Monday, May 20, 2013

What can only be given

When a woman is raped, does she lose her sexual purity?

Not if her sexual purity is a function of her consent, which I argue it is. Since rape is sex against the woman’s will, her purity remains at the same level as it was before she was raped.

The Bible says when a man and woman lie together they “know” one another. The rapist does not know his victim. She does not let him into her heart. He forces his way in. He uses her body as an instrument of his gratification.

The rapist does not “steal” a girl’s virginity. Technically he is her first; the evidence is left on her wounded body. But he cannot steal what can only be given. He cannot steal her heart.

This is the spiritual side of sex. If you view sex as a fundamentally mechanical act, as Jill Filipovic does, you wouldn’t understand anything I just said. So this ridiculous statement comes as no surprise:

Where does a woman’s value lie? In her brain? Her heart? Her spirit?

According to right-wing culture warriors, “between her legs”. That’s what underlies the emphasis on virginity as “purity”, and the push for abstinence-only education.

Of course, abstinence is only part of what “right-wing culture warriors” (aka responsible parents) teach their children. The other part, the emotional vulnerability and physical commitment of sex, goes hand in hand with abstinence.

Elizabeth Smart was saving herself for her husband but she was kidnapped and raped at 14. It’s understandable, in the emotional trauma of rape, that she would think her sexual value to her future husband had plummeted. There is an overwhelming sense the gift she had is tainted. But she is still pure in the sense that she has not succumbed to sexual desire. Unless the man she marries is a Cro-Magnon brute, her character and fidelity will far outweigh the physical integrity of her hymen.

Filipovic, an unabashed trafficker in bad ideas, would offer this advice to Smart: “Oh, honey, it’s all right, your virginity doesn’t mean anything.”

She claims “[women’s] value isn’t maintained, lost or compromised with sexual penetration,” but she neglects to point out the “penetration” Smart was a victim of is quite different from the casual encounters second-wave feminists like Filipovic champion. It is really her view of sex that commoditizes women’s bodies and sustains the objectification of women. It is a view more in touch with the rapist, who sees girls as the means to his next orgasm, than his victim.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Odds and ends 5/19/2013

“Dear brothers and sisters, how hard it is, in our time, to make the ultimate decisions! The temporary seduces us. We are victims of a trend that pushes us to the temporary ... as if we wanted to stay teenagers for life! We should not be afraid of the agreed commitments, commitments that involve and affect the whole life! In this way, our lives will be fruitful!” –Pope Francis

Boy genius Michael W. Hannon rebuts Robert P. George on limited government in Public Discourse:

While the Aristotelian tradition teaches that man is essentially a citizen, it also, with a nod to hierarchy and subsidiarity, notes that his civic hat is but one of many that he wears—or better, that it is but one of many identities that he bears.

Therefore, our theoretical justification for the natural limitations on governmental authority should not be based on the accidental importance of political community, as in George’s system. Instead, we should defend limited government using the relation of political society to other goods that are also intrinsically valuable.

No natural good is comprehensive to the point of excluding all others. Friendship is limited; health is limited; marriage is limited too, despite being a one-flesh union and thus comprehensive in a certain narrow respect. Yet marriage is limited not because it is a merely instrumental good, but rather because it is one of many intrinsic goods, a particular non-exhaustive facet of human wellbeing. The same is true of civics.

...

To see political community as intrinsically good offers a more stable foundation for limited government than to reduce political community to a merely instrumental good. By demarcating government as one of many intrinsic goods in the created order, we can see where political community ends and other goods pick up. This picture gives politics naturally defined bounds. Government gets a realm of its own, and that realm is an inherently limited one.

Political community understood merely as an instrument to realizing individual goods, however, opens the doors to state encroachment wherever the government believes it can lend a hand. And as recent history shows all too clearly, the state tends to think it can assist with just about everything; even our government of clearly defined bounds oversteps them at every turn. When government is denied its own realm of importance as an intrinsic good, it overtakes whatever territory it can claim for itself.

Subsidiarity is the Catholic doctrine of limited government. David A. Bosnich writes at the Acton Institute:

This tenet holds that nothing should be done by a larger and more complex organization which can be done as well by a smaller and simpler organization. In other words, any activity which can be performed by a more decentralized entity should be. This principle is a bulwark of limited government and personal freedom. It conflicts with the passion for centralization and bureaucracy characteristic of the Welfare State.

This is why Pope John Paul II took the “social assistance state” to task in his 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus. The Pontiff wrote that the Welfare State was contradicting the principle of subsidiarity by intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility. This “leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending.”

Sing it, Holy Father.

At the American Thinker, Bruce Johnson hits on this theme in an essay on the government’s interest in removing charitable deductions from the tax code:

Progressives enjoy herding people to the door step of governmental assistance. Food stamps and disability payments and the entire cornucopia that is federal assistance are their pet programs. Charities are an obstruction to a full and total reliance on government.

At the American Spectator, Ron Ross inveighs against politicization and resulting tyranny:

A popular battle cry of feminists in the ’60s and ’70s was “the personal is political.” That phrase pretty well reflects the politicization movement in general. Politicizing something essentially moves it from the personal, individual realm to the public realm. It converts what used to be in the private sphere to the public sphere. Issues and preferences are moved from individuals to the “collective.” Pressure is applied to create uniformity of opinion. Independence of thought cannot be tolerated. An irony of liberals is in spite of their professed belief in “diversity,” what they actually yearn for is conformity.

The personal is political, the private is public. That includes not just behavior, but more insidiously, thought and choice. In the left’s view there is only one“correct” way of thinking. If you have another opinion you must be a bigot, racist, or Neanderthal. And they don’t want to discuss it.


Arthur Brooks tells how Republicans can win Hispanic votes in the Wall Street Journal:

We all know that several cultural forces best predict earned success and happiness. With exhaustive evidence in his 2012 best seller Coming Apart, Charles Murray shows that these forces are faith, family, community and work. Conservatives are in their natural habitat here and should fight every day to get the government out of the way of a healthy culture for vulnerable American families.

This means ending tax and welfare incentives that discourage marriage and encourage children out of wedlock, rewarding work over unemployment benefits, and a host of other pro-poor policies. Healthy culture should not be the realm of Puritanism but of Good Samaritanism and smart policy.

You have to speak to their souls. You have to tell them no one is more capable of realizing his goals than a man released from the economic, psychological trap of smothering government.


The Washington Examiner editorial board sounds off on scandalpocalypse, and frames the issues perfectly:

Conservatives and liberals have long debated the most effective way to ensure accountability in government. Conservatives, who usually view human nature as inherently flawed, automatically distrust those exercising official power. Liberals, for whom the perfectibility of man is an article of faith, argue that government is inherently benevolent – and that officials who would abuse their power are restrained by the threat of exposure.

James Delingpole of the London Telegraph writes a hilarious piece mocking “expert environment expert” Mark Lynas. The two long quotes are from Lynas’ book Six Degrees: Our Future On A Hotter Planet:

“In constraining carbon through rationing, we might soon find that we were building a different sort of society, one emphasising quality of life before the raw statistics of economic growth and relentless consumerism.”

Yes! Yes! We don’t want quantifiable data or tiresome real-world metrics. We want made up, random measures like – I know – how about Sustainayumminess and Recyclocaringempathy and Nonracistantijudgementalism? I expect Anthony Seldon would be eager to work them into the curriculum at Wellington.

But wait. I’ve had a bad thought. I know I shouldn’t but I have: what about all those sceptics who say that CO2 is just a harmless trace gas and even if you double atmospheric CO2 it’s only going to have a forcing effect of about 1 degree C – not the scary 6 degrees in Mark’s arresting title. Should we take these people seriously – or is there some sinister underlying explanation for their denialism?

“According to psychologists, denial is a way for people to resolve the dissonance caused by new information which may challenge deeply held views or cherished patterns of behaviour. Motorists, therefore, may not be willing to absorb information which challenges their perceived need to use their cars; nor are holidaymakers likely to be eager to think too much about global warming as they board their flights to Thailand.”

Aha! I see. So it’s in all in their heads? Nothing to do with real-world data, then? That’s good to know. Otherwise all those people who bought Mark’s important contribution to the state of global climate hysteria might feel that they’d been sold a pup by an anti-scientific eco-loon talking way above his pay grade and demand their money back.

And how’s Mark supposed to support his next holiday in the Maldives if they all do that?


Makoto Fujimura writes about meeting his wife:

I had an internal compass toward her that told me that I could be straightforward with her in a way that I had not mustered, in my many shy attempts in the past, with other girls.

...

I remember the ease I had in my heart speaking with her; I could tell that Judy saw me differently than any girl had seen me in the past. She allowed me to come inside her mind and reside in her heart, as natural as breathing, without any prejudice whatsoever.


Charles Murray defends Jason Richwine in National Review. I enjoyed the following exchange in the comments section (as well as the first commenter’s moniker):

Julian_Castro_Picks_His_Nose: I would like to ask the resident Leftists a question: If you conducted research which inadvertently proved that mean white IQs were significantly higher than mean black or Hispanic IQs, would you suppress the findings?

thewiks: I would like to ask the resident Rightists a question: If you conducted research which inadvertently proved that mean black or Hispanic IQs were significantly higher than mean white IQs, would you suppress the findings?

