Thursday, August 29, 2013

Show us the beast

Thrill seekers descend on the zoo, panting, breathless
They press against the cage of the newest exhibit
A feral spectacle promising wonders endless
Wild animals that no human structures inhibit
’Cept bars of glitter harm to the crowd prohibit
Orgasmic their chants ever rise, have never ceased
“Give us a show of flesh, show us the beast!”

Tamers count silver, await the scheduled hour
To open the door to sate the mob’s mad craving
For brute flesh, for rough edges with which to scour
Their souls, their consciences, things not worth saving
Themselves they project into the cage depraving
Mouths dripping strain toward the wanton feast
Thrilling to imbibe the lustful, backward beast

Animals freed, likeness of men they adopt
Inundate senses senseless with rhythm and friction
Concave on convex, like debauch onto art, propped
Masters of their servants, whose mastery a fiction
For they’re the ones controlled, contrary to conviction
An impulse, retrograde, of the most makes least
What’s left of man stinking sign of the ravenous beast

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Social liberals

Scottie Hughes foresees the Democrats making a play for the libertarian vote:

As the Democrats watch the Tea Party and other Conservative groups continue to grow in momentum towards 2014, they know they must appeal to Libertarians. And it is their libertine social views that could be an opening for voter recruitment. Watch as the Democrats start running more emotional campaign commercials focused on issues like equal marriage rights for all, how pot can relieve painful health symptoms, and an oppressive national security apparatus.

That strategy may work in irreligious and urban areas, but not in the real world.

What persuades “economic conservatives/social liberals” to vote in the latter interest instead of the former? Why do they side with the party that eschews property rights and subdues the individual and his labor under the direction of the state?

Typically, the social liberal voter is not susceptible to the symptoms of a deteriorating culture. He is disciplined, educated, and wealthy enough to be spared the bad choices that can send others and their families into a death spiral of economic and social dislocation. He lives in an area, urban and increasingly suburban, where he is spared having to deal with sin’s worst consequences in his community. He is comfortably married or comfortably unmarried. If he uses prostitutes or marijuana, they do not consume him materially as they do addicts of sex or drugs. (As for the “oppressive national security apparatus,” the social liberal is mostly uninterested in this invisible menace. He gave up his privacy when he uploaded his life to the public doman. As long as the police aren’t harassing him, he is content.)

For those less fortunate than the social liberal, which make up a majority of his countrymen, scarce means provide little to no buffer to potentially life-changing mistakes. Adherence to a rigid moral system is essential to avoid falling into disfunction. To rise above his condition, the bottom-half income earner needs a work ethic that rejects sin and sloth, that rejects government’s inducements and incentives to backslide. He views his pursuit of the American dream in its totality, with no arbitrary split between “economic” and “social” issues. They are life issues.

The social liberal sees himself as having excelled on his own merits, not on the cultural leftovers of a morality whose origins escape his understanding. Morality is not determinative of human flourishing. As a matter of course, he rejects morality as a foundation for the law. He is given to bromides about “theocracy,” the “Christian right,” and all the rest.

The moment in which social liberal becomes the economic conservative’s primary identification approaches. His property and income provide more than adequately for the necessities of life. Less taxation and regulation would be nice, as they would provide a boost in productivity and income. But defunding dependency programs that serve an underclass who falsely have no moral recourse to their plight, in his mind, does not justify the marginal material gains. So he votes Democratic, against his interests and more so against the interests of his countrymen.

The moral argument for limited government should resonate with libertarians. Of that argument, social conservatism occupies a broad niche. Social conservatism is the recognition of family and community as the primary agents of peace and prosperity—not government. It is a set of natural answers to a problem posed to societies by human nature: How do you make good people?

Marriage, for example, is the voluntary system, entered into by husband and wife, in which their children are socialized and prepared to flourish in society. Marriage’s role in this endeavor is more fundamental to the future of society than constitutional government.

There’s no better source on this than Ryan T. Anderson:

For highly dependent infants, there is no path to physical, moral, and cultural maturity—no path to personal responsibility—without a long, delicate process of ongoing care and supervision to which mothers and fathers bring unique gifts. Unless children mature, they never will become healthy, upright, productive members of society.

Marriage exists to make men and women responsible to each other and to any children that they might have.

Marriage is thus a personal relationship that serves a public purpose in a political community. As the late sociologist James Q. Wilson wrote, “Marriage is a socially arranged solution for the problem of getting people to stay together and care for children that the mere desire for children, and the sex that makes children possible, does not solve.”

The late atheistic philosopher Bertrand Russell echoed the sentiment: “But for children, there would be no need of any institution concerned with sex,” he wrote. “[I]t is through children alone that sexual relations become of importance to society, and worthy to be taken cognizance of by a legal institution.”

Not every marriage will produce children, but every child is the result of a male-female union—and needs a mom and a dad. Marriage exists to bring a man and a woman together as husband and wife to be father and mother to any children their union produces.

Marriage is society’s least restrictive means of ensuring the well-being of children. State recognition of marriage protects children. How? By encouraging men and women to commit to each other permanently and exclusively—and to take responsibility for their children.

Redefining marriage lays the groundwork for an activist state. By redistributing marriage, by turning marriage into an arrangement solely for the consenting parties’ happiness, fulfillment, validation, etc., the institution becomes hostile to the stability and lasting love children need. When families can no longer provide for their children a stable, loving home, the state will assume that responsibility, growing ever larger.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Odds and ends 8/24/2013

Here’s a funny Seinfeld exchange between Jerry and a woman who just broke up with him:

  • [Jerry:] “So what are you saying? You didn’t like my act, so that’s it?”
  • [Marlene:] “I can’t be with someone if I don’t respect what they do.”
  • “You’re a cashier!”

That last line gets a big laugh. Why? Upon inspection, comedic irony is noticeably absent.

Marlene is not a hypocrite. Jerry knows she’s a cashier. It doesn't matter to him. He couldn’t care less about her means of supporting herself. There are more important attributes to consider.

Her standards are different. How he supports himself is a big deal to her, a deal maker or, in this case, a deal breaker.

“This is what is important: a theology of sin.” –Pope Francis

Robert Oscar Lopez writes a blockbuster essay about the gay mafia in the American Thinker:

The gay movement will never make peace with us until we disown the most important message of Christ. Christ says we must not live in the urges and ambitions of this world, but must live according to his pure vision of love. God gave up Christ to be sacrificed so that we would all be freed from the bondage of sin. There is no way to reconcile this doctrine with the gay lobby’s insistence that they can define themselves according to fleshly desires of this world and buy immortality by purchasing children. Make peace with the gay lobby, and we lose God, condemning ourselves to an eternity without the greatest love of all.

“The hate you encounter,” the priest told me, “is the cry of pain from people who are hurting, because they are living in such darkness.”

What will the right be without God? Without the courage to name and fight evil? Without discernment?

The limits we place on ourselves, such as making secular, natural law arguments, are in their own way a victory for the enemy. Let us not be so caught up in convincing others with secular arguments to join us in our views of politics and the world that we neglect God’s command to convince others to join us in Christ.

“My problem isn’t with the color of a politician's skin. My problem is much more often with the thickness of it.” –Neil Cavuto

Ralph De La Cruz of the Dallas Morning News channels Rob Parker and says Ted Cruz isn’t Hispanic enough:

Of course, Sen. Cruz is an ethnic Hispanic. But the question of whether he’s politically a Hispanic, well, that’s much more interesting. That’s like asking whether Clarence Thomas is, jurisprudentially, an African-American.

“Politically Hispanic”? “Jurisprudentially African-American”? These are nothing but ethnic euphemisms for the progressive agenda. It’s no coincidence these champions of ethnic determinism are descendants of early 1900s eugenics.

In related idiocy, Asian-American George Takei wrote of San Antonio councilwoman Elisa Chan: “It is disappointing when Asian Americans in leadership positions fall short.”

Apparently opposition to the LGBT cultists isn’t an approved Asian-American value. In other words, she’s not yellow enough. Right, George?

Uh oh. The San Antonio City Council left “furry” off the non-discrimination ordinance:

An Idaho man who enjoys dressing up as a dog was arrested early this month for having sex with a cat on several occasions, authorities said.

Ryan Havens Tannenholz, a self-identified “furry,” or someone who wears anthropomorphic animal fur suits, was charged with six felony counts of crimes against nature and one misdemeanor count of cruelty to an animal.

