they do, it will be a victory for states who have resisted redefining marriage. If they don’t, it will in effect force those states to change.


UPDATE (3/19):

A version of this article appears at the Red Pill Report.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Chuck Hagel’s aggressive neutrality

If President Obama nominated Jesus Christ to a Cabinet position, I would be skeptical. People don’t often associate with people who disagree with them on everything, and Obama is wrong about everything. So it didn’t take long to find out what was wrong with Chuck Hagel, Defense Secretary nominee: his confusion on Israel.

When Hagel says he’s “an American senator, not an Israeli senator,” he’s drawing a false distinction between American neutrality in the Middle East and picking a fight with Israel’s sworn enemies. Neutrality supposes both sides in the Middle East conflict are equally at fault; picking a fight supposes the fight is not worth having. A little education and honesty belie both suppositions.

The Middle East conflict started when stateless Arab Muslims (a.k.a. “Palestinians”) terrorized Jews. Why? Because the Quran calls out the Jews repeatedly as the most vile and repugnant people. Because Muslims are disposed to Jew-hatred. They see Israel’s existence as a blight on the Earth. Since Israel officially came into being in 1948, the Palestinians have vowed their lives and their loved ones’ lives to its destruction.

The Jews fought back, and they succeeded in evicting and incarcerating most of the terrorists and those who gave them quarter. The rest fled to Jordan and Sinai, dreading the prospect of cohabiting a country with Jews, the descendants of filthy “apes and pigs.” Three generations have passed, and Israel has prospered. Israelis live to love and work and worship God. The Palestinians live to die and, insha’Allah, take a few Jewish swine with them.

Israel is a natural ally of America—conservative America, at least. As Ari Fleischer notes, Israelis and Americans are “free, independent, capitalistic, and tolerant.” Unfortunately, the association with Israel cements in the minds of America haters a loathing of moral and material superiority. Malignant tumors like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinjad, who cheerily announce their ill designs on the good guys (if I may be so old-fashioned), demand to be dealt with harshly. At the least, we must reach consensus on the threat they pose to us. Hagel, however, has at various times been conspicuously silent on Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Palestinian Authority’s designations as terrorist organizations, all clients to some extent of Iran’s mullah-ocracy.

George Gilder released a book a few years back called The Israel Test. I haven’t read it yet. Odds are good it’s packed cover to cover with brilliant insights like Men and Marriage and Wealth and Poverty, which I am reading now. But from what I gleaned from an interview Gilder gave to Dennis Prager when the book came out, he argues that Israel is a moral litmus test. The unchecked envy of Israel and Jews’ entrepreneurial success—particularly socialism and anti-Semitism—commits those people to suffer and to fail. The Nazis’ and Palestinians’ moral bankruptcy couldn’t be more self-evident; their feverish warmongering doomed them not just on the battlefield, but in the competition for cultural grace and distinction. Germany reformed while the Palestinians subsist on hate and the meager patronage of a bloated, poor, and angry Muslim world. Socialism also, how it dehumanizes creators of wealth and yet relies on them to fund dependency schemes, stands basic morality on its head. If you don’t see the injustice of organizing society around acquiescence to regular theft, your judgment on everything else is suspect.

Hagel’s aggressive neutrality on the Middle East conflict as a senator does not inspire confidence. His comments and inaction betray a lack of clear moral discernment that, in this and other venues, will further alienate allies and embolden the bad guys. I don’t want a warmonger for Defense Secretary. I want someone who accurately perceives good from bad. That may be asking for too much from a member of Obama’s Cabinet.


Cross-posted at the Red Pill Report.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Bill of bads

An alarming number of our countrymen are bent on self-destruction. They have abdicated responsibility for themselves to “experts,” over-credentialed technocrats who see in America’s breadth and diversity an equation that can and should be simplified for the sake of “efficiency.” Paradoxically, they are also seduced by libertine sketches of morality that presume to cast off the chains of an authoritarian past. Taken together, they are a bill of bads: on the one hand, reduction of the human spirit into a managed system, dense with self-righteous regulators and apparatchiks; on the other hand, a lifestyle unthreaded from nature and virtue by a vicious, undiscerning relativism.