Lex Corvus: Most Rightists who study this issue will readily admit that Chinese have significantly higher IQs than Europeans (by about 1/3 of a standard deviation), while Ashkenazi Jews have the highest IQs of all (around a full standard deviation higher than non-Jewish Europeans). Leftists conveniently ignore this in favor of accusations of white racism—probably because “Rightists are pro-Semitic Chinese supremacists!” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.


Philip Jenkins, professor at my alma mater, Baylor University, absolves Joe McCarthy of the “witch hunt” label at RealClearReligion:

Alger Hiss was a spy, as were the Rosenbergs. If FDR had died before 1944, his successor would have been Vice President Henry Wallace, who identified Laurence Duggan as his potential Secretary of State, and Harry Dexter White as his Treasury Secretary. Duggan and White were both Soviet spies. Quite apart from the many known cases, VENONA reveals the existence of several hundred more Americans who worked for the Soviets, but who still remain unidentified.

The “witch hunts” of course began long before McCarthy's rise to prominence, and arguably had done far more to dismantle the Soviet spy threat than the Senator from Wisconsin. Anti-Communist purges were in fact at their height under the Democratic Truman administration. They reached new heights after 1950 not because of the rise of a new demagogue, but because the U.S. was at open war with Communist forces in Korea, with the daily expectation of an imminent escalation against the Soviets – who had tested a nuclear bomb the previous year. In such a dire situation, it was natural to expect a domestic sabotage campaign by those Soviet assets on American soil who could most easily be found within the ranks of the Communist Party.

In the 1950s, unlike the 1650s, the “witches” were quite real and deadly dangerous, and any government that failed to seek them out and neutralize them would have been signally failing in its basic duty of national self-preservation. It made excellent sense to ask exactly who was, or recently had been, a Communist, and the obvious way to do that was to track their political views over the previous decade or so. In what sense could investigating such a record be called a witch-hunt?


A cat fight erupts at American Thinker. The delicious Elisabeth Meinecke of Townhall wrote a Mother’s Day special on several high-profile, conservative women. One thing was missing: actual, relatable women. M. Catharine Evans takes exception:

Sandra Fluke may be a joke to most conservatives, but the unglamorous law student appealed to the “in” crowd that gets its cues from mass market media. The left knows there are a heckuva lot more women who look, live, and sound like Fluke than the alluring and/or powerful women writing and posing for Townhall.

In a less threatening political climate, a magazine heralding well-to-do conservative moms wouldn’t be a big deal – but these are not normal times. Obama has ushered in a gussied up version of a third-world country where mothers, as the hubs of their families, will have to figure out ways to survive not only the cultural war, but the economic one. The dire situation facing cash-strapped moms continues to escape the young, smart, but often out-of-touch editors like Elisabeth Meinecke.

Evans is right. The virtuous women Meinecke profiled have easy, upper-class, cookie-cutter lives. She would have done better plucking a woman off the street, or venturing into a dusty rural town. But that would not be “glamorous.” It might scarily confront the salty aspects of real life.


Sometimes you read something by an author you’re not familiar with, and you know it was written by woman, because only a woman has the balls to write it. That woman is Ashley McGuire of AltCatholicah:

We can thank women for no-fault divorce laws. They fought hard in the 1960s and 1970s for the right to be freed from that terrible, hierarchical construct that is marriage.

When I reached this, I scrolled to the byline to confirm it was indeed written by a woman. I write stuff like this, but I’m a garden-variety misogynist, on the fringe, as they say, and I may yet remain so.


Anthony Quinn reviews Star Trek: Into Darkness for the UK Independent. He concludes:

There’s not a great deal of suspense here. However frantic the scramble, however frequent the panic stations, do we believe that the Starship is heading into anything but the next sequel?

Nope. And that’s a problem. The absence of genuine peril can prevent a movie from elevating itself above popcorn entertainment into the realm of art. The Dark Knight trilogy did very well to leave the outcome in doubt. Bruce Wayne lost fights, suffered setbacks, and was forced to make terrible choices about who to save and who to let die.

As a writer, I try to imbue the narrative with a sense of—dare I say it—mortal weight. If nothing is really at stake, what’s the reader reading for?


Here’s what I left on the cutting room floor in writing “Spaces between”:

Two months ago, I heard Tim Tebow give a talk at a charity event. The definition of tragedy, Tebow said, is being great at something you don’t love.

...

Last month, Mitch Wilburn, a guest speaker at our church retreat, told us about a man whom he volunteered with at a ministry. They were strangers to each other, but through conversation, Mitch learned he was a wealthy account manager, responsible for billions of dollars in assets. He said to Mitch he was being paid seven figures to rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic. He didn’t consider it his real work. Christ’s ministry was his real work.


At First Things, Wesley J. Smith hones in on the identity racket and gives a harrowing example:

Transhumanists urge society to devote its intellectual and financial resources to expensive research aimed at enabling individuals to radically redesign themselves in their own image. The ultimate goal of transhumanism is designing a “post-human” species in which everyone could freely change their appearance and capacities at will.

There is now even serious talk about allowing doctors to amputate healthy limbs as a “treatment” for a terrible mental illness known generally as “body integrity identity disorder.” BIID sufferers obsess about becoming disabled, a few as paraplegics or quadriplegics, but most desperately desire to become amputees—which they perceive as their true identities. Some defenders of voluntary amputation note, correctly, that we permit sex change operations—and even legally “reassign” males to be females and vice versa—so it is only logical that we also accommodate “amputee wannabe” self-identity.

Joseph Knippenberg weighs in:

The antidote is to recognize what we are made for, about which our bodies (created by the creator) give us some very strong hints. We can through very great efforts seem to overcome the limits of our bodies (in medicine, we sometimes call that “playing God”), but that doesn’t free us so much as it makes us dependent, not on the partners for whom we were made, but on the Leviathan that offers us choices.

The fundamental issue here is not anyone’s sexual orientation; it’s the assumption that choice, pleasure, and self-fulfillment are our be-all and end-all, an assumption that many—nay, all—of us sinners share.

What Smith calls “transhumanism” Mark Tooley calls “gnosticm” (via the American Spectator):

The ancient Gnostics believed in mind over matter, in conflict with Judaism and Christianity, which have always asserted a concrete reality in God’s order of creation.

It’s been commonly claimed that America’s historically intrinsic offer of constant self-reinvention is itself gnostic influenced. Maybe, but this American promise was actually a reaction against static social and economic stratification in the Old World. American individualism offered upward mobility and the liberty to pursue adventure and even eccentricity. It has not until recently demanded that society must approve and subsidize new gender identities entailing elective, radically mutilating surgery followed by a lifetime of hormone treatments.


Mitt Romney gave a commencement speech at Southern Virginia University and praised the early marriage model. This raised liberals’ dander, as Jennifer Wadsworth illustrates (hat tip Aaron Goldstein):

Forget about waiting until you’re in your 30s or 40s, he continues. What, you want to start your life as an independent adult? Live a little? Travel? Maybe pursue one dream or another until you stumble into your own coming-of-age without a spouse by your side?

Those types, Romney dramatically remarks, “they’re going to miss so much of living, I’m afraid.”

Right. Those poor unattached 20-somethings, wallowing in loneliness while they wait for a partner to help them discover a purpose and unburden themselves from the trials and tribulations of single adulthood. That’s what they get for their self-centered pursuit of happiness. They’ll probably end up at 43 years old in a one-room apartment, eating fistfuls of melting Dibs, perusing profiles on ChristianMingle.com, long past their baby-makin’ prime. Smite!

Wadsworth is more right than she knows. Is there nobility to the single, unattached life that I am missing? I’m reminded of Taylor, played by Michael Biehn, unburdening his soul to his dying climbing partner in K2:

My whole life has been about me. My work is about lies and compromise and dealing with the scum of the earth. I come to places like this with you to find a little grace, you know? I don’t want to be selfish all my life. I want some nobility, God dammit!

If you think marriage is between a man and a woman, Starbucks doesn’t want your business. Victor Medina writes:

The rise of support for gay marriage has also seen a rise of intolerance for those who oppose it. Many who joined the boycott of Starbucks last year were dismissed as bigots, even though the boycott did cause revenue to drop.

... I hear echoes of “Economic anonymity.”

“Not every decision is an economic decision.” –Howard Schulz, Starbucks CEO
“It’s common sense that any investing strategy that makes choices based on politics rather than financial considerations will come with a cost.” –Hamilton Nolan

Jillian Keenan of Slate embraces the slippery slope of marriage redefinition (hat tip Ryan T. Anderson):

Just like heterosexual marriage is no better or worse than homosexual marriage, marriage between two consenting adults is not inherently more or less ‘correct’ than marriage among three (or four, or six) consenting adults.

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Legalized polygamy in the United States is the constitutional, feminist and sex-positive choice.

John Milbank warns how the redefinition of marriage could mean the loss of parents’ rights to raise their children, resulting in a “biopolitical tyranny.” Excerpt:

The graver fear surrounding the new legislation is that secular thought will not so readily let go of the demand for absolutely equal rights based on identical definitions. In that case, we face an altogether more drastic prospect. Not only would “marriage” have been redefined so as to include gay marriage, it would inevitably be redefined even for heterosexual people in homosexual terms. Thus “consummation” and “adultery” would cease to be seen as having any relevance to the binding and loosing of straight unions.