The GOP’s great hope, the tree-hugging, pork-loving Chris Christie, signed a law banning sexual orientation change therapy for minors in New Jersey. This includes “seeking to change a person’s sexual orientation, including, but not limited to, efforts to change behaviors, gender identity, or gender expressions, or to reduce or eliminate sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward a person of the same gender.” You couldn’t get a more poorly written law from a high school English class.

If I live in New Jersey and have a son who can’t keep his hands to himself, I now don’t have the option of seeking professional help for him. Actually, I’m not even sure I am able to help my son as a parent. The law bans “efforts to change [the] behaviors” of minors. Therapy is not specified. That must include a parent teaching his child to control his sexual urges, whether homosexual or heterosexual.

Reading from the text of the law, I come to no other conclusion. Am I misreading it?

Maggie Gallagher reacts:

Governor Christie just endorsed a law that thus excludes many gay teens who wish to live in accordance with Bible-based values from the circle of care; he has outright banned chastity as a goal of counseling. His bill is not only anti-religious, anti-liberty, and anti-family, it is anti-science because it does not permit scientific knowledge to evolve in the hands of competent professionals.

The great question now unfolding in our times is: Will we permit government power to be used to strip traditional religious believers of our freedom to live as we choose?

Why not?

Staying in New Jersey, the intellectually bellicose Christie picked a fight with Rand Paul, ridiculing the senator’s objections to PRISM as “esoteric” debate talking points that are of no use in the real world. He may as well have said the same about the heated debates in Philadelphia in 1787. Daniel Larison of the American Conservative referees:

It doesn’t occur to Christie that there might be some genuine disagreement among Republicans about what “our principles” are. Even if there is “nothing wrong with our principles,” there could be many things wrong with how they have been put into practice.

R. R. Reno, reacting to Germany putting a third gender option on birth certificates, writes about nihilism and the subordination of reality to will:

It’s fitting that Germany passed this legislation. It reflects our postmodern version of the will’s triumph over given realities. Nazism was an earlier version of this triumph, very different in countless ways, of course, but sharing a basic, underlying similarity. Hitler believed in the priority of the deed over truth, the will over fact, strength over established affairs. He wanted to forge a New Germany in accord with new myths, and part of his appeal rested in the fact that he affirmed the priority of this desire over all else. It’s intoxicating to believe that we can make our own destiny by the strength of our self-choosing.

This priority of the will made Nazism a hyper-modern phenomenon. It was not reactionary in any sense. The old regime was built on metaphysical claims about authority that were fixed and immobile. Hitler wanted no truck with a sacred order that limited the will. Force shapes destiny, and concepts of right and wrong must be made plastic to serve this new future.

If the phrase “will’s triumph” sounds familiar, that’s because it reflects Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will.

In my writing, I have discovered the problem of will to be one of the dominant features of what’s wrong with us. “In pursuit of a mythical level of autonomy, [man] bends all of creation, including his fellow man.”

“The SlutWalk movement is about rape in pretty much the same sense Nazism was about the Versailles Treaty — it’s the legitimate grievance that empowers a movement of irrational hatred.” –Robert Stacy McCain

To borrow from Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch, “irrational hatred” is the selfish interests that “cause him to class with the rest of the world, for under such circumstances the world has value to him only as long as it will cater to his desires.” Irrational hatred, then, is narcissism.

McCain’s grievance and Rabbi Hirsch’s narcissism are the fabrics of modernity.

Joshua Schulz gets after autonomy in Public Discourse:

Modern liberalism, pairing the autonomy view of rights with the pursuit of progress, treats technology as necessary for happiness. Every technology is good so long as it pleases someone. Limiting technology therefore limits “choice” or autonomy, and therefore someone’s happiness.

The Obama administration’s HHS contraceptive mandate is rooted in this philosophy. Proponents of the mandate believe that to hinder people's use of a technology that would facilitate the satisfaction of their desires, such as contraception, is to deny them happiness. When one says that abortion, contraception, or in vitro fertilization is a wrongful, bad technology, what they hear is: you don’t have a right to be happy. “And don’t I have a right to be happy?” they respond.


Here we come to the fundamental paradox of modern liberalism. On the one hand, liberalism in all its stages has always treated human freedom as sacred. On the other hand, modern liberals also believe that in order to guarantee their freedom, they can in practice use the state’s coercive power to compel others to do what they believe is wrong.

This is the logical consequence of liberalism’s autonomy view of rights. Since the state is supposed to be “value-neutral” about what each party desires, in cases where human autonomy is at stake it really has no principled way to decide between competing claims. The result, more often than not, is not a fair contract between the two parties but an arbitrary exercise of political power, justified by the myth that we have a right to technological progress and convenience.

Anthony Esolen writes “the state is acting as a church, engaged in catechesis.” Excerpt:

Suppose it were not a Confederate belt buckle that McDowell had ordered removed, but a placard reading “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” That commandment—nowadays not controversial, though we obey it no better than any generation ever has—would be proscribed, as “religious” speech. But “thou shalt not disapprove publicly of the homosexual lifestyle,” which is what “Tyler’s Army” means, and in an aggressive and accusatory way, with the aim of silencing those who might disagree, and humiliating those who might express that disagreement—that is plastered all over the school and on the bodies of the teachers themselves, the masters, whom the students are supposed to respect or at least tolerate, since their future in part rests in those teachers’ hands.

What gives these schools the right to engage in that catechesis? The business of the public school is akin to the business of a group of tutors hired by a group of parents. It has become, instead, the business of a group of self-imagined forward-thinking missionaries introducing students to their new and enlightened world, against the supposed inertia and ignorance of parents, pastors, and the great majority of moral philosophers and theologians older than yesterday.

To say you’re against bullying is to say nothing it all. It’s like saying you’re for clean water. Who isn’t?

What I’m against is what people do in the name of “clean water.” Just as I’m against what people do in the name of “anti-bullying.” The anti-bullying movement is an anti-moral categories movement.

Pat Buchanan is distraught over the killing of Australian student Chris Lane:

Teenagers who can shoot and kill a man out of summertime boredom are moral barbarians, dead souls.

But who created these monsters? Where did they come from? Surely one explanation lies in the fact that the old conscience-forming and character-forming institutions—home, church, school, and a moral and healthy culture fortifying basic truths—have collapsed. And the community hardest hit is Black America.

If we go back to the end of World War II, 90 percent of black families consisted of a mother and father and children raised and disciplined by their parents. The churches to which these families went on Sundays were stronger. Black schools may have been largely segregated, but they were also the transmission belts of patriotism and traditional values rooted in biblical truths and a Christian faith.

Matt Purple of the American Spectator is on the ball:

The notion that government can sew the [social] fabric back together is nonsense. The American tradition is one of virtue rising up from the bottom, not being imposed from on top. We’ve behaved well because of strong families, churches, schools, and local communities, not distant bureaucracies hundreds of miles away packed with geeky technocrats waving around the latest social science paper. The federal government can enforce order and defend us, but there’s no evidence it can meddle at the micro level to make us better.

This A.G. Gancarski review of Breaking Bad is next to useless, but the comment by “Matt” hits the nail on the head:

Neither the money nor the meth corrupted Walt. He was always corrupt, always broken, always self-centered, always repulsive. He just lacked basic health insurance.

His temper and ego got him pushed out of the lucrative Gray Matter company he co-founded. He wound up a low-paid, public high school chemistry teacher and car wash attendant who was going to die of cancer and leave his family impoverished.

Because he had no real power, all those darker elements of his personality were suppressed, if only to keep him from looking even more ridiculous and impotent in the eyes of friends and family.

He refused charity from the people who he felt betrayed him. He decided that he was going to die or survive, but either way, he was going to do it his way.

But with the meth...with the meth he built something that was all his, and he controlled everything and everyone who stepped inside his circle. And those horrible traits that always existed within him were allowed to bloom and infest, like bacteria dropped into a pool of warm sugar water.

It was never about making a “superior” product to meet market demands. It was about control and manipulation. It was, as it always was with Walt, getting credit for his genius.

I wrote this for “Giving is greater than the gift,” but when I was finished with the piece it didn’t fit.

In the Netflix series House of Cards, one of the president’s trusted advisors tells Congressman Frank Underwood the president is considering him to be his vice president. The advisor, who has the president’s trust, has the power to sway the president’s decision one way or the other. For a political price, the advisor says, he will recommend Underwood for the vice presidency. Finding the terms unfavorable, Underwood doesn’t take the deal. Instead, he uses his skills as a politician to gain leverage over the advisor’s assets, increasing the value of his hand.

