Friday, June 21, 2013

Odds and ends 6/21/2013

Well, that sucked.


Occasionally I come across an article so well-written, so conclusive, so final in attaining the object of clarity that I consider, but for a moment, retiring as a writer. This Anthony Esolen piece on the gender/sexual contortions of the emerging orthodoxy is one such classic.

On Wednesday, the keepers of our national morality inveigh against a priest or a coach who entices a teenage boy into sodomy. On Thursday, the same keepers inveigh against the Boy Scouts, for shying away from scoutmasters who might do the same. The unnatural experience of sodomy is so crushing to the heart of a normal boy—who simply wants to grow up like all the other boys, falling in love with a girl, getting married, and having children just as his father did—that he cannot get over it, not ten, not twenty years later, but breaks down in public, in mingled rage and shame. But within a single day, one might even say a single sentence, the same pundits will celebrate the same perversion as just an ordinary human variation, such as being left-handed or having a taste for kumquats.

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On Saturday, we are told that no man is an island. On Sunday, we are told that every woman is an island. On Monday, a bad man is sued to support a child conceived out of wedlock. On Tuesday, a good man is told to shut up when he sues to support his child conceived within wedlock, rather than have it aborted. On Wednesday, we complain that there are no good men to marry. On Thursday, we make sure to destroy the last institution that made for good men.

On Friday, we complain about “government in the bedroom,” by which is meant no Bureau of Bedrooms, but the least social or legal restraint against sexual vice. On Saturday, we vote for increases in funds for government in the classroom, government in the board room, government in the laboratory, government in the doctor’s office, government in the hospital, government in the warehouse, government in the stockyard, government in the shipyard, government on television, government on radio, government on the highways, government over the churches, government over the government, government in the cradle, government at the tomb.

A comic nightmare comes to mind. I see a man jiggered and wired to a hundred machines, each jolting him at irregular intervals. His cheek twitches, his head jerks, his fingers drum, his knee wobbles, his feet tap, his breath is interrupted with coughs, his blood runs hot and cold. I invite him to leave that contraption, and take a walk with me over to a chapel nearby, and say a quiet prayer.

“You can’t make me!” he cries. “I’m free to choose!”

Orwell would call this “doublethink.”

Deborah Savage hits a home run for natural law at Public Discourse. Don’t miss the 1984 reference at the end.

Raising a child requires that I help my daughter grasp that there can be no debate whatsoever about whether or not any of us—gay or straight—get to define reality for ourselves.

I am also pretty sure that, even though the Supreme Court seems to have ruled that we all get to do that (remember Planned Parenthood v. Casey?), in the end we will discover that nature’s laws determine what is so.

I’ve also heard that rumor about reality being socially constructed. But I experimented with that when I was in my twenties and I have empirical evidence that it just isn’t true. No, really. And I think it will continue to be false no matter what our legislature says, no matter what the president says, no matter what the Supreme Court says. Even the media can’t make it true.

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When you ask my daughter to accept that a man may marry another man, that a woman may marry another woman, you are asking her to suspend her capacity to judge the world around her and judge it truly. You are requiring her to declare that 2 + 2 = 5 as an act of victory over her natural inclination toward the true and the good. You are trying to trap her in a world where nothing is as it seems.


At Townhall, Kurt Schlichter is fed up with the Gang of 8:

There is no immigration “crisis.” It’s not a “crisis” when people who shouldn’t be here anyway don’t have all the privileges of people who do have a right to be here.

That’s how it should be.

There are a lot of people who shouldn’t be here who are here, but this is a “problem,” not a “crisis.”

It’s this so-called problem—illegal immigrants “living in the shadows”—Senator Rubio is motivated to fix, not the far greater problem of government’s unwillingness to enforce existing immigration law.

The National Review editors make a subtle dig at American education in a dynamite salvo against the Gang of 8 bill:

The Gang of Eight bill does not serve the economic interests of the United States. The fact is that our public schools do an excellent job of producing an abundant supply of unskilled workers with little or no proficiency in English, and the national labor force is not achingly in need of a few million more.

Rich Lowry concisely shreds the “de facto amnesty” the pro-amnesty set are making:

They call the status quo a “de facto” amnesty, but refuse to make the basic concession to logic that codifying the “de facto” amnesty makes it a “de jure” amnesty.