I’m sympathetic to the libertarian argument, which recognizes the futility of “legislating morality.” But then I’m reminded that my neighbors’ poor choices affect not just him, but also me. Living in isolation is no answer, at least not for those among us who aren’t survivalists; “no man is an island” applies to most of us. As long as people still provide goods and services that I am able to buy, I am still better off despite suffering my neighbors’ sin and stupidity.

What to do about the foolish neighbor? As autonomous as these apartment walls and fenced-in yards make us feel, outsiders’ poor choices reach in and affect us all the time. The law does, and should, play a role here. Law by its nature is coercive. A society without an enforcement mechanism, like the law, to maintain some degree of cohesion will die out. To paraphrase James Madison: If men were angels, they would need no law.

There is no bridging the gap between coercion and freedom; we can only escape it, hopefully to new provinces where opinion is settled on the ends worth putting freedom to work for. As I argued in “Herem,” ancient Israel drove the Canaanites out of the Promised Land because the Canaanites practiced sexual idolatry and ritual human sacrifice, incompatible with the God’s commandments. Such radical disagreement isn’t tolerable from either perspective. There may come a time when we reach that level of disagreement in America. Crime itself does not endanger a culture, but absence of consensus on what is crime does.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Odds and ends 1/12/2013

I’m going to take a break from this blog. I’m drained and I need to focus on my other interests. As Bilbo Baggins said: “I want to see mountains again, mountains Gandalf! And then find somewhere quiet where I can finish my book.”

On that note, here’s Peter J. Leithart of First Things on writing a book:

Writing a book is like groping through a cave that no one else has explored or ever will, because you create the cave as you go. When it’s all done I can’t remember how I got through all the tunnels to emerge, blinking, into the sun. Once the book is published, readers will (I hope) be able to follow my simplified map. What they won’t see are all the blind alleys I tried out along the way.

...

And then there are the little thrills of discovery that occur only during writing. Fictional characters and events take on a life of their own and evade the author’s every effort to control them. Non-fiction has its own pleasures. Writing a sentence making one point, an apparently unrelated point comes suddenly to mind (from where?), and it’s as if you broke through a rock pile and discovered another cavern to explore.

This is the process of writing, and it is an almost entirely solitary experience. You might discuss a major decision with an editor or a friend, but even the most diligent editor and the closest friend will quickly find you tedious if you let too much of your hand-wringing show. Time was when there would be physical evidence of paths not chosen, but now that writers use word processing programs most of that is erased, revised, and lost forever. “Submerge” and “surface” are too exact to be entirely metaphorical. For every book, fiction or non, there is a fantasy book that exists (or existed) only in the mind of the author.


I was going to write an article on John Boehner’s reelection as Speaker of the House, until I read Jeffrey Lord’s piece at the American Spectator:

There are conservatives who believe when you do business with Barack Obama you keep in mind that he and his liberal allies are operating with, to use Reagan’s words, “a different set of standards.”

They believe the President has no intention of cutting spending, and has every intention of reserving unto himself the right to ignore and evade when not undercutting the Constitution. And if, along the way, he can stiff Israel and allow Iran to get nuclear weapons — thus further diminishing America’s role in the world —he will do that as well. All with America’s best interests at heart, he will insist.

...

There will be many more such problems ahead for conservatives. Disguised as debates over the debt ceiling, immigration policy, health care, climate change, Supreme Court nominees, and more. Will the response from conservatives be one of Churchillian vigor, imagination, and a willingness to risk? Or will it be the equivalent of the Chamberlain approach to the Austrian Anschluss —simply protesting while passively accepting.

Really, nothing more remains to be said.


Daniel Greenfield makes a point about putting your money where your values are (re: “Economic anonymity”):

All cultural products are part of the values economy. When you put money into the values economy, you are subsidizing a particular set of values and regardless of where your real tastes and beliefs lie, you will get more of what you buy. If you buy a set of lead pencils every month, the company will go on making more lead pencils. If you buy cultural products at odds with your values, then more of the same will keep on being made.