Relevant George Gilder quote: “Supply can create its own demand, even in the political realm.”

Also, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” Paul’s parting words to the Ephesian elders attributed to Jesus, but not found anywhere in the Gospels, is justified in the Parable of the Talents.

Reviewing Mary Eberstadt’s How the West Really Lost God, Julia Shaw highlights how families perpetuate faith:

Most secularization narratives ignore the family’s role in religious formation or see familial decline as a result of secularization: people stopped believing in God and then they stopped having families. But Eberstadt turns this simple, direct relationship on its head. The connection between faith and family is multidimensional: “faith and family are the invisible double helix of society—two spirals that when linked to one another can effectively reproduce, but whose strength and momentum depend on one another.”

It’s no secret that churches provide a necessary infrastructure and larger community for raising children. But Eberstadt conjectures that something deeper drives families to the pews. “Something about children might make parents more inclined toward belief in the infinite—to a supernatural realm that is somehow higher and less well-understood than this one.”

Childbirth is the miracle of life, and parents experience it, in Eberstadt’s words, as a “moment of communion with something larger than oneself, larger even than oneself and the infant.”

“I don’t know how you can fight off despair by finding metaphysical certitude in something you know you made up yourself.” –Rod Dreher

I owe much to Francis Schaeffer, who more than anyone else convinced me to examine and articulate the premises that form the foundations of an ethos. Nearly every disagreement and argument I encounter comes from people serving different premises.

This Schaeffer quotes comes courtesy of Phyllis Schlafly: “Now for us, more than ever before, a presuppositional apologetic is imperative.”

The aforementioned Schlafly cites a troubling fact about NAFTA: “NAFTA was predicted to create 20,000 new U.S. jobs by increasing our exports to Mexico. That turned out to be another pipe dream; by 2010 NAFTA had eliminated 682,900 U.S. jobs, some in every state.”

Simply put, free trade in a global market puts over-regulated businesses in America at a competitive disadvantage. Adding a new worker to your business incurs costs well beyond salary. Compliance with the stacks and stacks of employment and insurance laws incurs costs that cut into profits, pushing jobs overseas where they can be done at less cost.

Milquetoast Secretary of State John Kerry comments on the violence in Egypt:

The interim government and the military, which together possess the preponderance of power in this confrontation, have a unique responsibility to prevent further violence and to offer constructive options for an inclusive, peaceful process across the entire political spectrum.

So the junta has a “responsibility to prevent further violence,” but whether it is responsible for the violence it perpetrated already—eh, what difference does it make?

Staying with Egypt, Stanley Kurtz lays out the uncomfortable truth: “The minimum consensus on social fundamentals necessary for democracy to function is simply not present in Egypt, and there is no reasonable prospect that it will be any time soon.”

Replace “Egypt” with “America.” Is the statement less true?

Victor Davis Hanson summarizes Benghazi, the “mother of all scandals”:

In reaction to all this, we jail a petty video maker, who makes the perfect scapegoat as a supposedly right-wing Islamophobic hate monger whose take-down advances our president’s politically correct narrative of Muslim outreach. That yarn required a president, secretary of state, and UN ambassador to lie repeatedly. When we ask questions, witnesses are browbeaten, the knowledgeable fade into the Washington woodwork, the luminaries have all left their offices, and we are left with “phony” scandal and “what difference does it make.”

As if more evidence was needed, Obamacare is once again proving the ineptitude of government to micromanage our lives. The New York Times reports:

In [yet] another setback for President Obama’s health care initiative, the administration has delayed until 2015 a significant consumer protection in the law that limits how much people may have to spend on their own health care.

The limit on out-of-pocket costs, including deductibles and co-payments, was not supposed to exceed $6,350 for an individual and $12,700 for a family. But under a little-noticed ruling, federal officials have granted a one-year grace period to some insurers, allowing them to set higher limits, or no limit at all on some costs, in 2014.

Lawlessness. Obamacare is begging to be defunded.

In 2009, when I was living in Maryland, I met my visiting aunt and her family for an evening in D.C. During dinner I said in passing that people in D.C. don’t have kids, they go to Virginia. It was complete bullshit. Knowing what I know about D.C., I felt it to be true, but I had no hard evidence at all to back it up.

So I was pleased to read this in the City Journal:

Jason Walker, a 45-year-old father of two, left Washington, D.C. (which may have the highest percentage of childless households in the nation), for Ditmas Park to escape “a culture dominated by childless people leery of the existence of kids.”

Shout it from the rooftops: Homosexuality is not immutable:

Lisa Diamond, a psychology professor at the University of Utah, spent over a decade tracking sexual identity changes in a group of 100 women for her book “Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love and Desire.” She wrote, “Women’s sexuality is fundamentally more fluid than men’s, permitting greater variability in its development and expression over the life course.” Based on her research, she describes three main ways that sexual fluidity is expressed: “nonexclusivity in attractions” (i.e., the capacity to find all genders sexually attractive), “changes in attractions” (i.e., suddenly becoming romantically involved with a woman after a lifetime dating men) and the capacity to become attracted to ‘the person and not the gender’” (i.e., a partner’s sex is irrelevant).

Diamond also differentiates between “change, choice, and control” as “totally separate phenomena.” As psychologist John Michael Bailey of Northwestern University told me in an email, “The sentence ‘I choose to prefer sex with women to sex with men’ is meaningless. Schopenhauer wrote: ‘Man can do what he wants, but he cannot want what he wants,’” he says. “We choose our behaviors but not our desires.” But it may be that women generally have a broader range of desires to choose from.

More than a decade ago, social psychologist Roy Baumeister proposed the idea of female “erotic plasticity.” In a paper on the subject, he explained that men tend to have rigid sexual preferences that “generally remain the same for the rest of the man’s life.” Women, on the other hand, “are more likely to switch back and forth,” he wrote. “Some heterosexual women may begin to experiment with lesbian activities in their 30s or 40s. Some lesbians begin desiring sex with men after many years of exclusive same-sex orientation.”

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Giving is greater than the gift

“What really makes the economy work is creativity, and creativity always comes as a surprise to us,” George Gilder, supply-side sage, tells Jerry Bowyer of Forbes. That is, the process of wealth creation does not begin with demand. None of the groundbreaking inventions were the result of market demand. The printing press, the steam engine, the light bulb, the airplane, the microprocessor—the market foresaw none of these revolutionary technologies.

Rather, wealth creation begins on the supply side. It begins with a sacrifice, a risk, a man’s passion to pursue his imagination, to apply his talent and ingenuity to pre-existing materials. He invests time and resources into creating a product or service in the hopes improving people’s lives. If he is successful, he will trade his creation to someone for something he values more. In the end, both parties to the transaction see an increase in value.

An increase in value is not guaranteed. The creation often fails to discover compensatory demand. Experimentation, cost-cutting, and enhancements, requiring further commitment and risk, might effect the emergence of a market. Then again, it might not. But only when one gives up is failure assured.

Failure was the “wicked, lazy” servant’s fear in the parable of the talents. Jesus tells of a man who entrusts his property to his three servants while he goes on a journey. When he returns, two of them have doubled their master’s investment, putting his money to work. But the last servant hoarded the money. He received his master’s gift and did nothing with it. The master condemns him for his lack of initiative: “Throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

This seems harsh, unless you remember the master’s gold is a metaphor for the message and the teaching of the Son of God. Spreading the good news of Jesus is the duty of His disciples. They have been entrusted with the truth, as the servants of the parable were entrusted with their master’s gold. The two servants follow their duty to share God’s word with others, and the blessings accrue exponentially, beyond their sum total, reflecting back on them, showing them to be faithful stewards.

Hence the master’s pleasure at seeing the returns on his investment. He rewards them by “[putting] them in charge of many things” and invites them to “share your master’s happiness.” “Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance,” he says. What is the giver losing but a little time? Compare that to the gift of Jesus to the person receiving it.

One of the greatest gifts anyone gave me was to talk to me after church service in a time in my life when I realized I needed God. That investment, minuscule to him, but life-changing to me, has paid off a billion times over. Giving is greater than the gift.

Wealth accumulates in the same way. Gilder writes in Wealth and Poverty:

As a rule of society it is best if the givers are given unto, if the givers seek some form of voluntary reciprocation. Then the spirit of giving spreads, and wealth tends to gravitate toward those who are most likely to give it back, most capable of using it for the benefit of others, toward those whose gifts evoke the greatest returns.