Many may welcome such a development as yet a further removal of state intrusion into our private lives, but that would be to fail to consider all the implications. In the first place, it would end public recognition of the importance of marriage as a union of sexual difference. But the joining together and harmonisation of the asymmetrical perspectives of the two sexes are crucial both to kinship relations over time and to social peace. Where the reality of sexual difference is denied, then it gets reinvented in perverse ways – just as the over-sexualisation of women and the confinement of men to a marginalised machismo.

Secondly, it would end the public legal recognition of a social reality defined in terms of the natural link between sex and procreation. In direct consequence, the natural children of heterosexual couples would then be only legally their children if the state decided that they might be legally “adopted” by them.

And this, I argue, reveals what is really at issue here. There was no demand for “gay marriage” and this has nothing to do with gay rights. Instead, it is a strategic move in the modern state’s drive to assume direct control over the reproduction of the population, bypassing our interpersonal encounters. This is not about natural justice, but the desire on the part of biopolitical tyranny to destroy marriage and the family as the most fundamental mediating social institution.


“[It is a] happy truth that man is capable of self-government, and only rendered otherwise by the moral degradation designedly superinduced on him by the wicked acts of his tyrant.” –Thomas Jefferson

At Touchstone, Douglas Farrow digs deep into the tension between liberty and morally limiting truth.

The power of On Liberty to overturn social and moral and religious conventions arises from Mill’s exciting and flattering suggestion that freedom will lead you into the truth. That iconoclastic gospel from the Romantic period still competes very successfully, tractable as it is to post-modern cynicism, with the older idol-smashing gospel of Jesus, that “the truth will set you free.”

Mill’s gospel takes no account of the creator/creature distinction, or of the fallenness of man. It takes no account of a freedom higher than freedom of choice, and gives no thought to how the truth of our own good will be recognized, or how that good will prove commensurate with the good of others. It is incurably romantic and naively optimistic. Most significantly, it fails to reckon with the fact that, in the absence of an overarching common good, based on a prior truth to which both the individual and the state are subject, the state must become the arbiter of all the competing goods of “free” individuals. It is not the individual who triumphs, then, in the appeal to a freedom that is prior to truth, but the state.

...

Replaced by a kaleidoscope of transient sexual and psychological configurations, which serve chiefly to make children of adults and adults of children, the declining family is ceding enormous tracts of social and legal territory to the state. At law, parent-child relationships are losing their a priori status and privilege. Crafty fools ask foolish fools, “What harm does same-sex marriage do to your marriage, or to your family?” The truthful answer is: Same-sex marriage makes us all chattels of the state, because the state, in presuming to define the substance rather than the accidents of marriage, has made marriage itself a state artifact.

Those who have trouble connecting the dots here—which lamentably includes many defenders of the traditional institution—should take time to consider the fact that the new “inclusive” definition, in striking procreation from the purview of marriage, has left both parents and children without a lawful institution that respects and guarantees their natural rights to each other.


I’m convinced the only reason Victor Davis Hansen still lives in California is so he can report on its collapse.

Immigration from Mexico and Central America in the past was manageable, since it was mostly legal, newcomers met a host eager to assimilate and integrate them, and the limited pools of yearly arrivals facilitated such confident melting-pot approaches. But in the last 30 years, a perfect storm of huge increases in illegal immigration, the politicized abandonment of the assimilationist melting-pot model in favor of the multicultural salad-bowl approach, the transfers of billions of dollars out of the state in annual remittances to Latin America, and the dismal economy resulted in soaring costs in welfare, Medi-Cal, the penal system, and law enforcement. Ironically, it is the sputtering California economy, not federal- or state-government enforcement of the law, that has led to a fairly recent slowdown in illegal immigration.

Mike Gonzales of the Heritage Foundation discusses assimilation, a pretty word for conformity, in the context of the Boston Marathon bombing in the Denver Post:

We no longer teach patriotic assimilation. By that I mean love of country, not just its creature comforts.

We teach the opposite, in fact — that we’re all groups living cheek by jowl with one another, all with different advantages and legal class protection statuses, but not really all part of the same national fabric. In other words, we teach multiculturalism and diversity, and are officially making assimilation very hard to achieve.

If Dzhokhar and his brother Tamarlan are guilty of the acts of terrorism they are accused of because they succumbed to Islamist radicalism, then they are monsters who are personally responsible for turning against the land that welcomed them. Tamarlan has paid with his life, and Dzhokhar will be dealt judgment.

But as we grapple now with the thorny question of immigration, how to handle the millions of people who started to arrive at mid-century in a massive immigration wave, we could do worse than look at the affairs in Boston for a clue on whether our current approach works.

First let’s look at the brothers Tsarnaev. For a hint on their motivation we have no less an authority than their uncle Ruslan. Asked why his nephews had bombed the Boston Marathon, he replied with the now famous line, “Being losers, hatred to those who were able to settle themselves; these are the only reasons I can imagine of.”


The author of the citizenship clause, Sen. Jacob Howard, wrote:

Every person born within the limits of the United States, and subject to their jurisdiction, is by virtue of natural law and national law a citizen of the United States. This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers accredited to the Government of the United States, but will include every other class of persons.

Thus does Cal State Political Science Professor Edward J. Erler in testimony before Congress conclude:

Congress is fully competent, under the fourteenth amendment, to pass legislation defining those who are “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States. It does not require a constitutional amendment to withhold citizenship from children born in the United States of illegal alien parents. Their parents are not “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States and they seek citizenship for their children without the consent of the nation. It defies logic to insist that an illegal act on the part of parents can confer the boon of citizenship upon their children.

It’s absurd that an illegal immigrant can create a legal jurisdiction through an illegal act.


Keith Ablow seizes the opportunity of the sexploitation film Spring Breakers to tear into our hypersexual culture (via Fox News):

Genital contact (along with brawling) is now America’s reflex antidote to losing contact. And the antidote is being peddled indiscriminately to kids, who are being dragged right out of childhood by a vicious undertow of eroticism fueled by tides of primal fear that we are not really living life at all, nor are we male, nor are we female, nor need we be troubled (just take Prozac), nor need we be distracted (just take Adderall), nor need we be anxious or bored (just take medical marijuana), nor are we responsible for ourselves (just apply for government entitlements).

The toll of using sex as a drug is, of course, the same as using any drug. You get high and temporarily avoid struggling to face what troubles you [have] and pursue the dreams that motivate you and choose the values that will guide you.

The hard work of becoming a complete individual is put off, in favor of getting off. And one’s value to society is minimized. This is why a culture that drugs people—especially children—with sex is a culture in decline.

Ashley Benson of Pretty Little Liars stars in Spring Breakers. I read the first two books in the PLL series because I like to keep up with what young people are reading. But that’s not why I would watch the TV show, which features four nubile 20-something female leads pretending they’re 17 and 18 years old.

“Without a plot, it’s just masturbation.” –George Costanza

Kylie Bisutti used to be a Victoria’s Secret model, until she gave up modeling. She saw what damage she was doing to men’s and girl’s psyches by flaunting her body (hat tip Zjolt):

“I was being paid to strip down and pose provocatively to titillate men. It wasn’t about modeling clothes anymore; I felt like a piece of meat,” Bisutti said during a recent interview while recalling her career as a Victoria’s Secret model.

...

The then-teenager says she felt exploited multiple times by photographers and agents, who seemed to perceive her as a sex object.

Kylie eventually came to terms that she was becoming a bad role model to other women.

“At the time, a Victoria’s Secret lingerie show was airing on TV, and I was looking at Twitter and saw loads of tweets from women comparing themselves to the impossible image of the models,” she told the Post. “It made me think back to earlier in my modeling career, when my 8-year-old cousin was watching me put on makeup and said to me, ‘I’m going to throw up my food so I look like you.’ I realized my career was sending a bad message to women about confidence and body image.”

Few things make me feel as sad, helpless, and lonely as the ubiquity of pornography and the constant distraction of flesh. The worst part about it is many girls simply don’t know how their style of dress torments men.


Joseph Postell reviews Stephen Krason’s The Transformation of the American Democratic Republic for Public Discourse:

For Krason, the radical democratization of the Jacksonian period (which “was clearly contrary to the Founders’ beliefs”), combined with increased emphasis on self-interest and material wealth, joined developments in religion and the family to produce a much more individualistic culture. Unlike other accounts that cite the Progressive era as the first strong break from the founding, Krason argues that it started much earlier: The country had already experienced an important philosophical and cultural transformation by the time the Civil War started. This is an important and often-overlooked point, and he does well to highlight the importance of the Jacksonian period.

The two other phases of radical transformation occurred from 1877 to 1920 and 1960 to 1980. The former period “brought about the emergence and increasing domination of great, centralized economic power and business” as well as a “new era of bureaucratization” and “positivistic jurisprudence.” Due to these changes, “[t]he connection between ethics and economics was decisively severed” and “enduring division and tension among different social groups and a lack of civic friendship took hold.” All these problems indicated “the decisive erosion of the natural law-natural rights tradition of the Founding.”