R.R. Reno responds to Daniel Henninger:

Where he goes wrong is lumping this insider game with various efforts to use the tax code to encourage socially productive behavior. He writes: “The bill has $335 billion for the child tax credit, the sort of expenditure some conservatives like. But then no complaining about the rest of it.” He goes on, “You can’t pick and choose which tax heist to join. You’re in for all of them. In time everyone’s a tax gangster.”

Only a very ideological person can fail to distinguish between a tax code designed to subsidize the extraordinary costs of being a parent—the single most important act of citizenship anyone can perform—and one that subsidizes the production of ethanol. Unfortunately, many so-called conservatives think the way he does. For them, having a child is a “lifestyle choice” among many. Why should government be in the “social engineering” business of encouraging people to have children?


Thomas Sowell writes on the role of “educators”:

Schools were once thought of as places where a society’s knowledge and experience were passed on to the younger generation. But, about a hundred years ago, Professor John Dewey of Columbia University came up with a very different conception of education — one that has spread through American schools and even influenced education in countries overseas.

John Dewey saw the role of the teacher not as a transmitter of a society’s culture to the young, but as an agent of change — someone strategically placed with an opportunity to condition students to want a different kind of society.

A century later, we are seeing schools across America indoctrinating students to believe in all sorts of politically correct notions. The history that is taught in too many of our schools is a history that emphasizes everything that has gone bad, or can be made to look bad, in America — and that gives little, if any, attention to the great achievements of this country.


New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is the kind of tyrant C.S. Lewis warned about: a “tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims” (via Science 2.0):

Progressive social authoritarian Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been engaged in what progressive social authoritarians love to engage in – controlling choice and thinking and freedom to shape it into their personal world view.

The rationalizations that social authoritarians engage in to force their world view on others is how Bloomberg could say society needed to ‘keep perspective’ with a straight face when yet another mentally ill person committed murder in December by pushing someone in front of a subway train, though when a mentally ill person shot up a school in Connecticut, he said guns should be banned.

This is the same Mayor Bloomberg who banned food donations to the homeless “because the city can’t assess their salt, fat and fiber content.” You can feed pigeons, but not actual starving homeless people in NYC – only The State may help people, other people may not.


Holman W. Jenkins writes of the upcoming lost decade in the Wall Street Journal:

The fiscal cliff turned into just another trial of strength by advocates of the welfare state to prove the welfare state is not rationally reformable in advance of a funding crisis. But we already knew that.

Entitlement cuts will come, you can be sure, but here's a secret: There is very little fiscal or political or solvency value in enacting today cuts that won’t take effect for years.

The bond market, as of now, judges the U.S. government good for its debts. Whether the market continues to believe in our credit-worthiness doesn’t depend on whether we hike the Medicare age today for retirees decades hence. The market’s confidence in the U.S. to service its debt (without recourse to inflationary money printing) is much more affected by expectations of long-term growth than by dog-and-pony exercises on spending that future Congresses will revisit umpteen times in the future.

Let us repeat for emphasis: The crisis we fear, when investors no longer will finance our deficits, doesn't begin with a failure to cut entitlements or raise taxes on the rich. It begins with an unexpected, persistent failure of the economy to grow.

This would quickly precipitate the political class into a dilemma that ends naturally in the printing of money.

Nothing proposed by the negotiators in terms of tax hikes (Mr. Obama’s agenda) or spending cuts (the alleged GOP agenda) would really help. We kid ourselves if we think we can settle these issues today. Arduous and bitter politics over taxing and spending will be our lot for decades to come.

Joy. It’s articles like this that leave me emotionally catatonic and unable to summon the strength to formulate cogent political arguments.


Doug Bandow of the American Spectator registers his disgust at northeast Republicans for throwing a hissy fit over Hurricane Sandy “relief,” and offers prescient advice (re: “Mother isn’t there”):

Americans organize every day to help each other, and usually outside of politics. Indeed, the U.S. always has been distinguished by the readiness of its people to respond to crisis. Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville remarked upon the phenomenon nearly two centuries ago when he visited America. Americans continue to form “little platoons” and give hundreds of billions of dollars every year to help meet society’s deepest needs.

Private assistance is better than government welfare for several reasons. First, genuine compassion is not compulsory. Giving away other people’s money is not being generous. Choosing whether to give and thinking seriously about how much to give to whom are important moral decisions. Placing responsibility for making such decisions on individuals is a form of character development. Said Benjamin Franklin: “When you are good to others, you are best to yourself.”