This principle of giving applies in a broader sense to life. It is not only a main attribute of Christian discipleship and of economics, but of man as social animal. Associations do not spontaneously arise from people’s expressed desire for companionship. They start with an offer of the self: a kind word, an invitation. Keeping company with others occupies people for hours without them realizing it, without costing them anything. The worst poverty is not a want of money, but a want of good company.

Fareed Zakaria, attempting to explain economic immobility in America, misses the point in his own piece:

What’s intriguing is that many of the factors that seem to explain the variation [of economic mobility] across countries also help explain the variation across the United States. The most important correlation in the Harvard-Berkeley study appears to be social capital. Cities with strong families, civic support groups and a community-service orientation do well on social and economic mobility. That’s why Salt Lake City — dominated by Mormons — has mobility levels that compare with Denmark’s. This would also explain why America in general fares badly; the United States has many more broken families, single parents and dysfunctional domestic arrangements than do Canada and Europe.

“Strong families,” “civic support groups,” “service orientation,” all hallmarks of tight-knit communities organized around a procreative, pro-active principle: in Salt Lake City’s case, Mormonism. But when Zakaria gets around to offering a solution to economic immobility, he doesn’t offer up Mormonism, religion in general, or any system of mutual increase through giving. He writes: “the United States spends much less on the education and well-being of poor people, especially poor children, than any other rich country — and that retards their chances of escaping poverty.”

So, big, bloated government, the middle man monstrosity more interested in serving its interests, like “education,” and projecting its power than in letting the people manage their own affairs. Big government, the “gift” the keeps on taking.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Marriage promise

Their throbbing bodies joined together, urgently filling the empty spaces. Every instinct told them this was right, this was what they were made to do. The anxieties and the toils of their lives converged on this singular act, like grains of sand falling through the neck of an hourglass. It was joy, it was pain, it was rage, it was everything, the fullest expression of being on earth. All that came before and all that came after would be defined in relation to this moment.

Before even his breathing returned to normal, he got up and left. The world, full of unconquered animals, elements, and maidens, beckoned. He did not intend to see her again. No contract, real or implied, bound him to her. He was not responsible for the sexual bond he created with her and its potential issue. Like Santa Claus in the night, he had come and gone, spreading the gift of life from an ever-replenishing sack.

That luxury eluded her sex. She could not leave, for where would she leave to? The problem, if the gift could be called a problem, was inside her. Her womb was the soil, her body the nutrients in the soil. There was no leaving it for untrodden pastures. So she stayed put to prepare an outer womb when hers was outgrown, a nest. She felt guilt and shame for betraying her body, for asking for help from others after letting the culprit go. The community assured and supported her, but she knew she ultimately bore the burden of her child alone.

Along came another man, intent on her. She resisted him, fearful of being abandoned again, but he was patient. He was no roamer like the other one. What younger men searched for he had found. He knew who he was and his place in the world. He knew what he wanted. He wanted a future. He wanted her. He wanted to be responsible for her and the child. But still she did not trust him.

“What do I have to do to convince you?” he asked.

“Promise you’ll never leave me,” she said.

“I swear to you, I will die before I leave you.”

“Don’t swear to me. Swear to God.”

With that, she laid the final obstacle before him. He had to have faith. Life was going well for him now, but who could predict what would happen in a lifetime? He gravely feared the great, tumultuous forces their mortal souls might succumb to. He feared even more that he might fail to weather such storms.

He had to have faith. He had to believe in something greater than her, greater than their love, greater than life itself. To be worthy of this calling, he had to admit the fearsome truth of God into his soul.

“I do,” he said. And they were married.

In each other, the unmet ends of their lives closed. The marriage promise was the natural answer to their distinct, built-in sexual needs. She was comforted in knowing that she would never be done wrong by him. He made hard, hard sacrifices for the family, and she respected him for that. In her, he had the greatest supporter. There was nothing she wouldn’t do for him. He loved her dearly.

It rarely was easy. Faith made it work.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

5 reasons you should move to California

  1. The moving truck is cheap.

    How affordable is it to move to California? Consider this: Renting a 14-foot U-Haul truck in San Francisco en route to San Antonio, Texas, costs $1,883. The same truck rental going in the opposite direction costs just $616, saving you over $1,200. Cha-ching!

    If you’re single and make $40,000 a year, that’s enough to cover your California income tax bill for the first year of residence.

  2. Your children can pick their gender.

    California doesn’t want you or your kids to have to live up to the gendered expectations of an outdated heteronormative patriarchy. To that end, Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a law that allows public school students to use the facilities of their choosing.

    If your pubescent son decides one day he’s a girl “on the inside,” by golly, he has the right to use the girls’ bathroom and the girls’ locker room! If that makes anyone uncomfortable, they need to check their premises. No bullying or intimidation tactics in the service of traditional moral distinctions are tolerated in California.

    Further reading: “Will to gender.”

  3. The delta smelt.

    Thousands of agriculture jobs in California’s Central Valley have been sacrificed to preserve this gorgeous endangered species for your enjoyment.

  4. High-speed trains.

    Well, maybe not “high-speed” trains, but they’ll go faster than trains used to go. At a discounted $68 billion, you’ll be able to forgo the convenience of having your own ride while visiting premier destinations such as Bakersfield(!) and Escondido(!!).

    That is, if wildfires, earthquakes, and municipal bankruptcies don’t push back the 2029 target for service to start on some segments.

  5. Phil Mickelson won’t be there.

    The insufferable millionaire/golf legend/father of three/all-around “nice guy” hinted in January that he was considering leaving California.

    Good riddance. Everyone knows the future isn’t built on rich white guys’ job-creating investments. It’s built on one-fourth of the state living in poverty and hosting one-third of the country’s welfare recipients.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Proud spirit

The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart was offended by a sermon given at his aunt’s funeral:

The preacher used 1 Corinthians chapter 6 verses 9 and 10 to call on those befitting one of those “behaviors” to “transform” their “mess” of a life by washing themselves in the blood of Christ. He talked about how the word of God “turned a pimp into a preacher” and “turned a prostitute into a prophet.” He said that he came to give hope that “if you are stuck in some stuff there is a God who will bring you out.” Using his own life as an example, the minister told the congregation, “If God can approach me and clean me up and give me goals, then he can change you.” He implored “anyone who needs a dramatic transformation in his life” to stand up. And then he said, “I believe there is someone here who wants to drastically change his life.”

Capehart, who is gay, objects to the pastor’s implied double-pronged assertion that “homosexuality” is a sin and that “homosexuality” is a choice. Capehart says his “homosexuality” is as immutable as the color of his skin. But what is homosexuality, this category that claims to represent the infinitely varied sexual experiences and proclivities of millions of people? Capehart has the answer. He cites former Methodist pastor Jimmy Creech:

Behavior is something one does on occasion; sexual orientation is someone’s inescapable identity. A gay person who is not sexually active is still gay. Sexual orientation is as fundamental and constant as one’s DNA. Unlike behavior, which one can choose to stop, no one can stop being gay or lesbian — any more than someone could choose to stop being straight.

There’s that word, identity. In short, homosexuality could mean anything. To the modern way of thinking, all that matters is homosexuality is an identity, the sacrosanct, inviolable core of being.

True, no one can choose to stop being a sinner. Man’s propensity to sin has pretty much been the status quo since the dawn of time. What has changed, though, is that God, through Jesus, has offered us a way out of our identity in sin.

The Apostle Paul lists several sins in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. Fornication is one of them. Under Judaic law, lying with a man was a severe crime that came with a severe punishment. The law offered no spiritual corrective to lust. It merely required that we abstain from sin.

Then Jesus came along with something better than the law: the transformative power of Grace. God still tells us not to sin, but He adds, “Let My love fill you, and you won’t want to sin.”

In my experience, once I understood that, the only barrier that remained was identifying sin, recognizing the harm it was doing in my life, and wanting out of it. It’s that simple. If Capehart’s description of his aunt’s funeral is correct, the pastor presented it that way. Good on him.

But Capehart resisted. “The pastor’s every word was an affront to who I am.” That’s the point.

“The Devil, the proud spirit, cannot endure to be mocked.” –Thomas More

It is a testament to the sin of pride that a blind eye can be turned to so obvious a truth as the flawed nature of man. Capehart says he doesn’t speak for the whores, drunkards, adulterers, and thieves also referenced in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, but from his perspective there’s no reason he shouldn’t. Why should their sins be treated any differently? Are not envy of others’ riches and dependence on alcohol as innate and immutable to them as homosexuality is to him?