In the latter period almost every cultural norm upheld by the founders was overthrown. The administrative state was “consolidated” and “the breakdown of sexual morality ... and of the family” occurred. “Secularization and the public marginalization of religion reached their zenith” and “suspicion and conflict among different social groups became widespread as never before in the country’s history.”

While developments in other periods marked important changes from the founders’ design, it was in these three eras that radical individualism, economic and political centralization, and the decline of religion and the family were fully realized.


In closing, some levity (via the Atlantic):

President Obama answered a question about Benghazi during a press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday, and hi-def photos reveal that some moisture traveled from the president’s eye area to his cheekbone in a thin stream. Was it a tear?

Depends on the vector of the moisture. Let’s go to the tape and play it back in slow motion.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Internal Reconnaissance Service

“If someone is coming to kill you, rise against him and kill him first.” –Jewish proverb

A simple act of self-defense, that’s all this IRS reconnaissance effort is. Constitutionalist/tea party groups should have expected it. Did they not think the apparatchiks feeding the furnace of government would scout their activities? Haven’t they declared big government their enemy? Isn’t their object to reclaim the Constitution and eventually dismember the apparatus?

A government that takes upon itself the task of transforming the civil society is not going to defer to the remnants of said civil society. That America needs to be fundamentally transformed flows from the belief that America is fundamentally flawed.

Ergo, this government doesn’t exist to serve the people. It exists to change the people, and to serve itself. It may be limited in what it can do by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, but what are those but words on paper? It’s not our written laws, per se, that limit government, but the people’s knowledge of right and wrong, as well their capacity to speak power to truth.

As part of its intelligence-gathering effort, the IRS asked conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status about their political activities.

Some of the letters asked for copies of the groups’ Web pages, blog posts and social media postings — making some tea party members worry they’d be punished for their tweets or Facebook comments by their followers.

Where on Earth would they get that idea?

In 2011, Jerry Buell, a Florida high school teacher, was suspended from the classroom for a “homophobic” rant against same-sex marriage on Facebook. Moses’ conjugal definition of marriage is verboten in the 21st century.

This attempt at ideological cleansing was inevitable in lieu of the Obama administration’s vilification of the Koch brothers and the Chamber of Commerce. The government need not explicitly target conservatives for retribution. Self-defense is an instinct, not a conspiracy. All government needs to do is make sure the information finds its way into the hands of its proxies. Threaten someone with excommunication from polite society and see how dedicated he is to his principles.

Reaction from columnist Ross Douthat of the New York Times:

The bureaucrats in question probably thought they were just doing their patriotic duty, and giving dangerous extremists the treatment they deserved.

Where might an enterprising, public-spirited I.R.S. agent get the idea that a Tea Party group deserved more scrutiny from the government than the typical band of activists seeking tax-exempt status? Oh, I don’t know: why, maybe from all the prominent voices who spent the first two years of the Obama era worrying that the Tea Party wasn’t just a typically messy expression of citizen activism, but something much darker — an expression of crypto-fascist, crypto-racist rage, part Timothy McVeigh and part Bull Connor, potentially carrying a wave of terrorist violence in its wings.

Or, as Charles Hurt puts it: “Who cares? They’re conservatives and they deserve it.”

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Spaces between

Saturday, I attended a college graduation ceremony. The commencement speaker, Reverend Michael Rinehart, made a point to the graduates about vocation: Enjoy what you do. He said he’d met many people who boasted outward success but were suffering inside because they hated what they were doing. Wealth in itself is not a bad thing, he said, but cold pursuit of it without satisfaction produces misery.

As a college graduate facing dubious prospects in 2007, I appreciated Rinehart’s reassurance to these 2013 graduates, many whose foremost preoccupation likely isn’t job satisfaction, but getting a job period. As young people making their way into the world, they will struggle, as everyone struggles. But, as Rinehart pointed out, they’ll find something to do. Whether it’s something they enjoy, something they learn to enjoy, or something they don’t enjoy at all is largely up to them.

Graduating from college is one of life’s milestones, like a scenic overlook on the highway of life, a place to stop and survey the landscape behind and ahead of you. I wonder how many of the graduates pursued their degrees in the manner Rinehart advised not to pursue wealth, that is, with only the object of the degree in mind. (They could be forgiven that. It’s conventional wisdom that a bachelor’s degree is the ticket to prosperity.) I wonder if they feel any less satisfied than those graduates who weren’t just there for their degree, but really wanted to be there.

Actually, I don’t wonder. I know they are less satisfied. I know they wish they had more to show from 4 years of college than a piece of paper warranting a potential employer’s second look. I know they are more likely to stand at that overlook and have eyes only for the next overlook, not the vast, open space between. And if their next milestone is not in sight, they look on that vast, open space with unease.

Most of life is lived in those spaces between. To the relentlessly goal-oriented, it represents drudgery, tolerable when the goal is in sight and the road to get there is clearly marked. When the goal is out of sight, however, the shallows of life appear not free and open, but confining as a coffin. The graduates who fear this were the ones Rinehart was addressing.

One of the challenges of life is learning to flourish in the flats, to do better than muddle through until the next big thing comes along. Rather than make a change in how we live, sometimes we trick ourselves into accepting long-term misery for the sake of a distant payoff. While it’s true we borrow from the present to ensure a prosperous future, we miss the point that the future is not a fixed moment of crowning achievement against which our sacrifices are measured and justified.

No, the future is tonight, tomorrow morning, tomorrow night, the weekend, next week, next month, next winter, next year, etc. Except for the turning points, the milestones of life, the future is a projection of the present. Waiting for the future, we miss the future.

Further reading: “How to Find Your Vocation in College” by Gene Edward Veith in Intercollegiate Review.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Regulatory elixir

Would a Texas version of the modern regulatory regime, as it exists in business pariah states like Maryland, New York, California, and Illinois, have prevented the fertilizer explosion in West, Texas? According to the New York Times:

West Fertilizer fell under the purview of at least seven state or federal regulatory agencies, each with its own objectives. None had primary responsibility for ensuring the safety of the hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate stored there or that of the workers or residents nearby.

Maybe an eighth agency would have done the trick. Then again, maybe not. The arrest of a paramedic who was on-site before the explosion for possession of a “destructive device” calls into question whether the fire that sparked the explosion really was an accident.

At any rate, there’s good reason to believe a modern regulatory regime, unaffordable in economically dislocated regions like rural Texas, would have killed the West Fertilizer Plant long ago.

If you’ve visited one dying, out-of-the-way town, you’ve visited them all. The local economy is so depressed, most of the money comes from urban dwellers passing through, seeking gas stations, fast food restaurants, and hotel accommodations.

At one point, the town thrived. Economic conditions were favorable. Then the conditions changed. The mobility of goods in a global, competitive marketplace forced the concentration of manufacturing into suburban, large-scale operations.

“The destruction of the community begins when its economy is made—not dependent (for no community has ever been entirely independent)—but subject to a larger external economy.” –Wendell Berry

Large-scale industrial operations with a high profit margin and a broad customer base can absorb the costs of regulations. And often they don’t mind doing so, despite the costly diminishing returns of evermore regulations. That’s because the cost of regulatory compliance poses a graver threat to the profits of local industries like the West Fertilizer Plant. Big business, if I may be so bold, has an interest in squeezing out the competition.

Small towns like West are going out of style, extinguishing cultural roots and a conservative, meek way of life. We’ll lose that more quickly if small businesses are regulated out of existence.

The people who live in small-town America like it there, despite having to endure hardships infrequently encountered in suburbia. There are more important things to invest limited resources in than safety and regulatory infrastructure to avoid a one-in-a-million industrial accident.


UPDATE (5/17):

NBC reports:

Investigators believe the fire started somewhere in the 12,000-square-foot fertilizer and seed building.

Looking into the cause of the initial fire, they have eliminated the weather, natural causes, anhydrous ammonia, a railcar containing ammonium nitrate, and a fire within the ammonium nitrate bin.

Additionally, they said water used during fire-fighting activities did not contribute to the cause of the explosion as some had speculated.

Bryce Reed, a Texas paramedic who was among the first responders at the explosion site, was arrested last week for possession of pipe bomb components. State officials have said no evidence linked Reed’s arrest to the plant disaster.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Failure is the only option

“I haven’t failed. I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” –Thomas Edison

In a puff piece on Maryland governor Martin O’Malley in the Washington Monthly, Haley Sweetland Edwards writes:

It is the liberal and progressive bloc that stakes its identity on a belief in government, and therefore has a higher stake in getting government management right.

In 2012 Barack Obama cobbled together a motley majority, unified by a shared belief that the federal government can and should play a larger role in solving the country’s common problems. The best way to ensure that voting bloc’s enthusiasm for the Democrats lasts—and the best hope to reduce some of the antigovernment anger on the other side—is for government to deliver results.

Au contraire, nothing—especially not failure—will stop a passionate man in pursuit of a dream. This is a noble trait in entrepreneurs, who deplete their own resources to bring a product or service to market. It is not such a noble trait in government.

The dream, in this case, is a government with unlimited powers to manage the mass of humanity towards an impossible harmony. Thomas Edison supposedly tested 10,000 variations of the light bulb before he found one that worked. I reckon there are more than that many tweaks to the complex formulas utopia’s planners intend to use to stifle the “offending” energies that motivate men.