Charity also strengthens the sinews of community. As Marvin Olasky famously explained, compassion originally meant to “suffer with.” It was relational. People met each other. They learned about and from each other. They helped each other.


Literary agent David Adams Richards scolds the literary community for discriminating against Christianity in the Toronto Globe and Mail:

Within Canada’s writing and intellectual community, many people I know will not consider the idea that skepticism toward the existence of God may not be absolutely progressive.

It is a credulity of thought that is almost prerequisite in much of our literary culture. Darwin proved it, or someone proved it, and now our literary quest is to make such proof absolute. The derision toward anyone who believes is swift and non-negotiable among many writers today, or at least in their writing. It is as if a doctrine has been set in motion in which not to demean religion is sacrilegious.


Robert Stacy McCain points out the reign of bald immorality that Republicans can’t seem to break in minority voters’ minds:

Every cell of Charles Rangel’s being is corrupt and immoral. His entire career has been one enormous lie and everyone who ever voted for him should feel a deep sense of personal shame. Yet despite his proven wrongdoing — which would have been enough to send any ordinary citizen to federal prison — this congressional crook was re-elected by his constituents and remains a Democrat in good standing.

Why do Republicans sit silently and accept this? What combination of cowardice and stupidity in the GOP leadership grants a free pass to such despicable creatures as Charles Rangel?

Do Republicans actually believe that citizens of Harlem and other such deep-blue districts are incapable of understanding that the absurd philanthropic pose of Democrats like Charles Rangel — “He has our interests in mind”! — is a perverse crime against truth?


Mark Goldblatt on “The Folly of Courting the Black Vote” (via Patheos):

According to one of the foundational myths of the modern political left, if you oppose a program intended to help racial minorities, you’re a racist. Why you oppose the program — whether you think it unaffordable, or unworkable, or even detrimental to the people it’s intended to help — doesn’t matter. The mere fact of your opposition convicts you. But this leads to absurdities. If, for example, I think that affirmative action pushes promising black students into learning environments for which they’re underprepared and thereby causes higher dropout rates — and there’s substantial evidence it does exactly that — I’m a de facto racist not only for wanting color-blind admissions but for wanting African Americans to succeed.

Such rhetoric, and let’s admit this, has been very effective. It has cowed generations of Republican politicians. It has forced them away from their principled opposition to big government interventions and made them sound like weasels as they promise greater sensitivity to African American issues. (Think of Trent Lott’s 2002 stop, drop and grovel tour.) But the very notion of “greater sensitivity to African American issues” carries two hidden premises, both of which are inimical to Republican ideals: first, that the interests of individuals are determined by their communal identity rather than by their personal circumstances; and second, that the government should play a leading role in fulfilling the interests of individuals rather than merely ensuring the conditions that allow individuals to fulfill them on their own.


Melissa Harris Perry says you shouldn’t assume a black man thinks like other blacks, who, by the way, think one way because their black. Racist and incompetent!


Barry Shaw explains “why a two-state solution will never work” in the Canada Free Press:

It would be the death knell because it would be the final stage, when Israel would have been reduced to a withered rump of a strategically weakened state, impossible to defend or protect itself from certain onslaught by a threatening circle of radical Islam. A Palestinian state would not be the buffer zone against such an assault; rather it would be the spearhead over whose territory a major attack would take place.

Whenever I discuss the subject with Israeli politicians, experts, European diplomats and journalists, all of whom foster the utopian dream of a two-state solution based on the 1967 lines with parts of Jerusalem given to the Palestinians as their new capital, I ask them one question, one critical question, that gnaws away at me. It gnaws away at me all the more so because I never receive an answer from them that assuages my concerns and fears.

In fact, their lack of an adequate response, their incomprehension of the premise of my question, amplifies my concerns and fears. Nobody, none of these experts, none of these people who are pushing this two-state package, none of the influence and opinion makers, is able to confront this question. Many haven’t even considered the question relevant.