Capehart deliberately avoids these questions because he fears tipping his hand that—duh—sin exists, which wrecks his contrived case against the pastor’s “bigotry.”

Monday, August 12, 2013

Intellect we acclaim

Dearest, fairest Intellect, we acclaim
Thine virtue outshines all that went before Thee
Setting minds, striving outward, bright aflame

So hot, Thou melt our chains, therefore free
From forebears into oneness we transcend
Nature, dread birthright, through Thine agency

Faith in creation we no more pretend
A gloomy disorder on our souls impress
Duty to which betrays one unenlightened

Prithee, ideal Maiden, don’t let us recess
Out of our minds into the world of flawed men
To a frail ethos holding up Progress

Bestowing value together we begin
In our own image to remold these objects
What’s left over we’ll not hear from again

Is there not a more dangerous—and universal—pathology than man’s need to place himself at the center of the universe, and reorder all of creation around him? It goes beyond the creative impulses that compel us to refine the elements into useful products and property. It is hubris.

Related: “Bigots, bigots everywhere.”

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Odds and ends 8/10/2013

“Hatred of God is the principal driving force, more fundamental than all their political and economic pretensions.” –Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Kidnapper/rapist Ariel Castro, on his way to prison for the rest of his life, said, “I believe I am addicted to porn to the point where I am impulsive, and I just don’t realize that what I am doing is wrong.”

At First Things, James D. Conley reacts:

Pornography destroys families. It destroys the soul. Pornography robs us of the freedom to have subjective relationships—in a mind addicted to pornography, personal subjectivity is replaced by a dehumanizing, objectifying, abusive kind of relationality.

If Jill Filipovic is to be believed, it’s conservatives, emphasizing fidelity and commitment over pleasure and convenience, who are guilty of dehumanizing and objectifying people. More execrable drivel one is hard pressed to find. What is more objectifying than the image of a person designed to titillate? What is more dehumanizing than escaping your worth as God’s creation in the explicitly sexual functions of your body?

Filtering regulations will deter some pornography seekers, but what is also needed is more active parenting. Parents should question whether mobile devices—essentially small, free, X-rated theaters—should be given to their teenagers. Monitoring, accountability, and parenting are important steps.

But freedom from sin comes through grace. Lust begins with loneliness—with the pervasive detachment which has become a hallmark of modernity. Lust begins with a yearning for love. If we want to combat the social consequences of pornography, we must begin with a commitment to love.

Christians have something unique to offer in the fight against pornography: an understanding of the human person, of the Christian community, and of grace.

At the American Thinker, Fay Voshell writes about another sex addict, Anthony Weiner:

The person who exercises no restraint is not free, but is an addict. Weiner’s “freedom” has exercised complete control over him, destroying him and inflicting serious wounds on an ever widening circle of people. An addict is also unable to order the rest of his life in any coherent and meaningful way, as his or her chief focus is on the next fix, be it alcohol, drugs, or sex. The man who cannot control his proclivity to sending graphic photos of himself to anonymous women is a sex addict. Addiction corrodes the entire character of the addict and reduces him and the women he uses for his addiction to caricatures of what it means to be truly human.

The Weiner sexting story is a writer’s dream. The most riveting articles I’ve read lately have revolved around Weiner. Stay tuned.

Pete Spiliakos explains in First Things how amnestying illegal immigrants, who are largely low-skilled, will depress wages of Americans with low incomes:

A recent Third Way report found that declining wages tended to coincide with disrupted family formation. That is hardly a political problem for the party of the Life of Julia. Democrats can tell themselves that even if their policies will reduce the wages and injure the families of low-skill workers in the short term, Democrats can make it up to them through higher taxes and bigger government spending on the back end.

So why do Republicans want amnesty? I deduce two reasons:

  1. “Make peace” with Hispanics
  2. Increase corporate profits

That’s basically it. I leave out the phony argument that economic growth and amnesty go hand in hand, peddled by the Bushes and the once-promising Paul Ryan. The argument goes like this: When we amnesty and assimilate the illegal immigrant population, then they will become productive citizens and contribute to the economy.

Spare me. Look at Los Angeles, where illegal immigrants received $600 million in welfare payments in 2010. They’re a drain on the system. That won’t change in the transition from “de facto” amnesty to de jure amnesty. Insofar as illegals “live in the shadows,” after amnesty they will subscribe to the welfare state in even greater numbers. It will become even more difficult to unravel entitlements as people are added to the rolls.

At Public Discourse, Adam J. McLeod writes about the interactivity and dependency among humans, how this creates the civil society, and how government intrusion with entitlements wedges people apart:

Lawmakers cannot, and should not attempt to, do away with humans’ dependence upon others. Instead, they should aim to foster healthy dependencies and to eradicate unhealthy ones. At its best, law does not free us from others but instead channels our dependence toward those who will take our wellbeing into consideration and act upon it. It encourages moral connections between dependent people and other dependent people.


The donor perceives a human being or community of human beings and chooses to make their wellbeing his own goal to be achieved. The donor takes the life and plans of the recipient into his own reasoning, and thereby into his character.

Like familial obligations, then, a gift changes both the donor and the recipient for the better by focusing their attention on the wellbeing of someone else. The donor becomes someone who acts for the good of another. The recipient becomes a matter of concern to another human being. The investment that the donor makes in the life of the recipient gives the recipient a reason to live well not only for his own sake but also for the sake of the donor.


While a market-based exchange creates a weaker moral connection than family sharing and charitable acts, public entitlements destroy the moral connections between people altogether. Government agencies, as impersonal institutions, do not satisfy entitlement claims for altruistic reasons. They do not choose to bestow benefits on particular recipients due to their merit or promise, or to invest in their hopes and dreams. They do not subject their own hard-earned resources to others’ plans.

McLeod’s influence is Nicholas Eberstadt’s A Nation of Takers, but I read it first in George Gilder’s Wealth and Poverty.

My favorite metaphor for the civil society is the aerial roots of a banyan tree.

The “voluntary reciprocation” Gilder speaks of, in economic terms, is a return on an investment, and it is not always monetary. It can be simply the prospect of an association among willing individuals who have each other in common. Like aerial roots dropping down from the branches of a banyan tree, these associations support the community as it endures the stresses of growth and change. On a human level, they provide the intangible substance of life and offer the only form of self-sufficiency social man is capable of.

This substance is lost when the gift is disassociated from its value. In the hands of a middle man, the offer of advice, time, resources, etc. that forms the basis of a relationship becomes sterile, with no implied sacrifice on the gifter’s part and no implied return on the giftee’s part. Community is near impossible to effect among people whose wants are not known to each other, but ministered to by hired bureaucrats. “It’s not my problem,” they say, instead of “See a need, fill a need.”

Investor’s Business Daily explains in two sentences what’s wrong with the minimum wage:

Employers hire only those whose productivity exceeds their pay. When wages and the cost of regulation and health care rise, there’s little room on the payroll for young, inexperienced workers.

James P. Lenfestey of the Minnesota Star Tribune comes out against the Keystone Pipeline.

The main argument for the pipeline — energy security vs. importing oil from the problematic Middle East and Venezuela — collapses since tar sands oil will be exported and so won’t reduce U.S. imports.

Energy security doesn’t explicitly mean self-sufficiency. It means less reliance on enemies for oil. The market works like this: Increasing the oil supply diminishes OPEC’s market share. When America exports tar sands oil to other countries, America can import oil those other countries forgo in lieu of their tar sands oil.

The capstone of Lenfestey’s “argument” is a misleading rhetorical flourish:

It’s true that slowing any single fossil fuel project, even one as massive as Alberta tar sands development — rightly termed a “carbon bomb” by author Bill McKibben, so far only 3 percent exploited — will not by itself dramatically halt rising global temperatures. But eliminating the biggest fuse to that carbon bomb is a necessary first step.

It’s a bomb! Don’t build the pipeline!

Lenfestey doesn’t even get his metaphor right. Wouldn’t the shortest fuse—contra “biggest fuse”—better serve his scaremongering?

Reading this, if you knew nothing about what Riley Cooper did at the Kenny Chesney concert, you’d assume he did something really awful, like throw acid in someone’s face, or sell child porn out of the trunk of his car. Alas, all he did was get drunk and called a black bouncer “nigger.”

“It’s going to be tough. No doubt it’s going to be tough,” Cooper said. “I’m going to live with this every day for the rest of my life.”