To visualize what they are doing, draw a stick figure on a piece of paper. This is you. Now draw Xs around the stick figure. These are your goals. They could be raising good kids, keeping your church afloat financially, getting that promotion at work, hiking the Appalachian Trail, whatever. They’re the things you bust your ass years on end for, like Edison did. Draw arrows from the stick figure to the Xs. These arrows are the energy you spend to reach your goals.

Now draw one vertical line to the left of the stick figure and one vertical line to the right. These represent the boundaries set on your life by the technocratic state. Lest you interfere with the government’s designs for mankind, it is within this range that you are allowed to expend your energy. Maybe some of your goals are inside the lines. That’s good. Then again, maybe some of your goals are outside the lines. They will be sacrificed for the “greater good.”

The energy that you would have otherwise spent in pursuit of your now forbidden goals will be redirected along this path, set for everyone. Channeled on a different vector, that energy will be diminished. Net prosperity in a socialist system will never rival net prosperity in a free market system.

Our astronomical deficits are a de facto indictment of the current model, but that doesn’t deter the planners. Based on a presumed expertise in the affairs of 300 million people, they endlessly adjust the boundaries. This is what big government busts its ass years on end for: to control you. Depending on its biases, those lines may contract, expand, bend, curve, or tilt one way or another. But they’re there.

Furthermore, what “results” will satisfy us? We have a higher standard of living and more individual autonomy than we did during the FDR administration, when the project was begun in earnest. Why not declare victory and retire the regulatory pen?

Because the ostensible goals of socialism are not sufficient for the human psyche. Because, as I wrote here:

We want everything. We want the elusive, indefinable it, which makes life not a burden, but a pleasure.

...

Obama’s call to meet the ache in our souls with membership in the body politic can only lead to failure. The false messiah is human and limited by reality as much as we are. He always falls short of otherworldly expectations.

In other words, failure is built-in.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Odds and ends 5/4/2013

“Moral relativism is based on a refusal to call evil evil and a concomitant willingness to denigrate truth if truth requires you to notice evil.” –Caroline Glick

In the Weekly Standard, Yuval Levin describes the civil society contra government dependency and the atomized individual:

While I think the argument about dependency gets at a real problem—the ways in which the welfare state undermines personal responsibility—the term dependency and the concept it describes point us toward a radically individualist understanding of that problem that is mistaken in some important ways. We are all dependent on others. The question is whether we are dependent on people we know, and they on us—in ways that foster family and community, build habits of restraint and dignity, and instill in us responsibility and a sense of obligation—or we are dependent on distant, neutral, universal systems of benefits that help provide for our material wants without connecting us to any local and immediate nexus of care and obligation. It is not dependence per se, which is a universal fact of human life, but dependence without mutual obligation, that corrupts the soul. Such technocratic provision enables precisely the illusion of independence from the people around us and from the requirements of any moral code they might uphold. It is corrosive not because it instills a true sense of dependence but because it inspires a false sense of independence and so frees us from the sorts of moral habits of mutual obligation that alone can make us free.

Paul Ryan described this in what I thought was the best speech at last year’s RNC (read more about it here). Levin continues:

The problem with the “you didn’t build that” mindset, as becomes particularly clear if you read what the president said before and after that line, is not just that it denies the significance of individual initiative (though that’s an important part of the problem, and our culture of individual initiative, which is far from radical individualism, is a huge social achievement in America) but also that it denies the significance of any common efforts that are not political. The president took the pose of a critic of individualism, but in fact the position he described involves perhaps the most radical individualism of all, in which nothing but individuals and the state exists in society.

Cara Cannella of Biographile reviews Rod Dreher’s biography of his sister. Excerpt (hat tip Dreher):

Contemporary culture encourages us to make islands of ourselves for the sake of self-fulfillment, of career advancement, of entertainment, of diversion, and all the demands of the sovereign self. When suffering and death come for you — and it will — you want to be in a place where you know, and are known.

At Public Discourse, Brandon McGinley of the Pennsylvania Family Institute writes a spectacular essay opposing legalizing video keno, evoking the theme from “Liberty is the means.” Excerpts:

Consider video keno, which isolates the player in a tiny universe, where all that exists is the player, the machine, and the fleeting-though-intoxicating thrill of the game. The game is to be a commonplace in bars across Pennsylvania, and yet it is the antithesis of the organic social atmosphere of the bar; it is a temptation to recede from the world to a domain of private pleasures. In all of these respects—ubiquity, instant gratification, social alienation—video keno reminds one of nothing so much as internet pornography.

In the final National Gambling Research Study Commission (NGRSC) report to Congress, Las Vegas clinical psychologist and gambling specialist Robert Hunter is quoted as describing this type of gaming as “the distilled essence” and “the crack-cocaine of gambling.” According to Hunter, players “escape into the machine and make the world go away. It’s like a trip to the Twilight Zone.” In Pennsylvania’s biggest competitor for gambling dollars, West Virginia, video keno accounts for two-thirds of calls to the Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia, whose representative explains: “Our callers often say they’re trying to forget about something negative in life. They’re in a zone when they play.”

This experience is not freedom; it is bondage masquerading as freedom. The proposal is more than that; it is the state exploiting this misapprehension, building a lucrative monopoly for itself upon the despair and escapism of its citizens. Make no mistake about it: The success of the program depends on enticing as many players as possible to that Twilight Zone where all that exists and matters is oneself and the screen glowing with possibility.

...

How dare I patronize the poor by suggesting that they lack agency? How dare I imply that I know better than another how one’s money should be spent?

Here, I ask for an honest engagement with reality. Unshackled liberty is not a resource that is evenly distributed in our society.

...

In introducing keno, the state sets up an alternative path to financial security—ultimately a teasing mirage—other than the dynamism of the market or the solidarity of the family and community. The game is a government monopoly that entices the economically vulnerable out of the market and onto the dole, increasing the demand for funds that keno was meant to fulfill to begin with. It is a vicious positive feedback loop.

And so not only does Gov. Corbett’s proposal reinforce cycles of privation and dependency that he and his party in theory despise, but more abstractly it is a significant expansion of the state’s imperial maneuvers against the institutions of civil society that limit its scope and power. Video keno targets those for whom the organic structures of society are most important, but for whom the allure of the state is most magnetic, and introduces yet another terribly appealing temptation to rend social bonds and embrace the state.


At FreedomWorks, Logan Albright cautions against paternalistic government:

It is not a stretch to accept that we can imagine some instances in which a paternalistic restriction would make someone’s life better. We have all known people who could really use a swift kick off their current path and into the right direction. The problem, however, is that government policies are not applied individually to the people that would, in fact, benefit from them—even if it were possible to identify such individuals, the administrative expense would be enormous—they are applied to everyone. Therefore, a policy that might have a benefit for a few isolated cases is instead imposed upon the population as a whole, invariably doing more harm than good in robbing people of their ability to make rational decisions to fulfill their goals.

At Catholic World Report, Anthony Esolen rips into “vampire schools”:

One day it struck John Taylor Gatto, Teacher of the Year for New York State in 1991 (and therefore, inevitably, disliked by his administrators), that our schools were not failing. Rather, they were succeeding fabulously at what they were constructed to do: to produce dull and compliant workers in a technocratic economy. School, he argued, instills in us a perpetual childish neediness. We need to toady for grades, because we need to get into the “best” schools, because we need to have a prestigious and well-remunerated job, because we need to buy a lot of stuff to pretend to fill the emptiness of our lives. Among that stuff will be the odd child or two, who will also need to toady for grades, to get into the “best” schools, and so on, world without end, Amen.

Here’s a selection from Gatto’s book, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling:

Schools are already a major cause of weak families and weak communities. They separate parents and children from vital interaction with each other and from true curiosity about each other’s lives. Schools stifle family originality by appropriating the critical time needed for any sound idea of family to develop—then they blame the family for its failure to be a family.

Esolen has been on fire lately. He concludes a long introspective on boyhood in Public Discourse with this (don’t miss the paraphrase of Romans 8:21):

Luke will know, if but intuitively, that his calling as a Christian, to leave his selfishness behind, to enter what Saint Paul calls the glorious liberty of the children of God, implies the just use of his sexual powers: to give, if God calls him, his body and his heart forever to the woman he loves. That won’t teach him how to pitch a tent in the woods. It might teach him how to build a home in a wasteland.

At the Weekly Standard, Mary Eberstadt also sees family and the state in opposition, but she’s optimistic:

A case can be made that the welfare state has competed with the family for primacy from the beginning. It’s a point exquisitely if unintentionally illustrated by the Obama reelection campaign’s infamous “Julia” website, which showed the beneficent state stepping in to do at every stage of life what used to be done by competent families: babysitting, educating, influencing romantic decisions, caring for someone in old age.

Raw propaganda aside, some serious thinkers have also remarked over the years on the zero-sum game that is the power struggle between family and state. Plato, for one, understood that the only sure way to make children reliable instruments of his Republic was to separate them from their families at an early age. British author Ferdinand Mount argued in a 1992 book that the family “is a subversive organization. ... Only the family has continued throughout history and still continues to undermine the ‘State.’” Tocqueville, Mount pointed out, also grasped this fundamental antagonism between family and state; witness the great Frenchman’s observation that “as long as family feeling is kept alive, the opponent of oppression is never alone.”