Noah Beck dispels some myths about Israel and Hamas in the Christian Post. Excerpt:

The parties in this “cycle of violence” are morally indistinguishable. But Hamas purposely targets Israeli civilians and uses Palestinian civilians as human shields to maximize their casualties and score sympathy points. Israel, on the other hand, protects civilians on both sides of the conflict by using bomb shelters and the Iron Dome defense system in Israel, and by warning civilians – with leaflets, texts, and phone calls – to clear targeted areas in Gaza. Israel also expends tremendous resources gathering military intelligence for pinpoint strikes on terrorist targets – operations that it sometimes abruptly aborts when civilians unexpectedly enter the targeted area. Critics forget that if Israel’s goal were to massacre the Palestinians, Israel could do so in a few hours of indiscriminate bombardment (as Assad has done daily in Syria) rather than in days or weeks of precise military actions.


Pre-Sandy Hook, the Orange County Register pondered California’s dystopian future.

The Democrats’ new two-thirds-plus supermajority in the Legislature may embolden them to go to extremes. Mr. Paredes warned that Democrats will try to pass more gun-control legislation, in particular requiring the registration of ammunition and defining “assault weapons” so narrowly as to include hunting rifles.

Mr. Dean cautioned that Democrats may use the need for more law enforcement funds as a reason to assault Proposition 13, the 1978 tax-limitation initiative. A year from now, Californians could find themselves paying higher taxes on homes they will find it harder to defend on their own.


“Why Don’t Men Come to Church?” asks Rod Dreher.

In my 15 or so years as a Roman Catholic, I only rarely worshipped in a parish in which I related to the priest as an authority figure. I believed that his sacramental authority was real, but I’m talking about his pastoral authority. Most of the priests I dealt with struck me as — what’s the word? — is it soft? I wanted and needed a pastor, not a guidance counselor. There was a lack of masculine authority present, and I felt it. I can think of at least five Catholic pastors in my personal experience who did have and exercise spiritual and moral authority in a masculine way, and they were great. They reminded me of my own father: caring, but strong and authoritative.

Dreher ridicules Elizabeth Wurtzel’s Sex and the City lifestyle (re: “Life worth living”). After Wurtzel laments her immature, middle-aged selfishness, she fires off this bit of cognitive dissonance: “I am committed to feminism and don’t understand why anyone would agree to be party to a relationship that is not absolutely equal. I believe women who are supported by men are prostitutes, that is that.” Doesn’t she realize this is the problem? Dreher fires back:

I don’t feel especially compelled to answer this snide remark of a drying-out husk of a woman like Elizabeth Wurtzel, but it is useful, I think, to point to this as perhaps the most vivid example of why Elizabeth Wurtzel is such a horrible, miserable person. She is incapable of really loving anyone but herself. I think of how my life works, with my wife — the same way every family I know in which the mom stays at home works — and I instantly grasp that what Elizabeth Wurtzel doesn’t know about love and marriage is a lot. I have a good career as a writer, and provide well financially for my family. Because we have been blessed in particular ways, it’s been easier to make that choice. But we made that choice for me to be the sole breadwinner as soon as we decided to start a family — and I was making a lot less money then. It’s one of the main reasons we decided to leave New York City back in 2003: we knew we couldn’t afford the number of kids we wanted to have, or the security we owed them, if we stayed in New York on my writer’s salary.


Pope Benedict XVI warns that the war on marriage is part of a greater war on human nature (courtesy of the London Telegraph):

“In the fight for the family, the very notion of being – of what being human really means – is being called into question,” the Pope said in Italian during an end-of-year speech.

“The question of the family ... is the question of what it means to be a man, and what it is necessary to do to be true men,” he said.

The Pope spoke of the “falseness” of gender theories and cited at length France's chief Rabbi Gilles Bernheim, who has spoken out against gay marriage.

“Bernheim has shown in a very detailed and profoundly moving study that the attack we are currently experiencing on the true structure of the family, made up of father, mother, and child, goes much deeper,” he said.

He cited feminist gender theorist Simone de Beauvoir’s view to the effect that one is not born a woman, but one becomes so – that sex was no longer an element of nature but a social role people chose for themselves.

“The profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious,” he said.

The defence of the family, the Pope said, “is about man himself. And it becomes clear that when God is denied, human dignity also disappears.”