Cooper talked repeatedly the “responsibility to behave on and off the field” in the NFL as well as the “severity” of the incident at the Chesney concert.

“We just talked about this situation and how big this is,” Cooper said. “I realize that. I realize how many people I hurt, how many families I hurt and how many kids I hurt. That’s what we walked about – the severity.”

At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson describes President Obama:

He is a man with a first-class education and a business-class mind, a sort of inverse autodidact whose intellectual pedigree is an order of magnitude more impressive than his intellect.

The result of this is his utterly predictable approach to domestic politics: appoint a panel of credentialed experts. His faith in the powers of pedigreed professionals is apparently absolute. Consider his hallmark achievement, the Affordable Care Act, the centerpiece of which is the appointment of a committee, the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), the mission of which is to achieve targeted savings in Medicare without reducing the scope or quality of care. How that is to be achieved was contemplated in detail neither by the lawmakers who wrote the health-care bill nor by the president himself. But they did pay a great deal of attention to the processes touching IPAB: For example, if that committee of experts fails to achieve the demanded savings, then the ball is passed to ... a new committee of experts, this one under the guidance of the secretary of health and human services. IPAB’s powers are nearly plenipotentiary: Its proposals, like a presidential veto, require a supermajority of Congress to be overridden.

IPAB is the most dramatic example of President Obama’s approach to government by expert decree, but much of the rest of his domestic program, from the Dodd-Frank financial-reform law to his economic agenda, is substantially similar. In total, it amounts to that fundamental transformation of American society that President Obama promised as a candidate: but instead of the new birth of hope and change, it is the transformation of a constitutional republic operating under laws passed by democratically accountable legislators into a servile nation under the management of an unaccountable administrative state. The real import of Barack Obama’s political career will be felt long after he leaves office, in the form of a permanently expanded state that is more assertive of its own interests and more ruthless in punishing its enemies. At times, he has advanced this project abetted by congressional Democrats, as with the health-care law’s investiture of extraordinary powers in the executive bureaucracy, but he also has advanced it without legislative assistance — and, more troubling still, in plain violation of the law. President Obama and his admirers choose to call this “pragmatism,” but what it is is a mild expression of totalitarianism, under which the interests of the country are conflated with those of the president’s administration and his party.

Long story short, Obama’s gift is his ability to sow mistrust in all our institutions except big government, in whose benevolence he secures the people’s blessings to annex their freedoms and their destines, and gives control over their lives to credentialed busybodies.

Texas is doing well, but it’s not all roses. Steven Malanga of City Journal reports:

At the moment, Texas localities owe $63 billion for education funding—155 percent more than they did a decade ago, though student enrollment and inflation during that period grew less than one-third as quickly.

Education is Texas’ Leviathan. The two biggest problems in my opinion are schools’ unaccountability to their communities and a ballooning illegal immigrant student population without a commensurate rise in the property tax base.

School districts spending money on non-teachers is also part of the problem. The Texas Tribune reports:

According to [State Sen. Dan] Patrick, the ratio of teachers to nonteachers, which includes those employed in administrative and support capacities, in districts has grown to nearly 1 to 1 today from 4 to 1 in the 1970s.

Irony is when the self-admitted non-theistic dean of the National Cathedral, Gary Hall, says:

We’re in a period where people under 50 don’t see the church as a credible place to explore their questions about God.

Hall is full of bromides about Episcopalians evolving with the times. He has nothing to say about salvation through the blood of Jesus. He has nothing to say about man’s fallen nature, the point at which the journey into Jesus begins. No wonder that church is dying.

Would Hall’s soft (or non-) theology have helped porn star Brittni Ruiz? Her conversion story begins thus: Working at a trade show, she passed a booth of evangelists and was impressed. “There’s just something about them. It sets them apart from every person,” she said.

As the apostle Peter wrote: “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glory God on the day he visits us.”

An idea to tack on to my reflection of love and sacrifice: The headline to Sarah Spain’s piece, “A partner, not a cheerleader,” lends itself more to being unduly harsh to Gary Player’s wife than Gary Player’s advice lends itself to demeaning Caroline Wozniacki.

Player’s wife is not a cheerleader. She is a partner in the truest sense. Spain’s piece advocates equality, not partnership. She claims Wozniacki, being Rory McIlroy’s equal, could be a good match for him. But equals do not make good partners, especially not for professional athletes whose time is consumed by their craft.

Jason Isaacs isn’t “ready,” but he’s ready. To be married, that is.

I am ready to make a decision to love Jacqueline--nothing more, nothing less. Everything I enjoyed about being single is still just as appealing: mobility, simplicity, and availability of time can be valuable assets. It would be silly for me to say otherwise. However, I am convinced of something else. Instead of “trading in” my schedule and energy, I am “trading up” for two things: her commitment of love and the opportunity for us to be involved in a mystery.

I am preparing to be involved in a mystery. It is not what I have seen or what I think I know about marriage that makes me think I am “ready”. Instead, it is watching those who have gone before me that are already part of this mystery which makes me realize I do not see the full picture: How do two people come together and become as one? Why does love require tension? What parts of my character and personality will be transformed by putting her first? What concerns seem so important now, but will be trivial years from today? What is it about my character and needs that complements her character and needs? What changes or stays the same when there are children? How does love last for the rest of our lives?

I am also being prepared for a battle. As the mystery of marriage captures my attention, I am also reminded that I will face many battles. The battle is not primarily against my future wife, but against the selfishness and pride in my heart—the parts that still wander. All the hard places in my heart which have been able to sleep comfortably and undisturbed are now going to be poked, prodded, and exposed. As challenging as it will be, I should humbly welcome these changes. They mean that my heart will be refined, my ability to love will grow, and my capacity to see the needs of others will be greater. Loving Jacqueline sacrificially will be a catalyst for learning how to put others first on a much deeper level.

I’m jealous.

Rod Dreher explains how he dated after being reborn into Christ:

I came to accept Christianity in a mature way in my mid-twenties, in large part because I had until then been living my life according to what I wanted, and kept making a mess of it. I decided to surrender to God, to put Him first, in part because I trusted that He knew better what I needed than I did. (I’m vastly oversimplifying here, but you get the gist of it.) That meant having to change my life in significant ways, learning to discipline myself by denying myself certain things that I wanted in any given moment. Christians call this “dying to self,” and it was hard.

The hardest part was in keeping myself from getting involved romantically with women who didn’t share my Christian commitment. I was single and I was terribly lonely, and I had the habit of falling for women who were smart, fun, beautiful, and suitable in most ways … but were not Christians, or serious about their faith. I couldn’t let myself follow my heart into these situations, because I knew that there would always be that gulf between us, and that if we married and had children, we could find ourselves in a very painful situation, divided against ourselves. So I would force myself to say no to my emotions, and no to my desires, because I could not see that the Good — for me, or for her — would be accomplished if I said yes.

What made this so tricky is that these women with whom I might have had a relationship were by no means bad people. They were good! I never fell for a woman who would have been conventionally “bad” for me. It’s just that having made a firm and serious commitment to Jesus Christ, all other commitments I might thenceforth make had to be subordinate to that one. For me, it was too risky to enter into an intimate, perhaps lifelong, relationship with someone who didn’t share my degree of religious commitment. For me, it was building my house on shaky ground. Things might have worked out fine in the end, but that was not a risk I was prepared to take. Years later, I met the right woman for me, and married her.

Mark Steyn has a brilliant insight into the economic malaise:

My old boss Conrad Black recently pointed out that “the economy can’t recover as it did in the past until more people are adding value” — making and doing, something real.

Instead, 40% of Americans perform minimal-skilled service jobs about to be rendered obsolete by technology, and almost as many pass their productive years shuffling paperwork from one corner of the land to another in various “professional services” jobs that exist in order to facilitate compliance with the unceasing demands of the microregulatory state.

The daily ObamaCare fixes — which are nothing to do with “health care” but only with navigating an impenetrable bureaucracy — are the perfect embodiment of the Republic of Paperwork.

Jonah Goldberg reviews Breaking Bad and channels Tocqueville (hat tip Rich Lizardo):

[F]amilies, communities, and individuals...can be healthy only when individuals are willing to take on faith that some moral laws — whether grounded in nature, theology, or simple trial and error — are there for a good reason. As Chesterton tells us, pure reason doesn’t get humanity very far. The merely rational man will not make commitments to causes greater than his own self-interest. We need binding dogmas to constrain us even when our intellects or appetites try to seduce us to a different path. When, through the arrogance of our intellect and the promptings of our egos, we decide that we can make the rules up as we go, we invariably relearn why we need those rules. In Breaking Bad, there are countless, sometimes hilarious, sometimes horrifying moments where Walter is given concrete evidence that he is not smarter than the accumulated moral wisdom of civilization. He rejects these lessons as merely illustrations of the failures of others, and lies himself down a path of ever greater evil.