Looking away from theory and toward the public square, it’s also plainly true that the welfare state has interrupted the organic bonds of family in ways too numerous to count. As Milton Friedman once observed of Social Security, “The voluntary transfers [from young to old] strengthened the bonds of the family; the compulsory transfers weaken those bonds.” And certainly it’s the welfare state that has effectively bankrolled via many programs the expensive pan-Western fallout of the sexual revolution: the unprecedented levels of divorce, family breakup, out-of-wedlock births, and other trends that have turned the modern state into an inefficient but all-encompassing substitute for a man of the house.

In sum, statism has been an engine of family destruction—and vice versa. All of which leads to a contrarian thought: Might the dark ages of the welfare state end in a family renaissance?


At the American Thinker, Rick Moran reacts to a story of two middle-school girls being told in class to kiss:

School authorities don’t like the dominant culture and are seeking to supplant it by using schools as an assimilation lab to contradict what most parents are trying to teach their child. They are doing this at the expense of teaching children basic skills.

Schools exist apart from, not within, their communities. As I said about the RFID episode in San Antonio:

[Schools are] embassies of globalization in the second and third worlds of flesh-and-blood people devoted to their families and their communities.

Benjamin Brophy reviews Mad Men for the American Spectator:

There is no doubt that Don Draper looks the part. His character radiates stoicism and a cool calm that any man would love to have. Indeed, the women love him and the men want to be him. However, he is not indicative of what the archetype for manhood was in the 1960s. Middle-aged, family men were expected to provide for their families, work hard and not step out on their wives. Did this generation of men live up to those standards at all times? Of course not, but culturally they valued them.

Now we see a generation of men who love Mad Men because it looks the part. It creates a sense of nostalgia for a time period they never lived in (and indeed had many social problems). They are missing what it meant to be a man in our fathers’ and grandfathers’ younger years. Don Draper is a horrible father, but young men today idolize him because they are so desperate to find a pattern of masculinity to imitate that they will take it from a popular television show. It’s a shame that many men could not find a respectable pattern closer to home.

Mad Men takes places in the early ’60s, which preceded the political and moral tumult, and is thus congruent with the ’50s. Were the ’50s really so bad? Michael Bresciani asks at American Thinker:

In the ’50s, women didn’t think they were in a war with conservatives; they knew they were in a war only with overeager young men. Those young men usually lost, which in turn produced a situation where there was no need for an abortion. Yeah, we’ll take those days.

In Public Discourse, Nathaniel Peters discusses how “hooking up...inherently instrumentalizes another person.” It calls to mind what I wrote in “40 years of waywardness”:

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 pornographic image.

There is a time-tested way to avoid this: sexual exclusivity. From “Sex object”:

Her demands of stability and fidelity combined with his impulse for sexual congress provide[s] the alchemy for a miraculous change in his sexual character. His urgent lust transform[s] into enduring love.

In other words, she becomes more than an object of gratification, and his appreciation of her as a person cows his juvenile cravings for sexual variety.

The stigma against female promiscuity is strong because female chastity as a civilizing force is more important than male chastity. That arises out of a basic understanding of sexual nature. On the men’s side, in the arena of work, the stigma against male underachievement is stronger than female underachievement. He knows his social and sexual worth as a man is tied up in his ability to contribute in the marketplace. Read “Sexual vitality.”

Would the world be better off without stigmas against female promiscuity and male underachievement? I suspect not. The stigmas are implicit declarations of deep social truths, which we avoid to our detriment.


“As much as liberalism and modernity and the sexual revolution have reshaped human relations, they have not — or not yet, pending the Singularity — alchemized human nature into something entirely different. A glance at post-1960s trends will demonstrate that the birth control pill did not actually sever sex from pregnancy and childbearing.” –Ross Douthat

War on women puff piece alert! “Harvard women freed from urinal 50 years after first female MBA”:

At Harvard Business School 15 years ago, Nancy Koehn remembers waiting in line to use the “women’s restroom,” which still contained urinals and a dearth of toilet stalls for female students and faculty.

“The changes here have been hard won,” said Koehn, now a tenured professor at HBS. “The urinals were still there in our main classroom building in 1998 because it took a while to renovate what had been a men’s bathroom.”

As HBS celebrates the 50th anniversary of admitting women MBA students, the gender gap at the elite business school has narrowed significantly. Forty percent of the class of 2014 is female, up from 25 percent in 1985. Yet, students still spend most of their time studying how men manage businesses, with just 8 percent of the school’s case studies focused on women leaders.

What’s this? “Young, single, childless women out-earn male counterparts”:

“They don’t need marriage as much,” says Stephanie Coontz, who teaches history and family studies at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. “They’re likely to be pickier, and they’re likely to delay marriage.” Coontz dismisses the notion that successful single women intimidate men and can’t find husbands. They just marry later in life, she says.

“One day, I'll get married and have kids. But I’m in no rush,” says Rebecca Loveridge, 27, a Washington, D.C., magazine marketing director who also writes a restaurant blog. She likes dining out, attending concerts and checking out art galleries with her friends. “Now is the time to be single,” she says.

Clarification: They don’t think they need marriage as much. When the ironically named Loveridge does make up her mind to settle down, and she surveys the romantic landscape then, how she will regret wasting her peak years of sexual capital.


Robert Tracinski on sex in the university:

College students’ induction into the lifestyle and worldview of the left hits them in their formative years, and this has an effect that goes well beyond the actual number of votes cast by college students. It is not just that they lean left but that they identify themselves as being on the left by virtue of having gone to college. The ideas of the left are so dominant among college students that they become associated with youthful idealism and with being educated and (supposedly) sophisticated, as opposed to those unenlightened bumpkins who stayed back home and became plumbers instead. By this process, leftism becomes part of the cultural class identity of college-educated people—which is the only real class distinction that this country has.

Dennis Prager riffs:

Another feminist message to women was that just as a woman can have sex like a man, she can also find career as fulfilling as men do. Therefore, pursuing an “M-R-S” at college is just another residue of patriarchy. Women should be as interested in a career as men are. Any hint of the notion that women want, more than anything else, to marry and make a family is sexist, demeaning, and untrue.

One result is that instead of trying to find a potential husband, young women are under feminist pressure to show that they couldn't care less about forming an exclusive, let alone permanent, relationship with a man. And this provides another reason for her to engage in non-emotional, commitment-free sex.

The third reason for the hookup culture is the radical secularization of the college campus. The concept of the holy is dead at American campuses, and without the notion of the holy it is very difficult to make the case for minimizing, let alone avoiding, non-marital sex. Sex, which every great religion seeks to channel into marriage, has no such role in secular thinking. The only issues for students to be aware of when it comes to sex are health and consent. Beyond those two issues, there is not a single reason not to have sex with many people.

That’s why colleges – secular temples that they are – throughout America reinforce the centrality and importance of sex as a mechanical act. There are “sex weeks” at many of our institutions of higher learning that feature demonstrations of sex toys, S&M seminars, porn stars coming to speak, etc.

Feminist teaching about male-female sameness; feminist teaching that women will derive their greatest meaning from career, not from marriage and family; and the complete removal of religious values and teaching from the college campus are, indeed, “leaving a generation unhappy, sexually unfulfilled [certainly most of the women] and confused about intimacy.”

The book that occasioned this response, which Prager quotes in the final paragraph of that excerpt, is The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy by Donna Freitas.


Laura Mitchell looks at cohabitation before marriage in economic terms for First Things:

What happens when a couple lives together before they get married? These transaction costs are magnified to such an extent that it’s nearly impossible just to walk away. Doubts about the relationship are swept aside because to address them would mean to look on Craigslist for a new apartment and furniture.

Then the wedding bells ring, and suddenly a couple who would probably have broken up if they hadn’t lived together is married. Later, when several years have agitated all of the problems that were present to begin with to a point they can no longer take, they divorce. By moving in together before they were married, the couple put the weight of their lifetime decision more on that preliminary step than on the wedding itself.

One of my friends was engaged to his girlfriend of 6 years and broke it off less than a month before the wedding. The decision had to be an extremely tough one, even though they didn’t live together. The bleak prospect of starting over after spending all your 20s with one girl you thought you would spend the rest of your life with had to eat at him as he mulled over calling off the wedding.


Before I change gears, on a lighter, but no less disappointing note: prostitution, the new empowerment:

The survey found an overall 58 percent increase in 2012 of members who are college students.

SeekingArrangement.com, which calls itself the “elite Sugar Daddy” dating site, connects attractive, cash-strapped younger women with successful men who will give them money and gifts in exchange for “companionship.”

The survey noted that the average monthly compensation for a “Sugar Baby” is $3,000 per month.


From inside the cover of Jen Kirkman’s I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales From a Happy Life Without Kids:

It’s hard enough to be an adult. You have to dress yourself and pay bills and remember to buy birthday gifts. You have to drive and get annual physicals and tip for good service. Some adults take on the added burden of caring for a tiny human being with no language skills or bladder control. Parenthood can be very rewarding, but let’s face it, so are margaritas at the adults-only pool.

Who’s she trying to convince?