A.N. Wilson writes in the Daily Mail how the sexual revolution failed in its goal of liberating humans from nature:

The truth is that the Sexual Revolution had the power to alter our way of life, but it could not alter our essential nature; it could not alter the reality of who and what we are as human beings.

It made nearly everyone feel that they were free, or free-er, than their parents had been — free to smoke pot, free to sleep around, free to pursue the passing dream of what felt, at the time, like overwhelming love — an emotion which very seldom lasts, and a word which is meaningless unless its definition includes commitment.

How easy it was to dismiss old-fashioned sexual morality as ‘suburban’, as a prison for the human soul. How easy it was to laugh at the ‘prudes’ who questioned the wisdom of what was happening in the Sexual Revolution.

Yet, as the opinion poll shows, most of us feel at a very deep level that what will make us very happy is not romping with a succession of lovers.

In fact, it is having a long-lasting, stable relationship, having children, and maintaining, if possible, lifelong marriage.


Matthew J. Franck writes about marriage redistributionists’ sliding scale of values in the Public Discourse:

If denying same-sex couples the “right to marry” was such an obvious and gross injustice as to merit such energetic claims today, why had it never occurred to either of these august scholars decades ago, at the beginning or the middle of their careers? In the books of proud advocacy each had published, say, twenty or thirty years ago, there was not the slightest hint that American public life was disfigured by this particular injustice.

Redefining marriage to include same-sex relationships simply didn’t occur to them, because it didn’t occur to anyone. Yet that day they espoused that view with the fervor of men who had always thought so, and for whom it was unthinkable to believe otherwise. If they reflected on this change in their own thinking, would they conclude that their reasoning powers had been deficient years ago, or their moral sympathies inadequate?

Or, as I like to say, Moses was a homophobe.


Larry Thornhill comes to Brent Musberger’s defense, and to the defense of male appreciation of female beauty:

Bi-coastal and university faculty lounge progressives may have their knickers in a knot about Musburger’s straightforward appreciation of La Webb. But normal American men and women see nothing remarkable in what Brent said. In fact, most would have considered it an oversight not to remark on the most pleasing looks of young Webb, and the amazing good luck of the talented McCarron.

But, sadly, it’s not normal America ESPN caters to in its pronouncements, but to the freak-bubble of the cultural left.

...

These are the circles of geek-branch feminism, where any male attention to female pulchritude is considered sexist, evil, and actionable. ESPN’s gutless apology will cut no ice with the far greater number of the well-grounded who know that male appreciation of female beauty is not an offense, but is in fact an absolute requirement for the continuation of the species.


Finally, a moving excerpt from ESPN’s 30 For 30 documentary on Bo Jackson. Former Auburn coach Pat Dye quoted Jerry Bryan on the 1983 Iron Bowl victory:

Teams like these come along only once in a long while. A team and its coach prove themselves great on the inside where the heart is. The public watches, understands, and is proud.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Not everyone’s a homicidal maniac

There’s a scene in United 93 when Ben Sliney, FAA National Operations Manager, looks at the big board of aircraft crisscrossing the United States in terror. Every dot on the map represents a commercial airplane, a weapon of mass destruction in the hands of hijackers, capable of being rammed into a building or densely populated area.

Before 9/11, no one except Tom Clancy (read Debt of Honor) looked at a commercial aircraft and saw its capabilities as a weapon of mass destruction. On that day, Sliney issued an order to ground all commercial planes. Later we learned four planes were hijacked, three of which hit their targets. Four planes out of 6,500. Less than 0.1%. Nineteen hijackers out of a million passengers. Less than 0.002%.

Manmade systems’ susceptibility to the creative disruptions of a relative few is truly astounding. Something as benign as a flash mob, by upending the delicate social order, can degenerate into chaos, wherein people coming and going in peace and tranquility suddenly require armed guards to protect them from each other.

“In its extraordinary complexity, modern civilization is extremely vulnerable to the outlaw—whether the alcoholic driver or the hijacker, the heroin pusher or the bearer of AIDS, the guerrilla or the computer criminal, the mugger or the assassin.” –George Gilder

Take a moment and look around you. Consider all the ways you could hurt someone. Consider all the pain and destruction you could inflict in just a few seconds. Look at the person nearest to you. Your jumping at his throat is the last thing he would suspect.