“The question inevitably arises, can a purely rational or Madisonian system survive without a critical mass of authentic religious believers amongst the citizenry? Even the best constitutional framework may be insufficient, in and of itself, to maintain ordered liberty without something more substantial inhering in the body politic? To put it another way, what would America look like if everyone subscribed to [George] Will’s agnosticism or atheism? It would probably look a lot like western Europe or Japan.” –G. Tracy Mehan III

At CNN Lewis Beale gives examples that we are living in 1984:

Newspeak – the fictional, stripped down English language, used to limit free thought. OMG, RU serious? That’s so FUBAR. LMAO.

Political correctness is Newspeak’s real-life analogue, banning certain ideas from public discourse.

Here’s Newspeak for you: The Communists at Slate won’t be using the word “Redskins” anymore to refer to the Washington Redskins. “Changing how you talk changes how you think,” Daniel Plotz writes.

What exactly is the change in thinking being effected? Is it racism against American Indians? No. The desired change is an unwillingness to offend, even when it’s the truth people find offensive. Never forget this Blaise Pascal quote: “[Man] conceives a mortal hatred against that truth which blames him and convinces him of his faults.”

Back to Beale:

Anti-Sex League – this was an organization set up to take the pleasure out of sex, and to make sure that it was a mechanical function used for procreation only. Organizations that promote abstinence-only sex education, or want to ban artificial birth control, are the modern versions of this.

Please. Today’s real-life Anti-Sex League takes procreation out of sex, making sure it is a mechanical function used for pleasure only. On the most important denominator, love, the fictional Anti-Sex League and the real-life Anti-Sex League are simpatico.

President Obama nominated Nina Pillard to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals:

Christian organizations are also expressing concern with Pillard’s writings, in which she stated that abortion is needed to “free[] women from historically routine conscription into maternity.” She also took aim at those who oppose contraception insurance coverage, noting that they “reinforce[] broader patterns of discrimination against women as a class of presumptive breeders.”

“Conscription into maternity.” “Presumptive breeders.” Classic expressions of a feminist at war with nature. God’s laws for man have no grip on these geniuses of modernity.

Defending Obamacare, Jamelle Bouie writes in the Daily Beast:

This is a tax on tanning beds, paid by people who purchase them, and felt by people who use them. The only way to describe this as “racist” is to turn the word into a mindless insult.

As if it hadn’t already. But this is an interesting formulation. According to Bouie, the whiteness of tanning bed users is coincidental and unrelated to their use of tanning beds. I suppose, then, the femaleness of abortion seekers is coincidental and unrelated to their seeking abortions.

Following Bouie’s logic, if Obamacare’s tanning bed tax isn’t racist against whites, then restrictions on abortion aren’t anti-woman. Abortions, like skin cancer treatments, cost money. Under our socialized healthcare system, there are savings to be made here.

Patrick O’Hannigan dropped this gem line in the American Spectator:

Diversity is dead because President Obama deliberately flattened it with a progressive ideology more featureless and imposing than the extraterrestrial monolith in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

An astute simile, considering the monolith represented evolutionary leaps like the primates using tools and future mankind leaving the solar system. No doubt progressives view their ideology as evolutionary, as leaving behind all the trite problems that typify the human condition. If only we would grant them the authority reserved for God, then we might achieve the utopian fantasy of oneness, like the Overmind in Arthur C. Clarke’s other book, Childhood’s End.

Peter J. Leithart writes:

Unity is the president’s preferred weapon to divide and conquer. As he stated in his inaugural address, “Now more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.” He co-opted the first words of the U.S. Constitution to give a constitutional seal of approval to his policy agenda. “We the people” have spoken, and it turns out We pretty much agree with the president on everything. We the People are certainly as enlightened as the president about a woman’s right to abortion and the rightness of gay marriage. The constitutional standing of those who think differently from We the People is fuzzy.


Everyone knows who that problematic “chunk” is: Bad Republicans are the remnants of the religious right, and the next four years are going to be uncomfortable ones for those of us who consider sodomy and abortion to be sinful. Nobody likes to be marginalized. No American likes to be branded as intolerant. Marginalization is especially galling to those on the religious right who so long ago rode the high places of the earth.

Christians, besides, have an instinct toward unity. We confess that God is love, and the second great commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves. Love is not tolerance, but in our age Christians confuse the two as readily as anyone.

The “Good” Republicans of Marin County, California, have “evolved” on marriage. Sally Zelikovsky takes them to task at the American Thinker:

Opponents of same-sex marriage are informed by facts that have been played out at all levels in our education system, our houses of worship and our pop culture. Facts born of a society in decline—a society that has lost its way, that no longer upholds the virtues of marriage, fidelity, and family; a society that no longer has any moral code, any boundaries, any expectations; a society mired in fatherlessness, the marginalization of men, the shunning of our boys, the loss of what it truly means to be a woman, and the mockery of marriage; a society where roles are being whitewashed by activists with agendas—progressive agendas to obliterate the family, destroy civil society, whittle away at prosperity and circumscribe freedom while ushering in a new era of transformational change with the government in control of our money, our bodies, our thoughts and our families.

Zelikovsky used to be a “fiscal conservative” (aka uncommitted libertarian) and a registered Democrat, but she became disillusioned when the Democrats started pushing “marriage equality,” a premise she found fundamentally at odds with her experience. She became a Republican because Republicans at the time peddled the truth about marriage.

I compared my childhood and early adulthood—when our culture had already started to break down—with that of my parents and grandparents in which there were expectations about behavior and moral boundaries. I then compared all of this to the childhood and early adulthood of my children and their peers—where civil society is on the brink of collapse. I realized that societies and governments can and do dabble in morality, as reflected by the wishes of its citizens, and that those moral boundaries set the stage for thriving citizens, intact marriages, ordered society, and, ultimately, the achievement of dreams.

The Framers understood, as do Republicans today, that the traditional family is a fundamental ingredient for prosperity and liberty.

Over at Breitbart, John Hayward lays Anthony Weiner at the feet of feminism’s lowered expectations for men:

Weiner is a prominent symbol of how the Democrats are always expecting women to settle for less. The liberal project since the Sixties has been a cascade of lowered standards for women, who are no longer supposed to look for fidelity and marriage. Morality and consequence are firmly separated from sex, to the greater detriment of women, who are abandoned to deal with the consequences. Gallantry and respect for the fairer sex have become quaint anachronisms. Women can hardly turn on their radios without being addressed in much the same language “Carlos Danger” uses with his online paramours.

As female expectations of men dwindled to threadbare standards Huma Abedin sets for her husband, society collapsed into an exhausted heap upon the heart-shaped waterbed of libertine socialism. When women don’t set high standards for men, nobody sets high standards for anyone. Soaring ideals of manhood have been traded for lowest-common-denominator perpetual adolescence. Perhaps one of the most crucial functions women serve in society is telling men when it’s time to grow the hell up. If they don’t issue that uncompromising demand, you get Anthony Weiner.

When I read that to my mom, she thought I wrote it. In fact, I did write it, just a bit differently:

Freed from the responsibilities and expectations that pushed him to become a good man, Shaun embraced his minimized role of pleasure seeker/incidental sperm donor with relish. He came to view Sheila’s body not as a temple to worship but as an amusement park ride. His boyhood fantasy had come true: He could have all the sex he wanted and none of the consequences.


He couldn’t make a good husband, let alone a good father. He was lazy and irresponsible. He didn’t have it together. He didn’t aspire to anything greater than himself. She had never asked him to be anything greater than himself. He had spent his entire adulthood conceding her and other women’s long-term care to other forces. Set in his ways, he was unlikely to change.

Robert Stacy McCain waxes:

If we can’t call sin by its right name, neither can we be permitted to say it is immoral or deviant for girls to smoke marijuana, cover themselves with tattoos, and sell sex on the Internet to “sugar daddies.” Ask Rush Limbaugh what happens if you describe a typical Democrat girl with old-fashioned words like “slut” or “whore.” Even to say that the behavior of Sydney Leathers and Anthony Weiner was indecent is to imply the existence of some clear standard of decency. Start talking like that, and liberals will denounce you as a puritanical fanatic: You’re crazy, Anthony Weiner is perfectly sane, and don’t dare say a sexist word about Sydney Leathers, you haters!