Marta H. Mossburg writes feminist theories are cold comfort at 40 (Kirkman is 38):

I’ve been thinking about the [Susan Patton] letter a lot recently because of separate visits with three dear friends who are highly educated, very attractive and approaching 40 or over the mark, and want to marry and have children as much or more than the lucrative careers they worked so hard to achieve.

They probably would have laughed at Patton in their 20s, as I would have, but today they often feel alone more than successful and stand at a biological crossroads shattering their sense of self.

...

One of [my] friends, a tax accountant at a large law firm, found out recently that she would most likely not be able to save her eggs for future use. She is devastated by the news. She grew up in the deep South, has a younger sister with three children, and never confronted life without a family, until the hard truth of biology set in. She can’t raise the topic without crying.

...

I wonder if a larger share of the highly educated in this group choose not to marry because they will not be bound by conviction or tradition to do so. That would be bad for many of them, who will find out that freedom often stems from a partner’s unconditional love, not the ability to move out at month’s end or sneak out before dawn after hooking up.

It was Susan Patton’s letter, encouraging early marriage, that Donna Brazile bitterly reacted to in the previous edition of “Odds and ends.”


Jason Dorrie attempts to soothe Luddite concerns at Singularity Hub:

Even as manufacturing jobs have steadily decreased, total manufacturing output has steadily grown. Since World War II, manufacturing output in the US has risen over 700%. While rising productivity is often demonized as a job killer, in truth, it is a very powerful force for good in the modern economy.

The time and creativity that productivity growth frees—and it’s been happening since the Industrial Revolution—is responsible for every modern invention from healthcare to high tech, smartphones to non-invasive surgery. If humans hadn’t started using machines to do some things for us, most would still be working in the fields with few moments to spare pondering economic theory, let alone inventing new technologies.

One argument says that this time is different because soon robots will be able to do everything a human does. But it’s misguided to assume we can forecast what humans “will do.” What that statement really means is, “In the future, robots will do everything humans do today.” But what exactly it is that humans will do in the future is anyone’s guess—and few, if any, have ever successfully predicted it.


Matthew Block of First Things summarizes vocation:

Every situation of life is part of vocation. And all these vocations are callings from God through which “we love and serve our neighbours.” That perspective—seeing vocation as service to other people—can help us not get caught up in seeking some divine secret calling for our lives. We serve God best by letting Him serve others through us where we are now. We don’t need to get bent out of shape looking for an extraordinary calling from God; He works regularly through down to earth, ordinary means—through farmers raising crops, doctors mending broken bones, children loving their parents, friends comforting friends.

At the American Thinker, J.R. Dunn ruminates on the false sense of security leading up to the Boston Marathon bombing:

Eager for a return to normality in the midst of a seemingly endless war, Americans allowed themselves to be fooled. Many – probably most – yearned for the pre-9/11 world with a longing that was constant and heartfelt. They truly wanted a return to the Clintonian 90s, the “holiday from history,” when we could ignore things like WTC ’93, the Khobar Towers, the Dar es Salaam and Nairobi embassies, and the USS Cole, pushing aside the fact these atrocities were the milestones leading to our current predicament.

...

Who knows – if Obama and his handpicked enablers hadn’t gone to such efforts to dissemble, somebody in Boston might have noticed the Tsarnaevs acting oddly, walking away from their dumped shoulder bags, or even wondered about the abandoned bags themselves, lying at the exact spots where they’d do the most damage. (Israelis are conditioned to do this with abandoned bags and packages, and succeed quite well at it. Such means do not make up a large element of Palestinian terror.)

This last evokes a piece I wrote for Red Pill Report. Excerpt:

Jeff Bauman saw Tamerlan Tsarnaev drop his bag, and he said nothing. How easy would it have been to say, “Hey, you dropped your bag”? Imagine the perpetrator’s dismay when the bomb he is about to detonate is handed back to him by a smiling stranger. Who knows, he may have aborted the whole mission right then.

...

Let this be a lesson to the rest of us. Walking on crowded city streets, we are confronted with thousands of stimuli. A common reaction is to tune it out, to avoid embarrassing entanglements with homeless and street vendors and the like.


Secretary of State John Kerry ingratiates himself to Turkey by empathizing with lives lost in Israel’s 2009 flotilla raid. Not smart.

Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon (Likud) on Monday berated John Kerry for comments in which the US secretary of state likened the families of the Mavi Marmara flotilla casualties to those affected by the Boston Marathon bombings last week.

“It is never helpful when a moral equivalency is made confusing terrorists with their victims,” Danon told The Times of Israel. “As our American friends were made all too aware once again last week, the only way to deal with the evils of terrorism it to wage an unrelenting war against its perpetrators wherever they may be,” he said.

Reminds me of the incident when a State Department official told Chinese negotiators America had human rights abuses it had to deal with, too. Hey, China, we know it’s hard to stop murdering and imprisoning Tibetans; we have the same problem with Arizona profiling illegal immigrants!


Daniel Horowitz has been the best resource on the “Gang of 8” immigration bill:

So they are going to immediately grant legal status before there is a parallel commitment and demonstration of enforcement from the administration. It doesn’t matter if you back up the citizenship another two years or another fifty years; as long as they are immediately granted legal status before the fence and visa tracking system are in place, we will continue repeating the same cycle for years to come. The path to benefits and citizenship will obviously be sped up as political pressure mounts every subsequent year.

Thomas Sowell:

“Comprehensive” immigration reform — as distinguished from securing the border before doing anything else — serves the interests of politicians of both parties.

A “comprehensive” immigration bill means that they can vote for something that mollifies those Americans who are concerned about the uncontrolled influx of foreigners, while winning support from those who want more foreigners admitted and made citizens. Starting the amnesty track immediately, while promising border security in the future, means that an irreversible benefit is conferred up front, while only time will tell whether the promise of border security will be kept — as it has not been thus far.

Ask yourself why people who have been living illegally in this country for years cannot wait a couple of more years until the border is secured before the question of their legal status can be studied and debated in Congress and among the public at large.

Ask yourself why the American people must continue to be played for suckers by such games as letting foreign pregnant women drop in to have their babies here, who automatically become American citizens, opening the door for other members of their families to come in later. These are called “anchor babies.”

John Hayward in Red State:

One aspect of my growing skepticism about the immigration reform proposals advanced by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and his Gang of Eight partners is that our immigration system did not break by accident. It was mangled, deformed, defanged, and abused on purpose, by both government and private interests. Rubio’s earnest enthusiasm would be appropriate for someone cleaning up after a natural disaster, but he’s dealing with something closer to sabotage.

That’s why all those promises about border security “triggers” ring so hollow. The elements of the Administration that would be responsible for enforcing those triggers are almost hilariously straightforward about saying they won’t even seriously attempt to measure border security progress. Rubio is looking for good-faith assurances from people who have little good faith to offer.

...

“The executive cannot remove 11 million people,” said a Justice Department lawyer. “The executive has authority to exercise its discretion.” We’re always hearing that tired old song. Immigration enforcement is too hard for the people who say they can manage our entire health-care system. We’ll have tens of thousands of new IRS agents and helpful “navigators” to assist us with ObamaCare paperwork, but we can’t possibly spare anyone to enforce our immigration laws.

Victor Davis Hanson:

Americans are a generous people who take in more immigrants than any other nation in the world. So the sticking point in the current debate over “immigration reform” is not necessarily the granting of residency per se – given that most Americans are willing to consider a pathway to citizenship for even those who initially broke immigration law but have since not been arrested, have avoided public assistance, and have tried to learn the language and customs of their newly adopted country.

The problem is what to do with those who have not done all that.

Unless the government can assure the public that it is now enforcing immigration laws already on the books, that foreign nationals must at least avoid arrest and public assistance, and that it is disinclined to grant asylum to “refugees” from war-torn Islamic regions and then allow them periodically to go back and forth from their supposedly hostile homelands, there will be little support for the current immigration bill.


On marriage, Samuel Goldman of the American Conservative writes:

A majority of Americans now approve of gay marriage for two fairly simple reasons. First, most Americans understand marriage as symbolic affirmation of a dissolvable commitment between consenting adults for purposes of emotional gratification. Second, an increasing number of Americans have come to know gay people in their own lives as beloved relatives, respected colleagues, or honored authorities rather than icons of flamboyance or specters of perversion. If you understand marriage in this sense, which has been socially dominant for decades, there is no plausible argument for denying it to gay individuals one loves and respects.

“The progressive project is always political. It sees a problem: The pre-political institutions and traditions of society are violating rights and creating inequalities. Then it reaches for the ready tool for redress and correction, which is almost always the power of government—coercive force.” –R.R. Reno

In a review of the Perry v. Schwarzenegger decision, John G. Crandall asks:

Is it always wrong to discriminate?

We have to admit that discrimination is part of daily life. Most of our decisions involve discriminating choices—from the food we eat, to the shops we patronize, to the movies we watch. A loving mother who forbids her children from watching certain television shows discriminates against those shows. A concerned father who refuses to let his daughter date certain shiftless young men discriminates against those men. Discrimination is a daily exercise that can serve us well if practiced well.

I have written about the “cult of indiscriminateness” (play Evan Sayet speech below) extensively. See “Because equality” and “Holocaust of heritage.”