Mark Steyn assails the PRISM program:

Hundreds of millions of Americans’ phone records have been subpoenaed by the United States government. In 2011, Eric Holder’s assistant attorney general Todd Hinen testified to the House Judiciary Committee that “on average, we seek and obtain Section 215 orders less than 40 times per year.” Forty times per year doesn’t sound very high, does it? What is that — the cell phones of a few Massachusetts Chechens and some Yemeni pen-pals? No. The Verizon order will eventually be included as just another individual Section 215 order, even though it covers over a hundred million Americans. Ongoing universal monitoring of mass populations is being passed off to Congress and the public as a few dozen narrowly targeted surveillance operations. Mr. Hinen chose his words more carefully than his boss, but both men are in the business of deceiving the citizenry, their elected representatives, and maybe the judges, too.

Perhaps this is just the way it is in the panopticon state. Tocqueville foresaw this, as he did most things. Although absolute monarchy “clothed kings with a power almost without limits” in practice “the details of social life and of individual existence ordinarily escaped his control.” What would happen, Tocqueville wondered, if administrative capability were to evolve to bring “the details of social life and of individual existence” within the King’s oversight? Eric Holder and Lois Lerner now have that power. My comrade John Podhoretz, doughty warrior of the New York Post, says relax, there’s nothing to worry about. But how do I know he’s not just saying that because Eric Holder’s monitoring his OnStar account and knows that when he lost his car keys last Tuesday he was in the parking lot of Madam Whiplash’s Bondage Dungeon?

I sure picked a bad time to dismiss Big Brother. Head on over to the Red Pill Report for my take on PRISM.

Steyn is one of the most effective writers of our time. He combines wit and perspective, and he’s not a downer. Here’s the last line of the piece:

When the state has the capability to know everything except the difference between right and wrong, it won’t end well.

Hey, I said it first!

In the end, there is no civil society. There is only the government the civil society left behind, with all the authority but none of the discernment.

Writing in Forbes, Tim Maurer gives 7 reasons why he quit Facebook. May I offer one more?

  1. The government is watching.

George Neumayr explains President Obama’s and Eric Holder’s opaque conceitedness:

Eric Holder [...] got nabbed for hacking into the emails of journalist James Rosen on a subpoena that defined him as a criminal spy. Instead of quitting, Holder dug in, casting the scandal as a learning experience for the nation, as if he had nothing to do with it. Now Obama is trying out that tactic to mollify Americans over the exposed NSA program. He is open to a “healthy” debate about it. Holder and Obama are like drunk drivers who cause a pile-up and then stroll back innocently to see if they can “help.”

More Tocqueville appreciation, courtesy of Niall Ferguson in the Wall Street Journal:

What especially amazed Tocqueville was the sheer range of nongovernmental organizations Americans formed: “Not only do they have commercial and industrial associations ... but they also have a thousand other kinds: religious, moral, grave, futile, very general and very particular, immense and very small; Americans use associations to give fetes, to found seminaries, to build inns, to raise churches, to distribute books, to send missionaries to the antipodes; in this manner they create hospitals, prisons, schools.”

Tocqueville would not recognize America today. Indeed, so completely has associational life collapsed, and so enormously has the state grown, that he would be forced to conclude that, at some point between 1833 and 2013, France must have conquered the United States.

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Genius that he was, Tocqueville saw this transformation of America coming. Toward the end of “Democracy in America” he warned against the government becoming “an immense tutelary power ... absolute, detailed, regular ... cover[ing] [society’s] surface with a network of small, complicated, painstaking, uniform rules through which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot clear a way.”

Tocqueville also foresaw exactly how this regulatory state would suffocate the spirit of free enterprise: “It rarely forces one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one’s acting; it does not destroy, it prevents things from being born; it does not tyrannize, it hinders, compromises, enervates, extinguishes, dazes, and finally reduces [the] nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd.”


Boy genius Michael W. Hannon echoes “Paradigm of place” in this Public Discourse review of Rod Dreher’s biography of his sister:

Having cut the ties that bind us geographically, we have become in many ways a placeless people. We have lost what St. Benedict called “stability,” man’s permanent attachment to a particular home in this life. “St. Benedict considered the kinds of monks who moved from place to place all the time to be the worst of all,” Dreher recounts. “They refused the discipline of place and community, and because of that, they could never know humility. Without humility, they could never be happy.”