Speaking of sin, the blathering Ruth Marcus writes:

The difference between Francis and his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, involves their language about supposed sinners, not their shared conviction that the behavior is a sin.

Then she adds:

Yes, we as a society are less inclined to moral judgments, and that is, for the most part, a happy development. What once was a source of shame—unwed motherhood, for example—is now, if not a point of pride, at least a marker of normalcy.

How many fools will read that and congratulate themselves on their enlightenment and understanding, oblivious to the harsh, self-perpetuating miasma a broken family culture imposes on its young ones? I don’t want to know.

I’ll let Mona Charen explain it to you:

Fatherlessness (and while there are some single fathers raising children, they are a small minority) is associated with increased incidence of every measurable pathology. It is evident from birth, and even before. Children of single mothers have higher rates of infant mortality, receive less health care, perform more poorly on post-natal tests, are slower to gain weight, and have more complications. Babies with a father’s name on their birth certificates are four times more likely to live past age one than those without.

In school, the pattern holds. Children from single-parent families tend (and these are aggregates not universals) to get lower grades, have more behavior problems, experience higher rates of depression and other mental illnesses, and drop out at higher rates. Children of single parents are more likely to be unemployed, to get into trouble with the law, and to be incarcerated. (Source: National Fatherhood Initiative.)

Cohabitating couples are far more likely to separate than are married couples, which means children often live with non-relative adults. A child living with his mother and her boyfriend is at maximum risk. The American Academy of Pediatrics reported that children in such households are 50 times more likely than children of intact families to be the victims of physical or sexual abuse.

Deborah C. Tyler busts narratives in the American Thinker:

Now comes the calls for “conversation.” For the left wing, conversation serves both practical and philosophical purposes. Liberals virtually never make any personal sacrifices for their causes. They prefer chin music to breaking a sweat. Philosophically, liberal conversation-addiction descends from Jacques Derrida and deconstructionism. Rejecting the search for objective right and wrong in favor of the supremacy of personal “text” elevates egoistic conversation into sacred scripture. But on the deepest level, Derrida’s work is just claptrap cover-up for narcissistic humanists, who pervert every experience into feeling good about themselves. In such a world, it does not matter whether or not the Zimmerman-Martin case was factually about racism. If you feel that it was about racism, then it was. And communicating that feeling as conversational “text” satisfies the liberal sense of justice.

I’m officially through with Commentary. The Todd Akin-obsessed Jonathan Tobin writes:

Peggy Noonan’s attack on Christie in the Wall Street Journal removes all doubt that some of veteran members of the GOP’s chattering class are headed off the reservation.


While Noonan characterizes Christie’s attempt to refocus Americans on the reality of a war still being waged on the United States by Islamist terrorists as “manipulative” and as “an appeal to emotion, not to logic,” it is she who is ignoring the larger context of the debate Paul has launched.

I read Noonan’s piece. It was spot-on. Chris Christie invited Rand Paul to criticize the government’s dragnet of all our electronic communication to the families of 9/11 victims. What a jerk. Ask those families first how they feel about their Twitter and Facebook posts being monitored.

“To be modern is to believe in one’s individual desires as the locus of authority and self-definition.” –Dreher

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The mark of virtuality

Facebook is a virtual world with a population of over a billion people, uploading their interests, activities, and photos for their friends, family, and associates to see and comment on. That information constitutes the bulk of Facebook’s value, which the market prices at a shade over $100 billion.

If my profile is worth only about $100, then a single check-in or status update is worth a fraction of a penny, basically nothing. The data only has value when it’s looked at in bulk. Companies love to research the market for their products on Facebook. Short of actually getting to know someone, Facebook is the best place to get a complete picture of him: where he lives, where he works, who he knows, etc. This information is yours to own for about $100 per person.

Facebook is only the most prominent example of a searchable, virtual society. All our Internet communications, from emails to instant messages to video chats to Google searches, are broadcast from our computers and smart phones and stored on servers somewhere. Insofar as we’ve uploaded ourselves digitally to the web, we have exposed ourselves to a surveillance regime that no tyrant in history dreamed about. You can’t put a price on that.

But! fortunately we live in a country that prizes limited government and strictly adheres to its Founding documents, including the Fourth Amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated...

You should feel sorry for people whose government is freed from the constraints of morality and decency. Since such a government views itself as the arbiter of the law and thus above the law, it may confiscate the data and mine it at will. If and when it’s caught, its agents say they did it for the people’s protection.

Maybe some of them did. But positions of power do not always attract angels. They usually attract people who want to use the power of their offices for a singular purpose, some cause to which they are personally devoted, some pretense of knowledge or wisdom they can put to work to correct the wrongs they see in society.

When these people rise to power and wield the alphabet soup of agencies and instruments of government, the data offerings of the virtual world are like lemons waiting to be made into lemonade. By studying the patterns of large segments of the population he disapproves of, the technocrat can begin to work on coercive formulas that, when implemented, will effect the change he’s always wanted.

“Behavioral sciences can be used to help design public policies that work better, cost less, and help people to achieve their goals.” (Source: Fox News)

Here you can see the pretense at work. The technocrat speaks of his designs for mankind as “their goals.” Don’t be fooled. No one knows better how to achieve his goals than the individual himself.

The only way for the technocrat to determine whether his formulas work is to gather live data and look for the desired bend in the curve. He notices some people responding to the incentive structure he has put in place—that is, contrary to their desires and their nature—and he feels a warm glow.

“Now more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.” –Barack Obama

Some rugged individualists, however, resist. Their continued participation in society becomes a nuisance, holding up “progress.” The Air Force chaplain at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson sticking to a tried and true moral ethos is one example. The technocrat, fed up, drunk with power, tests their mettle. He brings forth the data as prosecutorial evidence, and he issues an ultimatum: Change your ways, join mankind in unity on earth, or we’ll leave you behind.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Narcissist ordinance

Julian Castro, coming off a high of delivering the keynote address at the DNC convention, and jealous of the attention Texas governor Rick Perry received during the abortion bill kerfuffle in Austin, wants the spotlight back on him. At the San Antonio mayor’s insistence, soon the city council will vote to “modernize” San Antonio’s anti-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The proposed ordinance reads:

No person shall be appointed to a position if the city council finds that such person has, prior to such proposed appointment, engaged in discrimination or demonstrated a bias, by word or deed, against any person, group or organization on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, age or disability.

As I’ve written ad nauseum, these categories are impossible to define. What is sexual orientation? Not even researchers on the cutting edges of social science can provide adequate answers. Is it intercourse and sex play? Does it include mere un-acted-upon attraction? Is it genetic? Is it a title that one adopts to describe oneself? Does it encompass the entirety of individuals’ sexual experience, including dreams, fetishes, impulses, and feelings about one’s mother?

They are not so easy to answer as, “Is he black?” All you need to do is look at him. Race is an immutable, easily recognizable trait, not liable to subjective interpretation.

In their unparalleled wisdom, Castro and his fellow lords of the universe on the city council have it figured out. Garrett Haley writes:

According to the ordinance’s definitions, “gender identity” means “a gender-related identity, appearance, expression or behavior of an individual, regardless of the individual’s assigned sex at birth.” Similarly, “sexual orientation” is defined as “an individual’s real or perceived orientation as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or asexual.”

Perverts read this and rejoice. If this ordinance passes, the question is not what behavior will employers entering contracts with the city be forced to tolerate; the question is what behavior won’t they be forced to tolerate.

Can you hear their defense now? “Don’t tell me I can’t use whatever restroom I want. I am who I am. How dare you tell me how I can or can’t express my gender-related identity.”

Similarly, I can act as gay and/or horny at work as I want. Any exploit on my part that contributes to my “perceived orientation” is protected under law. To paraphrase Rod Dreher, the entire culture will be changed to accommodate people’s illusions about themselves.

In Greek mythology, Narcissus saw his reflection in a pool and fell in love. So enamored was he that he stared at himself until he died.

These pseudo-categories of sexual orientation and gender identity are a catch-all for narcissism. Their enshrinement into anti-discrimination law removes the impetus of employment’s power to turn people away from themselves and towards the good of society.

To Julian Castro, losing the assimilating function of work, the great leveler among men and women of diverse backgrounds, is worth sacrificing for an appointment in future president Hillary Clinton’s administration. San Antonio ought not be experimented with to bolster his resumé.