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.

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