Jonathan Rauch on prejudice (hat tip Rod Dreher):

“Eradicating prejudice” is so vague a proposition as to be meaningless. Distinguishing prejudice reliably and nonpolitically from non-prejudice, or even defining it crisply, is quite hopeless. We all feel we know prejudice when we see it. But do we? At the University of Michigan, a student said in a classroom discussion that he considered homosexuality a disease treatable with therapy. He was summoned to a formal disciplinary hearing for violating the school’s policy against speech that “victimizes” people based on “sexual orientation.” Now, the evidence is abundant that this particular hypothesis is wrong, and any American homosexual can attest to the harm that the student’s hypothesis has inflicted on many real people. But was it a statement of prejudice or of misguided belief? Hate speech or hypothesis? Many Americans who do not regard themselves as bigots or haters believe that homosexuality is a treatable disease. They may be wrong, but are they all bigots? I am unwilling to say so, and if you are willing, beware. The line between a prejudiced belief and a merely controversial one is elusive, and the harder you look the more elusive it becomes. “God hates homosexuals” is a statement of fact, not of bias, to those who believe it; “American criminals are disproportionately black” is a statement of bias, not of fact, to those who disbelieve it.

Gay kids can’t have adult role models who aren’t gay. That’s the implication of Doug Gibson’s second objection to the Boy Scouts’ “evolution” on gays in its organization:

It tells gay Scouts that their lifestyle is so morally unfit that there can be no adult gay role models in Scouting for them.

George Neumayr offers perspective on the Chris Broussard kerfuffle:

The columnist H.L. Mencken defined American puritanism as the “haunting fear that someone, somewhere is having a good time.” Political correctness, as the new puritanism, harbors the haunting fear that someone, somewhere is holding a Christian thought. Broussard, if he wishes to continue his career in sports journalism, will have to undergo PC-style reparative therapy and adopt a more appropriate level of enthusiasm when future canonizations of homosexual athletes occur.

...

The media prides itself on the total lack of skepticism when stories like this one break, giving them a Pravda-style rollout. All the propaganda pieces fell into place perfectly, all duly reported by the media: the presidential phone call, a supportive pat on the back from the First Lady, the praise of Kobe Bryant, Bill Clinton, and America’s other moral giants, an adulatory “Good Morning America” interview.

Broussard spoiled the festivities by bringing up God, whose celebrity continues to dim. The ruminations of rappers and reality stars now count for more than passages from the Bible.


Wall Street is roaring, yet wealth and employment haven’t trickled down to the middle and lower classes. Jack Kelly explains why at Real Clear Politics:

Wall Street has been the foremost beneficiary of the vast expansion of the money supply engineered by the Federal Reserve Board. The Fed has increased its balance sheet by more than 600 percent since March of 2000, David Stockman noted in an article last Sunday in The New York Times magazine. It's on pace to add $1 trillion this year.

The Fed runs the printing presses day and night to try to stimulate the economy. It hasn't worked. Since March of 2000, the gross domestic product has grown by a meager average of 1.7 percent a year; real business investment by less than a percent a year; jobs by just a tenth of a percent a year, noted Mr. Stockman, who was budget director during the Reagan administration.

The “liquidity” it was creating would cause banks to lend and corporations to spend, the Fed hoped. But concerns about debt and federal economic policies – chiefly Obamacare – have kept the extra dollars on Wall Street, boosting stock prices, but little else. Citigroup’s share price has risen 85 percent since last June “despite scant evidence that the company has turned itself around,” notes Peter Schiff of Euro Pacific Capital.


Alan Reynolds of the Cato Institute rips down the austerity myth:

All PIIGGS have two things in common. First of all, government spending grew dramatically — from an average of 43.2% of GDP in 2007 to 52.6% by 2010.

Spending was modestly trimmed by 2012 in a few cases, yet the ratio of spending to GDP still remained 3 to 6 percentage points higher than it had been in 2007.


Bobby Jindal has become liberals’ “heartless Republican” whipping boy, and he’s paying for it with poor approval ratings of late. Jonathan Chait piles on in New York Magazine:

Jindal’s plan exploded because it was zero sum. It cut taxes on the rich and raised them on the poor. It had to be zero sum because states have to balance their budgets.

Chait could substitute “people who produce the most value in the economy” for “the rich,” but that would defeat the bias he wants to engender. By the way, taxing consumption (sales taxes) is less damaging to economic activity than taxing production (income taxes).

But the federal budget doesn’t have to balance, and this fact underpins the entire Republican policy strategy over the last three decades. Before Ronald Reagan, Republicans cared a great deal about controlling the budget deficit and very little about cutting taxes for the rich. In an environment where every dollar into one account had to come from another, giving a lot of the dollars to a tiny number of people is almost invariably unpopular.

Not taking from the rich is “giving.” Gotcha.

That’s why the GOP’s makeover into a more plutocratic party occurred simultaneously with its abandonment of old-fashioned fiscal conservatism. Lower taxes for the rich can work politically only if you obscure the fact that eventually the money has to come from somewhere else.

Not giving to the poor with others’ money is “taking.” What an ethos!


Rod Dreher comments on journalists and unbelief:

If you don’t have some sort of conviction that there is an unseen order of some sort, and a belief in the fallibility of human knowledge and human endeavor — which is what the great religions teach — then you will struggle as a journalist to see what’s in front of your nose, and to judge it wisely. I do not believe a professional skeptic like [Richard] Dawkins is any more free from confirmation bias than a professing Muslim, Christian, or Jew. It’s all about where you draw the lines. I have worked in my career with people who disdain religious believers as chumps, but who were themselves plainly willing to believe nonsense that suited their prejudices, and to disbelieve things that did not.

I believe this is exemplified in Kelly Dwyer, whose absurd Yahoo! Sports article on Chris Broussard is premised on preserving the self-esteem of confused teenagers.


At the Catholic Thing, Robert Royal reflects on Catholic popes and how they deal with Marxism:

Papa Wojtyla was the perfect man to throw a wrench into the Enlightenment contraption we call Marxism. Not only did he help throttle it, but he also made clear why that version of Enlightenment materialism by its very nature had to produce high body counts. It had a mistaken notion of human nature. And when ideology clashed with real human beings, the latter had to be eliminated in the name of “progress.”

...

But it was Joseph Ratzinger, both before and after being elected pope, who understood at great depth the larger cultural distortion of which the sexual element is only the most prominent feature. In the modern view, the cosmos is chaos and reason only a late and weak tool to help satisfy our desires. Such a view denies without even considering, the Logos, the creative Word that produces and orders all things, including human life. Any order or meanings that exist come from us, not nature or nature’s God.

I pray for the Catholic Church, because I see them as allies in shining the light of God’s truth around the world. George Weigel tells Catholic Review:

Traditionalist Catholicism seems to me incapable of challenging, much less converting, the nihilistic culture of the West, which isn’t going to find its way to God through old-fashioned apologetics, or simplified Q&A catechesis, or lace surplices, maniples, and other forms of liturgical preciousness. We need new forms of apologetics, a far more biblically and sacramentally serious catechetics, and a beautiful – but not prissy – liturgy to invite post-moderns out of the sandbox of self-absorption.

A Catholic chaplain at George Washington University is being persecuted for his beliefs. Kieran Raval (of neighboring Georgetown) writes at the Institute of Religion & Democracy:

Much is at stake in this situation: the place of religious freedom and freedom of speech in the academy and the wider culture, the future of GW’s vibrant Catholic chaplaincy, and the rights of Catholics and any Christians or religious groups that espouse views not in line with the prevailing tenants of secular progressivism. Perhaps most importantly, this situation will demonstrate whether the gay lobby has achieved a victory arguably more important than anything being argued in the Supreme Court: the ability to completely and nearly effortlessly silence anyone who would dare to challenge their cultural orthodoxy by putting forward any moral teaching on homosexuality. Those driving the radical liberal agenda in American have made it very clear that supposed “rights” of sexual license must trump the rights of free speech and religious freedom that hitherto have been fundamental cornerstones of the American political, social, and legal landscape.

There’s a scene in The Delta Force where a Catholic priest volunteers to be taken hostage with Jews. I’d like to see other Christian denominations on the GW campus stand with the Catholic chaplain. Maybe some of the foolish students would see what they are really contending for when they see the spectrum of Christianity opposite them.


The Episcopal Church continues to fracture, largely due to its “evolving” moral commitments to keep up with modernity. Commenter “Michael PS” at First Things writes:

Lord Macnaghten framed the question that usually arises very well in the leading case of Bannatyne v Overtoun ([1904] AC 515), “The question really at issue was, not is it competent for a Church to change its Constitution, but is it competent and lawful for it to change its Constitution under which it holds certain trusts, and not only claim retention of those trusts, but deprive a minority, who conscientiously hold to the unchanged Constitution, of all participation in the trusts which go with it?”

There is something curious in the notion of a church that can change its doctrines at will. It suggests what Sir William Smith called, in the Irish Case of Dill v Watson ([1836] 2 Jo Ex Ir 48.) “a church without a religion.”

Sounds like breach of contract.


In closing, a line from the progressive catechism:

“Do no harm to a student’s sense of identity. Everyone should feel welcome.” –Maureen Costello, SPLC