So what’s stopping you? Little more than a culturally adjusted sense of right and wrong. Opportunities abound for someone or some group of people lacking that adjustment. Only an unconscionable, draconian system of laws buffering the people’s every movement claims to mitigate every mortal danger posed by a maladjusted minority threatening to bust loose.

After the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, the usual suspects are calling for more gun restrictions. Their maternal looks of concern have served as the masks of totalitarian government for a hundred years. A weapon, whether it be an airplane, a gun, a motorcycle, a chainsaw, or a gas can, only poses a danger to innocents when it falls into the wrong hands. New York Times columnist Charles Blow says he has a “right to not own a gun and still feel safe.” It does not cross his bleeding heart that his safety goes hand in hand with his neighbors’ right to bear arms.

By my calculation, in 2011 there was roughly one gun murder for every thousand handguns owned by Americans. Yet liberals quake at the sheer number of guns, as if gun ownership transforms otherwise unarmed people into homicidal maniacs. Try to take their guns—disturb that compact that’s existed between the government and Americans for hundreds of years—and they just might!


Cross-posted (with an added personal touch) at the Red Pill Report.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Burn the evil from your midst

I wrote this scene for my novel a few months ago. It’s a little rough, but it conveys better than any essay where I think Western society could be headed if it completely slips its moorings. As you read, remember the governments throughout history that cleansed their populations of “reactionaries,” people so deeply rooted in tradition and timeless wisdom that they resisted the “providence” of the totalitarian state.

In the scene, one of the leaders of a space colony is carrying out a public execution. The “criminals,” Vesta and Titus, are guilty of sedition. It begins in the middle of the leader’s inveighing against Christianity.


His voice rose higher. “We broke the momentum of the past. We cast off the chains of an antiquated code. We embraced opportunity! We became what is possible!”

A deafening roar rose up from the crowd.

The leader slowly lifted his hand to point at the cage. “Will we tolerate infiltration by absolutists?”

“No!” the crowd responded.

“Will we let them divide us against each other?”

“No!”

“What will we do?”

“Kill them!” someone screamed, to the approval of the crowd.

The leader reached inside his shirt and produced a bound sheaf of paper. “We will do to them what their bible says to do to us. Burn the evil from your midst.”

A safety officer towed a pale, haggard civilian bound in handcuffs onto the dais.

The leader affected a look of confusion. “Who’s this? State your name.”

The civilian exchanged a panicked look with the blasphemers. The safety officer pushed her in the back, breaking the connection.

“Spencer,” she said.

“Well, Spencer, do you have something to say?”

The safety officer handed her a slip of paper. She rubbed tears out of her eyes and, holding the bottom edge of the paper against her chest, began reading aloud.

“I, Spencer of Theta cooperative, plead guilty—”

“Louder, Spencer, so they can hear you!” the leader boomed. The crowd laughed and jeered.

She started over, projecting shakily. “I, Spencer of Theta cooperative, plead guilty to the following crimes: I denied the evolution of man. I read and distributed hateful literature. I sowed falsehoods, division, and doubt. I conspired to commit treason against my brothers and sisters.”

“Bigot!” someone screamed. The crowd echoed the charge, which morphed into a disyllabic chant: “Bigot, bigot, bigot...” A rival chant went up in the back, accompanied by pumping fists: “Kill her, kill her, kill her...”

The leader raised his hands to quiet the crowd.

Spencer went on in a dull monotone. “I realize my mistake. I was a slave to ancient prejudices. I lost my head in the fog of supernaturalism. The citizenship oath rings true: ‘We and we alone are the authors of our prosperity. There is no obstacle our corporate will cannot overcome. We are free to fight in the present for a better life. We work together. We live together. We breathe together. We’re in this together.’ I am sorry for what I’ve done.”

Scattered members of the crowd raised their arms in a Roman salute.

“None of us is born right, but we can be made right. There is but one answer to the challenge of our time and place. That answer is here. That answer is us. Be on guard against liars. They prey on your weakness.