At National Review, W. Bradford Wilcox celebrates fathers—or, rather, laments the lack thereof:

Matthew Yglesias notes in Slate that the Left sees an “expansive welfare state” as the primary vehicle for supporting unmarried women and their children.

It’s debatable whether the nation has the money, the ability, or the political will to launch new government programs and initiatives dedicated to “supporting America’s increasingly nontraditional family units.” I certainly have my doubts. But at least the Left is honest enough to recognize that less marriage means more government.

However, most proponents of the “live with it” approach conveniently ignore, or are in complete denial about, the most fundamental consequence of the American retreat from marriage: growing rates of fatherless families. In our public conversation about how best to accommodate today’s family diversity, what usually goes unsaid is that fewer marriages also means fewer fathers in our nation’s homes.

That is because marriage is the institution that binds men to their children. There is no substitute. Cohabiting couples with children are much more likely to end up on the rocks than their married peers (even in Sweden). Divorced and never-married fathers often have difficulty getting or making the time to stay in regular contact with their children once the relationship with the mother of their child is over. By contrast, fathers who are married to the mother of their children are much more likely to enjoy the day-in-day-out relationships with their children that enable them to give their kids the attention, discipline, and affection they need to thrive.

Marriage is good for men, in that it roots their lives and commits them to work towards a future beyond the horizon. It’s good for women, who have someone to carry them through the troubles of childbearing and childrearing. It’s good for children, who have a stable foundation to develop strong, moral character. Marriage is even good for government, if one prefers government with relatively few duties in maintaining family order.

Don’t miss this nugget from Charles Blow’s latest column:

In almost every case, the states that went for Barack Obama in 2012 had the higher ages of first marriage, and the ones that went for Mitt Romney had lower ones.

Marriage (early and often) is about two people becoming responsible for each other and their children. Non-marriage (late and never) is about individuals caring only about themselves. Generally speaking, of course.


“The very same progressives who despise guns also want to socialize boys into an anodyne existence.” –Thomas Lifson

Daniel Greenfield writes a thoughtful piece juxtaposing urban social relativism and statist efficiency:

The same efficiency that compresses the maximum number of people into an existing space is also applied to every other area of their lives. In cities of strangers, there is no area of life too intimate to be examined and made more efficient.

Freedom is measured in terms of space, both physical and conceptual, but in the city freedom is largely conceptual, rather than physical. The city man and woman are less likely to go camping than to explore their inner psyches. With little physical space available that is unoccupied, the urbanite retreats to the one sanctuary where no one can trouble him. His own mind. Despairing of physical space in his cramped conditions, he takes refuge in the space of his own psychic attic.

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The social codes that might resolve such conflicts elsewhere are difficult to sustain in an environment that is always changing. Anonymity brings with it a freedom from peer pressure and community mores, but also eliminates the power of those things to maintain social norms.

Urban social norms are evolved to avoid conflict. Urbanites studiously ignore each other or maintain a distant politeness in their interactions. Not noticing other people is the height of good manners. The truly civilized man is expected not to notice uncivilized behavior. Relativism is the expected response to any violation of human norms, but not to violations of any element of the petty codes of urbania. It is very well for a man to strip naked on a train and run from car to car shouting that the aliens are coming, but not to throw his recycling into the trash.

I wrote about this a little bit in “Density, dependence, destruction.”


President Obama spoke in Northern Ireland this week. Here’s what he said:

Because issues like segregated schools and housing, lack of jobs and opportunity — symbols of history that are a source of pride for some and pain for others — these are not tangential to peace; they’re essential to it. If towns remain divided — if Catholics have their schools and buildings, and Protestants have theirs — if we can’t see ourselves in one another, if fear or resentment are allowed to harden, that encourages division. It discourages cooperation.

Ultimately, peace is just not about politics. It’s about attitudes; about a sense of empathy; about breaking down the divisions that we create for ourselves in our own minds and our own hearts that don’t exist in any objective reality, but that we carry with us generation after generation.

Interesting how Obama lectures religious schools—not the identitarian LGBT crowd—on “divisions that we create for ourselves in our own minds.”


Yale professor George Chauncey recalls the sexual revolution (hat tip John M. Smoot):

All around them, lesbians, bisexuals, and gay men saw their heterosexual friends decisively rejecting the moral codes of their parents’ generation, which had limited sex to marriage, and forging a new moral code that linked sex to love, pleasure, freedom, self-expression, and common consent. Heterosexuals, in other words, were becoming more like homosexuals, in ways that ultimately would make it harder for them to believe gay people were outsiders from a dangerous, immoral underworld. Moreover, the fact that so many young heterosexuals considered sexual freedom to be a vital marker of personal freedom made lesbians and gay men feel their quest for freedom was part of a larger movement. Ultimately, both gay people’s mass decision to come out and heterosexuals’ growing acceptance of them were encouraged by the sexual revolution and became two of its most enduring legacies. I think this did not represent the assimilation of gay life into the Normal so much as the transformation of the Normal itself.

At the American Conservative, Patrick Deneen picks apart doofus E.J. Dionne’s book, Our Divided Political Heart:

Dionne certainly has a point concerning a main current of American conservatism today, and he rightly notes that there is a strong intellectual tradition within conservatism that supplies correctives to the libertarian, Randian leanings found among some on the contemporary right. Among those correctives he identifies the work of such thinkers as Robert Nisbet, Peter Berger and Richard John Neuhaus, and the early George Will. However, Dionne is so exercised about the rise of the Tea Party in Republican politics that he somehow misses that “individualism” is hardly a pathology to be found exclusively among denizens of the American right; arguably, it pervades the very essence of the contemporary American left. He makes a fundamental category mistake by supposing that the left’s “balanced” position, and especially its support for “community,” can be discerned in the left’s support for the role of the national government.

A serious, rather than glancing, engagement with Nisbet would have been educational for Dionne, and would have helped him move beyond the partisan limits of his analysis. Dionne posits that “the American quest for community has taken national as well as local forms,” but throughout the book he equates the left’s identification with “community” to its willingness to support an activist federal government. With a seemingly uncontroversial reference to Robert Nisbet’s 1953 book The Quest for Community, Dionne inadvertently reveals a superficial familiarity with the conservative tradition he purports to recommend—and he unintentionally reinforces the continuing relevance of Nisbet’s analysis.

Nisbet spoke of the “quest for community” as an inherent longing of every human person. But modern society increasingly had been organized to thwart, undermine, or re-direct that longing away from local forms of membership. The modern project, as Nisbet described, could trace its origins back at least five centuries to such thinkers as Bodin, Hobbes, and Rousseau and consisted of the organized effort to align the supposed mutual interests of autonomous individuals (demanded by the rise of capitalism) and centralized government power, both working toward undermining a range of constitutive and “limiting” human associations such as church, guild, schools, and even families. As a result, the “quest for community” became pathologically redirected toward identification with the state. Government becomes, as Nisbet anticipated, the “only thing that we all belong to”—a line that was highlighted during the introductory video shown at last year’s Democratic National Convention. But this “quest for community” in fact results in the effective strengthening of centralized government power and individualism alike, at the expense of more local forms of constitutive community.

Great stuff.

Lisa Fabrizio of the American Spectator refutes the myth of conservative “meanness”:

Are conservatives really deaf to the needs of the poor and disadvantaged? Is it true that they actually ignore the fact that there are many in this country who, through physical or mental disabilities, are unable to provide for themselves and their families? Naturally, the answer to these questions is a resounding “of course not”! But can it be that conservatives believe that the responsibility of caring for these unfortunates lies not with the federal government, but elsewhere? In a word, yes.

It is commendable to have compassion for the poor and to want to help them, but this is not the role of the U.S. government. It would be wonderful if everyone in this country enjoyed the high level of healthcare afforded to the likes of unions and other groups, but it is not the role of government to provide it. I’d like to see each American child educated to his fullest capacity, but this again, is not the role of the federal government. In fact, all these are worthy and vital goals but they do not fall under the authority granted to the federal government by the U.S. Constitution, under which auspices we allegedly continue to operate.


Here’s a bizarre story out of Britain: Three Oxford professors are paying to have themselves cryogenically frozen when they die so they can be resurrected in the future. For some reason, I thought about these men’s families. Will their children and grandchildren have closure knowing that technology 40, 60, 80 years down the road might bring their loved ones back from the dead?


In Time, Lauren Sandler explains why you should have just one child:

The world will tell you — from grandmothers to sitcoms to strangers in the supermarket — that money shouldn’t be a factor in deciding to have more children.