“I used to be weak. I felt isolated and different, and I compared myself to others. That’s how I was recruited. I found resolve in the sedition the traitors preached. I found solace in their companionship. They turned me against myself and my people. We kept secrets from the rest of you. We conspired and plotted. Now I have been cleansed of the lies. I know the truth, and I ask for your forgiveness.”

She broke off and glanced at the leader, who nodded encouragingly. “To show my sincerity, I give up to the altar of progress my old friends, traitors, Vesta and Titus. I begged them to accept reality. I tried reasoning with them. Even when faced with death, they wouldn’t listen to me.”

“Why not?” the leader said.

She winced at the scripted question. “They hate you—”

“What? Speak up, Spencer!”

She screamed at him, voice cracking with hysteria: “I said they hate you! They hate you! They’d rather bear witness and die than live! Look! They want you to! They’re waiting! Kill them! Please, kill them!”

The crowd took up her cry of “kill them,” with various epithets mixed in. The safety officer stepped behind the cage and reappeared with a flamethrower. The crowd’s frenzy grew. The spectators in front pressed against the barrier, pushed from behind by the roiling masses.

“Wait,” the leader said, his voice barely audible over the tumult. The safety officer lowered the flamethrower. “She’ll do it.”

Spencer almost dropped the flamethrower from her numb hands. She looked at the leader in shock.

“Do it,” he said. “They’re traitors. Burn them.”

She nodded and stepped next to the cage. She looked at Vesta for the last time, hoping for encouragement. A smile creased the woman’s wrinkled face. Titus clung to the bars and stared blankly at his feet.

“Burn them!” the leader commanded.

She shut her eyes and aimed the flame end at the cage.

Friday, January 4, 2013

At home

One of my sister’s friends, a junior at MIT, during the Christmas break told me she enjoyed Boston fine, but it just wasn’t for her and she would pursue post-graduate studies in Kentucky or Texas where she felt more at home. The sentiment is indistinguishable from one I held as recently as last summer, with Maryland substituting for Boston.

What a valuable insight at 20 years old! The question of home plagued me at that age, too, but I reached a different conclusion. I resolved I would make home wherever I needed it to be. While part of it was a rationalization of necessity (I had to leave home to find work), I mostly based the decision on strength of will and character that I hadn’t developed yet. For me at the time, it was the wrong choice. I lost almost 5 years to that mistake.

“We can only become what we truly are by acknowledging that we do not exist by, from, and for ourselves. Our lives are always rooted in a natural and cultural community, so that to cut ourselves off from these roots, whether that be in the name of progress or human liberation, is to ensure the eventual withering and then death of life.” –Norman Wirzba

Liberation from the trappings of place offers the illusion of limitless possibilities. But the lack of social structures you found so stifling back home provides little direction on what you should and shouldn’t do with yourself. Everything is viewed through the lens of the self, and most lack the discipline to create something virtuous and worthy from scratch. “Self-actualization” degrades to selfish action, sacrificing spiritual health for hedonic pleasure.

Two movies released over Christmas break delve deeply into people’s need for home. The first is The Hobbit. After 2½ long hours, Bilbo’s motivation, his thirst for adventure, has waned. But he finds a new reason to carry on with Gandalf and the dwarves on their journey:

I know you doubt me. I know you always have. And you’re right. I often think of Bag End. I miss my books, and my armchair, and my garden. See, that’s where I belong. That’s home. And that’s why I came ’cause you don’t have one...a home. It was taken from you. But I will help you take it back, if I can.

It’s not revenge that motivates the dwarves, nor the riches Smaug hoardes, but the place that dwells deepest in their hearts: home.

The other is Jack Reacher. The eponymous hero points to the lit windows framing office workers in a building at dusk. He contrasts the terrible “rootedness” of their lives—including, but not limited to, debt and disillusion—with his own rootless existence. How many of them, he asks rhetorically, would trade their mistakes for a life like his? A life of long bus rides, cheap motels, and errant wandering.

It was a powerful and unexpected critique of civilized man. But it’s a critique only a romantic individualist like Reacher, a completely self-sufficient man—in other words, an impossible man—can make. We’re reminded how far and tragically short of life he comes when he passes up a good thing to go on the run again.