Maybe I’m na├»ve, but I’m not aware of “the world” telling couples money is no object in having children. I am aware of the implicit pressure the culture places on procreation. Having babies is what makes the world go round. Would Sandler rather the culture be neutral in its own prospects?

Insofar as lack of money is used as an excuse for not having babies, what Sandler perceives the world is saying is right. If you want children, and you really don’t have enough money to have children, make more money! If you don’t have a support system—family, friends, and church—to help with the child, cultivate those connections. It takes a village, after all.


Sad commentary:

When Google Glass goes mainstream, users won’t ever want to take the eye-wear off because they will risk feeling “cut-off,” Andreessen said Wednesday on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

“The idea of having the Internet with you all the time, being able to see, literally to be able to have the Internet in your field of vision ... and to be able to talk to it, it basically just wraps you in all the information you would ever need all the time,” he said. “I think people are going find they feel, basically, naked and lonely, when they don’t have this at some point.”


This is scary:

When a journalist on the panel said he didn’t see “how to get the rich world to consume less,” [Kavita] Ramdas said: “You force it ... you can force women to have less children, you can force people to consume less ... Suck it up!”

“The world order has to change,” said [Babtunde] Osotimehin, a Nigerian family doctor. “Not only about the environment, it has to change about rights, it has to change about transportation. It won’t do any country any good to stick to some norm that is actually hurting the rest of the world. It just won’t fly.”

The irony is that the article puts forth Osotimehin as a moderate compared to Ramdas and Peter Singer, who attempts to morally justify such a totalitarian regime:

“It’s possible of course, that we give women reproductive choices, that we meet the unmet need for contraception but that we find that the number of children that women choose to have is still such that population continues to rise in a way that causes environmental problems,” he said. Women have more children because of their “ideological or religious views.”

Singer added that “greenhouse gases ... are getting very close to a tipping point,” and climate change could become a “catastrophe and cause hundreds of millions or billions of people to become climate refugees.”

In that case, he said, “we need to consider whether we can talk about trying to reduce population growth and whether that’s compatible with the very reasonable concerns people have about women’s right to control their life decisions and their reproduction.”

This reads like the leading academics of 100 years ago talking about eugenics. He’s talking about forced abortions. China does this, and the atheist Singer justifies it.

This is why I fear the technocracy, epitomized by the cold calculations of men like Singer, who don’t recognize people’s humanity or the ability of those people to run their lives according to the moral order set by God.


At RealClearMarkets, Diana Furchtgott-Roth reviews Freedom Feminism: Its Surprising History and Why It Matters Today by Christina Hoff Sommers:

President Obama should read this book. Last week in the Rose Garden, at an event celebrating the Equal Pay Act, he once again repeated the myth that women earn 77 cents on a man’s dollar.

“The day that the bill was signed into law, women earned 59 cents for every dollar a man earned on average. Today, it’s about 77 cents,” the president said. “Over the course of her career, a working woman with a college degree will earn on average hundreds of thousands of dollars less than a man who does the same work.”

Nonsense. The 77 percent figure is bogus because it averages all full-time women, no matter what education and profession, with all full-time men. Even with such averaging, the latest Labor Department figures show that women working full-time make 81 percent of full-time men’s wages. For men and women who work 40 hours weekly, the ratio is 88 percent.

Unmarried childless women’s salaries, however, often exceed men’s. In a comparison of unmarried and childless men and women between the ages of 35 and 43, women earn more: 108 cents on a man’s dollar.

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Women make less than men because they choose more humanities and fewer science and math majors at college. Then, when they graduate, more enter the non-profit or government sector. Finally, many choose to work fewer hours to better combine work and family. In May, 2013, according to Labor Department data, 23 percent of women worked part-time, compared to 11 percent of men.

In The End of Sex, Donna Freitas writes (hat tip Wesley Hill at First Things):

In all of my research and visits to campuses in the past several years, I have found that men are the most talented actors of all within hookup culture. They have been taught to appear sex-crazed and reckless, even if what they really feel is something else. The idea fostered in American culture that young men are hypersexual is largely false, and therefore a destructive stereotype to maintain. It not only perpetuates hookup culture on campus but also stunts the ability of young men to grow emotionally. It teaches them to silence their real feelings and desires, which also keeps them from finding fulfilling romantic relationships.

Reminds me of “Ready or not” and “A future to outlast our lives.”

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